What do the Syrian Kurds want?
The president of the Syrian National Council (SNC) Abdulbaset Sieda, and the chairman of the Kurdish National Council in Syria (KNC), Abdulhakim Bashar, each gave a speech at the Istanbul World Forum. The forum was probably one of the few events both of the leaders attended. Sieda and Bashar, both of whom are Kurds, share similar views on the Syrian crisis. They differ on one fundamental point: Bachar, as the chairman of the KNC, voices the Kurds’ demand for a federal and secular state, but this demand is not one of the Syrian National Council’s priorities.
The Kurds, despite having been the group most negatively affected by the Baath regime, did not ignite the Syrian uprisings. Syrians who lived far away from the Kurdish regions but who had been equally oppressed for years, rose up against the al-Assad regime. This uprising was carried to the threshold of no fear by the Syrians who risked their lives, with only scattered participation by the Kurds. During this process, the Kurdish movement gradually picked up and joined the uprising. In fact, the most visible aspect of the Syrian uprising with respect to the Kurds was not that they joined the movement and fought to depose the al-Assad regime. Rather, the Kurds were mentioned under two headings: First, in the context that they diverged from the main goals of the uprising and initiated the first ethnic faction that ignited the post-Assad “disaster scenarios” of “division” and “partition.” Second, the Kurds were mentioned in association with the PKK which had collaborated with the Ba’ath regime for years and which did not have a Syrian agenda at all. These two factors led to the alienation of the Kurds from the Syrian resistance movement, as much as it put the Kurds in a peculiar position within that movement.
First of all, the only source of legitimacy for those who speak on behalf of the Kurdish people is that they fill the de facto power vacuum with a belated nationalist rhetoric that satisfies the Kurds psychologically. The Kurds’ demands for federalism while hundreds of people are still losing their lives in the bloody conflict in Syria today can only be explained by an immature and naive political mindset. If the Kurds want to realize their demand they must first become one of the main actors of the resistance movement to depose al-Assad in a way that does not leave room for doubt.
A Kurdish opposition that is focused only on its own particular agenda not only creates internal incoherencies but could also pave the way for troubled times, post-Assad. Kurds - by expressing their demands in association with a terrorist organization carrying out daily attacks in Turkey, the most ardent supporter of the Syrian opposition - are doing themselves and the Syrian opposition a disservice. Any approach that distances Kurds from Damascus and forces them into Qamishli is an approach that works against the Kurds.