Ankara must em­brace new Syr­ian Kur­dish re­al­ity

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS - By Bash­dar Pusho Is­maeel

A year af­ter Syr­ian Kurds took his­toric con­trol of their ter­ri­tory, pro­posed plans for an au­ton­o­mous Syr­ian Kur­dis­tan re­gion sent fresh shiv­ers down Ankara.

Any anx­i­ety to­wards the es­tab­lish­ment of de facto au­ton­omy for Kurds is am­pli­fied all the more by the PKK con­nec­tions with the dom­i­nant Demo­cratic Union Party (PYD) that ex­er­cises the great­est po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary in­flu­ence in the re­gion.

Tur­key has fought a bit­ter 3 decade war with the PKK and to see PYD flags proudly hosted atop build­ings clearly vis­i­ble from Turk­ish soil was dif­fi­cult to stom­ach. Tur­key rushed to kick-start the peace process with the PKK and Ocalan in the full knowl­edge that they could soon be swamped with PKK forces en­joy­ing not just moun­tain passes but the­o­ret­i­cally an au­ton­o­mous area.

How­ever, a dose of re­al­ity is greatly needed if Tur­key is to achieve its strate­gic and po­lit­i­cal goals, away from out-dated ethos or pho­bias. In the same man­ner that red-lines, ubiq­ui­tous threats and harsh rhetoric to­wards Iraqi Kurds was in the end re­placed with a re­vised pol­icy and ul­ti­mately a strong and flour­ish­ing po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic re­la­tions with Kur­dis­tan.

Last year, Ankara re­fused to even en­gage or ac­knowl­edge the PYD. The his­toric visit to Tur­key by Saleh Mus­lim, leader of the PYD, in this re­gard, was cer­tainly a step in the right di­rec­tion, but Tur­key must start to warm to the Kurds and the new po­lit­i­cal or­der rather than an­tag­o­nise them or even choose sides, as many have claimed of their in­di­rect sup­port of Is­lamists against the Kurds.

The Peo­ple>s De­fense Units (YPG), widely ac­knowl­edged as the armed-wing of the PYD, has been pitched in fierce bat­tles with Ja­bat al-Nusra and other al-Qaeda af­fil­i­ated groups for months. How­ever, fierce bat­tles in re­cent weeks saw the Kurds gain con­trol of the strate­gic bor­der town of Ras al-Ayn amongst oth­ers.

Mus­lim was warned in Ankara against tak­ing “wrong and dan­ger­ous” by Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan and in­tel­li­gence chiefs. For­eign Min­is­ter Ah­met Davu­toğlu also warned the Kurds against any “fait ac­com­pli” dec­la­ra­tions that would fur­ther desta­bilise and com­pli­cate Syria un­til an elected Par­lia­ment is formed in Syria

Iron­i­cally, in the same week Ah­met Davu­toğlu de­nounced rad­i­cal groups, some whom Tur­key has sup­ported, for “be­tray­ing” the prin­ci­ples of the Syr­ian rev­o­lu­tion.

In spite of the rel­a­tive pos­i­tiv­ity in the af­ter­math of Mus­lim’s visit, Tur­key should have done much more to reach out and en­tice the Kurds from the out­set and worked to in­clude them as vi­tal com­po­nents of the Syr­ian op­po­si­tion and the drive to oust As­sad, rather than the frosty treat­ment and Syr­ian op­po­si­tion’s fail­ure to pro­vide firm guar­an­tees to Kurds in the post As­sad era.

Stuck be­tween Arabs they didn’t trust, Is­lamists in­tent on set­ting up a base in Syr­ian Kur­dis­tan with its vi­tal bor­ders cross­ings and oil re­sources and a Turk­ish gov­ern­ment ever-wary of more Kur­dish lever­age and power on their bor­der, Kurds largely leant to­wards the devil they knew – As­sad.

The re­al­ity is that Syr­ian Kurds, with re­newed vigour and stand­ing, are not about to go away, with or with­out As­sad. The resur­gence of the Syr­ian Kurds and po­ten­tial au­ton­omy should if any­thing be just the tonic to kick-start the peace process in Tur­key.

If Tur­key fails to im­ple­ment the peace process in Tur­key, then the PKK lever­age would al­ways have been a greater hand in Syr­ian Kur­dis­tan or even a de­rail­ing of Ankara goals in the Syr­ian rev­o­lu­tion.

For the Kurds, it is nat­u­ral to try and pre­serve their re­gion from vi­o­lence and de­struc­tion and cer­tainly the pop­u­la­tion has needs and war­rant a sys­tem of gov­er­nance. Any at­tempts at au­ton­omy, tem­po­rary or not, is a log­i­cal move, how­ever, the re­gion must be for all Kur­dish groups and not spe­cially the PYD.

All Kur­dish groups must be rep­re­sented and the peo­ple must ul­ti­mately de­cide on their gov­er­nance. Any uni­lat­eral drive by the PYD to as­sert con­trol or use force for it its aims will se­verely di­min­ish the le­git­i­macy of the new Kur­dis­tan Re­gion of Syria.

A Syr­ian Kur­dish boy car­ries a ban­ner dur­ing a protest in Beirut, Le­banon last year. Syria’s Kurds fear they will not be granted their rights by the op­po­si­tion.

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