mardi 16 juillet 2013

Iraqi Kurd political heavyweights' new battlefield: Syria

The worsening health condition of jalal Talabani, president of Iraq, but more to the point leader of the Kurdistan’s Patriotic Union (PUK), has put his party on the defensive. The PUK, after years of resistance against Saddam Hussein, quickly followed by a bitter war among Kurds, agreed to divide what is now Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan between itself and its rival, the Barzani clan’s PDK. They distributed ministries, resources, government postings among themselves, each ruling its own fiefdom: Erbil and Dohok governorates for the PDK, Sulaimaniya governorate for the PUK. But the PUK, not unlike its leader’s health, has been declining for years and the party is now clearly the junior partner in the PDK-PUK-shared Kurdistan Rergional Government. The relationship between the two “allies” is now entering a new dynamic. With Mam Jalal incapacitated, the party is said to be under the rule of Hero Talabani, his wife. She is the daughter of Ibrahim Ahmed, a key PDK figure who joined the PUK after being sidelined by the Barzanis. Hero Talabani has a deep distrust of the Barzanis: no way for her to let them taking advantage of Mam Jalal's illness to realise their long-time ambition and absorb the PUK, bringing the whole Iraqi Kurdistan under the authority of Massoud Barzani, leader of the clan and already the autonomous region's president. And now the two Iraqi Kurd heavyweight parties are taking their rivalry on a new field: Syrian Kurd politics. Syria has a sizeable Kurdish population, estimated between 10 to 15% (if one believes the official statistics or the ones compiled by the internal security agencies, not made public), occupying the north-eastern al-Jazirah province, on the Turkish and Iraqi borders. Obviously refusing to fight alongside a dictatorship which permanently oppressed them, especially since the al-Ba’ath party seized power in 1963, the Kurds nonetheless didn’t side with the Free Syrian Army, which they fear could perpetuate the Arab nationalist trend which has prevailed in Syria until now. They have carefully kept themselves away from the conflict. And with Syria breaking up in rebel or government-held areas, sunni or druze or alawite strongholds, following political, sectarian, ethnic or tribal lines, it is the moment for the Kurds not only to demand for equal rights but as well -as are thinking some of their political parties - to gain a federal status for their region -creating their own autonomous Kurdistan, so to say, Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan being seen as a model by numerous Kurds across the middle east. The Syrian crisis is, for the KRG president, a fantastic opportunity to extend not only his influence, but maybe even his territory towards the West. A Syrian Kurdistan now detached from Damascus' central government, isolated in a country ravaged by civil war, could become an addition to autonomous Kurdistan itself. Falah Mustapha, an official of the KRG's foreign affairs department, tellingly said, when asked about Erbil's position concerning Syria's territorial integrity, that the border separating Syrian and Iraqi Kurds was “artificial” and didn't have to be respected ( Massoud Barzani so held a conference in Erbil in late November 2011, gathering Syrian Kurd political parties and establishing the Kurdish National Congress (also known as the Kurdish Patriotic Conference), widely seen by its critics as being merely the autonomous president’s tool to forward his personal agenda. "There has not been any Erbil conference", said Sardar, a Syrian Kurd journalist in Erbil, talking about the KNC's founding event. "It was not a conference, but a show, set to demonstrate that Massoud Barzani dominates the Syrian Kurd political scene. The ”conference” was organised to provide him a public to nod and applause him." Moreover it is now known that the leadership of the parties forming the coalition were paid by the KRG president to attend the conference, the amount of money they received depending from the attendant' and his party's importance (“The KNC”, added Sardar, “is nothing more than a name.” Despite these accusations, Massoud Barzani has the possibility to become immensely popular in the eyes of Syrian Kurds. He can send to al-Jazirah, the Kurd-populated province in north-east Syria, close to the autonomous Kurdistan region, a lot of supplies, which would make him appear as a saviour in a Syrian Kurdistan severely hit by war-related food shortages, threatening to turn in actual famine. He started, similarly, to build a peshmerga force made of Syrian Kurds, deserters of the junta’s army, recruited in the refugee camps; a troop destined to become the KNC’s army. He so continued with his plan, the KNC becoming more and more an instrument. “At a recent meeting between KRG and KNC representatives, all KRG officials were PDK people.”, said in late January 2013 a Syrian Kurd with connections with a KNC party. “It was striking.” Already in a weak position, the PUK is aware of Massoud Barzani’s views on Syrian Kurdistan and that, would he be successful, it would be unable to oppose any more his hegemonic ambitions. Revealingly, the scandal about the Erbil conference corruption was made public by Haji Darwish, the only attendant to have refused Massoud Barzani’s bribe and whose party, the Kurdish Democratic People’s Party, is funded by the PUK. “The leadership of the KNC has different political leanings, everyone does his own thing and doesn’t worry about the others” said Mustafa Jumma, leader of the KNC-member Azadi party, so laying bare the core problem undermining the coalition: the different parties inside the KNC are under the patronage of the PUK and the PDK, and the paralysing squabbles affecting it are part of the two Iraqi Kurd parties’ struggle for power ( In the same interview Mustafa Jumma mentioned the curious initiative taken by Haji Darwesh and Mustafa Musa, leader of the Kurdish Leftist Party. They went to the Kandil mountains, the PKK fortress, in the north of autonomous Kurdistan, to talk to the organisation’s leadership. The two politicians, said Mustafa Jumma, were not part of the KNC’s contact committee set to handle relations with the PYD, the PKK’s Syrian branch. None of this committee’s members were present with Haji Darwesh and Mustafa Musa. Given that both the KDPP and the KLP are financed by the PUK, one can safely assume their leaders went to hold talks, not on the KNC’s behalf, but on the PUK’s. For the PYD, the Syrian version of the PKK, is the main player in Syrian Kurdistan. In summer 2012 the Syrian junta’s army withdrew in its barracks there, de facto handing over the day-to-day control of al-Jazirah to the organisation. The party benefits from the long time presence of the PKK there: until he evicted it in 1999, general-president Hafez al-Assad allowed the party to open training facilities and recruit volunteers for its war against the Turkish state, just over the border. “When we created the PYD in 2003, it has not been too difficult.” was saying Saleh Muslim, the party’s chairman, in an interview the 18/03/2011. “A lot of Kurds families were involved with the PKK: Syrian Kurds gave 4000 martyrs to the cause. The PKK has been present during 20 years in Syrian Kurdistan; it was then something normal for a young Kurd to become a gerillaand go to fight in Turkey . So when we created the PYD, families of our fighters, or even veterans of the PKK who came back, naturally joined the party.” But the circumstances in which the PYD took over the administration in al-Jazirah has been fuelling accusations of collusions with the regime, coming from the other Syrian Kurd parties, despite the severe repression the PYD had to face from the dictatorship until the start of the Syrian uprising. The KNC parties accuse the PYD to have resumed with the al-Assad government the relation the PKK had with it. “The government lets the PYD take over the areas it leaves behind”, said in an interview with the Iraqi Kurd newspaper Rudaw Abdulhakim Bashar, leader of the PDK-Syria, one of the main parties of the KNC.“The (government) offices are functioning without any problems. They have not changed except the PYD flag has been raised on their roofs (…). The Syrian government still pays (the state employees).” While admitting he didn’t have any evidence of it, Abdulhakim Bashar said the PYD had an agreement with the dictatorship, and that it was “viewed as the regime’s partner.” And the PYD has effectively kept Syrian Kurds from joining the insurgency against the dictatorship. It also keeps an absolute monopoly on power and armed force, refusing to allow any other militia than its own. The PYD, say its detractors, sends its militants to attack demonstrations held by other political parties ( The party is also wary to let KRG-supplied relief in. The opening of a border crossing between the PYD-controlled Syrian Kurdistan and the KRG territory was, in January 2013, the matter of delicate negotiations. The PYD wants the crossing point to be under its exclusive control, while Massoud Barzani was demanding a common supervision by both the PYD and KNC. In front of the well-organised, disciplined PYD, the KNC revealed itself a chaotic amalgam crippled by inefficiency and divisions, unable to even formulate a coherent programme. Asked about their project for Kurdistan in a post-war Syria, some parties advocate federalism, while some others reject it, claiming Syria must remain one and can not be divided. The PYD made a clever use of these divisions, as is explaining a representative in europe of the Azadi party, one of the PYD's most vocal critics: “In Afrin (the province, not the town itself), where Azadi has a strong presence, we started to hold meetings. Our members were attacked by the PYD’s militants. There is another KNC party in Afrin, Sheikh Ali’s Democratic Yekiti party. It is a small party, without too much relevance inside the KNC. By not reacting nor voicing any opposition against the PYD’s actions, it intends to entice itself towards the PYD, and be associated to its power.” Asked about his party’s relationship with the PYD Mohamed Mahmoud Abou Saber, the Democratic Yekiti’s representative in Erbil, said it advocated a “total cooperation” with the PYD. “We do not believe the PYD could be an auxiliary of the dictatorship” did he say. “Kurds have avoided being dragged into the civil war. The PYD has maintained security in our territories. But now war is at our gates. We can not afford division among Kurds, we are in danger. We must cooperate with the PYD, now. The situation demands it.” he said, clearly referring to the fighting in Sere Kaniye border town where the PYD faces different Free Syrian Army groups - presenting itself as the defender of the Kurdish territories and rallying Kurds, even those uneasy with its power, under its banner. The divisions inside the KNC and the inaction resulting have led to the formation, in mid December 2012, of the Kurdish National Political Union, an inside-KNC movement grouping the two Azadi factions, the PDK-S and the PYKS. “We want to go over the KNC’s paralysis”, said the European Azadi representative. “We want a more practical and proactive KNC. We want to be efficient. And we want, too, a firm attitude towards the PYD.” Unsurprisingly the KNPU is not welcomed by some of the other KNC parties. “We already have a political union, it is the KNC”, said Mohamed Mahmoud Abou Saber. Sarcastically he pointed out that the “union” was actually dividing the Kurd parties. “And this at the moment we need to remain united” did he repeat. But, said the Azadi representative, “The creation of the KNPU doesn’t mean the end of the KNC”, tellingly adding “Massoud Barzani wants the KNC to remain.” “The KNPU has been created under the impulse of Massoud Barzani.” explains one insider. The relation between the Abdulhakim Bashar’s PDK-S and the PDK, does he add, is the same than between the PYD and the PKK. “This movement is conceived to be a vector for the PDK-S, the three other parties are there to bring a bit more consistency, that’s their only purpose.” “The PDK-S is the main party in the KNPU, and is privileged.” are we said. “All these parties were to receive a training, provided by the PDK, about political discipline, use of medias, that kind of things. To date only the PDK-S had been trained.” Making it, so, the dominating element in this“alliance”. And there is more. There are, says this insider, PDK-S moles in the PYKS and Azadi(s) parties, ready to put their parties under the control of the PDK-S when judged suitable. “As a result there is grumbling in the ranks of these parties (PYKS and Azadi) but they stay in the political union because they want weapons, and only the PDK can give them some - but very few, naturally. They must remain dependent.” Why these weapons? “To defend themselves, against the PYD.” "There is not just the fight in Sere Kaniye and a war against the Arabs which is threatening us", concludes this friend. "There is the danger to see a war among Kurds, with factions fighting for power. It is my fear, personally." The tensions, and their exploitation by the rival Iraqi Kurd political parties, are reflected by the reports on the Sere Kaniye fightings broadcasted by GaliKurdistan TV, the PUK’s propaganda TV station supervised by Mala Bakhtyar, a close associate of Mrs Talabani. Reporting on the Sere Kaniye combats, GaliKurdistan emphasises the support, presented as enthusiastic and unconditional, Kurds are bringing to the PYD. Interviewing, for example, Mustapha Musa (often quoted by, the PYD information website), who said that all the KLP volunteers joined the PYD militia in its fight against Jabhat al-Nusra (which prompted dismissive comments from a Syrian Kurd friend, who didn't know the KLP had enough members to have an armed wing: "I am not sure they were aware they had one themselves"). Secondly, when asked by the GaliKurdistan journalists, or the TV stations linked to the PYD, who joined this party in its battle against the invaders, the interviewed invariously answer that everyone did, "except the PYKS and Azadi": the KNPU parties. "They avoid attacking the PDK-S", says one insider. "This party is under Massoud Barzani's personal protection. It is easier, and safer, to hammer on the other KNPU parties."

dimanche 10 février 2013

Kurdish conscripts: Syrian junta's 'Malgré nous'

The Domiz refugee camp, opened in northern Iraq, harbours some 50000 (60000, say some sources), Syrian Kurds who had to leave their country. "The camp is divided in two parts", are we explained. "One is for the families, the other for single men." It is in this second part, between two rows of tents provided by the UNHCR, that we meet several of them. Amongst the young single men here, they say, 70% are Matloubin, "wanted" - deserters. "I was to go to national service", say one, an electrical engineer. "I went to Iraq as soon as I could". For Kurds are, they are unanimous, used as cannon fodder by the military regime: sent to the most exposed fronts, on the most dangerous postings. "A friend of mine was killed in a car bomb attack in Damascus.", says the engineer. "He was manning a checkpoint, a dangerous job." "If there is a dangerous job, Kurds are sure to be sent in.", adds another man. In a tent, close by, a young man confirms. He made 13 months in the army before absconding: "I was sent in a shock troop on the Lebanese border to fight the rebels. I was machine-gunner in the commandos." Kurdish conscripts are detailed as reinforcement in areas which saw bitter fighting, to fill losses, by small groups. "No more than five", say Domiz's young men. "So they can not organise among themselves to escape." And to escape where, anyway? The territory under governmental control is dotted with control posts, checkpoints, road blocks, where soldiers check identities. "If you do not have papers, if they discover you are a Matloub, they take you on the side of the road and just kill you." "Sometimes", adds the engineer, "they pour petrol on the corpse and set fire to it in front of the post's soldiers. And the officer tells them:" now you know what will happen to you if ever you defect." This extensive net plays the same role than a spider web, destined to catch the deserters. It prevents the young Kurds to reach the town of Derik, in the east of Syrian Kurdistan, by where they can cross to Irak - after paying a tax to the PYD, the Syrian Kurd revolutionary party often presented as the PKK's Syrian branch. "We've been able to cross the border, but a lot of others are trapped inside Syria's Kurdish provinces. The army roadblocks prevent them to move from where they are. They are in danger to be caught in a search, or intercepted at a checkpoint, at any moment. If they are to perform their national service, they are sent on the front. But if they are Matloubin, they are killed immediately. No martial court, no military judge: a bullet in the head and that's it." The fate of those who did not desert is not better. The general feeling, amongst the Domiz refugees, is that their comrades, sent on the most dangerous fronts, will be killed sooner or latter, in combat by the Free Syrian Army, or shot by the officers. It is what says, in the tent, another Kurdish deserter, Ahmed, who served with the internal security ministry troops. "Any hesitation is seen as a sign of weakness. An unconditional support to president al-Assad is demanded from us. If we have qualms, if we do not obey the officers' orders - including shooting civilians - we are traitors. And if we arre traitors, we are dead." To get from the young soldiers a total commitment the officers push them to commit crimes. "We are encouraged to loot.", explains Ahmed. He admits he himself took part to lootings. "If you do not take part, you become suspect." His unit, he says, is involved in summary executions, of civilians and rebels. Compromised in the dictatorship's crimes the recruits, regardless of their actual support for the regime or their degree of involvement, do not have other option but to fight: they have no mercy to expect from the rebels. "We were once encircled in a house. The lieutenant ordered us to surrender. We refused. We fought, during three hours maybe, and at the end we escaped. It was the only thing to do." Moreover, continues Ahmed, he was one of the only few Kurds in his unit, made mainly of Alawites, president al-Assad's sect, regime loyalists. "Just by being Kurd, I was in danger." Outside the tent the others confirm. Even in peace time, the Syrian army was a dangerous place for Kurd conscripts. Kurds have been victims of the discriminatory policies by the successive Syrian governments since the 1960s. Policies which sometimes looked as attempts to culturally annihilate the Kurds, theorised by Mohammed Talib Hilal, a political police lieutenant in al-Jazeera province in 1960, who later became vice president. In 1963, a census deprived 120000 Kurds from their citizenship. (1) "We Kurds are second class citizens for the al-Ba'ath regime - when we are citizens (2)." says the engineer, who translates for the small group gathered outside. This institutionalised racism becomes persecutions in the army. All agree to say things worsened dramatically after the Qamishlu riots, in mid March 2004. Brawls between Arab and Kurd football supporters in this Kurd town on the Turkish border deteriorated in riots. Police fired live ammunitions on the Kurdish demonstrators, the army entered the town and conducted house to house searches. There was no less than 35 dead accounted for. "There was more" says the engineer, with his friends approving. "Some people were killed after the riots. Kurdish soldiers, who refused to fire at the crowd. They were tortured to death, killed by the army itself. I know of three of these cases." Since, the persecutions against Kurdish recruits intensified. Issa has done his military service, but when the Syrian revolution turned in a war, he was called again - he is a Ihtiad, "called again" - but he went to Iraq. "If we speak Kurdish in the army, we are investigated by the battalion's political officer. We can be sent in jail. And then, it can end badly." Issa tells the story of another Kurdish conscript, who was in the army at the same period than him. "He was beaten to death, probably while in cell. His corpse was given back to his family, they were said in died during training." But who was he? The list of young Kurds killed in these circumstances is a long one. In December 2009 Abdulbaqi Yussef, a PYKS, a Syrian Kurd political party, politburo member, was explaining that since 2004 about forty Kurdish recruits had died during their national service. "Eleven during 2009 alone.", did he say then. "These barracks violence are not organised. But they reflect the climate of racist violence prevailing in the Syrian army against Kurds. Since 2004 the al-Ba'ath's official propaganda made us, Kurds, the target of the Arab nationalism at the core of the regime's ideology. Kurds and their political parties were shown as separatists, a threat to the Syrian Arab nation." But with the civil war, the situation changed. To avoid the opening of a second front in the eastern provinces, and so having to fight both a Syrian insurgency and the Free Syrian Army, president al-Assad's military junta withdrew its troops in Syrian Kurdistan in its barracks. It is now the PYD and its militia which is controlling the Kurdish provinces, establishing there, are saying its critics, a totalitarian regime and keeping the Kurds to join the uprising, for the benefit of the dictatorship - accusations the PYD denies, saying it fought the regime and had to face heavy police repression since its creation. "The regime has avoided to enter in conflicts with the Kurds from the start of the uprising.", was saying Roni, a representative in Europeof the Syrian Kurd Azadi party. Listen this: towards the end of 2011 a relative of mine took part to a demonstration in Afrin and was arrested with five or six other Kurds. He was identified as an organiser. They were terrorised. They thought they would be tortured. But instead they were lectured, made to sign some paperwork, promised they would never do it any more, and were let out, free. They could not believe it. But as they were going out the police station they saw a police truck, full with Arab demonstrators, arrested at the same demonstration. They had been beaten so severely they were unconscious. Several looked dead. Do you understand? By treating the Kurds differently the dictatorship makes a difference between us and the Arab opposition, to which is shown no mercy. It so wants to create resentment and animosity against us, to have us looking as collaborators to the eyes of the FSA, to have the rebels turning on us, and to let the Kurds no other choice than to join the war at the regime's side." It is what are living, on an individual scale, the Kurds sent in the Syrian army, made to fight for a government they hate. Isolated in combat groups under the orders of officers who do not hesitate to shoot their own soldiers if they show any sign of weakness, they have to fight to the bitter end, just to survive. "The officers had a say.", says Ahmed "They were saying to us: "In front of you is your father, behind you is your brother. You must kill one of them: choose!"." We tell to the young Kurds the dilemna of the "Malgré nous" in France during the second world war, young Alsatians forcibly conscripted in the Third Reich armies and sent on the Eastern front, sometimes under SS uniform - which meant an immediate execution if ever they were captured by the Red Army or the partisans. The engineer nods approvingly: "It is our story. It is what we are living, now." (1) (2) – In 2010 a presidential decree granted citizenship to the Kurds who had been deprived of it, often because they were children of those victims of the 1963 census. But these new citizens became so entitled to national service.

samedi 24 décembre 2011

Turkish newspaper beats war drums
for military intervention in Syria

An article published the 24/11/2011 by the Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman, close to the ruling AKP party, dramatically “revealed” the building, in neighbouring strife-torn Syria, of a Kurdish rebel PKK base (“despite Turkey’s warnings, Syria provides camp for terrorist PKK”). Taking advantage of the emotion caused by spectacular attacks the previous month (24 Turk soldiers died in just one of them, sparkling public outrage, with tremors felt in Europe, home to many Kurd and Turk immigrants: 24/10/2011 “kurds around Europe attacked by Turkish fascist groups”; 26/10/2011 “Amsterdam: fears of violence after Turkish rioters attack Kurdish centre”), the article, very accurate, gave the location of that base (worryingly close to the Turkish border), its name (Rustam Bayram camp, named from a PKK “terrorist” precisely killed in a recent clash), and even the name of its commander. It is, of course, Fehmen Husseyin, codename Bahoz Erdal -who else?- a Syrian Kurd and high ranking PKK commander, never presented in Today’s Zaman but as a vindictive, bitter-ender extremist - the newspaper’s other favourite scarecrow being Duran Kalkan.
In early December another article, after a declaration by Turkey’s prime minister Arinc, said that a senior PKK member, left unnamed, had been captured. The Anatolia news agency immediately presented the prisoner as a Fehman Husseyin right-hand man. In the same declaration the vice prime minister said the army eliminated from the Amanos mountains, “used as a transit route to Syria by the PKK”, a sizeable group of rebels. (“Pro-PKK protesters attack civilians, Turkey captures senior PKK member”, 05/12/2011).
It is not the first time Ankara, by way of press articles, statements and else, points at a PKK threat coming from Syria.
A bit more than one year ago, the same Anatolia news agency was saying that Damascus’s troops were conducting anti-PKK operations in Syrian Kurdistan. Dozens of militants had been arrested, 11 killed in armed clashes. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad said at the time he was unaware of such military actions, a surprising statement from the head of a military dictatorship. Newaf Khalil, a Syrian Kurd journalist well introduced with the PYD, the PKK-aligned Syrian Kurd opposition party, denounced the information as a clumsy manipulation from Ankara.. “There hasn’t been any military operation”, did he say then. “It is an attempt from the AKP government to enlist Syria’s support in its general offensive against the Kurdish insurgency, and encourage president al-Assad’s al-Ba’ath regime to intensify repression against PKK cells in Syria and the PYD. It is true there are numerous Kurd revolutionaries in Syrian jails, but they are PYD -400 today- not PKK.”
For Syria became during the past years a valuable auxiliary for the Turks in their endless war against the PKK. They have a private interest in it, the emergence of the revolutionary PYD, born in 2003, presenting a direct threat to the regime’s grip on Syrian Kurdistan.
But now the Syrian uprising totally changed the perspectives. From arch-enemy of the dictatorship the PYD became an interlocutor which can not be circumvented.
One can so understand the Turkish high command’s fears, whose troops are already locked in an anti-guerrilla war in south-east Turkey, to see a second PKK front opening on its southern flank. Until its eviction in 1999, Syria has been a rearbase for the PKK - a fact Today’s Zaman never fails to repeat. It remains a fertile recruiting ground for the organisation. When reading a PKK military statement, the birthplace of a militant killed in action, named amongst a list of recent “martyrs”, sometimes happens to be well inside Syria. “The PKK has been present for years in Syrian Kurdistan”, was saying in March, shortly before turmoil to take hold of Syria, M Hesso, a member of the PYD central committee. “It was a natural thing then, for a Kurd, to join the organisation’s armed wing. And it still is: Kurds are oppressed in Syria as well as in Turkey, and the PKK’s struggle is for all Kurds, in all Kurdistans.” The PYD’s powerbase, he added, with on the wall behind him a picture of a son who died fighting in the mountains, it is the families of the Syrian members of the PKK.
The PYD nonetheless denies there is any PKK camp in Syria. They have, was explaining Zuhat Kobani, one of its representatives, other priorities. “Syrian forces are embattled with demonstrators and can not afford a second uprising in the Kurdish provinces.”, was he already saying in the summer. “On our side we need them to stay away. We need to establish structures, to establish committees, to be able to take control of the situation at the moment the al-Ba’ath administration will collapse.”
The PYD nonetheless denies there is any camp in Syria. Its representatives were already saying in the summer that they had other priorities than building PKK fortresses under the nose of the Turkish military. There is a deep distrust running between the Kurds, marginalised by age-long state discrimination -to the point some of them are not even granted actual citizenship ( and the arab opposition. Kurdish parties, not only the PYD, fear to see emerging from the uprising a regime even more nationalistic than the present one. There was, during spring, real concerns to see the tensions degenerate in an ethnic conflict: a report from KurdWatch said that in mid-june, a delegation of Arab tribal representatives came to see Kurdish political groups to threaten of reprisals would the Kurds join the demonstrations. (“al-Qamishli: regime threatens Kurds with repression” 19/06/2011). In an interview given the 13/09/2011 to the Iraqi Kurd newspaper Rudaw, Mishaal Tamo, leader of the Syrian Kurd party Future Movement, expressed his concerns about some Arab parties: “Some believe in democracy and the rights of all nations in Syria. There are some who are influenced by the Ba’ath regime and do not accept the others.” He was assassinated in his hometown of al-Qamishli shortly after.
This distrust has been worsening, due to the Kurds’s cautiousness, avoiding confrontation with the Syrian security forces, while in the Arab provinces demonstrators are braving live fire. The controversial de facto truce between the Kurds and the dictatorship is harshly criticised, with claims, coming from some Sunni Arab factions, but also from some Kurdish parties, and relayed by Today’s Zaman, that the PYD is actually collaborating with the regime. M Saleh Muslim, chairman of the party, angrily denied the allegations. ( They come, says the PYD, from groups they accuse of being proxies, used by the AKP to implement its pan-Ottoman agenda: the claims, as well as those made about a re-emerging “PKK second front”, are made to discredit their party and justify by advance an eventual Turkish military strike.
And, in the answer M Muslim gave, it sounds the PYD’s patience is running thin. The party, he says, established defence committees among the population to oppose any kind of aggression. In Qandil mountains, the PKK stronghold, Duran Kalkan said the organisation’s army was ready to act would the Turks step in and try to use the unrest to impose a puppet government in Damascus. A declaration likely to feed Today’s Zaman’s articles: in a piece supposed to talk about a court hearing in Denmark, about the Europe-based PKK TV station Roj TV, the newspaper wrote the station would resettle in Syria, and that it was now two terrorist camps, each with a capacity of 200 recruits, which had been open in Syrian Kurdistan.(“Roj TV to broadcast from Syria if shut down in Denmark” 20/12/2011)

jeudi 24 novembre 2011

Kurdish conflict: now in europe ?

The 19/10/2011 a major attack by the PKK, the Kurdish revolutionary organisation at war with the Turkish state since 1984, killed 24 soldiers and wounded 18 more in a series of coordinated actions in Hakkari province involving 100 assailants against 8 military posts.

The indignation in Turkey was echoed by a string of demonstrations in Europe. In several cities, protests held by Turkish immigrants turned in outright confrontations between Turks and Kurds, requiring the intervention of police. Fights erupted in Berlin, Basel and Paris, while in Hamburg, Hagen, Amsterdam and Mulhouse Turkish nationalists attacked Kurdish cultural centres, which they say harbour sympathies for the PKK ( 24/10/2011 “Kurds around Europe attacked by Turkish fascist groups”; 31/10/2011 “police fire tear gas as Turks and Kurds clash”). In Arnhem a Turkish mosque was subjected to an arson attack, attributed to PKK sympathisers ( 26/10/2011 “Amsterdam: fears of violence after Turkish rioters attack Kurdish centre”). The PKK’s press agency ANF, cited by, accuses the Turkish consulates in Europe to orchestrate the troubles.

Those events may be spectacular but it is not the first time Europe becomes a secondary battlefield of the multi-faced Kurdish conflict.

At the beginning of 2010, Ankara’s AKP government’s controversial “Kurdish initiative” (a series of measures towards the Kurdish population, aiming at detaching it from the PKK and so cutting the organisation from its support base) was looking to be failing ( 06/11/2011 “A civil war revived”, Owen Matthews). As a result, the Turkish state switched to the military option - so vindicating the PKK claims that the “Kurdish initiative” was merely a civilian complement to the Turkish army’s anti-guerrilla campaign, rather than a sincere attempt to integrate Kurds into the Turkish modern society.

A plan to asphyxiate the PKK in its bases in northern Iraq’s Kandil mountains was established with the Syrian and Iranian regimes, themselves willing to crush Kurdish dissent on their own territories. But prior to any all out offensive, Turkey gained the help of the western democracies to carry out strikes against the PKK net in Europe.

The PKK, considered as a terrorist organisation by the European Union, has built an extensive and efficient support net among the Kurdish diaspora. Its cadres raise money, recruit volunteers, and establish structures relaying the party’s action inside the Kurdish immigration, being able to mobilise crowds in huge demonstrations ( 11/11/2011 “PKK to raise power in Germany, report says” - from a Hurriyet article). In February and march 2010, coordinated police raids took place in Belgium, Italy, and France, dismantling clandestine indoctrination camps and fundraising operations ( 17/04/2011 “Dutch intelligence gets tough with PKK”). Was targeted as well the PKK powerfull TV station Roj TV, since regularly subjected to attempts to close it down, notably in Germany and Denmark.

Since then pressure has been maintained on the PKK European net. Cultural centres affiliated to the organisation have been investigated, sometimes closed, while PKK cadres have been sent to courts, under the accusation of raising funds for a terrorist group (www.ekurd net 20/09/2011 “French police arrest several alleged PKK militants”; 05/06/2011 “France detains three alleged PKK members”; 20/07/2011 “Two alleged Kurdish PKK members arrested in Germany”; 01/11/2011 “Paris court to conclude extortion case against PKK suspects on dec.2”).

In the meanwhile the military offensive against the PKK gerrilas developed in a movement of encirclement, taking all its amplitude when Iran launched, in march 2011, a sustained and relentless attack on the PKK-aligned PJAK. Turkey and Iran officialised their military cooperation in October (The Independent 22/10/2011 “Turkey and Iran unite to fight Kurdish rebels”), while Iran, not unlike Turkey, wages its own war against Kurdish opponents in Europe as well. It demanded to the German government the extradition of Haji Ahmadi, the PJAK chairman, who lives in exile in Germany ( 24/07/2011 “Germany urged to hand over PJAK chief to Iran”). Haji Ahmadi in the same time claims that the Iranian secret services wanted to assassinate him ( 12/05/2011 “Iran pressures Iraq to crack down on Kurds”; “Iran attempts to assassinate PJAK’s leader”). Not an unreasonable concern: in 1989 Dr Ghassemlou, the PDK-I chairman, another Iranian Kurd opposition party, was killed in Vienna by Iranian agents. Three years later his successor Sarek Sharafkandi was killed in Germany by another Iranian hit squad. Years sooner, in France, it was Chapour Bakthyar, a Shah former prime minister, who was assassinated under the nose of the French police.

And with the Syrian uprising, a new dimension has been added to the conflict.

Syria has itself its own PKK-like organisation, the PYD, well established amongst Syrian Kurds: until 1999 the al-Assad regime allowed and even encouraged the PKK to run training camps and recruit on its territory - until Turkey threatened with a military intervention, and the rebels were expelled.

Syria then became a valuable ally of the Turks in their campaign against the PKK. Common “military exercices” took place along the Syrian-Turkish border ( “Why Erdogan can’t let Assad down” 30/03/2011, Jacques Couvas), while PKK members seized in Syria were systematically deported to Turkey.

In the same time repression intensified against the PYD. A lot of its senior members, including Saleh Muslim, its present chairman, have been arrested and tortured. In January 2011 two of its militants were killed in an army ambush, igniting well organised riots in Damascus and Aleppo, reminding those taking place in Turkey in support of the PKK. Several police vehicles were set alight, and the clashes were followed by house-to-house searches by the security forces, in what looks retrospectively like a grim, small-scale rehearsal of today’s violence all across the country ( “unrest in Syria after two kurds are killed by security forces” 26/01/2011).

But now confronted to a near civil war, the Syrian dictatorship keeps its army away from the Kurdish provinces. In counterpart the Kurds, anyway fearing being marginalised by an Arab opposition they often see as pawns in the hands of the Turks, do not join the general uprising. But can they stay away from the violence tearing off Syria? Furious at Ankara’s meddling in its internal troubles, the Syrian regime ominously hinted it could bring back its support to the insurgency in south-eastern Turkey. “We have religious and ethnic differences, so has Turkey. If we have domestic disturbances, then so will Turkey”, said president al-Assad.

And the Syrian Kurds from all tendencies fear to see a PKK presence, real or imagined, being used as an excuse for a Turkish military intervention, of which they would be the first victims.

The Syrian Kurds are so caught between Turkey and Syria, between the al-Baath and the opposition. And already the tremors of this new addition to the Kurdish conflict are felt in Europe. Following the assassination of Mishal Tamo, leader of the Kurdish party Future Movement, Kurd demonstrators stormed the Syrian embassy in Vienna( “Kurdish demo in Austria calls for an end of Syrian regime” 12/10/2011).

Given the intensification of the operations against Kurdish insurgent, wherever in Turkey or Iran, or the uprising in Syria, one can expect Europe to witness more demonstrations, more unrest among the expatriate communities involved in the conflict. PKK militants already launched some media operations, briefly occupying the premises of a German TV station ( 28/09/2011 “PKK sympathisers storm German TV, Westerwelle strongly condemns”), and those of the British newspaper The Guardian to protest against the lack of coverage about the Kurdish conflict. And, the 23/11/2011, the occupation by Kurdish militants of the Strasbourg offices of the Committee for Prevention of Torture turned in a confrontation with French police, resulting in arrests ( 24/11/2011 “Kurds attacked in Strasbourg, arrests and wounded”).

mercredi 16 novembre 2011

The PYD: "Yes to democratic change, no to foreign interference!"

Will the syrian uprising ignite the Kurdish powderkeg? Syria counts a sizeable Kurdish population, marginalised by the successive military regime having ruled syria since the independence, including the present days al Ba'ath regime. It is so surprising to see that, while the rest of Syria is torn by violence, the Kurdish populated provinces are remaining conspicuously quiet.

"It's a tactical choice", are saying representatives for the PYD, a syrian kurd opposition party whose radical agenda and close links to the revolutionary PKK made it a prominent enemy of the regime. "There is a de facto truce between the kurds and the government. The security forces are overstretched over Syria's arab provinces to face demonstrators, and can not afford the oppening of a second front in Syrian Kurdistan. On our side, we need the army to stay away. Our party is busy establishing organisations, committees, able to take over from the al-Ba'ath administration at the moment the regime will collapse."

Reports say that to enforce this truce, their cells in Afrin and Kobane stopped some Kurdish activists to organise demonstrations. They claim that all their efforts are about maintaining calm to avoid a bloodbath. (about those allegations, and the PYD’s chairman Saleh Muslim answer, see the KurdWatch interview edited by “Turkey’s henchmen in Syrian Kurdistan are responsible for the unrest here” ) They have been, they say "advising youth to remain peaceful". "An open confrontation with the dictatorship would be disastrous. Our people would become military target, not only for the army but also for some militias made of arab settlers present in our provinces. The demonstrations would be turned in an ethnic conflict the government would use at his advantage. As well, amongst the arab opposition, some groups do not accept us Kurds as equal citizens. They want to keep Syria an Arab homeland, where minorities are kept in a state of submission. We need to build our strength to be able to deal with them on an equal basis at the fall of the regime."

Hence the truce then. But the assassination, the 07/10/2011, of Mishal Tamo, leader of the Kurdish Future Movement party, could compromise everyone's calculations. At his funerals in his hometown of Qamishli (where took place a massacre of demonstrators the 12/03/2004), 50000 mourners went to the streets, accusing the state secret police to have killed the opponent. They were fired at by police - estimates are that between 2 and 5 were killed, countless others wounded. Reports from inside the town say police deployed around hospitals to prevent people to give blood for the victims.

The murder, and its potentially disastrous consequences, have infuriated the Turks. Their decades-long war against the PKK resumed with a new intensity at the end of the winter. They have been, during the past couple of years, aiming at encircling the insurgents in the mountains in Qandil, in Northern Iraq, acting alongside Iran, itself engaged in an offensive against the PKK-aligned PJAK. They gained the support of the Western democracies, which consider the PKK as a terrorist organisation, and launched in march 2010 a series of coordinated police raids in Belgium, Italy and France to break the PKK support net in europe. They enlisted Syria in this all-out offensive, organising common "military exercises" in april 2010 (, and enticing the Syrian government to step up its repression against the PKK sympathisers present on its territory. But the relations between the two governments soured since the start of the Syrian uprising in march 2011. With Mishal Tamo's assassination, the Turks fear to see turmoil reaching Syrian Kurdistan, and the PKK seize the opportunity to implant itself there with the help of the PYD. Until 1999, the Syrian government allowed the PKK to run training camps on its territory. It was an opportunity to wage a proxy war against Turkey, with which it had tense relations then, while sending the more combative amongst the Kurds to get themselves killed on a foreign battlefield. It was something normal for a young Kurd to join the organisation, very popular at the time. It is estimated there are today around 1500 Syrians in the PKK's army, and it is not unusual, when entering a Kurdish household in Qamishli, to find a portrait of a family membre who left to fight as a gerrila. One so understands Turkey's nervousness, thinking about the 800 km of border it shares with its southern neighbour, doted with Kurdish villages it sees as as many potential PKK outposts.

But for the PYD, changing Syrian Kurdistan in a second Qandil is not an option. "It is not in our agenda, and it would be very difficult from a practical point of view", says Zuhat Kobani, a PYD representative. "But more, a PKK presence in Syria would mean a Turkish military strike, which nobody wants. We do not avoid a confrontation with the Syrian army to get one with the Turks." These denegations do not prevent Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to wave threats at Ankara: "We have religious and ethnic difference, so has Turkey. If we have domestic disturbances, then so will Turkey", did he say ominously (quoted by S. Dermitas, co-chairman of the BDP, a party regularly accused of links with the PKK, in an interview with the Hurriyet newspaper the 13/10/2011), clearly hinting that his regime could back the insurgency inside Turkey, would Ankara continue to meddle with Syria's internal politics. The PYD says the Kurds must not become anyone's pawn in the struggle for regional supremacy. "We will not help the dictatorship in any way", continues Zuhat Kobani. "We want its fall. We do not have anything to expect from Bashar al-Assad and his generals. We Kurds come under criticism because we don't join the mass demonstrations. I already explained it was a tactical choice. But look from where are coming those critics: from groups, or coalitions, which are backed by the Turks, and which are very carefull in avoiding to address any Kurdish demand." The PYD accuses the Damascus conference, held in Turkey, to actually serve Ankara's agenda. "We want change. But it must come from the syrians, and be for the syrians. It must not come from any external power willing to reduce Syria in a satellite state. The PYD so opposes any foreign intervention in Syria."

For what will come if the present regime falls? It is a concern for all the Syrian factions, from the al-Ba'ath to the most determined reformists, passing through all the religious, ethnic and political spectrum. Syrians are aware that another dictatorship could emerge from the agonising one. Zuhat Kobani and the other PYD delegates do not want to stop their action at the collapse of the junta. "The demise of the police state is just halfway of the process. Other Kurdish parties want the establishment of a federal state. It is not enough. The PYD wants a system of self-governance, in which our communities are able to rule themselves, emancipated from a central government which, all along our history, always oppressed Kurds. It means a radical reform of the Kurdish society. For this we need to educate our population, and that's what the committes we're creating are busy at now. Our cadres schools, until then located in a neighbouring country, are now in Syria. We have opened schools in Kurdish language, something unbelievable just eight months ago." He concludes: "For the PYD, it is the moment to put our theories in application."

But, maybe more than the opening of the "second front" the Syria government fears, there is a danger to see the Kurdish provinces bordering Turkey becoming the extension of another war.

samedi 9 avril 2011


An Attack on a police post in Meriwan ignited a new cycle of shellings on Autonomous Kurdistan's tense border with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The PJAK rebels claimed responsibility for the attack, and assert their determination to pursue their struggle.

The spring period, when villagers from the mountainous area between autonomous Kurdistan and Iran are going back to their fields and pastures after a winter spent indoor, coincides with the Iranian artillery resuming its shelling on the border areas. These shelling are targeting the PJAK, which recently resumed its raids on the Iranian security forces.

The PJAK has been engaged since its formation in a bitter struggle against the Iranian state. Its guerrilla army, estimated to be 3000-strong (PJAK representatives refuse to confirm this number - military secret), fights a war of squirmishes with the pasdaran units on the border provinces. Its cadres are disseminated amongst the population, relaying to activists the decisions of the party. Several of its members have been sentenced to death and are awaiting their fate in Iranian jails, as many hostages to be hanged at the slightest sign of unrest in Iranian Kurdistan.
It is precisely in retaliation for the execution of one of its members in january, Hossein Khedri, that the PJAK recently carried an attack on a police station in Meriwan. As a response, Iran bombed several Kurdish villages. Shortly before those operations to occur, the 28/03/2011, Amir Karimi, member of the PJAK coordination committee, expressed the views of his organisation about this shelling policy. "The iranians are pursuing a double objective. At first, in shelling civilians, they create a refugee problem for the local authorities. A whole village becomes homeless overnight. Its people have to be sheltered and fed, must be provided support, which puts autonomous Kurdistan's already scarce resources under strain. It so exposes the KRG vulnerability and keeps it off balance. It is as wella message: if the Iranian artillery can destroy one village,it can as well destroy 3 or 4 more" But there is, says Mr Karimi, another purpose: "The Iranian army aims to empty the border zone, to change it in a no-man's-land to be patrolled by proxy forces, like Ansar al-Islam - merely an auxilliary of the Islamic regime."
The PJAK nonetheless doesn't intend to tone down its struggle. "Our militants are thrown in jail,tortured, hanged", was saying in july 2010 Mr Soran, then spokesperson in europe for the PJAK. "The Tehran government must know there willbe a price topay." Mr Karimi agrees. "In Iran we are facing a militarisation of the society. The Islamic regime lives in a logic of permanent war, and this since the beginning. In 79 it targeted the Kurds and the leftists, after it has been the liberals, today it is the reformists. Their way to address a problem is with repression; they will never give up this mentality. As a resultthe only option left is war, for the only dialogue the Islamic regime understands is the dialogue of weapons.". PJAK people do not like the term of war. They rather use the one of 'self-defence" and insist a lot on this concept. "You must understand that we at the PJAK are not warmongers. Kurdish identity is under attack, Kurdish activists from all ways of life are considered as military targets: we need a military answer."

The border clashes pose the problem of the Iranian military presence inside Iraq. "There has been military incursion during the past two years: at Shino and Piransehir, and around Halabja this year. Each time it is the HRK, PJAK's military wing, which chased the agressors back to Iran" says Mr Karimi. He confirms the existence of Iranian army posts on Iraqi soil. He explains Iraq government's passivity about this violation of national territory by the gripIran has on the present cabinet. "The Iraqi government has been formed after months of crisis by an Iranian-engineered agreement between Nouri al-Maliki and Moqtada al-Sadr, until then sworn enemies. It allowed them to bypass their sunni and secular nationalist rivals. The government owes its very existence to Iran, and so carefully avoids to confront it on anything. Especially a couple of outposts in autonomous Kurdistan". The Iranian military presence on iraqi soil is anyway not much of an issue, was thinking Mr Soran back in july. "The Itlat (iran's secret services ministry) has thousands of agents in Iraqi Kurdistan. Whatever Iran has or not a couple of outposts there is irelevant" The Iranian secret services have a centre in autonomous Kurdistan, operating with the agreement of the KRG, claim PJAK representatives. "Basically, they are turning Sulaimaniya governorate in an Iranian protectorate. Sulaimaniya lives from the trade with Iran. Tehran, if it decides it, can asphyxiate the province in no time."
More interesting than the Iranian military outposts is the issue of the security wall Iran is building along the border, was saying Mr Soran. "It is not a new idea, it dates from the Shah. The Islamic regime reanimated it 3 years ago." "The effect of this wall, says Mr Karimi, is to cripple the trans-border economy. Frontier villagers from both sides often have no other income than transborder trade, and take great risks to avoid border guards, who do not hesitate to shot them. This wall is to enclose Kurds in their poverty. The only employment left will be to become a collaborator of the regime. There is, parallely, pressures in the factories to force Kurdish workers into the militias of the state. The wall comes in completion of these pressures." A section has been completed in Piransehir. But Amir Karimi dismisses the plan as irealistic. "How do you want this wall to be efficient? Can you imagine building a wall on such a difficult border? As well, our gerrillas , our cadres, are already present deep in Iran, amongst our population. It can not succeed." Mr Soran was more cautious. "This wall is dangerous. It is to the PJAK to prevent its completion. For if we let it being built, there will be other walls, this time around Kurdish towns. Step by step Tehran will make us prisoners inside our own cities."

PJAK thinks other opposition groups in Iran will soon arm themselves. "The reformists will have to take arms or be eliminated one by one. It will be a matter of survival.", says Mr Karimi. He then expresses his party's views on the reformist movement. "We think those demonstrations are legitimate, and represent a progress. Whatever the outcome, they are a positive step. But we note this opposition has not taken any clear position about the Kurdish issue in Iran. The problem is that persians are seeing the Kurdish issue from a nationalist angle and consider Iran as a Persian-centred entity." There is as well a problem of trust towards the reformist leaders. "Mr Moussavi and the ayatollah Khatami were part of the regime. The merely agree to adapt it, while Iran actually needs a regime change - a radical one." What the PJAK wants, he says, is a confederalist system. "Our goal is to free Kurds from the centralist state, from the colonialist influence which kept them in submission during centuries. We want self administration inside a confederacy." Then he concludes: "The PJAK is ready to assume a role in the overall Iranian opposition movement to the Islamist dictatorship, provided this movement acknowledges the Kurds as equal partners and abandons the concept of a persian central state. There is not just Mr Moussavi or the ayatollah Khatami amongst the reformists, there is a new line which is building up at the moment. They interest us. We are ready to bring them the support of our experience and of our structures."

lundi 22 novembre 2010

Syria: a new step in repression?

Tenses are increasing in Syria. Despite the efficiency of its internal security services, president al-assad's Baas regime faces growing dissent from the Kurds. Even if they have been successfully silenced during decades, a series of events recently attracted the attention of the outside world on their fate. There has been the case of the 33 kurds demonstrators who occupied the Syrian embassy in Brussels in 2005. Or the spectacular odyssey of the 123 syrian kurds who landed in Corsica the 22/11/2010 and the controversy following their handling by the french government. There has been as well the month-long protest held in front of Cyprus interior ministry by 150 or so refugees to obtain a status, and a hunger strike in front of the Danish parliament in october by kurds fearing deportation. Their different adventures from court hearings to trials, from detention centres to shelters, the botched legal actions from authorities or the evacuations by anti-riot police come as pale reflections of the repression they endure in their own country.

For during the last five years or so, marginalising kurds even more than they already were seems to have become a matter of national security in the eyes of the Syrian regime. The emergence of an autonomous Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq is seen with anxiety by the neighbouring countries, themselves entangled in conflicts with their own Kurdish populations, and Syria feels threatened by a risk of contagion. "Things definitely worsened after 2003", confirms M. al-Youssef, an exiled member of the Syrian Kurd Unity Party (PYKS). "The Kurds and their political parties are now accused of being separatists. It so makes them the prime target of the Arab nationalim at the core of the Baas ideology." The Qamishli massacre in 2004, the countless reports of arbitrary arrests and brutalities perpetrated by the internal security patrols in the Kurdish provinces, are as many examples of an increased repression.
are we witnessing a new repressive campaign aimed at the Kurds, in the same line than the 1962 "special census" or the building of the "arab belt" along the turkish border? ( ; http://library/usip/org/articles/1012172.1076/1.pdf ) Some new dispositions have been adopted recently. The presidential decree n*49, passed the 10/09/2009, places the al-Hasakah province, where are living most of the Kurds, under military rule. To buy or sell a property, a clearance must now be obtained from the military security directorate and the political activities department.. According to Kurd opposition representatives and human rights activists, the procedure is not applied in the arab provinces, and has been designed exclusively for the Kurdish areas. It not only prevents Kurds to establish themselves in their native province, but also prevents any kind of investment and development. The economic breakdown so engineered pushes the Kurds to leave the province, were they are replaced by arab colonists. They will find themselves isolated in arab-populated parts of Syria, where their identity will be at term progressively dissolved.

But why a new phase in repression, especially now? It looks the Baas regime is now facing a new generation of militants, more radical and more militant than their predecessors. The Syrian Kurd political groups, some of them anyway, are not any more merely asking for the kurds ostracised by the 1962 "special census" to be granted full citizenship. They demand more. At the moment M. al-Youssef was giving the interview, in the last days of december 2009, three members of the PYKS executive committe were arrested alongside a prominent activist. They were caught after a party conference during which they called for autonomy ( The PYD recent congress, in october, was held under the theme "forward with autonomy". Messages passed to jailed PYD members, promising not to arrest any party member if it was lowering its demands, and the arrest of central committe member Issa Ibrahim Hesso just after the october congress, are showing the regime's cioncerns with the revendication of "autonomy".

In this context the new developments in Turkey, with the prolongation of the ceasefire and the rumours about opening negociations, are not good news for the syrian government. As long as the war lasts, Syria remains a usefull ally for the turks. Their strategy of encirclement, aiming at isolating the PKK rebels in their mountains, requiers the Syrian cooperation. A press release from an Anatolian news agency (mentioned in Today's Zaman online edition from the 17/06/2010), talking about military operations by the Syrian army in the kurdish provinces, resulting in the death of 11 PKK fighters, has been dismissed as a manipulation. The journalist Newaf Khalil, who spoke to the BBC the 01/07/2010, said the idea was to entice Syria to join the ongoing offensive against the PKK and PJAK, and to assimilate the syrian kurd political activists to the insurgents, so making them legitimate military targets. The promises of amnisties, regularisation of status, made at several opportunities by president al-Assad, appear as attempts to encourage the 1600 syrian kurds fighting in the PKK's army to desert its ranks and so break the organisation's military force.
For, worryingly for Damascus, numerous syrian kurds joined the PKK in the past (Fehman Huseyin, commander of the PKK army, is a Syrian). Would those well trained men and women be tempted to take back the weapons they laid down and resume the fight in Syria rather than in south-eastern Turkey? Nothing indicated anything like this, and representatives from the PYD, who shares with the PKK a common ideology and similar goals, insist on their determination to achieve their objectives by peacefull means. Nonetheless, this supposed "threat" can be used as a pretext for a new step in repression.