The Two Fronts of the Kurdish Struggle In Syria

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Serêkaniyê, Rojava Syria- In the battle for the overthrow of the Assad government, Kurds in Rojava are struggling against more than just Assad’s forces. In an intense period of shelling from Assad’s government last month, six Kurdish civilians were killed in Serêkaniyê, five of whom were from the same family. At the same time, a graphic video emerged at the end of November apparently showing an armed battalion shooting at unarmed Kurdish youth laying on the ground.

Refugees in Ceylanpinar

As the conflict grinds into its 21st month, the calm that Northern Syria enjoyed overall has come to a bloody end as Kurdish civilians suffer the consequences of both the Assad government’s assault and the chaos of uncontrolled Free Syrian Army battalions. Syria’s refugee crisis has also hit its Kurdish population, with over 30,000 Kurdish refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan’s largest camp alone. The Turkish town of Ceylanpinar has also become a haven for Kurdish refugees fleeing from Serêkaniyê, where the bombing and gunfire can be seen from just across the border. Whereas before Kurdish towns enjoyed relative calm after Assad’s forces withdrew from the north to concentrate their assault on Aleppo, the recent advancements of Arab and Islamists battalions have opened up  a new front for the Kurdish struggle in Syria.

The Kurds are by no means an exception to the complexities of the Syrian revolution. Various Kurdish parties complemented by various Arab parties influenced by various state actors create an unstable situation where competing power interests have the potential to turn the region into an explosive conflict zone. Kurdish human rights, in the mean time, remain threatened by the Assad regime and by encroaching battalions that claim to fight on behalf of the Syrian revolution. The battalions have been responsible for encroaching on traditionally Kurdish territory, and the resulting conflict is marked by kidnappings back and forth, torture as seen in the above video, and of course, huge cost to civilians.

In the context of these struggles, protests by various Kurdish groups continue to fill the streets. Some protests on Friday 7 December were a call for unity between Arabs and Kurds in the struggle against the Assad government. In the Aleppan suburb of Ashrafiyeh, Kurdish and Syrian independence flags waved as a large group of protesters sang and danced in unison.

In other parts of Rojava, Kurdish protesters in Qamişlo chanted against the proposed presence of UN peacekeepers in Syria, saying the time for peacekeepers has long passed.

Despite the false impression among the Syrian opposition that the PYD has not taken a clear stand against the regime, Kurdish groups have thus far shown themselves to mainly be concerned with protecting themselves against both the assault of the Assad regime and the chaos and violence of the current situation.