The PKK in Syria

The PKK in Syria

While we were busy talking about northern Iraq, if a “Western Kurdistan Autonomous Region” is formed in northern Syria, it is obvious what kind of a nuisance Turkey will be facing. The developments are only adding to this anxiety.

There was disagreement between the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is within the orbit of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), in Syria and the Kurdish National Council (KUK), which is within the orbit of northern Iraqi leader Masoud Barzani. Barzani reconciled the two sides in Arbil. After this “Arbil agreement,” the PYD, together with the KUK, captured Kobane, Amuda and Afrin near the Turkish border and hoisted their flag.

Some of our papers reported this incident with joy, saying it was a “blow to al-Assad.”

Yes, it was a blow to Bashar al-Assad but who took charge in northern Syria, the region al-Assad lost control of?

Now it is being called the “Western Kurdistan Autonomous Region” with its capital in the Kurdish city of Qamishli, whose population is 180,000. Will the “People’s Protection Troops” that the KUK and PYD militias are forming in the cities they have “liberated” stay loyal to Barzani? Or are they the nuclei of the “self-defense forces” that is mentioned in the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) Charter? Or are they going to dissolve themselves when democracy arrives in Syria?

One thing is for sure, they will not dissolve themselves.

The Kurdish issue in the Middle East
Everybody may have “mega” ideals based on their identity. However, isn’t it worth considering what this transformation will cost, particularly in terms of the reflection of these ideals in the boundaries of a country or an autonomous region if the means to do so are militant politics?

In an era in which ethnic nationalist feelings are strengthening around the entire world and in which previous nomadic and village life are being left behind amid urbanization, a process of becoming a nation is also being experienced within the Kurdish population. The Kurdish question is an issue in all countries where the Kurds live as a “local” population.

If the al-Assad regime had not been shaken, then would this problem not have erupted? For example, if Turkey had not been so against al-Assad?

However, let’s not forget that the Kurdish issue erupted “again” in 1984 in our country. The date that it erupted “again” in Syria is March 12, 2004: Forty people died and more than 100 were injured in mass clashes following a football game in Qamishli in which Kurds staged nationalist demonstrations and Arabs reacted.

In an era when even Arabs could not tolerate the dictators, it was difficult for the Baath Party to continue. I wish Bashar al-Assad had left quickly so that the fire of the incidents would not have reached this degree and a soft transition had been possible.

But this did not happen.

Good and bad scenarios
The “good scenario” not only in Syria but indeed in the entire region is that soft transitions are conducted within the framework of reasonable demands, rational negotiations and democratic methods.

However, is humankind such a “rational” creature? Especially if ethnic, religious, sectarian and ideological anger steps in? Would there be any reason or democracy left?

This, here, is the bad scenario. Can you imagine what would happen if the Salafis join this dangerous puzzle to make the already complicated issue a total deadlock?

When I think of the Balkans of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, I view the Middle East of the 21st century with a much deeper concern. Especially if insanities such as demarcation and ethnic disintegration erupt… You may wish to take a look at Stefan Yerasimos’ book “Nations and Boundaries from the Middle East to the Caucasus” which explains the Balkan nationalisms, deportations and massacres of the 1900s and demonstrates how demarcation was done.

Taha Akyol is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published on July 24. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.