A Syrian Kurd Sheds light on Kurdish participation in the Syrian Uprising
Below is an interview we conducted with a Syrian Kurd from Aleppo, who gave us a unique on-the-ground perspective about the Syrian uprising and the participation of Kurds in it. “Rêber” (a pseudonym) details the different protests that took place in Kurdish towns last Friday (May 20) and offers an explanation as to why the Kurds have abandoned national Kurdish symbols in this uprising and why some Kurds are still hesitant about joining the uprising. You can follow Rêber on twitter where he tweets under the name KurdishFreeMan.
KurdishRights.org: Could you please tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
Rêber: I am a Syrian Kurd, I live in Aleppo, I prefer not to disclose my age and occupation because that would make it easy for Syrian Intelligences to locate me and arrest me, and that would be a serious threat to my life. I love Syria and I am afraid for it.
KR: Could you tell us a little bit about the protests happening in Aleppo and whether Kurds are participating?
Rêber: There are small protests in Aleppo and Kurds are participating – in Kobanî (which is officially called Ain Al-Arab, Eye of the Arabs) as well as other non-Kurdish protests in Saif Al-Dawleh, Sharea Al-Neel, Bab Al-Hadeed and the university dorm. During the last three decades, the iron fist of security forces in Aleppo was so powerful and merciless, which made the people of Aleppo be in a permanent state of fear from security forces. Fear is preventing Aleppo from one big revolution that would ultimately topple the regime.
KR: Since the uprising began, which Kurdish towns and neighborhoods witnessed protests?
Rêber: The most remarkable was in Qamişlo city – about 10,000 people participated in protests on Friday, May 20. That day of protests was called Azadi Friday; “Azadî” is Kurdish for freedom. In Amûdê about 8,000 people participated in protests on Azadi Friday. In Aleppo, Kobanî about 5,000 people joined protests on Azadi Friday. In Serê Kaniyê (Ras Al-Ain) and Al-Derbasieh saw protests with about 3,000 protesters in each on Azadi Friday. In Efrîn there was a protest of about 150 people but it was immediately surrounded by security forces and twelve were arrested.
KR: Do you think that the Kurds of Syria have decided to throw their support behind the Syrian uprising, or are most of them still waiting to see how the situation develops?
Rêber: I believe most Kurds are waiting to know which way things are going. There are many reasons why security forces haven’t opened fire on Kurdish protests until now:
A. The regime’s propaganda of fundamentalists can’t be applied to Kurds.
B. The regime already has enough troubles, they don’t want to gain themselves one more enemy.
C. There are large numbers of Kurds outside Syria, especially in the south of Turkey, a land that borders many Syrian Kurdish towns, let alone Kurds in Europe, the regime can’t handle more external pressure.
D. many Kurds are members of organized Kurdish parties and that makes it easy for them to organize protests with large numbers of participants.
KR: What do you think it the reasons for this hesitance?
Rêber: I believe the revolution doesn’t have a clear agenda, we need to know where it is going, we don’t want to just topple the regime, the revolution should have a clear, national and democratic scheme that includes all Syrian sects. I personally don’t want Syria to be a fundamentalist country; I don’t want it to be a copy Iran.
KR: Why do you think protests in Kurdish towns have persisted despite Assad’s decree that would give back citizenship to “foreign” stateless Kurds?
Rêber: Syrian citizenship was taken from “foreign” Kurds in 1962 while they had it back then. Assad’s decree doesn’t “give back” Syrian citizenship to stateless Kurds, it “endows” it to them as if they were really foreigners not from Syria. There are about 60,000 Kurds who didn’t enlist themselves as “foreign Kurds” when Syrian citizenship was taken from them, they are known as “Maktoumee Al-Qaid” which might be translated as “register muted” and Assad’s decree doesn’t give back citizenship to those. Kurds are a victim of Sykes-Picot agreement which divided Kurdistan into four parts, we are not intruders. Kurds in Syria aren’t allowed to have schools to teach Kurdish, Kurds don’t have cultural, social or political rights in Syria.
KR: There has been a debate among pundits and analysts about why the Kurds have adopted Syrian national symbols in their protests (like the Syrian flag, and chants about willing to sacrifice one’s life for Syria). One theory is that his happened because the identity of Kurdish Syrians has changed and they see themselves as Syrians first and wish to stay as a part of Syria, another theory is that this change is merely tactical and is designed to prevent the Syrian regime from claiming that all protesters are separatists.
Only six years ago, during the Qamişlo protests, Kurds were still using Kurdish national symbols like the Kurdish flag. Why do you think such a change occurred?
Rêber: During the 2004 protests in Qamişlo we learned that our problem lies in Damascus and it should be solved in Damascus, the constitution must settle this dispute, we are in Syria not in Kurdistan and our dilemma is of Syrian origins.
KR: What is your personal view of the protests? Do you support them? Do you think they’ve gained enough momentum to oust Assad?
Rêber: Protests are public peaceful movements and I support political, democratic and peaceful movements that aim at defending human rights. I won’t participate in protests because they get subdued by security forces, hundreds have been killed and thousands have been arrested by security forces, thugs and pro-regime people. The regime is protecting itself through security forces and the army; it is ready to commit the most heinous genocides to survive and not be prosecuted.
KR: If Assad is overthrown, what kind of a Syria would you like to see? What kinds of rights do you want Kurds to have in that Syria?
Rêber: I want a democratic government; I want the constitution to acknowledge that there are Kurds in Syria and to give them their social, cultural and political rights. We need free and honest media. The protection of Syrian citizens should be a governmental top priority.