Syria: the Kurdish question, the Islamists and the FSA

Translation : No to sectarism… No to racism… Our Revolution is the revolution of dignity and freedom

These last few days have seen an expansion of fighting’s between Kurdish militias on one side, from the Popular Protection Units (YPG), the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is the Syrian emanation of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Islamist groups, al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on the other side in the North East of Syria where the Kurdish population is the majority. This region of Syria is also a strategic oil-rich care and also serves as a transit point between Syria and Turkey, where all kinds of goods, including weapons, and men pass.


It’s been a year, 19 July 2012, since the withdrawal of Assad’s forces from nine Kurdish-dominated towns. The PYD controls most of the Kurdish areas apart from Assad-controlled Qamishli and some mixed cities and towns in the provinces of Hasakah and Aleppo.

Sections of the FSA are divided in these fights following local affinities and dynamics. Some fighting alongside Islamists, but others joined the Kurdish militias and denounced abuses committed by Islamist groups against the local populations: Arabs, Kurds and others.


In the province of Raqqa, in the city of Tell Abyad, we have witnessed the formation of the battalion “Chirko Ayoubi”, to which the brigade of the Kurdish Front joined. They issued a joint statement denouncing the atrocities committed by Islamist groups and attempts to divide the Syrian people on ethnic and sectarian foundations (بيان-مشترك-الجيش-السوري-الحر-جبهة-الأك/).


The FSA leadership and the Syrian opposition have called for different groups of ASL to not get caught up in the secondary fighting. In a joint statement issued on July 18, they condemned the fighting between brothers “before warning them not to fall into the trap of internal clashes triggered by the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Few days later, Brig. Gen. Salim Idris, head of the Syrian opposition’s Supreme Military Council, declared from Istanbul that the opposition will never recognize a Kurdish state in northern Syria — accusing particularly the PYD of working for this project — and stressed that the FSA would battle any group that wants to divide Syria.


We must not forget also that the tensions between FSA groups and Islamist forces of Jabhat al Nusra and ISIL, have expanded in recent months. These latters are accused of murdering members of the FSA, including Fadi al-Qash, the head of a FSA battalion and his two brothers.

The ISIL also expelled FSA forces from several regions these latters liberated and declared the establishment of Islamic emirates in the areas under its control, while refusing to fight on the front lines in Aleppo, Homs and Khan al Asal.


Abu Osama al-Tunisi, the head of ISIL in Syria has posted the names of members of the FSA wanted by the group on the doors of mosques in Dana and Dar Azza, near the cross border of Bab al-Hawa close to Turkey. Al Tunisi ordered all FSA members in areas under its control to declare their allegiance to the ISIL and surrender their weapons.

Popular demonstrations in the liberated cities of Syria have continued to multiply and grow against the reactionary Islamist groups and their authoritarian behaviour, as we can see in the city Dana in which ISIL had a presence ( feature = player_embedded & v = mCm3BqKDVdY) or even being the target of widespread attacks by the Local Coordination Committees on Friday, July 19 2013(رسائل-لجان-التنسيق-الى-العالم/).


To come back to the North East of Syria, Islamists have not hesitated in areas under their control to impose their reactionary interpretation of Islam, like imposing “Fasting” on the locals; or threatening women to wear the Islamic Hijab “headscarf” and imposing their own conservative and reactionary interpretation of the Shariah without considering at any time of the diversity and culture of local people. Islamist groups have also kidnapped civilians, mostly Kurds like on July 18 when they kidnapped 19 Kurdish students.


These actions, in addition to their authoritarianism pushed local communities to organize against their presence.

Events accelerated after the attack on July 16 of members of Jabhat al-Nosra against Kurdish women fighters patrol in the town of Ras al Ain.

The response of the YPG Kurdish militias was fast leading to heavy and deadly fighting, killing more than fifty persons and the liberation of the cities of Ras al Ain and Sere Kanya from Islamist forces.


Islamist groups also the lost city of Sere Kanya in the province of Hasakah, which was a major transit point for Turkey. Islamist groups have not hesitated to bombard the city in a complete blind manner with mortar, leading to the mass exodus of local and particularly among residents of neighbourhods of Mahata and Ebra.

The fighting, which continue while writing this article, continued in the region east of the city of Qamishli, where they are many oil wells and therefore of paramount importance. Islamist groups have also benefited from the revenues of oil fields, even selling oil to the Assad regime. Fighting between YPG and Islamist groups for control of the oilfields continue.

These past few days intense fights occurred in the city of Tell  Abyad, also an important cross border between Turkey and Syria, after Islamists groups kidnapped hundreds of Kurdish civilians.


The PYD proposed to establish a temporary independent Council to manage the Western Kurdistan (North East Syria) until the end of the war in Syria in order to meet the needs of the local population, improve the economy and deal with attacks of the Assad regime, Islamists and Turks. The terms of the plan proposed the formation of an interim administration for three months, a referendum on a draft constitution and elections within six months, but this initiative undertaken without consultation with the other actors of the Kurdish political scene has not been welcome by all. The interim administration would replace the Kurdish Supreme Council, which is supposed to manage between the various Kurdish parties areas under its control, to end these differences and follow the suggestion of Mr. Barzani, strongman of Iraq Kurdistan, to organize elections. The People’s Council in Western Kurdistan already published a draft constitution online. The Kurdish Supreme Council, which was supposed to jointly manage the Kurdish regions between the PYD and the various parties that are members of the Kurdish National Council, has not been effective and led to clashes between the various Kurdish blocs.

Many issues are still to be discussed before reaching an agreement, including the sharing of political power and control of the armed forces in the region. The YPG proposed to manage the security of the region and to include into its ranks the other militias. Other groups rejected this proposal.


The Kurdish National Council, a gathering of various Kurdish political parties and strongly influenced by the Barzani clan of Iraqi Kurdistan, has refused to one single Kurdish political entity to decide the future of the Kurdish people without any consultation with other Kurdish partners and recalled the importance of the unity of Kurdish ranks in this period.

The Kurdish National Council also reiterated the importance of cooperation and understanding with the revolutionary forces and national opposition in Syria. That said it does not close the door to such an initiative if the need for the Kurdish people of Syria was to appear.

It is necessary to remember that the PYD has faced growing opposition within the Kurdish population in Syria and active pro revolutionary Kurdish activists for their authoritarian policies and collaboration with the Assad regime on various occasions.


PYD representatives actually met Bachar Al Assad few weeks ago who reportedly agreed to recognize the autonomy of Kurds in an area covering seven districts in the region, including Haseki, Ras al-Ain, Afrin, Darbasiyya, Ain al-Arab and Kamishli. The PYD has indeed collaborated on some occasions with the Assad regime on various aspects, while it is still officially part of the National Coordination Body for the Forces of Democratic Change in Syria (NCB) led by Haytham Manna, which has called since the beginning for a dialogue with some elements of the regime that have no blood on their hands according to them such as vice president Farouk Sharek.


PYD have nevertheless declared that they and the Kurdish people are part of the Syrian popular revolution, but they want from the opposition and FSA to take into consideration the demands of the Kurdish people and to clearly condemn the actions and attacks of islamists groups against them ( see this interview of a representative of the PKK The Syrian National Council has actually refused to condemn in the past the actions of Jabhat al Nusra and other similar groups, and even defended it by the voice of George Sabra, and its sectarian and reactionary ideology.


But the launch of the campaign “Western Kurdistan for his children” by the PYD against the attacks by Islamist groups against the cities mostly inhabited by Kurds has nevertheless diminished criticism of this latter and gathered temporarily the Syrian Kurdish political scene with the support of other Kurdish groups to this campaign, while reiterating the need for the PYD to work and collaborate with them.


Turkey was quick to react to the developments close to its border through the voice of the head of the Turkish Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoglu who warned the Syrian Kurds against any aspirations for any form of autonomy, which would encourage Turkish Kurds in their national aspirations as well. Turkish police have also repressed a demonstration in a Kurdish city in southern Turkey, which celebrated the release of several Kurdish cities in Syria from Islamists (( Turkey favours certain particular sectors of the Syrian opposition, including Islamist forces and opportunistic bourgeois forces such as the Syrian National Council.


Syria Freedom Forever as a member of the current of the Revolutionary Left in Syria reaffirms its commitment and support to the self-determination of the Kurdish people in Syria and elsewhere who suffered discrimination and repression of all the various regimes in the region. Support for self-determination of the Kurdish people do not prevent us from wishing to see the Kurdish people to be a full partner in the struggle against the criminal regime of Assad, which they have been since the beginning, and Islamist reactionary forces, and in the building of a future Democratic, Socialist and Secular Syria.


We also condemn the behaviour of Islamists and other reactionary forces and their racist and sectarian attempts to divide the Syrian people. Similarly, the refusal of some in the Syrian opposition, including the Syrian National Council (SNC), to recognize the rights of the Kurdish people in Syria are unacceptable and are no different of the nationalist policies of the Assad regime over the past 40 years (see


The unity and independence of the popular and working classes without ethnic, religious and other distinctions in Syria and elsewhere is the only way for its liberation and its emancipation.


Long live the Syrian revolution and the free peoples of Syria.


This article was first published on July 22, 2013 on Syria Freedom Forever