human rights watch

söndag 29 juni 2014

Syrian Kurdish PYD leader Asya Abdullah: A joint defence force is a must for the Kurds

Syrian Kurdish PYD leader Asya Abdullah: A joint defence force is a must for the Kurds.
QAMISHLO, Syrian Kurdistan,— Co-chair of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) Asya Abdullah has emphasised that the building of a joint defence force of Kurds has become imperative after the last wave of attacks by al-Qaeda linked Islamic-jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham ISIS and added: “to protect and to defend both our national gains and the gains of the other ethnic groups with whom we live together is possible only by developing a common defence force and strategy”.

Answering questions of the ANF, Asya Abdullah commented on the recent developments in the Middle East, the changes in the balance of powers, how Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) and the Kurds are affected by the developments in Iraq, the possibilities for Kurdish national unity, and on common defence strategies.

How do you interpret the recent developments in Iraq, looking at it from Rojava?

The recent developments in Iraq have not emerged out of the blue but came as the result of the developments of the last three years. The situation has taken a new turn recently, but also new developments are possibly underway.

There is chaos at the moment in the Middle East but we can see this chaos as the birth pangs of democracy, as an interim period that has to be ended by a democratic solution.

The situation in Iraq has impacted heavily on Rojava and Syria in the last 3 years. The international powers openly or implicitly and the local powers acting in accordance with the international powers have indeed prevented the development of a democratic solution to the centuries old problems of the Middle East.  
The democratic experience in Syrian Kurdistan was intentionally ignored by the international powers and the media as there was a fear of the extension of this democratic self governance. The deepening of the problems and the intensification of the clashes were more favourable for their economic and political interests.

ISIS couldn’t achieve the capturing of Rojava in two years but managed to seize Mosul in two hours, as the people there were left defenceless and without a coalition of different religious, ethnic, cultural groups. People were also tired of the repression of the central government. So, Mosul could be easily seized within hours.

This was the real difference between Rojava and Iraq in the face of the attacks of ISIS. The people in Rojava have established self-defence forces as well as self-management mechanisms that make it possible for all the ethnic, religious and cultural identities to live together democratically. The people of Rojava were able to mount a strategically planned resistance against the attacks.

Sunni people have been excluded from the administration in Iraq since 2003. Maliki helped to exacerbate this situation. Is it true that the Sunnis were also excluded in Syria and that ISIS was able to grow as a reaction to this exclusion?

No. There is a deeply felt need for a change in the Middle East. Everyone sees that this cannot continue as it is. There is a gap and there are many forces struggling to fill the existing vacuum. But they mostly lack a strategically developed approach, and therefore are being used for different purposes.

The problems of the Middle East are old, rooted problems. Centralised powers imposed themselves on the multiethnic structure, and when they couldn’t succeed they preferred to create conflicts among the religious and ethnic groups and to use one against the others. The group to suffer most because of these policies has been the Kurds.

This is why the problem is not the exclusion of the Sunnis in Iraq. It is also the case in Syria. The problem is the very character of the nation state. The problem is the lack of a democratic mentality that will accept the differences and share the central power with local administrations. 

This is also why we don’t see projects in Iraq or in Syria that are proposed as a solution, capable of bringing a true solution. The solution cannot be to the advantage of one group and to the disadvantage of others. The city of with its multi-ethnic composition with the Kurds, Turkmens, Arabs, Assyrians, and its multi-religious composition with the Christians, Muslims, Sunnis, Shias is a very good example of this. How can you solve the problems when one group is dominating the others?

This has been tried for decades and the result was not successful. To insist on this is insane. The only solution is to seek democratic solutions to the problems in the Middle East and a democratic transformation. And this can only take place by developing the voluntary and free co-existence of people based on self-management and the mutual recognition of different groups.

ISIS’s plan to establish an Islamist state from Bagdad to Damascus is not only undemocratic but also contradicts the reality of the Middle East.

Kurds today are the leading power for overcoming this chaos in favour of freedom. Kurds can pave the way for a change in the Middle East due to having a democratic strategy, being organised, having a democratic mentality and having self-defence forces. The Syrian Kurdistan revolution is a model for this transformation. It is an alternative and reasonable model with its democratic autonomous structure and self-defence forces.

Barzani sees this situation as an opportunity and says that they will make use of this opportunity. What kinds of opportunities are open today, and what can Kurds do to benefit from these?

This is of course an historic opportunity if you have a strategy and reasonable and rational policies. The Kurds now have the opportunity to develop a democratic solution not only for themselves, but for all the peoples of the region. The Kurds can make use of this opportunity if they can establish their national unity, because they are economically, socially, politically, culturally and militarily a strong power as well as being an organised power.


On the other hand, all the international powers have plans over the Middle East and their interests. This makes the Kurdish problem an international problem. This is why it is also important to seek a political solution on the international area and to develop diplomatic relations and to make regional and international coalitions.

But at this point, the unity of the Kurds proves to be vital. We have to develop a common strategy and national policies and be careful not to harm these. No political party can decide on its own the future of the whole people of a nation. This is why we have to develop a common will and have to immediately organise the national congress due to this aim. If we lack a truly democratic mentality, we cannot live together in peace with the other peoples of the region.
This is why a strategically developed approach based on democratic society and a democratic nation building instead of the nation-state is fundamental to us. A democratic and enduring solution to the problems of the Middle East will safeguard the freedom of the Kurds. 

What kind of a defence force are you proposing?

Kurds must not take sides in the religious-ethnic conflicts in Syria or in Iraq, since it is not a war for the democratic transformation and re-building of society. This is a war based on narrowly defined interests and a war for power and domination, threatening all the components of the whole society. This is why the most correct attitude is to act in accordance with the right to self-defence in the territory controlled by the Kurds. Moreover, it is not only the Kurds living in these territories; there are many other groups as well. The YPG (Kurdish People's Defence Units) in Rojava is a self-defence force of all the groups living there, including Arabs, Turkmens, Assyrians, Syrians and Kurds. This must also be the case in Kirkuk and in Iraqi Kurdistan. It is legitimate to defend Kurdistan, but also it is a must to defend Turkmens, Arabs and Assyrians and to include them in the administration.

With the recent attacks of ISIS, a common defence force of the Kurds is an imperative. Defending both the national gains and the gains of all the people with whom we live is possible by developing a common strategy and a defence force. This kind of unity of forces can render the attacks on our democratic structures ineffective and constitute a platform for the political parties to hold the national congress and eventually to build national unity.

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