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article imageOp-Ed: Kurdish areas in Northern Syria seek autonomy

By Ken Hanly     Aug 13, 2012 in Politics
Damascus - Kurdish areas in Northern Syria seek to establish autonomy and to defend their own interests rather than joining the rebel cause. Kurds in the area are being provided weapons and training by the Peshmerga Kurdish militia in neighboring northern Iraq.
The Assad regime is pulling its armed forces out of Kurdish dominated areas in northern Iraq. Turkey is now not only facing a huge influx of refugees along its border with Syria but also the possibility of a virtually autonomous Kurdiish area contiguous with Kurdish areas of Turkey and also northern Iraq. This will give the Kurds hopes of eventually establishing an independent Kurdistan. Kurds inhabit parts of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey.
The move by Assad to cease operations against the Kurds will enable the outlawed PKK to use northern Syria as another base for operations into Turkey. The PKK already operates out of bases in northern Iraq. While some reports say that Assad's forces were driven out by Kurdish fighters others indicate that Assad decided to cede control to those areas so that he could concentrate his forces in attacks on Aleppo. The move also creates problems for Turkey. Turkey has been supporting the rebels, allowing rebels to train in some areas and also allowing the transfer of weapons to the rebels through its borders with U.S. aid and blessings it would seem. Othman Ali who heads a Turkish-Kurdish Studies Center inside Iraq writes:“Turkey cannot afford to see the PKK roam freely in Syria and use it as a base from which to launch armed attacks on the country...The Syrian president had decided it was time to play the PKK card against Turkey once again as was its policy in the 1990s,” These developments may lead to Turkish military incursions into Syria. Indications are that Turkish troops are being moved towards the Syrian border.
Ilnoor Shafiq a Turkish analyst said that Turkey would not launch any large scale operation into Syria without international support. Shafiq claimed:“If there are any incursions by Kurdish fighters across the border, Turkey might respond with by pursuing them, but we will not see any large scale operation taking place,”
Turkish prime minister Erdogan had warned about developments in Northern Syria saying:“We will not let the terrorist group [PKK] … set up camps [in northern Syria] and pose a threat to us..No one should attempt to provoke us. We will not bow to provocation but rather take whatever steps are necessary against terrorism.”
Erdogan claimed that the rebel Syrian National Council (SNC) is the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. The group is headed by a Kurd. Erdogan continued:“Any such state there [in northern Syria] could not be seen as the Kurdish people’s own state. It would rather be a state of the terrorist PKK and the PYD.”
Leaders of the Kurds in Northern Syria have a quite different view. A senior but anonymous figure in the Kurdish Syrian opposition said to the Jewish newspaper Haaretz: "We cannot depend on the fact that the Syrian National Council will be willing or able to ensure Kurdish rights in Syria after the fall of Assad,...We will take care of ourselves just as the Kurds in Iraq took care of themselves when they decided to set up an autonomous region, which is independent of the Iraqi government." The Kurds are not united. Many support the rebels and the Syrian National Council. The head of the Council, a Kurd himself, has been attempting to convince Kurds to join with the opposition and support a multi-ethnic Syria rather than an autonomous or independent state. However militant Kurds in northern Syria obviously have quite different ideas and are pressing for autonomy and ultimately no doubt a greater Kurdistan encompassing areas in several countries.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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