Transitional self-management in West Kurdistan – PYD statement

Latest statement from the Democratic Union Party – West Kurdistan Council:

 

The formation of a preparatory committee to establish the Transitional Self-Management project in western Kurdistan, encompassing all components of the region

30 November 2013

 

The revolution in Syria, which began as a popular movement three years ago, has been hijacked by foreign powers which have enabled and further worsened the tragedy of Syria.

The revolution reached Western Kurdistan as well. It was initiated on the 19th of July in 2012 in Kobanê and quickly spread as people took control over cities and villages. Despite the imminent danger to their lives people accepted this new development, which brought with it a life of isolation caused by embargos and great suffering. They built new institutions which would include all peoples of Syria and which would enable peoples to lead a dignified and just life.

The Arab Spring which began in Tunisia in 2010, quickly spread to Egypt and Libya before finally reaching Syria. The US, Europa, Russia and China and regional powers such as Turkey and Iran began organizing and funding different groups of the opposition.  13 leftist parties, 3 Kurdish parties and other prominent figures gathered in September of 2011 and organized in what would be called “Komîteya Wekheviya Netewi” (Heyet El Tensîq). Many Syrian officers and numerous soldiers previously serving the Syrian Regular Army created the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Shortly after the FSA was created, armed groups which had been created and organized by Turkey, Saudi-Arabia and Al-Qaida were joining its ranks.

On the 15th of September 2011 a groups of oppositions leaders in Istanbul created the Syrian National Council (SNC) which was designed to serve as a exile Syrian parliament. The SNC was backed by Turkey. Meanwhile, other opposition groups met in Doha to create The Syrian National Coalition. Both of these opposition organizations by acting on behalf of foreign interests in Syria enabled the revolution to derail and to transform into a civil war.

 

Ten years in the making

The struggle and resistance of the Kurdish people against the Baathits policy of persecution, denial of rights and extermination of our people did not start in 2011 and was not initiated by the Arab Spring. The 12th of March in 2004 marks a historical day for the Kurdish resistance against the Baath-regime. It was on this day that our people were massacred in the city of Qamislo. After Qamislo the Kurds learned two very important lessons; The necessity of self-defense and the importance in organizing civil society. It was at this time that the foundation for the YPG (Western Kurdistan Defense Forces) was laid and it was at this time that the largest political party in Western Kurdistan was created; the PYD (the Democratic Union Party).

 

An active stance in the Revolution

When the revolution began it was aimed at overthrowing the regime, the Kurds took part in this revolution and they seized the opportunity to elevate their struggle and to intensify their activities. The Kurds were an active component of the revolution taking place, however history had taught them important lessons and they soon discovered that their own political principles and beliefs were often sidelined, therefore the Kurds decided on an independent trajectory. They decided not to side with the opposition nor the regime and made clear that they would constitute in their own right an third path. In the beginning the Kurds participated in the Friday demonstrations, it soon became clear however that the opposition on one hand and the regime on the other made attempts to divide the Kurds and to exploit them. Demands for Kurdish rights were categorically answered by the phrase “after we have solved everything else”. Both sides tried desperately for the Kurds to choose side without making any efforts to incorporate Kurdish demands in a future Syria. One strategy deployed by both sides to drag PYD in the conflict was by way of propaganda and smear campaigns, the opposition accusing PYD for siding with the regime and the regime accusing it for siding the opposition.

 

The third path and a alternative political solution

The Kurds entered the revolution independently and without siding with either the regime or the opposition, to strengthen their stand they now turned to create a Kurdish political unity. TEV-DEM (Movement for a Democratic Society) was created and the Peoples Council of Western Kurdistan (MGRK), 16 parties joined together and formed ENKS. TEV-DEM organized activities and demonstrations and for the first time in Syria demonstrations were held on Fridays which gave voice to a Kurdish agenda. In the city of Efrîn (Afrin) courses in Kurdish language opened for the first time. In all cities and villages “Peoples councils” were created to facilitate public services which before had been provided by the regime, they were now organized and administered by the people, oil was distributed by these institutions and streets were cleaned. The Institution for the Kurdish Language (SZK) was created at this time.

 

A Defense force is created

The Kurds focused on consolidating a political force but were also acutely aware of the need to form a force which would insure the security and safety of its people. YPG (The Peoples Defense Units) which had its foundation laid in 2004 was officially announced in 2011. Shortly after its official announcement the PYD took important steps to ensure their presence in all places in Western Kurdistan in which either the opposition or the regime posed a serious threat to people lives and property.

 

The 19th of July Revolution

The Kurds had managed to walk an independent political line and to avoid clashes with either side. On the 19th July 2012 the Kurds seized control over the administration of towns and villages. This was done in three steps; firstly; control was seized on villages and desert areas boarding towns, secondly; control was seized on public institutions and thirdly; control was seized on major cities.

On July 18th a bomb exploded in Damascus during a meeting which several regime top officials attended, during this event several officials were killed. On the evening of July 19th the Free Syrian Army (FSA) seized control over Minbci and Cerablus which are located between the towns of Kobanê (Ayn al-Arab) and Helebê (Aleppo). These events hastily pushed the 3rd step of our process into action. On the 19th of July regime forces were pushed out of the city of Kobanê. Efrîn (Afrin), Serê Kaniyê (Ras al-Ain), Amûdê (Amuda), Dêrik (Al Malikiyah), Girkê Legê (Al Maabadah), Tirbespîyê (Al Qahataniyeh) and Tiltemîrê (Tall Tamr) followed. In the Syrian towns of Heleb (Aleppo), Reqqa (Raqqa) and Hesekê (Al Hassakeh) regime forces were pushed out of Kurdish neighborhoods. This process lasted for 2-3 months. In the largest town in region, Qamislo regime forces have yet not left entirely. They reside in some government buildings in the city but the administration is fully in Kurdish hands.

On July 19th the Kurds took control over their cities and seized power over the administration. Politically, militarily, culturally and legally, and economically institutions have been built to facilitate a democratic autonomic system.

 

The Supreme Kurdish Council

The developments that took place after the 19th of July strengthened the unity of Kurdish parties and organizations. The MGRK which includes the largest party in the region PYD, together with ENKS which includes 16 Kurdish parties meet in Hewlêr (Erbil) on the 11th July. Here MGRK and ENKS agreed to join in a joint council which would be named The Supreme Kurdish Council (announced July 24th). When this step was taken the reaction of the peoples of Western Kurdistan manifested itself with tens of thousands of people taking to streets celebrating. The Supreme Kurdish Council was divided into three committees; the diplomatic-, public service- and the defense-committee.

Diplomatic success

The creation of the Supreme Kurdish Council (DBK) allowed us to speak with one voice with representatives of both the UN and the Arab League. It allowed us to speak to the world as one united group and in 2013 we had achieved a great diplomatic success when the Supreme Kurdish Council was invited by Russia for talks. Russian officials accepted our demand that we should attend the Geneva II negotiations where the future of Syria will be decided. The Kurds had before seldom gained recognition but were now accepted as a independent and meaningful actor.

 

Defense Forces: YPG

The political and diplomatic success continued mostly uninterrupted. On the military side the Kurds would have to prove themselves as a capable defense force. The YPG had been put in place in all Kurdish cities and also in Syrian ones in Kurdish neighborhoods and would soon participate in major clashes against the regime and armed groups supported by foreign powers in Heleb, Efrîn, Serê Kaniyê, Amûdê and Hesekê. The YPG lost many of their members in these clashes while protecting civilians in their areas regardless of nationality, ethnicity or creed. Because it has served indiscriminately of all people it has been accepted as legitimate force by the people despite propaganda depicting it as a “armed wing of a party”.

 

Security and police forces

An important step in securing democratic autonomy is to ensure security in all towns and villages, to serve this purpose Asayish (or Police forces) were established. The Asayish were first established in Kobanê and afterwards in all cities in Western Kurdstan as well as in Al Hasakeh. The Asayish were given the task of ensuring the safety and security of the peoples in Western Kurdistan, they are trained in academies in Cizîre, Kobanê and Efrîn. They mainly deal with solving issues of domestic violence, theft, kidnappings, murders etc.

Autonomous rule and People’s Council’s

In liberated areas, all efforts were focused on establishing “Democratic Autonomy”, starting with the setting up of local People’s Council’s. As a result from these efforts similar councils were established in cities throughout western Kurdistan (northern Syria) such as Dêrik (al-Malikiyah), Girkê Legê, Tirbespîyê (al-Qahtaniye), Qamislo (al-Qamishli), Amûdê (Amoda), Dirbêsîyê, Serê Kaniyê (Ras al Ayn), Til Temir, Kobanê (ayn al Arab), Efrîn. People’s Council’s were also established in major Syrian cities such as Damascus, Aleppo, Reqqa, Hesekê, all in areas were Kurds are in majority. The main aim with these councils is to tackle and maintain civil society in these difficult times.

Initially the non-Kurdish people such as Syriacs, Assyrians, Arabs, Chechens, Chaldeans and Armenians were skeptical of the changes. However after seeing the practical importance of the council, in terms of relieving everyday life, they soon started to participate and contribute themselves. Today people from all components of western Kurdistan are represented in the People’s Council’s, as well as in the People’s Protection Units (YPG). The People’s Council in the town Til Temir is perhaps the finest example, where all ethnic and religious groups are represented.

 

Language, culture and education

In order to inform the people about the Democratic Autonomy project, large scale educational efforts are currently being undertaken. To realize the aim, several educational institutions have been established in a number of cities.

Furthermore, mother tongue education has been one of the main aims since the revolution in western Kurdistan started. The Kurdish Language Institution (SZK) has opened over a hundred schools throughout western Kurdistan, employing over one thousand teachers. Today thousands of children are educated in their Kurdish mother tongue. This is the first time in the history of Syria that Kurdish is taught officially in schools. To consolidate these new efforts the “Kurdish Teachers Union” was established.

Western Kurdistan has also seen a dramatic increase in cultural awareness and activity. A string of cultural institutions have been established in cities such as Qamislo, Dêrik, Amûdê, Heleb, Efrîn and Kobanê. Culture and art centers provide music, acting and dancing classes, with emphasis on Kurdish culture. Research committees have been establish to revive Kurdish culture and tradition which was banned for decades during the Baath rule.

Justice and Service

In order to meet social, economical and judicial needs, several committees have been set up. Apart from the Social Service Committee, which is under the command of the Supreme Kurdish Council (DBK), local service committees have been established within all People’s Councils.  To offer an alternative judicial framework than the regimes, judicial committees have been set up in similar fashion. Finally, on the 4th of April 2013, an institution for teaching Social Justice and Law was established.

Woman and youth

One of the pillars of the Democratic Autonomy Project is the struggle of women and youth. Since the beginning of the revolution women have taken an active part, forming the Star Union, or Yekitiya Star, (an organization aimed to raise awareness regarding women rights) and women’s councils. These organizations are in turn represented in the People’s Councils in all of western Kurdistan. In several cities education centers teaching women’s rights have been opened. In all leadership positions the co-chair model is applied, to ensure that women are represented at all level of power. Women are today actively participating in all sectors of society.  Since February 2013 The Union for female Kurdish Teachers has been playing an active role in informing people about these matters.

 

YPJ

Women are also playing a central role in the context of the armed struggle. Not only are they participating in the protection of the Kurdish areas within the YPG, they have also formed a defense force labeled “YPJ”, Women’s Protection Units. YPJ have formed units in all cities of western Kurdistan.

The youth of the Kurdish areas have formed committees under the banner “Tevgera Ciwanên Soresger”, the revolutionary youth movement, and are active throughout western Kurdistan. Similarly students have formed “the patriotic student federation”.

Health and Economy

The current embargo on the Kurdish areas has had a severe effect on overall health situation, as well as the economy as a whole. Basic needs such as medicine and fuel have become rare commodities and very difficult to attain. In order to meet these challenges a committee was formed under the command of the Supreme Kurdish Council (DBK). The main function of this committee is to organize and distribute international aid, which has mostly been provided by the Kurdish Red Crescent.

In an attempt to break the criminal embargo on western Kurdistan, the Economy Institution of Western Kurdistan was established. The aim of the institution is to organize resources and production to cover the basic needs of the society. The principle change has been to form cooperatives throughout the areas.

Media

One of the most important aspects of the Kurdish struggle in Syria has been in media. Several media outlets have been established, including newspapers, radio stations, tv networks, etc. Recently radio stations were opened in the cities of Qamislo, Kobanê, Dêrik and Efrîn.

In the first time in the history of western Kurdistan the Kurdish people have taken matters into their own hands and have become a force to reckon with. Today, the crisis in Syria cannot be solved without acknowledgment of the Kurdish demands. There are many forces at work, both internally and externally, who are trying to nullify the gains of the Kurds. However, despite all the hardships, western Kurdistan has become a safe haven in the otherwise war torn country and the people have successfully maintained conditions for decent existence.

The principle actor of the attempt at sabotage has been Turkey.  The Turkish army dramatically increased its presence at the border.  Come October 2nd 2012 one YPG member lost his life and 3 more were injured in the city of Dirbesîye after cross-border artillery fire from the Turkish army.  Furthermore, applying divide and rule policy, the Turkish state has always tried to link the leading Kurdish party in western Kurdistan, PYD, with the Syrian regime. As these attempts failed, it used the FSA to attack the Kurdish people, together with some Kurdish mercenary forces.

 

Turkish attempts

As the military attempts to destabilize western Kurdistan failed, political forces were put into play. A number of Kurdish parties sat down with Turkish foreign minister Ahmed Davutoglu. In some documents that were leaked to the press, it was clear that plans were being made firstly to isolate PYD and secondly to sabotage the gains the Kurds have made since the Syrian revolution. The leader of El Parti, Abdulhakim Besar once again met with American officials in London.

A short while afterwards PYD were invited by UN and Arab League special envoy to Syria Lakdhar Ibrahimi to a meeting. However the PYD clearly stated that they would only enter talks as a part of the Supreme Kurdish Council (DBK). Despite this, a number of parties from the KNC, Kurdish National Council, went to Damascus and met Ibrahimi on their own.

 

Secret anti-PYD meetings

A secret meeting held by the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government, Turkey, the US and Israel, took place during the fall in Hawler city in southern Kurdistan (northern Iraq). Once again it was clear that plans were being made to isolate and defame the PYD.  Thousands of Kurds took the streets to express their discontent of these attempts.

The Supreme Kurdish Council demanded that the KNC provide an explanation. The People’s Council of Western Kurdistan (MGRK) met with KNC and expressed their concerns. The president of the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) Masoud Barzani, who on the 4th of November called on Kurdish unity, 3 days later ignored the Supreme Kurdish Council and participated in an SNC meeting in Doha, Qatar.

Attacks from mercenary forces

Turkey increased its support for the mercenary forces in their attacks on western Kurdistan, especially in the Aleppo province. On The 25th October the Kurdish mercenary forces killing 30 Kurds attacked districts of Aleppo.  Between the 27th and 30th of October attacks continued in Efrîn city and its surroundings. It was later found at the Kurdish party Azadî also played a role in these attacks.

The mercenary forces never could break the defense lines of YPG and finally had to sign a deal and retreat from the area on 13th of December. The Kurds expelled the former Baath officials in cities such as Dirbêsiyê, Tiletemir, Amûdê and Dêrik. According to the signed deal, the mercenary forces, along with the Syrian opposition, they would acknowledge these areas to liberated Kurdish areas and would not attack.

 

Girzîro and Serêkanîyê

The ceasefire in Serê Kaniyê lasted one month. After YPG forces successfully expelled Baath forces from the town Girzîro, the mercenary forces resumed their attacks on Serêkaniye, effectively violating the agreement. The mercenary forces attacked in large numbers and fierce clashes took place, which lasted 15 days. In these clashes YPG seized to ambulances, one belonging to France, the other belonging to Turkey, both of them carrying Turkish weapons and ammunition. The mercenary forces suffered heavy losses in these fights. 4 Kurdish civilians along with 11 YPG fighters lost their lives.

After prolonged battles the YPG successfully expelled the Baath regime forces from Girzîro and the mercenary forces from Serêkanîyê.

On February 21th 2013 laid siege to the town of Cilaxa adjacent to Girkê Legê and come march 1th the town was liberated from regime forces. This also marked a great victory since the Girkê Legê and Cilaxa belongs to the oil rich Rimelan area. As YPG intensified their efforts, the areas around the cities of Tirbespîyê, Til Kocer and Serêkaniyê were completely liberated from mercenary forces linked to al-Qaida.

The Supreme Kurdish Council and diplomatic progress

Strong military and political progress also started to have an impact on the diplomatic relations of Kurds in western Kurdistan. The Russian foreign ministry officially invited the Supreme Kurdish Council in May 2013 and publically stated that it should represent Kurds at the coming Geneva 2 conference. This offered the Kurds a great opportunity to officially and formally express their political will in an international setting. However immediate efforts were made to prevent this from happening, especially on the part of the US who made efforts to present Abudalbasit Seyda as the representatives of Kurds.

The interim Self-Managment  project and upcoming elections

The progresses made by the Kurds and following the demise of the Baath regime from western Kurdistan, a plan to form an interim Self-Managment  was declared. The aim of the transitional Self-Managment  is to represent all the different components of western Kurdistan in a democratic manner, and to form a joint rule. After the project was announced it was made clear that general elections would be held within 6 months, were all parties of the region would be represented.

 

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