The Kurds between the anvil of world power maps and the hammer of the PKK (2 of 3)
The historical rights of the Kurds in Syria, fact or an illusion-2
In the previous article, I drove the history of the Kurdish question home. A case that came into being in between the two world wars by dint of the upsurge wave of nationalism that swept Europe at the end of the nineteenth century and gave birth to the disasters of the two world wars. I hope the reader will look into the links cited in the article; as they incorporate studies and resources that provide extensive information in this regard.
“The majority of urban Kurds were using the Arabic language, yet they were socially detached from the groups living in the desert and leading a rural way of life in northeastern Syria." “At that time, there was no organized Kurdish national movement. Practically, no records seem to be available to indicate any request submitted by the Kurds, who might have objected to Syria being named an Arab kingdom; neither do we have evidence of their rights being discussed in the conference.” I quoted this documented excerpt, cited in a number of Western and Arab historical sources, talking about the Syrian Arab Conference of 1920*, as it substantiates that the Kurds had no national or political demands independent from those of the common Syrian people’s political demands.
However, following the French abandoning the northern Syrian territories, Ataturk, with the help of the Kurdish tribes in southeastern Turkey, launched a displacement war against the Syriacs and Armenians. Abundance of documented historical sources gave an account of their migration to the Al-Hasakah territory when the area was under direct French occupation. Following is an extract from a book entitled “The Syriacs in Qamishli”, by Okin Pauls Menoufar Barsoum. It reads: “In the beloved Syria of eternal glory, Syriacs gathered after the first global war following the horrific massacres committed against them by the Turks and the Kurds viciously. Their Arab brothers opened the door wide to receive imigrations. They wiped away the traces of tears from their eyes with compassion and nobility. History will credit them forever towards this magnanimous feat and for time to remember” (pp. 9 and 10). In page 22, he highlighted “As result of the horrific massacres that the tyrannical Turks and the Kurds had committed against our Syriacs people and other peoples affiliated with the minorities in Turkey, in 1925, mass migration began to flock to beloved Syria. The majority of the Syriacs settled in the Syrian Aljazirah area adjacent to the Turkish border, where they build up the cities, one of which was the Al-Qamishli..” By “other minorities”, the writer means the Armenians, who the Turks and the Kurds hunt down reaching the Syrian borders. The Sunnis Arab Syrian helped them all through, gave them shelter, and protected them from attacks. The governor of Aleppo, Muhammad Nabih Beik Martini, (who is a descendant of the Martini family from the city of Idlib), assigned the Sulaymaniyah area in Aleppo for them, from whom he wed a wife.
Later on, Kemal Ataturk broke the vows he pledged to the Kurds. Following which they went on rebellion against him under the leadership of Said Biran in 1925. A rebellion that Ataturk suppressed aggressively and deported well over 30,000 of them to Syria. Muhammad Kurd Ali, originally a Kurdish national, who was the Syrian Minister of Education in the government of Taj al-Din al-Husseini, and was the founder of the Arabic Language Academy, wrote a lengthy letter to the Prime Minister in 1931 upon visiting the said area. He predicted the Kurdish refugees' demands of today’s Syria: "... You know, God bless you, that most of those who migrated to these areas are Kurds, Syriacs, Armenians, Arabs, and Jews. Notwithstanding this, the vast majority of the immigrants are in fact Kurds who camped at the borders. I am of the opinion that they would better be living from now on in places far from the borders of Kurdistan, lest political problems may arise in the near or distant future as a result of their keeping presence there. A case that would lead to cutting off the Aljazirah area or the larger part of it from the body of the Syrian state. This is because if the Kurds cannot build up a state of their own today, in the coming future they might as well fulfill their demands if they keep on purring about their right and glorifying their nationalism. The same can be said and applies to the Turks of the Liwaa’ Alexandretta. Congregation of the vast majority in that district may lead to problems in the future. An instance that the Syrians will not be comfortable with. Hence, it would be better to give whoever may wish of the Turks and the Kurds a land of state property around Homs and Aleppo.... The Kurd and Armenian immigrants should anyhow be mixed with the Arabs in the villages located in the middle of the country, rather than remaining on its borders. This is to ward off any mishap, given that we are now at a turning time to start peace whereby we can think and predict!
The first separatist demands some of the Kurds in Syria called for began in the thirties of the last century. This was when some of the displaced Kurds and Syriacs living in the eastern regions of Syria submitted a petition to the French ruler in which they demanded a further number seven state or an autonomous self-rule in a like manner to the French division of Syria!? The French turned their request down and warned them against any mutiny.
Syria has never had a breath of a democratic state in which it could develop a social contract that grants citizenship and equal rights to all Syrians. It is true that the post-independence governments introduced some democratic practices and tried to produce rationality of governance. However, the initiation of rationality cost Syria dearly. It left the country in short of civil systems rule and let the opportunity to institute its legitimacy slip away. This had taken place when the "Syrian army", fabricated from the ruins of the French eastern minority, sectarian, ideological, partisan, and non-patriotic army. An army that repeatedly intervened in coups that ended in the 1963 coup and which was the groundwork for the February 1966 coup. As a result, the sectarian military and security control had the upper hand under the guise of one party. A move that laid the cornerstone for full sectarian control over the Syrian society and the state as a whole with the coup of Hafez Al-Assad in 1970. Al-Assad frustrated the social life movement in the country and divided it into hostile classes and brackets absorbing their timeworn beguiles and existing hatreds, the real and the unreal as well. This growing role of the sectarian army led to the exacerbation of the sectarian, ethnic, social, and living division. It encouraged mounting antagonism among the overlooked groups of the Syrian people; the Kurds were among those groups. In fact, the Al-Assad regime, father and son, played up this policy as a card to divide the Syrian society and terrorize its components each to the other. Thus, the Kurdish grievance enflamed and wind them up in 2004. Al-Assad army, however, crushed the movement aggressively!
The Syrian revolution and the formation of the Syrian Democratic Forces
Upon the outbreak of the revolution, demonstrations spread over to the Kurdish regions as well. Leaders of the Kurdish parties raised their voices. Some found in the revolution an opportunity more like a horse to ride on and free themselves from the injustice of the Baath and the Al-Assad regime; an approach that ebbed and faded away with the assassination of their leaders, the most significant of whom was Mashaal Tammo. This is while others like the Workers' Party, which used the revolution as a Trojan horse to win off separation or autonomy. The Kurdish demonstrations had a little bit of the brutality that the Arab Sunni demonstrations had been encountering at the hands of the Al-Assad militias. Given that Al-Assad was planning to use the Kurdish issue to pressure the Arab Sunnis and intimidate them from tearing up the unity of Syria with the secession of the Kurds if the revolution continues. Furthermore, in this context, the media started to talk about military operations carried out by the Workers' Party, with the support of the Al-Assad militias, in the Turkish territory.
The United States played its part in herding the Kurds together and officially cooked up the SDF (Qasad) in 2015, under the pretext of defending the region against ISIS. The Americans were not in a position to lend support to the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which is the grand works on which the SDF was originally conjured; this is because it is part of the Workers' Party, a US terrorist classified organization. Therefore, the US worked on blending the YPG with insignificant and negligible Arab and Assyrian militias to cover up the full assistance leveraged on the YPG in order to protect the Syrian oil wells, which the Americans laid hands on and appointed SDF to guard-dog. According to media and human rights organizations reports, the SDF forces took advantage of the American backings and ran havoc in hundreds of Arab villages, killing, displacing, and taking the people in captives into deadly concentration camps, claiming that they are ISIS fighters! In 2019, Mazloum Abdi wrote, “We guard more than 12,000 ISIS terrorist prisoners and bear the burden of their extremist wives and children, and we also protect this part of Syria from Iranian militias.” Strange! Can anyone imagine that even their children are being accused of being extremists!
A study prepared by the Orient Vision Center for Studies and entitled “Syrian Kurds' Options amid the Regional Storm” indicated that the Kurdish parties, not just the PKK, are competing to realize their ambitions on the Arab lands. Therefore, they stretch their maps and change them according to the mood they consider fit and as the situation may allow. “Some of the Kurdish parties dancing to the Masood Barzani’s tunes are promoting an alleged Syrian Kurdish map which illustrates the Syrian Kurdistan as an interconnected region, devouring historically pure Arab regions, such as Azaz, Manbij, Mara’ and areas in the countryside of Tal Abyad to the south of Al-Hasakah. The reality is that this map has been circulated by Kurdish, Arab, and foreign media, wherein the distinct color given to the "Syrian Kurdistan" compared with the color of the Syrian map includes large areas that are in fact two times double of the Kurdish regions, if not more. This has switched the Kurdish national imagination into a fantasy. A fantasy that has its addicts and its followers, especially when it comes to a generation who have not yet visited any Kurdish region outside their town or city, to see its true geographical reality. “Much as the maps are being manipulated, so does the manipulation of the Kurds percentage existing in Syria. An intellect by the name of Muhannad Al-Kate writes in an article “The Kurdish national parties and figures have exaggerated the number of the Kurds in Syria, contrary to all previous estimates. For example, Dr. Abdul Basit Sida, who previously headed the Syrian National Council, had objected during a televised meeting to the percentage of representation in the council. He said that the Kurds constitute 15% of the population of Syria and that their number reaches 4 million people. This number is one million extra to the number that Sida himself mentioned in his book “The Kurdish Issue in Syria”. In his book, he emphasized that the number of Kurds in Syria according to the Kurdish movement’s sources reaches three million. Moreover, Salih Muslim, the official in charge of the Kurdish Protection Forces - the Syrian Kurdistan Workers Party - indicated in several statements that the Kurds make up 15% of the population of Syria. Added to this the Syrian Kurdish politician Salah Badr al-Din in his book “Western Kurdistan… Bloody Spring” quoted the percentage of the Kurds to stand at 15% of the population of Syria.
As for Abdul Hamid Darwish, the most prominent Syrian Kurdish politician and head of the oldest Kurdish party (the Progressive Democratic Party in Syria), in October 2000 he gave a lecture entitled “The Kurdish Issue in Syria” in which he confirmed that the percentage of the Kurds in Syria was 11%. However, in August 2015 he went back on his words and published an article in which he gave contradictory information saying: “The Kurds make up 18% of the population of Syria!”
In the absence of a real census for the Syrians, all across the board and with the attending American creative chaos approach, the minorities play up the figures as the political ends may require them to do so, rather than according to established facts. Likewise, the Alawites consider their percentage in Syria 15%, the Kurds 18%, and the Christians 12%. The goal behind this is to make the Sunni Arabs a minority just like the rest of the minorities!? The problem is that some people do not put numbers into comparison. The Kurdish leaderships use numbers in a randomly stupid manner. For example, the military commander of the SDF militia, Mazloum Abdi, said in an article he wrote in 2019, trying to beg the West, especially the American, that in his battles with ISIS: “We lost 11 thousand soldiers, among our best fighters and leaders, to save our people from this serious danger. I have always made it clear to our forces that the Americans and other allied forces are our partners, and that is why we must always make sure that they are not harmed! ” (it is worth noting the malicious justification)! We know that the world had confirmed that the ISIS forces ranged between 35-37 thousand fighters, and Abdi himself claimed that he had 12,000 prisoners of whom he was holding in Al-Hol camp, and he asks for Western aid to shelter and feed them. Let’s assume that Abdi killed and captured all of the ISIS members, hence 37-12 = 25 thousand. This boils down to a conclusion that every two ISIS militants killed one SDF Kurdish element! What happened to the Coalition forces and the hundreds of sorties and air raids? Were they just watching Abdi with admiration?! I’ll leave for the reader to judge!
The PKK and its founders - along with Massoud Barzani, who supported the Kurds' separation scheme from Syria – linked their plans with the American’s in the region, and ever since, they had and have no other choice but to trust the United States of America. Notwithstanding the fact that Abdi is accused of committing ethnic cleansing massacres, he is welcomed at the US State Department. However, when Trump announced troop’s withdrawal from Syria, the Turkish-backed " National Army" militia swept across Afrin with surprising speed. Abdi and other Kurdish militias were forced to flee deep into the desert. This brings home emphasis on how fragile the American support for those militias is and that the purpose of their herding them altogether was to sow the seeds of discord and chaos and to guard the oil wells for them. Abdi opened channels to deal with Russia and with the Al-Assad sectarian militias. SDF started acting ridiculously, observers noticed. His military vehicles upon making their daily patrols were flying 4 flags, the US, Russian, the Al-Assad regime as well as SDF’s, depending on the area in which they drive through. In spite of this, in an attempt to blackmail the Americans (!?) Abdi wrote: "We may have to reconsider our alliances if the Russians and the Syrian regime would come up with proposals that would save the lives of millions of people who live under our protection ... We know that we will have to make painful concessions with Moscow and Bashar al-Assad if we are going to work along with them. " It is true that the Kurdish leaders are trying to manipulate the Russians, the Americans, and the Syrian regime, the latter of which knows them very well. It was the regime that brought them up and trained them in the camps of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in the Lebanese Bekaa. However, the Kurds have no choice but to always trust the United States and withstand the inevitable consequences!
I am not discussing the Syrian Kurdish question in order to reformulate the past. I am rather writing about this issue in an effort to fathom out an understanding of the crisis in order to contribute to solving it in a just manner and in accordance with the human rights charter. Arabs, Kurds, Syriacs, and other Syrians are all nationalities and sects. Like it or not, they are all prisoners of a geographic destiny. No matter what they may engage in fighting one another and shed each other’s blood because of certain leaders’ criminal personal ambitions, geography will continue its mandate over them to sit at the dialogue table. A place where full citizenship shall be the right of every Syrian, otherwise the shedding of any blood will be pointless and just a criminal act in essence.
Likewise, there is no point in denying the Kurdish grievance in the Middle East, the historical and national rights of the Kurds, and the right to self-determination in the countries they are divided in: Iraq, Turkey, Iran, and small points in Georgia, Armenia (before the recent war) and Azerbaijan. However, the Kurds have no historical rights in Syria whatsoever. They are rather entitled to full citizenship rights just as the Syrians do in the event that a democratic or rational government may rule the country. Their migration to Syria over a century does not mean, whatever the case may be, that they should lead refugees’ life or be denied nationality award, or deprived of their human rights. We will go deep into this point in the next week's last article about this topic.
- Link: Syrian Arab Conference 1920
- A link to the book: Syriacs in Qamishli
- Link: He wrote a lengthy letter to the Prime Minister,
- Link: Petition to the French Governor:
- Link: (Syrian Kurds' Options Amid the Regional Storm)
*Tegel, Jordi. The Syrian Kurds: History, Politics, and Society, Routledge, New York, 2009, pp. 9-11; Winter, Stephan, “The Other Renaissance: Al-Badrakhan, the Mullahs and the Tribal Roots of Kurdish Nationalism in Syria, "Orient Moderno 3: 25, 2006, pp. 461-4. Cited in a chapter about the establishment of minority rights in Syria, in a book entitled (How the West stole Arab Democracy, about the Story of the 1920 Syrian Arab Congress).