Syria’s Kurds take one more step toward autonomy
Syrian-Kurdish refugees work near tents erected by the United Arab Emirate's Red Crescent as aid is distributed at the Qushtapa refugee camp, 15 kilometers South of Arbil. [AFP]
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Two months after declaring self-rule, Syria’s Kurds have named a municipal council Tuesday for one of three majority-Kurdish regions in the country’s northeast, an official said.
“We have named a municipal government for the Jazeera area,” Saleh Muslim, head of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), told AFP.
“Soon similar councils will be named for Afrin and Kobani, the two other cantons of the Kurdish regions” in Syria, he said.
Syria’s Kurds announced self-rule in November among the majority-Kurdish regions in north and northeast Syria. The shift was seen as “hostile” by their main opposition, the National Coalition.
Muslim claimed that the decision to move to a 22-member council for Jazeera was “necessary to ensure there is no political vacuum.”
While Hassakeh city is the official provincial capital, the Kurds consider Qamishli as the capital of Jazeera.
Since focusing their attention on rebel fighters, most Syrian troops withdrew from Kurdish areas in summer 2012. This move allowed the Kurds to develop semi autonomy in their areas.
There have been serious battles fought against extremist opposition groups by Kurdish fighters, especially those affiliated with the PYD.
The jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) sees the Kurds as “heretics”. They view them as an obstacle to setting up an Islamic “caliphate”. This move is rolling over from Iraq to Syria.
Defense, interior, planning and finance are all areas in which the 22-member Jazeera council includes representatives.
“We can’t wait until there is a political solution for the Syrian crisis to start running affairs on the ground. People have to have their basic needs covered,” said Muslim, who stressed that “the council is not exclusively Kurdish.
“Muslim and Christian Arabs are also taking part. The idea is not for self-rule to be exclusive at all.”
As the PYD has become the best-armed Kurdish force in Syria, it’s opponents have accused it of seeking to dominate the ethnic minority’s future.
“The ones participating are either PYD or people afraid of the PYD,” said Havidar, a Kurdish Syrian journalist said.
“I am all for this kind of project, but how can they announce a municipal council if they can’t even provide electricity or basic health care for people?” he told AFP.
Frequent issues reported from activists in the region reflect low living conditions, shortages and large numbers fleeing into bordering countries.
Havidar added: “I am all for ideas that help guarantee our rights as Kurds. But what the PYD is is not about rights, it is about imposing power through weapons.”