While major powers are squabbling in the Syrian peace talks, the Syrian-Kurds are lobbying to also participate in the Geneva talks. Their goal is to establish semi-autonomous rule in Northern Syria. The Syrian-Kurds have taken advantage of the five-year war to extend their territories; and with their major role in fighting the Islamic State, the Kurds believe they have a strong bargaining chip. But with the major powers all wanting to have own vision of Syria, the Syrian-Kurds might not get the support they deserve.

Who are the Kurds?

The Kurds are indigenous peoples of the Mesopotamian highlands, which is today’s Southeast Turkey http://www.inhandbag.com, Southwest Armenia, Northwest Iran and Northern Iraq. The Kurds are the fourth largest ethnic group in the Middle East with a population of 35 million. For years, they have envisioned a homeland, Kurdistan – a place they can call home.

The Kurds were guaranteed a Kurdistan by Western allies after the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. However, their dreams were shattered in 1923 when the Treaty of Lausanne established modern Turkey but did not include Kurdistan. Despite the bitter disappointment, the Kurds have strived to turn their dreams into reality. The desire for a homeland is the source of Kurdish nationalism and pride. So the Kurds have taken matters in their own hands. The PKK, (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) which is a left-wing militant organisation, has fought for self-determination and cultural rights. The PKK is labelled as a terrorist group by Turkish authorities, they are listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation by the US State Department and as a Proscribed Group by the UK.

As stateless people, they are victims of oppression – particularly by the Turkish and Iraqi government. The Iraqi government had even conducted systematic genocide against the Kurds. In the Al-Anfal campaign during the Iran-Iraq War, carried out by Ali Hassan Al-Majid, had nearly 200,000 Kurds exterminated. For years, the PKK have waged conflict against Turkish and Iraqi government in an attempt to establish territories for greater Kurdistan.

The Syrian conflict

The world hadn’t batted an eyelid even though genocide threatened to wipe out this community. Like the Rohingya Muslims, the Kurdish plight for self-determination was largely ignored. However, the Kurds came to our attention when the Syrian Civil War broke out. The country descended in confusion, the Syrian-Kurds, along with other groups like the Free Syrian Army, Assyrians, Turkomen and Armenians, took advantage of the chaos. The Kurdish Supreme Committee, a self-declared governing body of Rojava (Syrian-Kurdistan) established the People’s Protection Unit to defend Rojava. In 2013, Rojava became a de facto autonomous region but it is not recognised by the Syrian government.

Photo credits: Map of Syria during the Syrian conflict by NordNordWest – Licensed under GNU Free Documentation License via Wikimedia Commons

Photo credits: Map of Syria during the Syrian conflict by NordNordWest – Licensed under GNU Free Documentation License via Wikimedia Commons

The Kurds expanded their territory in 2015 when they drove out the Islamic State. Due to their success, they have become an important force in fighting against this menacing group. When the Syrian peace talks were announced, the Syrian-Kurds deftly reminded the UN they should have a say. They are confident their role in fighting the Islamic State can leverage them support from the big powers. Syrian-Kurds are hopeful since their kinsmen, the Iraqi-Kurds Replica Handbags, managed to secure semi-autonomous control in Northern Iraq when they joined forces with the Americans to topple the  Saddam regime.

The Kurds are careful how they approach their request, however. Rodi Osman, the director of the Syrian-Kurds’ representative in Moscow, said:  “We don’t aspire to create an autonomous zone that is exclusive to the Kurdish nation…we envision to install a federal regime, democratic and secular, in which all parts of Syrian society can live and by which they will feel themselves represented”. If successful, the Federation of Northern Syria means they can institute governance in the area and maintain the People’s Protection Unit. What’s more, the Syrian-Kurds could have a home where they can enjoy cultural rights and free from oppression.

Do the Syrian-Kurds have any support?

But Replica Handbags, other powers have their own version of Syria’s future which can subsequently affect the Syrian-Kurds. Washington and the Arab League don’t support a federation of Rojava because they perceive a Syria-Kurdistan can cause more instability. Moreover, the US doesn’t want to upset its ally Turkey who are growing more fearful of Kurdish nationalism. A Turkish Foreign Ministry official commented: “Syria’s national unity and territorial integrity is fundamental for us”. Turkey has suffered a series of terror attacks from Kurdish militants, and they have accused Syrian-Kurds of assisting their Turkish brethren in the Ankara blasts last month. While Turkey has been fighting the Islamic State, they also fought the Kurds alongside to limit their territorial expansion. The success of a Federation of Northern Syria could inspire Turkish-Kurds to imitate their Syrian brothers.

The Syrian-Kurds only have Russia’s backing; Moscow has helped Syrian-Kurds to have a say in the peace talks. Since Moscow’s fallout with Turkey, Russia has buddied up with the Syrian-Kurds knowing very well Ankara will be irritated by this. But, one can’t be sure this new-found alliance will last long. Russia needs the Syrian-Kurds to fight the Islamic State Replica Handbags, but at the same time Moscow needs to keep strong ties with Assad to maintain its footing in the Middle East. In the larger context, Moscow may be apathetic if a federated Rojava is established or not, as this depends if the current Syrian regime agrees with such arrangements.

The Kurds have toiled long and hard for self-determination and independence. When the opportune moment arises, they scamper for support and try to win favours from foreign powers. But now it’s out of the Syrian-Kurds’ control because they are at the mercy of major powers’ bickering of Syria’s future. For now, Kurdistan will just be a fantasy.

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Hsin-Yi Lo

Hsin-Yi Lo

I am freelance journalist and writer, and a Multimedia Journalism graduate from the University of Kent. I am originally from Melbourne, Australia.