How does the PKK act like a state in Syria?
U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi called for a truce in Syria during Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice. His call was received with prejudice by all sides, who put forward their own preconditions.
Once again, the political uncertainty and chaotic structure in Syria was demonstrated and, as the truce failed, we witnessed the brutality of war.
The most important development during the “truce” was the targeting of Kurds in Aleppo, first by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and then by certain elements of the Free Syrian Army. The armed militia of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) front organization in Syria, responded to this attack in kind. Both sides suffered casualties and took civilian hostages. It won’t be a surprise if accusations and attacks by both sides continue in the days ahead.
Of course, such unexpected developments frequently arise in the context of civil wars. Civil wars destroy a legitimate state and unveil all “potential conflicts” once suppressed. This is exactly what is being experienced in Syria.
Up until now, the conflicts were analyzed through the perspective of “sects” and “revolution.” Thanks to this approach, defining the sides and sponsors of the conflict was relatively easy. Not anymore. With the rise of “ethnic” conflicts, the situation is getting more complicated for every actor and sponsor.
Syrian Kurds are represented by many large and small political parties reflecting a wide variety of personal interests, ideologies, religious networks, sponsors and tribal bonds. The most powerful actor among these parties that is capable of utilizing political opportunities is the PYD, which has saved its energy pursuing a “wait-and-see” strategy since the first day of the uprising. This is a sign of prudence. The PYD knows how to reap the fruits of regional experience. We can expect to hear more about this organization in the near future.
The PYD – which, according to some sources, is now a 10,000-strong force – has established “People’s Defense Forces” in towns populated by a Kurdish majority. In this process, the PKK mobilized its full manpower, training and ideological, technical and organizational capacity in order to strengthen the PYD.
The PYD accused Turkey and some small Syrian Kurdish parties regarding the attacks. Understandably, Turkey’s struggle with the PKK is expanding into new geographical, political and ideological frontiers. In this picture, the phenomenon of “armed movements” seems to be the most interesting issue.
Non-state actors are now capable of acting like states. This is how a sub-state actor like the PKK can sponsor the PYD in Syria. The PKK is helping the PYD get organized and armed. It is not only transferring experience but also assigning political objectives to the PYD. The PKK is saying that it is ready to “reinforce” whenever the PYD is in trouble. This is almost witnessing history in the making.