Syrian official says Kurds ‘oppose’ federalism

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Syrian Kurds wave the Kurdish flag as they rally against the Syrian regime and to mark Newroz spring festivities in the northern city of Qamishli. File photo: AFP

ARA News

The Syrian Ambassador to Russia Riyad Haddad said on Friday that the Kurds in Syria are against any form of autonomy.

“The Kurds are an integral part of the Syrian people, they have the same rights and obligations as the rest of the Syrian people,” Haddad said, speaking at the Russian Federation Council.

“I would like to stress that many Kurds are actually strongly opposing any form of division, either a federation, or cantons, or other forms. That is why, we keep on saying that Syria is capable and ready to settle the crisis alone, without interference from the outside,” he was quoted by Sputnik as saying.

On March 17, 2016, the Syrian Kurds announced the creation of the federal region of Rojava in northern Syria. The move was rejected by both the Syrian government and the opposition.

According to observers, one of the few things that the government and opposition in Syria agree on is denying the Kurds their rights.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in October denied that the majority of the Kurds want federalism. His remarks came in response to a question posed by the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda.

“About the Kurdish question, I was in Qamishli and they want a federation. [The Kurds] said their ideal model of a state is like Russia. Russia has many nationalities and they constitute the Russian Federation. Why can’t Syria be a federation?” Pravda reporter Daria Aslamova asked Assad.

Assad responded by saying: “We can talk about the part of the Kurds that need this, only part of them. The majority of them, no, they don’t ask for [federalism].” He then went on to enumerate his reasons for rejecting the NSR (Northern Syria-Rojava) administration and any comparable federalist project.

“[First, we’d have] to have a referendum by the Syrian people to say yes or no,” Assad began. “Second, some people, they talk about Kurdish federalism in the north [but] most of the Kurds don’t ask for this.”

“[Third,] Even if you want it, the majority in that area are Arabs. So how can you have Kurdish federalism while you have a majority of Arabs?” Assad concluded.

Bader Mustafa, a member of the Kurdish Youth Movement (TCK), told ARA News that Assad is trying to send a message to the Kurds and asserting his own dominion over Syria. “It is the same delusion he has been living for, for years. It is not Assad’s decision anymore.”

“Assad is [telling] the Kurds that his regime can prevent what the Kurds want, which is a federal system and an end to the dictatorship of the Arab majority,” Mustafa said.

“I think it is not the right of any majority to decide for the minority. We as Kurds are not a minority voluntarily, but due to the Sykes-Picot agreement, which prevented us from having one Kurdish state,” Mustafa said. “It is obvious that the Kurds do not want a centralised state in Syria.”

Zara Salih, a member of the Kurdish Yekiti Party in Syria, agreed. “What Assad is saying isn’t anything new, he is still denying the Kurdish issue and rejects the federal system the Kurdish people ask for.”

“Assad keeps sending messages to the Kurds, especially to the Democratic Union Party, saying that what they’re doing against ISIS is their duty and there are no privileges for them,” Salih told ARA News. 

Although both the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition reject the creation of a federal region, the main Kurdish parties cannot work together. Both the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Kurdish National Council (KNC) ask for federalism, but both fail to work together since the Duhok agreement from October 2014 to jointly govern northern Syria was failed to be implemented. The KNC, backed by the the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq (KRG), refuses to recognize the local self-administrations set up by the PYD-led parties, and call for a return to the earlier agreements between PYD and the KNC. 

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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