Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
Many Kurdish towns in the Northeast of Syria are now flying the Kurdish flag as Syrian troops have withdrawn from the region to fight back the offensives in Syria’s two largest cities. BBC reports that fighter jets strafed parts of Aleppo. This seems to be their first use and a clear escalation. Turkey has closed its border with Syria, halting the passage of all commercial vehicles between Turkey and Syria. Only refugees can cross into Syria. The borders are too dangerous.
Liberated Kurdish Cities in Syria Move into Next Phase
25/07/2012 06:05:00 By HEVIDAR AHMED
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Syrian governmental forces have retreated from the Kurdish regions of Syria without a fight; the liberated cities are now being ruled evenly by the People’s Council of Syrian Kurdistan (PYD) and the Kurdish National Council (KNC).
According to the information obtained by Rudaw, the Kurdish cities of Kobane, Derek, Amoude, Efrin and Sari Kani have fallen under the control of Syrian Kurdish forces.
The city of Kobane was the first Kurdish city to be liberated last Thursday, 17 months after the revolution against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began.
The KNC and PYD agreed to jointly control the liberated Kurdish cities in a deal made in Erbil on July 11, under the supervision of Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani.
“According to the treaty of Erbil which was signed by the KNC and PYD, any administrative vacuum in the Kurdish cities of Syria will be occupied evenly — 50/50 — by these two signatories. These two groups will continue ruling the Kurdish regions until an election is carried out,” said Nuri Brimo, a spokesperson of the Democratic Kurdish Party of Syria
The national flag of Kurdistan and the flag of the PKK – which the PYD is affiliated with — are now being raised over the majority of government and public buildings.
However Abdulbaqi Yusuf, a spokesperson of Kurdish Union Party (KUP), said, “The buildings under the control of PYD are using their own flags, but we as the KNC are using the national flag of Kurdistan. This is a problem because we only recognize one flag and that is the national Kurdish flag, but the PYD does not recognize that flag.”
He added, “For example, in the city of Kobane, we controlled some buildings and raised the Kurdish national flag over those buildings, but the PYD came and forced us out with their guns and removed the national flag of Kurdistan and replaced it with their own flag. We could not do anything because they were armed and we were not.”
Yusuf also had concerns about the quality of life for Syrian Kurds. “People are living in bad conditions and have not received any help,” he said, criticizing the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for not coming to their aid.
“We have requested help from the KRG several times but they have not helped. Nobody listens to us,” Yusuf said.
Brimo admits that “Barzani asked the KNC and PYD to rule the Syrian Kurdish cities evenly between them and in return promised financial and moral support.”
Abdulbasit Sayda, the leader of the country’s largest opposition group, the Syrian National Council (SNC), said they were looking for help for people in the region. “As the SNC, we are holding meetings with international actors in order to receive financial and humanitarian aid and save ourselves from the clutches of the Syrian regime. We need this aid because the economic situation of the Syrian people and the Kurds is very bad and they need help,” he said….
Sayda added, “We are constantly in touch with Barzani regarding the situation in Syria and keep each other updated.”
Brimo explained the withdrawal of regime forces from the Kurdish cities. “The Syrian regime is gathering its forces in Damascus,” he said. “Therefore, they are retreating from other regions.”
He also revealed that the Syrian regime informed the PYD about their withdrawal in advance, so that the group knew beforehand which cities the forces would be leaving.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is present in many parts of Syria, but not in the Kurdish regions. “There is a sort of agreement between KNC and SNC. The FSA will not come to the Kurdish regions and the Kurds will not go the Arabic regions,” said Brimo.
Sayda admitted fearing a surprise attack by the Syrian government on these Kurdish regions.
“The Kurds of Syria need to brace themselves for a sudden return of Syrian government forces. It is probable that the regime might return to attack this region again,” he said.
A Friend in Iraqi Kurdistan writes:
Kurdish news here in Iraqi Kurdistan is reporting that Syrian Kurds have taken control of the Kurdish region of northeastern Syria. This has led to a crisis of relations between them and the FSA/rebels, however. Supposedly, some months back there had been a pledge of mutual support between the Kurds and the rebels, regarding resistance against the regime. Now however, the Kurds seem more interested in protecting their homeland than in participating in the nation-wide struggle against the regime. After taking control of Hasake (haven’t verified this), a conflict emerged between them and the FSA that wanted to control the area due to its strategic importance.
Here’s the one decent article (a great one, in fact) that I could find by Aymenn al-Tamimi
Syria’s Kurds stand alone after rejecting rebels and regime
Aymenn Al Tamimi
Jul 23, 2012
Developments in Syria and Iraq have led some to speculate that the birth of an independent Kurdish state might be at hand. A closer analysis shows that a united Kurdistan is still unlikely, although a separate semiautonomous Kurdish community in Syria, with some parallels to the Kurdish Autonomous Region in Iraq, is a growing possibility.
In Syria, Kurds are sitting on the sidelines of the uprising against the Damascus regime. Indeed, the Free Syrian Army has accused members of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) of hindering its operations in some areas against the Assad regime, according to the Kurdish website Rudaw.net. Leaders of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is affiliated with the PKK, have made it clear that they will not tolerate the spread of Syria’s conflict into the Kurdish-dominated areas of Syria.
The PYD stands separate from the Kurdish National Council, a coalition of 11 Kurdish parties in Syria that has ties to the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq. But leaders of the Kurdish National Council have also indicated to Rudaw that they are aiming to keep Kurdish areas free from fighting between the regime and the rebels.
The Kurdish groups are far from united on most issues – the KNC has in the past clashed with the PYD, but since Syria’s unrest began last year, the two factions have “signed an agreement sponsored by the Iraqi Kurdish leadership to prevent intra-Kurdish tensions”, according to Jonathan Spyer, an analyst at the Israel-based Global Research in International Affairs Center.
This, Mr Spyer writes in the Jerusalem Post, ensures “de facto Kurdish control of a large swathe of Syria’s north-east and the placing of this area off limits to the insurgency against the Assad regime for the foreseeable future”.
Syria’s Kurds are not, by and large, supporters of President Bashar Al Assad, but their scepticism about the Syrian opposition is understandable. For one thing, rebel fighters in Syria have the support of Ankara, which has a bad reputation regarding Turkish Kurds in matters of civil and cultural rights.
In addition, whenever Kurdish groups have tried to engage the Syrian opposition about the shape of a post-Assad Syria, talks have always broken down. The main issue is that the opposition refuses to drop the identification of Syria as an Arab nation (as evinced in the country’s official name: “Syrian Arab Republic”) and accept that Kurds are a distinct people. Thus ended the recent Cairo meeting of anti-Assad groups, attended by the KNC.
With Syrian Kurds declining to choose between Mr Al Assad and the opposition, the idea of a de facto Kurdish autonomous area in the Al Jazira area of north-east Syria becomes a possibility.
In the event of Mr Al Assad’s downfall, Sunni groups and others in Syria might be too distracted by infighting to deal with the question of Kurdish autonomy.
It does not follow, however, that the Syrian Kurds will join with Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government to form an independent Kurdish state straddling the northern part of today’s Iraq-Syria border.
Turkey Shuts Syria Border
BY JOE PARKINSON AND AYLA ALBAYRAK – WSJ
TURKEY-SYRIA BORDER—Turkey sealed its border with Syria to all traffic except refugees on Wednesday, citing worsening security conditions following escalating skirmishes close to the frontier which last week saw rebel fighters capture at least two crossing points.
Turkey’s economy minister announced the move—which will halt the passage of all commercial vehicles between Turkey and Syria—in a news conference in Ankara, citing “serious concerns” for drivers’ safety and noting that there had already been a 87% drop in trucks traveling to Syria this year. Turkish officials and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Ankara …
Syria Conflict: Aleppo Fighting Shifts Regime Forces, Diplomats Defect
Reuters | Posted: 07/25/2012
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Erika Solomon
AMMAN/BEIRUT, July 25 (Reuters) – The Syrian army turned its forces on Aleppo on Wednesday, ordering an armoured column to advance on the country’s second biggest city and pounding rebel fighters there with artillery and attack helicopters, opposition activists said.
As hostilities intensified near the Turkish border, Turkey said it was closing its crossing posts, although the United Nations said refugees fleeing Syria would be allowed through.
Two top Syrian diplomats, in the United Arab Emirates and Cyprus, have deserted their posts, becoming the latest officials to abandon the Damascus government, rebels said.
The 16-month revolt against President Bashar al-Assad has been transformed from an insurgency in remote provinces into a battle for control of the two main cities, Aleppo and the capital, Damascus, where fighting exploded last week.
Assad’s forces have launched massive counter assaults in both cities. They appear to have beaten rebels back from neighbourhoods in the capital and are turning towards Aleppo, a commercial hub in the north.
Syrian forces fired artillery and rockets on Wednesday at the northern Damascus suburb of al-Tel in an attempt to seize it from rebels, causing panic and forcing hundreds of families to flee, residents and opposition activists said.
The 216th mechanized battalion headquartered near Tel started bombarding the town of about 100,000 people before dawn and initial reports indicated residential apartment blocks were being hit, they said.
“Military helicopters are flying now over the town. People were awakened by the sound of explosions and are running away,” Rafe Alam, one of the activists, said by phone from a hill overlooking Tel. “Electricity and telephones have been cut off.”
Opposition sources also reported helicopters and machineguns were firing on the neighbourhood of Hajar al-Aswad. The slum lies on the southern outskirts of the capital and has been a haven for rebels sneaking into Damascus from the suburbs.
Opposition activists said thousands of troops had withdrawn with their tanks and armoured vehicles from Idlib province near the Turkish border and were headed towards Aleppo.
Rebels attacked the rear of the troops withdrawing from the north, activist Abdelrahman Bakran said from the area.
Military experts believe an overstretched Syrian army is pulling back to concentrate on fighting insurgents in Aleppo and Damascus, important power centres for the government, while leaving outlying areas in the hands of rebels.
The Endgame in Syria Assad’s Bloody Battle to Cling to Power By Christoph Reuter Marcel Mettelsiefen / DER SPIEGEL President Bashar Assad is losing his grip on power in Syria and he has responded by …
Washington’s reaction to blasts in Damascus is a downright justification of terrorism, slams Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. US State Department announced that terror acts in Syria are not surprising in light of the Assad regime’s actions.
“This is direct endorsement of terrorism. How are we supposed to understand that?” Sergey Lavrov shared his astonishment at a press conference in Moscow. “This is a sinister position, I cannot find words to express our attitude towards that.”
“In other words this means ‘We are going to support such acts of terrorism until the UNSC does what we want’,” Lavrov commented on the US representative’s actions. Lavrov also expressed his surprise that the UN Security Council refused to condemn acts of terror in Syria. The US permanent representative to the UN Susan Rice has stated that terror acts in Damascus contribute to speeding up the adoption of a resolution on Syria according to the Chapter 7 of the UN Statute, which implies harsh sanctions, including resorting to force.
As for the EU unilateral sanctions against Damascus, they contradict the decisions taken by the UN Security Council and agreements reached at the Geneva talks, stated Lavrov.