Turkish and Syrian regimes unite against Kurdish-led struggle for democracy

Protest in Rojava against exclusion of Kurdish-led democratic forces from negotiations in Geneva, March 30. Photo: Hawar News Agency.

The Syrian Kurds and allied communities declared their areas the “Federation of Northern Syria and Rojava” on March 17, and announced that democratic federalism is a viable alternative to the detrimental politics of both the Syrian regime and the jihadist opposition.

They called on the international community the same day to support the establishment of their federation as a project that would pave the way for the formation of a democratic federal Syria, arguing that democracy, devolution of power and diversity can end the sectarian civil war that has destroyed the country for more than five years.

But all the major players involved in the bloodbath of the Syrian Civil War, except for Russia, rejected the move to save what is left of the war-torn country and secure a democratic future.

Rejection of the federalism project has since turned into a focal point for unity among almost all the opposing forces involved in Syria's civil war, revealing that these forces are not so different from one another when it comes to their shared racism.

The Syrian government and the country's main opposition, who have been at war for more than five years, quickly united in rejecting the Kurdish-led federalism, saying it would result in the “partition of the country”.

Turkey called the move “separatist terrorism” and threatened to invade Rojava and “annihilate” the Kurds.

The shared fear over the move for federalism eventually resulted in Ankara and Damascus beginning a process of “discreet talks” in Algeria to unite around an anti-Kurdish agenda, despite their deep differences over all else on Syria's civil war.

Algerian daily El Watan reported on April 8 that Algeria was making "discreet mediations" between Turkey and Syria, quoting a senior Algerian diplomatic source as saying that the declaration of federalism by the Syrian Kurds “encouraged” Turkish and Syrian diplomats to exchange concerns on the Kurdish issue.

North African and Middle Eastern media outlets have since termed the negotiations between the two sides as “discreet talks”.

The “discreet talks” in Algeria have since resulted in simultaneous deadly attacks by the Turkish and Syrian states against Rojava and the Kurdish-led movemenmt.

Turkey has increased its artillery attacks against Syrian Kurdish civilians and the Turkish army has been busy building walls and trenches on the Rojava border to cut the region off from the neighbouring Kurdish region in Turkey.

Turkish-backed jihadist armed opposition groups have led an extensive military campaign of indiscriminate bombing, killing and wounding hundreds of Kurdish civilians, particularly effecting children, in the predominantly Kurdish district of Sheikh Maqsoud in northern Aleppo.

International human rights organisations have said the Turkey-backed jihadists used chemical weapons in these indiscriminate bombardments.

Meanwhile, Syrian government troops and militias attacked Kurds in Rojava's unofficial capital, Al-Qamishli, right after the negotiations with Turkey had begun in Algeria.

Several days of deadly clashes between Syrian government troops and Kurdish forces resulted in Kurdish fighters capturing more territories from the Syrian government and taking over the notorious Alaya Prison in Al-Qamishli.

The Kurds have compared the Ankara-Damascus “discreet talks” in Algiers to the 1975 Algiers Agreement between the then regional rivals Iran and Iraq, which put a bloody end to a five-year official Kurdish autonomy in northern Iraq.

The 1975 Algiers Agreement meant that the then Iraqi and Iranian governments put aside their differences so that the central government in Baghdad could put an end to Kurdish autonomy in Iraq. Despite the bitterness that existed between them, they had no qualms uniting against Kurds.

Iran condemned the Syrian Kurds and said that the self-declared federalism is a “violation of Syria's territorial integrity”.

Likewise, the Sunni-led Arab League and the Gulf States led by Saudi Arabia also rejected the Syrian Kurdish move and described their attempt to establish democracy and federalism as “an attempt to split Syria”.

The anti-Kurdish agenda uniting those two regional rivals is deeply rooted in the arguably fascistic denial of the democratic rights of the Kurdish people of Rojava.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are fighting the deadliest proxy wars against each other in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere across the Middle East. It is amazing to see how the shared fascistic mentality of their top officials against the Kurds can so easily unite them.

The US has also joined the Saudi-led Sunni camp and the Iran-led Shiite crescent in rejecting the Syrian Kurdish political proposal for the establishment of democracy and federalism in Syria.

US officials have since made it clear that they will not politically back the Kurdish-led project. Although the US continues to militarily back Rojava as its most effective ally on the ground fighting and defeating ISIS, it seems political support is one step too far.

US officials in Washington have not shied away from outright rejection of the Syrian Kurdish move for democracy and federalism as a viable alternative to end the Syria war.

Russia has so far remained as the only country willing to politically back the Syrian Kurds and their call for a federal democratic Syria, but it is not yet clear how long this will last and how faithful Moscow would remain to the Syrian Kurds of Rojava given that the Kremlin also has strategic alliances with Damascus and Tehran.

Despite the intensity of the multiple political and military attacks against the Kurds from all sides, they do not appear frightened or shocked by these developments. In fact they appear more determined and insistent on their demand for autonomy and a federal system.

Their determined fight back at all costs on multiple fronts against the onslaughts led by both Turkey and Syria has sent a clear message to the whole world that they will not accept life under the jackboots of the Turkish and Syrian states.

The 1975 Algiers Agreement led to short-lived cooperation between Tehran and Baghdad, which ended official Kurdish autonomy in northern Iraq that had been established under the leadership of Mela Mustafa Barzani of the Kurdistan Democratic Party-Iraq (KDP).

In the same year, thousands of Iraqi Kurds were killed or imprisoned and hundreds of thousands fled abroad.

However, a Kurdish movement that was much stronger and more militantly determined was born in northern Iraq in the same year.

A year later the movement formed a united front of Iraqi Kurdish forces that continued to fight until they secured autonomy in 1991.

And three decades after the 1975 Algiers Agreement, they played a key role on the ground in toppling the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

As for Iran, the Iranian Shah fled the country amid a popular uprising in 1979, and a year later the Iran-Iraq war broke out and lasted for eight years.

It is hard to see today's efforts in Algiers producing a better outcome than the one triggered by the agreement in 1975, especially when today's Kurds of Rojava and northern Syria are much stronger and organised politically and militarily in comparison to the Iraqi Kurds of 1975.

But most important of all is the fact that the Kurds are no longer an “internal security issue,” as international and regional key players labelled Iraqi Kurds in 1975.

Given that today's Kurds, particularly those based in Rojava, have proved themselves as the world's only hope on the ground to defeat ISIS, al-Qaida and all those forces that use unprecedented terror to target global stability and peace, it is safe to say Kurds cannot be dismissed any longer.

[Abridged from Kurdish Question.]

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