EU think-tank: Kurds need special status in Syria

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Kurdish fighters of YPG and YPJ. Photo: ARA News

ARA News 

ERBIL – The Kurds need a special status in Syria, and should be recognized as one of the key players in the Syrian conflict, a report by the European Council on Foreign Relations said.

The author Jihad Yazigi argues that Syria needs political decentralisation, including a special status for areas of high Kurdish concentration. “[This] is a necessary condition for finding a solution to the current conflict, as well as beginning to rebuild the country,” Yazigi says in the report.

Syria is now divided into four main zones. One controlled by the regime, another by the Islamic State (ISIS), a third by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), and a fourth by various opposition groups including Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front).

The report notes, that despite of disagreements between the PYD and the Kurdish National Council (KNC), both want the ‘most radical form of decentralisation’.

“Though they are political rivals, both groups concur in their demand for greatly extended powers that would allow them to run most of their day-to-day affairs,” the European Council on Foreign Relations’ report says. “No Kurdish political group calls for any form of partition, however, and all claim that they want to remain within the Syrian state framework.” 

The report called on European actors to recognise this reality and push a decentralisation agenda as one of the conditions for Syrian negotiations, going forward.

“This will inevitably need to involve the Kurds as one of the key parties on the ground,” it said, adding that Russia would back decentralization, although the Assad regime rejected Russian proposals for more Kurdish rights in May 2016.

“Russian willingness to put forward a constitution modelled on decentralisation suggests that there is room for international actors to reach agreement around this model.” 

“Syria should adopt a decentralised political system based on the transfer of power away from Damascus and towards the governorate and district levels. Kurdish regions should get a special status with enhanced powers, as part of asymmetric decentralization,” it said.

The report further stressed that Syria’s official name should no longer contain the word Arab, and the state should teach all children from minority groups in their mother tongue, with Kurdish areas in the northeast and Kurdish-majority districts of Damascus and Aleppo having the opportunity to teach in Kurdish as well as Arabic. 

Last week, the High Negotiations Committee for the Syrian Opposition proposed a transition plan for Syria, which declared Syria to be part of the Arabic and Islamic worlds. This plan argues for administrative decentralization.

Although the Syrian opposition’s transition plan said that the Kurdish cause should be considered a national cause, and their ethnic, cultural, linguistic rights should be considered in the Syrian constitution, many Kurds were angered by the fact that it did not recognize federalism and continued to refer to Syria as an Arabic country.

“The Syria opposition won’t guarantee the Kurdish rights though such a plan,” Dr. Welid Shekho, an independent Kurdish politician, said. “Our basic demand is federalism,” he said, calling on the KNC to leave the Syrian opposition.

“The best step for our rights is to build the unity of Kurds and have a road map for a solution for West-Kurdistan and the rest of Syria, because Syria is at the moment divided in three parts: regime-areas, opposition areas, and Kurdish areas,” he said. “We are not part of the regime or opposition areas.” 

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg

Source: ARA News

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