Where were you, Syria?
It was raining my first day in Qamişlo. Small puddles were forming in the streets. My aunt pointed at them and said: “Look at the bubbles. We call them spring bubbles.” From that day I was aware that even though it was June and summer in Syria, spring had come to West Kurdistan these fateful months in 2012.
Kurds and The People of Syria
Only one and a half year ago the Kurds in Syria did not exist. Today, Turkey is threatening to send its army into Syria because it fears that the now very much existing Kurds are seeking to found a self-ruled Kurdistan.
Prior to the uprising the Assad regime shifted between two standpoints towards the Kurds in Syria, said a member of the newly formed Supreme Kurdish Council that is a union between all Kurdish parties in West Kurdistan (North Syria). Either the Kurdish people did not exist or it was seeking to create division in Syria.
Another member of the council said during an interview with the West Kurdish TV-channel, Ronahî TV: “The Baath party has always told the Syrian people that Kurds want to create divison in Syria. That is why Kurds have never been able to have fruitful discussions with the people of Syria.”
Kurds in West Kurdistan and Syria have not been seeking to cause disunity during the many years of oppression because the Kurds had until recently been lulled into a deep sleep by their oppressor but also by themselves. They thought passivity, they thought sleep was the safest way to survive in Syria and it seemed impossible to wake them.
I saw this myself when I was in Qamişlo the last months of 2010, I saw this myself before I left in January 2011 when the uprising in Tunisia took place. I asked people in Qamişlo: “Will you demand your rights too, will you rise against Assad too?”
“Never!” they answered.
But the Kurds of West Kurdistan and especially Qamişlo make up a contradictory people. Before the liberation of several Kurdish cities they were living deads but with a consuming, burning fire deep beneath the thick, thick skin. This fire ultimately led to their uprising together with the rest of Syria and to their calls for the fall of the dictator, Bashar al-Assad.
Still many have claimed that the Kurds have not been a part of the Syrian uprising.
This is not true. The Kurds have been demonstrating in solidarity with the Syrian people since the first day but this support is dismissed as not being enough.
They fail to understand how great a support this is when considering one important detail that I heard repeated several times by several people during my stay in Qamişlo, one important event that still haunts the people of Qamişlo: the Kurdish uprising in March 2004.
“Where were the Syrian people when Assad massacred more than 30 Kurds in Qamişlo? Ask them this, Naila,” they told me, “where were they, where were the Syrian people when we needed them?”
We have been protesting just like the rest of Syria, they told me while shaking their heads, and yet they still say we are not a part of the uprising? We needed them and they did not come. They needed us and we came. We are still here.
PYD, Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat
The Supreme Kurdish Council consists of two groups; the strongest is PYD, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, that is considered to be West Kurdistan’s version of PKK not only by Turkey and many journalists and observers but also by certain groups in Qamişlo.
During my time there I met many Kurds who are (too put it mildly) not very fond of PYD. Every Friday I went to two protests, one non-PYD at 1 pm and the other a PYD protest at 6 pm. The protests differed from each other in that the PYD protesters carried pictures of Abdullah Öcalan and waved PYD and Kurdish flags (the one used by the Kurdistan Regional Government, KRG) while the non-PYD protests only waved KRG flags.
One evening I returned from a PYD protest by the Qasimo Mosque. I had been away for 3 hours and the people I was staying with asked if I had enjoyed the demonstration that much. I could not hide my enthusiasm because even though I am a supporter of all Kurds and not just a single party, I had to admit that this protest was the best out of the ones I had been to.
Remember, they told me, that PYD knows what it is doing. Their protests have the same effect as drugs, they make you high. They shook their heads at me but I knew it was only natural that they would say this because the last time I had been in Qamişlo, I noticed something deeply disturbing.
Everyone in West Kurdistan watches Turkish TV-dramas, they are very popular there and in the Arab countries. In late 2010 their favourite drama was about a doctor who was working and living in a mountainous area in Turkey. The inhabitants were harassed by the PKK and the village attacked by the Kurdish “terrorists”.
In one episode the doctor’s fiancé was brutally murdered by the PKK in front of her young pupils.
I would sit and look at them incredulously as they spoke about the characters from the Turkish drama as if they were real; they would even mourn their deaths as if they were close family. The Kurds are a passionate people so they do not merely watch TV-dramas, they live them and these Turkish propaganda portrayals of PKK did nothing but make the Kurdish viewers more skeptical towards PKK although they know well that what Turkey says about Kurds has to be taken with a grain of salt.
The importance of the above-mentioned is that PYD is considered to be an affiliate of PKK by some in Qamişlo and their suspicions are confirmed by the fact that PYD protesters enthusiastically wave the flag with the picture of Öcalan, the PKK leader and shout: “With our soul, with our blood, we are with you, oh leader!”
Yet it would be wrong to say that Kurds in Qamişlo and even these critics of PYD do not support the work of PYD, because they do.
PYD has been gaining the respect of the people in West Kurdistan for their control and protection of the Kurdish areas. I was told that they ordered people to stay in line when buying sugar, drove around town to protect it and helped those who had been cheated in financial matters. I personally heard a speaker at a PYD protest declaring that they now offered free lessons in the evening for those students who needed help to pass their exams.
Some would perhaps say that their methods have been ruthless and violent. But a recent report from Reuters told the same story about the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo who also used violent methods to keep the area under control.
In times of war parties like PYD and military forces like YPG are needed; they are especially vital for West Kurdistan.
An official from the Barzani administration in Kurdistan said: “Some people have to keep law and order. PYD and others were available to do that for daily security.”
The people of West Kurdistan are still a people of habits and their habit is to support Barzani. That is why a statement like this is important for them to fully accept PYD’s control of West Kurdistan and that is why the creation of the Supreme Kurdish Council and PYDs willingness to co-operate with KNC is welcomed.
But PYD itself has changed, people have told me. Even those who have spoken to me about PYD with contempt have admitted that the party is not behaving like it used to. PYD has changed.
“Kurdistan has been established!”
In July the first Kurdish city was declared liberated by the Kurds and soon the control of several other cities were taken over by Kurds yet there are those (even Kurds) who deny the liberation of the cities. But everything is relative and liberation in West Kurdistan is not the same as liberation anywhere else.
What have happened so far in West Kurdistan is indeed a liberation; if not a total and complete physical liberation of the Kurdish areas, then at least a liberation of the mind and I had considered this form the hardest part of the revolution in West Kurdistan but the people surprised me.
I remember the twentieth of July when my uncle, who had been very skeptical of the liberation of Kobanê the day before, out of a sudden came up to me and said: “Kurdistan çe bû yê. Kurdistan has been established.”
That moment I truly felt that all Kurds had risen up as one and proudly lifted their heads to say: “Never will we be treated as second class citizens.”
The news about yet another liberated Kurdish city reached us again and again and I saw how Kurds started believing in a future self-governed West Kurdistan. The Kurds in Qamişlo now are in stark contrast to who they were about a year ago.
But they did not dare believe in a free West Kurdistan with their whole heart because during my last days in Qamişlo we noticed that the presence of Syrian regime soldiers had increased and according to the Kurdish Youth Movement, the numbers have increased even more since I left Qamişlo on the twentythird of July.
If Qamişlo comes under Kurdish control, it will make even the most skeptical Kurd believe in a free West Kurdistan fought for by the united Kurdish parties in the Supreme Kurdish Council and the people.
A member of the council said that the Kurds of West Kurdistan had risen up to say: “I am a Kurd” and that this was not well received by the world.
But it does not matter. If no one will help the Kurds fight for their rights, they will do it themselves.
Who am I? asked the Kurdish poet, Cigerxwîn, buried in Qamişlo.
Who am I?
I am uprising and volcano,
I am my enemy’s enemy
I am a friend of the freedom fighter.
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