REVOLUTION in ROJAVA 2020

To the press and the general public

On the 15th January 2016 Kongra star was announced as the creation of an umbrella organisation of the Rojava women’s movement. We begin our anniversary by celebrating all revolutionary, struggling, resisting and freedom seeking women in the world. The inheritance gathered by global women’s struggle continues here in every area of life and struggle with Kongra Star. To build an ethical and political society, the freedom struggle of women and society will be raised even higher by women who resist.

In Rojava Kurdistan, the women’s movement began in 2005 under the name Yekitiya Star, working within society and social organising. At the same time, within the PYD, for the development of women’s politics, autonomous and women’s projects were organised. From 2005 until 2011 a huge amount of work was done in the face of great difficulties and oppression from the Syrian state and it’s mentality. Yekitiya Star made many sacrifices and gave immeasurable effort. In this resistance struggle many women were imprisoned, tortured and disappeared. Nazlîye Keçel is an example of such a revoltuionary woman, disappeared by the state. It is still not known what happened to her.

Yekitiya Star, as made up of women revolutionaries and warriors, also played a leadership role in the Rojava revolution. It organised thousands of women in every kind of work in society and politics. The works of the Rojava women’s movement that were built up under the name Yekitiya Star, named itself Kongra Star to continue its work fighting for women’s freedom and equality. Kongra Star organised with more width and depth on the experience and acheivements of Yekitiya Star. Now, after a great struggle in all political and social fields, the autonomous women’s political system has also been built up. The system of equal representation has become an example in the Middle East and in the world.

All the women of Rojava took their place in the work of Yekitiya Star, playing a leading role and organising in all different areas before the revolution. They shouldered a great responsibility, some in the work of defence, others in political areas. Şehîd Şîlan Kobanê has become a symbol for the struggle to build up women’s freedom, the development of autonomous women’s organising, and women’s leadership. Şehîds such as Gulê Selmo, Fatma Hecî, Eyşe Elî and Dayê Aqîde have left their mark on history, falling martyr in the struggle for women’s and people’s freedom, on the journey to build a free and equal society.

Women have given heavy sacrifices and many şehîds in the creation and advancement of autonomous organising and on the way to women’s freedom. Comrades have given their hearts and souls to lead and take responsibility for the creation and organising of a system for a democratic society. Women showed their strength of belief, mind and connection particularly clearly in the time of the Afrin resistance. The self sacrifice actions of Şehîds Berîvan, Avesta Xabûr and Barîn Kobanê have become examples from this time. Furthermore, in the Kobane resistance our comrades Şehîd Rêvan, Şehîd Arîn Mîrkan and many more comrades who’s names we don’t know for sure, put themselves into the pages of the history book of women’s freedom.

Women’s rights and role in society have become apparent, and women’s will represented, between the women’s army, the efforts of women’s organising in every area of life, and so many immortal şehîds. In the current Resistance of Dignity the martyrdom of other comrades has brought the attention of the whole world onto the resistance; Şehîd Amara in defence of her honour and land, Hevrîn Xelef in the advancement and example of a democratic system, Dayê Aqîde for bringing about women’s justice.

Kongra Star is, in the broadest sense, taking on the same role and mission continuing the work and struggle that is the inheritance of all this experience of the global struggle for women’s freedom, in particular from the base build up by Yekitiya Star. Women have become organised under the umbrella of Kongra Star at every level of commune, group and council, across every aspect of societyl and have played a vanguard role in the Rojava revolution. The power of women is the measure of a free, equal, and and democratic life. This has shown itself in Kongra Star and struggled has continued in the face of the oppression, occupation and violence of the dominant male mentality. Furthermore the struggle within society has continued, and be brought about against mistreatment, rape and assault, child marriage, polygamy, massacres and femicide. Thousands of women have made actions for their historic and universal rights, and these actions are organised with the example and leading role of Kongra Star and have become a model for the whole world.

The women’s army YPJ has taken its place and played a role in all these advancements, and the defence of the Rojava revolution, and has become famous around the world. With this role and these missions, the revolution of Rojava society has become a women’s revolution and with women as the vanguard is building up a democratic and ecological society as well as women’s freedom. Many concrete changes have been made and important steps taken in the gender struggle, and it has proved itself by making the women’s liberation ideology a reality.

On this basis, we once again celebrate the anniversary of the announcement of Kongra Star by saluting all revolutionary women and those struggling, seeking freedom, resisting and defending. Honouring the memories and bringing about the dreams of those who have fallen şehîd on the road to a free life, given their spirits for struggle, equality and freedom is the goal of a free and democratic life. The anniversary of Kongra Star honours all three of our comrades Hevrîn Xelef, Amara Renas and Dayê Aqîde, and all the şehîds of the Resistance of Dignity of the Serêkaniyê war and we say “We will defend our land and defeat fascism and occupation.”

Greetings and regards

Kongra Star Coordination Rojava 14/1/2020

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Rahmani: Rojava gives hope to the oppressed

In an interview with ANF, Iranian author Bahram Rahmani stresses the importance of the democratic alternative in Rojava for the oppressed of the world and calls for solidarity with the resistance against the Turkish invasion.

Bahram Rahmani, former chairman of the Association of Iranian Writers and the Iranian section of the PEN writers’ association, spoke to ANF about Turkey’s Middle East policy and Turkey’s “Kurdish policy” in Syria. Rahmani emphasizes the importance of the democratic alternative in Rojava for the oppressed of the world and assigns Turkey and Erdoğan a crucial responsibility for the war in Syria.

Astana must be investigated

The Iranian author and journalist regards the shooting down of a Russian plane by Turkey in 2015 as a decisive turning point. “Ankara has moved away from the US and NATO and started to cooperate with Russia and Iran. However, these forces were on different sides in Syria. While Russia and Iran took sides with Assad, Turkey continued its support for the jihadists. One has to look closely at how these countries, although supporting different factions, are working together on the future of Syria. They meet in Astana and make decisions. But neither the Syrian Government nor the Syrian people are present at the table. Three countries decide the future of another country.”

Turkey’s position is weakened

Despite the different interests regarding Syria, both countries have given the green light to Turkey’s occupation of northern Syria, Rahmani continues; “Erdoğan’s aim was to settle Syrian Arabs in the border area in order to prevent the relationship between the Kurds in Northern Kurdistan [Turkish territory] and Rojava. But this could not be realised until today. Turkey is not economically in a position to do this. Turkey is also in a difficult situation in Idlib. Here the ISIS and Al-Qaeda groups supported by Ankara are in power. For all these reasons, Turkey’s position is weakened.”

Erdoğan’s plan for Libya

Rahmani recalls that Erdoğan has armed and supported jihadists during the Syrian war. Since they could not be accommodated on Turkish-occupied territories in North-East Syria, Ankara is planning to send his Islamist allies into the Libyan civil war. “Regardless of what Erdoğan has done, Turkey is actually in a key position in the Middle East. Erdoğan and the Turkish state fear that the systems are changing. There is a strong popular movement against the mullahs in Iran. If the Iranian regime collapses, this will have a strong influence on Turkey. Erdoğan will not be able to stay in power.”

Erdoğan and Khamanei take an ideological approach

While Russia pursues a pragmatic policy in line with its political and economic interests, Erdoğan and Khamenei have adopted an ideological approach and support Islamists close to them. Thus Erdoğan also supports the Muslim Brother Government in Libya, says Rahmani.

Erdoğan fears the Kurds’ territorial gains

“The Turkish state has been attacking the Kurdish people and PKK for 40 years. But the Kurdish people have their demands. Erdoğan panicked when the Kurds became stronger during the peace process and the HDP was able to send 80 MPs to parliament. Despite all the repression, the HDP was able to send 50 MPs to parliament in the last elections as well. Erdoğan is even more afraid of developments in Turkey and Northern Kurdistan than of Rojava. He is afraid of the Kurdish people in Northern Kurdistan. Everybody knows that there has been no threat for Turkey from Rojava for eight years. Erdoğan is afraid that the democratic system in Rojava will be extended to Kurdistan and the Middle East.

Rojava does not suit the reactionary and imperialist states

Not only Turkey is against Rojava, but also Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, the EU, the US and other countries are against self-government, says Rahmani. “For eight years not a single country has recognised the system in Rojava. They pretend to be against the Turkish invasion of Rojava, but at the same time they don’t like the system there. German and Swiss weapons are used in Rojava, as well as armaments from other Western countries. These countries do not want the people to administer themselves.

The system of Rojava is successful because it is based on the people

When the ISIS attacked Shengal, the Peshmerga abandoned the Yazidis and withdrew. Aid came from Rojava and the ISIS was prevented from entering the self-governing areas in northern Syria. The people of Rojava are now resisting the Turkish invasion. The system in Rojava gives hope to the poor all over the world. All oppressed peoples should support the resistance of Rojava against the Turkish state.”

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Non-stop Turkification policy in the occupied Syrian territories

Turkey continues the (Turkification) process in the various Syrian regions and towns that it occupies, and among these measures is the naming of the official departments with Turkish names, where a school in the Syrian Jarablus was called the name of a deceased Turkish governor.

Since the occupation of the Syrian territories in the middle of 2016, after its occupation of the cities of Jarablus and Al-Bab, Turkey has been working to “leave” the various official and service governmental institutions. On its roofs, the Turkish flag is raised, and on its doors the pictures of the Turkish president are suspended.

The names of these government and service departments are also written in Turkish in bold.

Adding more to “Turkification” policy, the Turkish occupation, on Sunday, where it opened a high school in the Syrian city of Jarablus, yesterday holding the name of the Turkish governor, “Ahmed Torgay Imam Geylar”, who died in Jarablus a year ago after a heart attack.

According to information received from the occupied city of Jarablus, Ankara deliberately opened the secondary school on the 12th of this month, to coincide with the day of Imam Geylar’s death.

The Turkish authorities do not hesitate to take advantage of any opportunity to implement the policy of Turkification in the cities and towns that it occupies within the Syrian territories, and thus honored the deceased deputy governor in Jarablus.

The “Imam Geylar”, whom Ankara honored and named after a high school, is the deputy governor of the Turkish city of Gaziantep, and he passed away on January 12 of 2019 in his office in Jarablus, where he used to live and work as an official in charge of Turkish scientific activities.

The opening of the high school that held his name was attended by a crowd of Turkish officials, among them the governor of the city of Gaziantep and representatives of Erdogan’s “Justice and Development” party, along with deputies from the same party in the Turkish parliament.

This is not the first time that Turkish officials have attended such events. Yassin Akti, Erdogan’s adviser, visited 6 months ago the city of Afrin and other towns north of Aleppo.

In addition to “Turks”, Ankara is striving to change the demographics of the areas that were controlled by north-eastern and western Syria, as it continues to settle operations of Syrian mercenaries belonging to Turkey in those cities and towns with their families.

J.O

ANHA

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“Şervano” – The song of resistance

The Kurdish people’s resistance against the invasion of northern and eastern Syria by the Turkish army and its proxies continues. Since the beginning of the war of aggression on October 9, 2018, Kurds in Kurdistan and all over the world responded to the occupation in a variety of ways, from political work to street protest and physical self-defence. Their resistance has received much support from internationalists around the world, who stand with them shoulder to shoulder in solidarity to put an end to the fascist AKP-regime of the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Art has always played a big role in the history of the Kurdish people and their struggles. Amongst others, the song “Şervano” has come to be the symbol of Rojava’s resistance against Turkish state fascism. Released in the same week as the beginning of the Turkish army’s “Peace Spring” operation, the song has become an important part of protests, the fields, and the front lines. It is even played at funerals in honor of the martyrs, accompanied by the singing of the attendants, who know it by heart.

The song became iconic with the circulation of videos from the funeral of YPG fighter Yusif Nebi, who had asked his family not to cry, but to sing and dance, if he dies in combat. Surrounded by large crowds of mourners, his brother and mother danced as an act of resistance against fascism.

The following interview with the composer was conducted by the Germany-based Kurdistan Report magazine. “Şervano” was written by Kurdish artist Şêro Hindê, who is working at “Hûnergeha Welat” (atelier of the homeland) in Rojava, and is also a member of the Rojava Film Commune. He is the director of the documentaries “Darên bi tenê” (Lonely Trees) and “Bajarên wêrankirî” (Destroyed Cities).

What were the circumstances in which the song “Şervano” was created? Where was the videoclip shot?

On the evening the Turkish government and its allies started the invasion on the 9th of October, we were in Qamişlo together with the musician Mehmûd Berazî and the author Ibrahim Feqe. Together, we wrote the song and composed the music. In the meantime bombs were dropping on Qamişlo, killing six people and injuring many more.

That night was very meaningful because the resistance fighters tirelessly and fearlessly took up position to protect the civilian populations and at the same time to prepare them for war again. The sight of those brave fighters persuaded us to put down what we saw in writing and composition. So we literarily saw the song “Şervano” in front of our eyes and on the following day, we started shooting the video based on the events of the previous night. We consciously worked without extravagant images and techniques in order to have be as authentic as possible.

The People’s Protection Unit (YPG) fighter from the video, Elî Feqe, is also a member of the Rojava Film Commune. He is a cameraman and an active role in the cinematic art.

Did you expect such a big impact of “Şervano”? What were the reactions?

We expected the song to reach and move people, but we too were surprised about the dimensions of the affect. We always try to create art, which reflects the Zeitgeist. However, it is important for us to express, keep alive and do justice to our centuries-old art traditions and to express our folkloric culture and dengbej music.

I would like to emphasize that our comrade Mehmûd Berazî, the composer of “Şervano”, makes the greatest contributions to music in Rojava and has the strongest influence.

The people love our songs, especially “Şervano”. Certainly, there have been other popular songs before, such as “Nivişta Gerilla”, “Tîna Çiya”, “Edlaye” and “Tola Salanîya Efrînê”, which are also often played at the funerals of our fallen friends, at protests or at the frontline. Essential elements of this music culture are the female and male resistance fighters, who show no fear of the enemy. Of course our musical work influences and touches us as much as anyone else. The emotional specificities of our artwork stem from the love and the esteem that is displayed towards us.

This became obvious also through the martyr Yusuf Nebî. His last will was that the people should not cry at his burial, but dance instead. Following his last will, his family played the song “Şervano” at the funeral, sang along the meaningful verses and danced. This sight was both, very painful and moving at the same time. For us as for everyone else.

You continue your work during the revolution. What do you do?

We were artistically active before the start of the revolution already. However, we couldn’t express ourselves as freely as now. Indeed, it’s astonishing that we feel freer than before in the development of our art, considering the adverse living conditions, the intensity of the war, the daily losses of our fighters and the civil fatalities. In this way, we as Kurdish artists want to make our contribution to the revolution. A revolution has different areas. Our task is it to convey to the outside the emotions and the spirit of the revolution in relation with the pain that our people have to suffer. In doing so, we don’t mind how the public interprets our art, whether positively or negatively. Our primary goal is to do justice to our people. To illustrate as well as relieve the suffering and to keep their morale up.

We also produce movies. The Rojava Film Commune was founded in 2015. We shoot documentaries, short movies, clips and feature films. I personally primarily focus on music, but also on my movie projects. At the moment I produce a documentary about the dengbej music culture. With the title “Darên bi tenê” (Lonely Trees), we documented dengbej songs in Şengal (Sinjar). We also produced a documentary about the life of the unforgettable artist Mihemmed Şêxo. I express myself best with the help of music.

As artists of the Rojava Film Commune and of Hûnergeha Welat, we want to add new elements to the revolution’s art. We don’t want to spread classic, well-known slogan-like art, but rather reflect the present, revolutionary spirit and feelings of Rojava’s society.

Do you face any difficulties during your work?

We work under very harsh conditions, in the midst of a war. Still, we strive to capture sharp photos and clear sounds. Our work is only possible thanks to the collective institutions, because we resist all together. As much as times of resistance are filled with creativity, they are also connected to difficulties. Big projects obviously aren’t possible in the midst of war. We have started a big research project about the dengbêj songs from Rojava. Among other things, we wanted to record some from Dicle (Tigris) to Xabûr and to piece them together in a documentary. But because of the current war conditions, we were forced to let it rest. Our only possibility at the moment is to show to the public, with the help of our projects, the omnipresence of the resistance. But unfortunately that’s not enough. For the realization of our projects, we need resources that are provided sufficiently to other institutions, which neither want to collaborate with us, nor are connected to us or Rojava in any way. They steal our projects and sell them as their own. In the near future, we want to take measures to prevent those and further thefts of course.

Are publications of further projects to be expected?

At the moment we especially work on projects, which primarily document the resistance. An important site of this great and strong resistance is Serê Kanîye (Ras al-Ain). We want to record this great resistance for history, with the help of art projects.

It is important for us to not produce typical revolution movies, but to realize projects, which create the consciousness among people to understand that we are those for whom the resistance fighters fight and sacrifice their lives. This is the direction of our work and it will be revealed in the near future. As much as we receive love and appreciation from the people, sometimes we also get criticism. This is important for the improvement of our further projects. Our singers Xalît Derîk, Haci Musa, Sîdar, Eyşe and Şefîka Şehriban Güneş, who always sing centuries-old folk songs with deep feelings, try to keep alive the cultural folk music.

How was Hûnergeha Welat founded and how is it made up?

Hûnergeha Welat was founded on the first of July 2014 in Qamişlo. There are two different areas: music and documentation. Every year, music is produced with dengbej artists and musicians, as well as movies and documentaries.

90% of the songs and videos dedicated to the revolution and which were produced in Rojava, are productions of Hûnergeha Welat. The name is in memory of the martyr Welat. This comrade was killed by a denotation of a car bomb from the so-called Islamic State. He was a very important friend, who kept himself busy with music and art and who knew a lot about the arts.

Hûnergeha Welat was a project, which we wanted to realize with him. Instead, we created the project and remembered him by naming it after him. The comrade Mehmûd Berazî is working at the moment on music. Likewise other friends, such as Kawa, Serxebên, Comerd, Ozan, Evan and many more.  In the section of documentary film, the comrades Alab and Ali are the main contact persons. Of course there are many more members, who I didn’t name here but who are an essential part of our work.

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The Future of Northeastern Syria: In Conversation with SDF Commander-in-Chief Mazloum Abdi


Also available in العربية

January 10, 2019

With the latest unexpected escalation between Iran and the United States in Iraq, the ongoing challenges of Syria have, for the moment, become a less-discussed point of regional tension. However, for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which precariously continues to control an autonomous region of Northeastern Syria, the last few months have tested the organization’s hold over the region.

In the months since U.S. troop withdrawal from the Turkish-Syrian border and the subsequent Turkish Operation Peace Spring, launched on October 9, the future of northeastern Syria has become in some ways less certain for the SDF. In addition to the previous major loss of Afrin during the earlier Turkish Olive Branch Operation in March 2018, the SDF has now also lost hold of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad.

Yet for now, the two ceasefire deals Turkey signed with the United States On October 17 and with Russia on October 22 have so far prevented further conflict and expansion of Turkish territorial control into northeastern Syria. Furthermore, the SDF reached a deal with Damascus with Russian mediation to protect the Syrian border, which, though it has not led to a concrete agreement between Damascus and the SDF, has at least encouraged ongoing negotiations between the two.

In December, the author sat down for an interview with SDF Commander-in-Chief Mazloum Abdi, who explained the current position and concerns of the SDF, and how the two ceasefire deals now governing the Syrian-Turkish border have lessened the risk of a future Turkish attack. General Mazloum noted that although there is still a risk Turkey could attack either Jazira (Hassakah province) or Kobani, such a scenario would not be easy for Turkey. “They know that we will put a major fight—but there are larger agreements for now. There are agreements with Russians and also with the United States, which are preventing Turkish attacks. The Americans say that if Turkey attacks [Kobani], there will be sanctions against Turkey—and there are also Russian forces there.”

Moreover, for the local self-administration of northeast Syria (NES), not much has changed in the months since Turkey’s latest incursion. Although it had to evacuate its administration center from Ain al Issa and move to Raqqa, a number of checkpoints and the Fish Khabur border crossing with Iraq are still under SDF jurisdiction. The border crossing in particular has been key, as it allows foreign journalists and NGOs continued access to the northeast of Syria without needing to obtain a visa from the government in Damascus. What has changed is that Russian forces have replaced positions of the U.S. army, and Syrian forces now man the front line with Turkish-backed forces, though they do not maintain checkpoints.

Meanwhile, the U.S. army has now shifted its location deeper into the territory of northeastern Syria—between October and November, the U.S. army withdrew from areas near Raqqa, Kobani, and Manbij and repositioned their forces to the Hasakah province and the oil-rich Deir ar Zour. Forces are now tasked with protecting oil infrastructure and continuing the fight against ISIS.

The Resilience of the SDF

In spite of the territorial losses, one notable outcome of the fighting has been the demonstration of unity between Kurds and non-Kurds within the SDF, despite expectations to the contrary. SDF officials have reported that there was no major defection of Arab SDF fighters or uprising of Arab citizens in northeastern Syria to support either Syrian regime forces or Turkey in areas like Raqqa or Deir ar Zour. As General Mazloum stated, “Turkey’s plans were undermined; they were expecting that once they attack, the Arab-populated areas will rise against us [SDF], Raqqa, Deir Az-Zour, Manbij and Tabqah for instance.” Similarly, although there was an expectation that non-Kurdish SDF soldiers would defect, “Nothing like that ever occurred, actually, there has been more unity. And as we speak, Arab fighters are joining the SDF more than pre-Turkish invasion.”

This was not the only effort to prompt these forces to abandon the SDF. Earlier in December, Syria’s security chief Ali Mamlouk also asked Arab tribes to defect to the Syrian government. Mazloum suggested that the two efforts to prompt defection—Damascus with its threats, Turkey with its attacks—have both failed. Mazloum reported that his troops “rejected [the] call” of the Syrian government, attributing this to a shared vision: “Those who have joined the SDF believe in the ideas and goals of the SDF.”

The Challenge of Recognition

Yet the call by Ali Mamlouk highlights the continuing reality that the SDF and Syrian government are not on good terms, despite the two sides’ earlier military cooperation against Turkey. Negotiations between Damascus and the SDF to settle the status of NES in the eyes of the Syrian government have been ongoing, as the SDF leader confirmed. However, so far Damascus refuses to agree to any stipulations that they would recognize the SDF, and the government still wants to integrate SDF fighters on an individual basis into the Syrian army.

In contrast, the SDF has stated that they would only join the Syrian army in the event of a new Syrian constitution, in which the SDF “preserve[s] its autonomous status in the area of command and institutions.” According to General Mazloum, it is only “Within that framework [that] our discussions with the Russians and Syrian government [will] continue.”

So far, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad seems to be uninterested in such a deal, although an agreement with the SDF could improve the Syria’s deteriorating economy that has weakened due to the sorry state of the Syrian pound—which has hit a record low amid sanctions and war. The SDF still controls major oil and agricultural resources and is conducting trade with the Iraqi Kurds, which could provide an influx into the overall Syrian economy were some sort of agreement to be reached.

Refugee issue

Moreover, the SDF is now primarily concerned with another type of challenge to its borders: the publicly expressed desire by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to settle a million Syrian refugees currently in Turkey into Syrian areas under his control.

As General Mazloum sees it, “It is Erdogan’s goal to bring non-locals and force them to resettle, displace the Kurdish people and democrats from their homeland—and then hire mercenaries from those resettled to use them against Syrian people’s unity, using Syrians to advance Erdogan’s agenda in Syria.” The SDF leader argued that the basic conditions necessary for resettlement of Syrian refugees have not yet been met: “First the Syrian war must be resolved so that everyone can return to their homes.”

The SDF and the local administration have always stated that it is their policy to allow any refugees originally from the area under SDF control to return and resettle there. However, the SDF commander-in-chief emphasized that the majority of Syrians in Turkey are from regions of Damascus, Homs, and Daraa in the south. General Mazloum argues that Turkey’s resettlement plan would benefit neither the NES’s current residents nor those being resettled, as he said those refugees currently in Syria “also do not want to be resettled in Northeastern Syria.” Such a resettlement plan would decrease pressures for a political solution that allows refugees to return to their homes in Syria, and the general insisted that such a process should take place in order to resolve the Syrian crisis.

In contrast, Turkey’s resettlement plan would in turn solidify the displacement of Kurdish Syrians from Afrin and other areas currently under Turkish control, eroding support for the SDF in those regions in turn. A June 2019 report from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed concerns that permitting Arabs to occupy Kurdish homes in Afrin could permanently change the ethnic composition there. The SDF fears that the scenario already playing out in Afrin could also affect the areas newly controlled by Turkey, though the Turkish Defense Ministry has dismissed these accusations.

Balancing Between Russia and Damascus

Despite recent history, the SDF is not currently concerned that Russia would threaten the SDF with a green light for a Turkish attack on Kobani or other regions in order to pressure the SDF to give more concessions to Damascus as it did in January 2018. Then, Moscow allowed Turkey to attack Afrin once it became clear that the Kurds were not willing to handover Afrin to Damascus.

Now, the Russians might seek access to oil-rich areas currently under U.S. protection, but General Mazloum thinks it unlikely that such interests would manifest into action. “There are agreements between the Russians and the Americans…They [the Russians] have not asked us something like that, and they are coordinating with the Americans as well, not only us.”

The current situation demonstrates that although the SDF is weakened, it has managed to keep its de-facto autonomy, balancing between Moscow, Damascus, Ankara, and Washington without the disintegration of the SDF. Moreover, the continued U.S. presence in the oil-rich regions of northeastern Syria has now given the SDF a point of leverage in negotiations with Damascus.

However, a political agreement with Damascus is far from assured. And if the SDF and Damascus are not able to come to an agreement, tensions are likely to rise once more. The ongoing regional tensions between the United States and Iran could also negatively affect the SDF, especially in Deir ar Zour. However, Damascus does not have enough manpower to replace the SDF, especially with its deteriorating economic condition. Thus, the SDF will continue to remain a de-facto autonomous entity despite uncertainty over its future unless there are unexpected changes in the political field of Syria.

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