The Kurds and the Syrian revolts
The waves of revolt in Syria have entered a new phase with the recent bomb explosion in Damascus. Those who are putting their pens to devising schemes to increase the number of days Bashar al-Assad and the Baath gang have left, have, with this one bomb, recognized the Kurdish, Druze, Alawi and Sunni states before the Syrians. We had seen a similar flurry during the occupation of Iraq.
It will not be long before the claim “The Baath regime ceased to exist with the occupation in Iraq and the revolts in Syria” can be justified. The Kurds in Syria did not join the opposition full force. Unfortunately the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) Syrian-wing, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), had its hand in staining the Kurds with the ‘Baathist dirt.’
First and foremost, the Syrian Kurds will have to struggle to get rid of the Baathist dirt and to overcome the alienation caused by the PKK. For Syrian Kurds, coming out of this maelstrom will not only mean protecting their interests, but will also mean being transformed into the natural and legitimate people of the region. Those who readily consider the Kurds “the Irish among us” and those who disregard the tensions in every political platform with an imagined “superiority of oppressed” only serve to alienate the Kurds from our region for their own interests.
It is necessary to shelf the attempt to stop history from happening in the form of suggesting “Turkey should resolve its own Kurdish problem before getting involved” in Syria. Turkey should understand the Syrian problem not as a threat to the resolution of its own problem but as an instrument. First of all, Turkey’s power and capacity today is very different than it was during the Iraq occupation. Its refusal to become an active party to the occupation jump-started Turkey’s own process of confronting its past. In the “new Turkey,” born out of this confrontation, it would not be fair to cast Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who urged al-Assad to help Syrian Kurds claim their rights, as an enemy of the Kurds. For Turkey, the only issue is the infiltration of this region by the PKK and its actions that pose a threat to Turkey’s security.
Turkey must follow a moderate path that balances its short term security concerns with the long term stability expectations. The moderate path in this case must also serve to remind ourselves that the PKK will never become as determinative and constitutive a factor as taking the Syrian revolution prisoner. We must also remember that new Turkey’s Middle Eastern perspective is broader and deeper than indexing it to the PKK, which is reminiscent of old Turkey’s Cyprus syndrome.
The PKK, which missed by a long shot the transformation both Turkey and the Middle East undertook as evidence by the more blood it continues to shed, will continue to be a burden to the Kurds. As long as the Kurdish political movement volunteers to carry the PKK burden, it will not be able to a play a role in the democratization of the region other than to delay the process. The people of this land neither determined the Turkish-Syrian border nor the Iraqi borders. As long as Turkey makes an effort for integration beyond these borders instead of reinforcing them after a century of Sykes-Picot, it will continue to render those actors who keep their fingers on the trigger by pursing Baathism in Syria when they could no longer find Kemalism in Turkey, meaningless.