Amouda 2103: No to sectarianism, No to racism; Our revolution is revolution of dignity and freedom
On the Syrian Revolution and the Kurdish Issue – an interview with Syrian-Kurdish activist Dr. Aziz Abd El-Krim
Dr. Aziz Abd El-Krim is a Syrian Kurdish activist who has been living in Swzireland in exile for almost two years.
Joseph Daher: Let’s start with your involvement with the Qamishli uprising in 2004 and the Syrian revolution that began in 2011. Why did you participate in them and what was your role?
Dr. Aziz Abd El-Krim: At the outbreak of Qamishli uprising I was a university student in the Human Medical College of Homs University. By coincidence, I had decided to go back to my town Amouda the day before the uprising, and in the hope to attend the football game on Friday to support my club Jihad and because I liked football, but I could not go to the stadium because I arrived late at my house.
After the beginning of the football game, news started to spread about scenes of violence and that the game was stopped. From this moment we tried to contact people in Qamishli and then we went to the main market in Amouda to ask taxis about the situation in Qamishli, where my little brother was attending the game. After this, we tried to go to Qamishli, however, security forces closed all roads leading to Qamishli. The news at that time started coming out of large numbers of dead and wounded.
On the next day in Amouda, people began to take to the streets spontaneously and a massive demonstration came up, I can say most of the population of the city- to denounce what happened and try to gain access to the city of Qamishli to participate to the demonstration and funeral of the martyrs.
In relation to why I participated in these protests, I believe there is one unique answer, which is the same for 2004 and 2011: I joined these revolutions because there was a feeling of the possibility to get rid of a dictatorial repressive regime that did and does not hesitate to kill, arrest and torture people for trivial reasons. The overthrow of this dictatorial regime is the dream of every Syrian.
As for my role in Qamishli’s uprising, I participated in the demonstration and inform the people on the need to preserve and maintain public properties, and during the revolutionary movement in 2011 in the first demonstrations that we called a “flying“ demonstrations, while also working in some field hospitals and securing medicine (drugs).
Can you tell us more about the Kurdish uprising of 2004?
Dr. Aziz Abd El-Krim: The Qamishli uprising in 2004 came as a result of suppressed anger of the dictatorial regime as well as economic, social and political factors. With the breaking of the wall of fear, people took to the streets spontaneously and challenged the regime security services. There was a growing feeling among the people that the overthrow of the dictatorial regime was imminent, especially after the departure of the security services. In addition, the random and massive answer of the regime of the use of military forces and weapons to kill civilians resulted in people getting stronger and more determined.
But this uprising was born as an orphan as the rest of the region’s components, Arab and Syriac, did not participate, as well as other provinces such as Damascus, Aleppo and Raqqa, which with had some Kurdish presence, were not involved massively. The participation in the Qamichli uprising therefore remained limited to the Kurds, while there was a complete silence of the medias, well known in this authoritarian and security state. So the regime security services and misinformation were able to cancel the revolutionary thought of this uprising and to portray it to the people as a revolution of the Kurds who want to separate and secede from Syria. The regime then used some of the Arab tribes, and provided them with weapons, to attack the Kurdish areas and the Kurdish shops. These groups looted and theft in order to give a subversive character of this uprising and that it is a war between Kurds and Arabs.
Finally on this issue, I would like to say that the 2004 uprising was a popular revolution against injustice and dictatorship, and if we as Syrians acted as one man to finish this regime at this period but, unfortunately, the revolt was repressed in the bud.
Let us elaborate further on this point. How do you view the position of the Syrian opposition on the Kurdish issue?
Dr. Aziz Abd El-Krim: As a start, there was no Syrian opposition in the full sense of the word, but there were individuals opposing the regime and each individual saw the Kurdish issue according to his or her own conception and understanding.
Before the beginning of the Syrian revolution in 2011, I had meetings with Syrian opposition figures and those figures had a positive attitude and position towards the Kurdish issue in Syria. But unfortunately, with the start of the Syrian revolution, many of these opposition figures changes their positions and became very negative to say the least towards the Kurdish issue and started to look at it just like the Baath perspective.
For us as Syrians Kurds, we endured the injustice of this regime in a double way as Syrians and also because we were Kurds. So when the spark of the Syrian revolution started from Daraa, we were one of the firsts who took part and joined the revolutionary movement. The first demonstration in Amouda was in late March 2011 with slogans such as:
– Long live the Arab Kurdish brotherhood
– Peaceful peaceful
– Oh Daraa We are with you to the death.
We as Kurds, particularly the Kurdish parties bear part of the responsibility because of the problems ( and even cowardice) of our parties and their inability to communicate with the inside of Syria.
With the beginning of 2000s, the relationship between some of the Kurdish parties and the Syrian opposition was able to witness a little breakthrough through the civil society forums and then in the framework of the Damascus Declaration. However, this was not enough to define and delimit more clearly the Kurdish issue and it remained confined to a narrow range and space, while not forgetting that the pressure of the security services restricted many activities.
Ultimately, I can say that the Syrian opposition until now consider the Kurdish issue in Syria from an Arab nationalist perspective and not an inclusive national perspective, and the simplest example of this is the disagreements between the Kurdish and Arab opposition regarding the republic’s name (Syrian Arab Republic or the Republic of Syria).
How has the situation in Kurdish areas developed since the start of the revolution? How has the Assad regime dealt with the popular movement in these areas? What is the relationship between the various Kurdish groups and Syrian revolutionaries, the Free Syrian Army, the Islamist forces, etc.?
Dr. Aziz Abd El-Krim: In the beginning as we have said, the Kurds were one of the first who took part in the Syrian revolution and many demonstrations in several Kurdish cities in northern Syria were organised, but they did not confront harsh repression of the security services and massive bullets such as in the rest of the provinces like in Daraa, Homs and Banias. The regime was trying to neutralize the minorities since the beginning of the revolution, in order notably not to open a new front in the north because of the experience in the Qamishli uprising of 2004 and of the extent and strength of Kurdish force.
As for the activists of the revolution, the goal was to maintain the peacefulness of the demonstrations and to stay away from the militarization. The regime then withdrew from city centres and its banlieues to avoid confrontations with the activists. The Democratic Union Party (PYD) took advantage of the opportunity. Because of the military experience of the PYD, the presence of trained soldiers and the existence of a security agreement with the regime, the PYD began to impose its control through a double policy of intimidation and enticement (or “seduction”). A good example of violent intimidation, was the massacre in Amouda in 2012 and how the YPG (military force of the PYD) fired on unarmed demonstrators and killed 5 persons, this for the purpose of subjecting the city to their control.
As for the other armed groups (Free Army –Jabhat Al-Nusra – other Islamist brigades), I remember when they entered the city of Ras Al Ain (Sari Kany), where a group of Kurdish activists waved their flags to greet the rebels. The initial response of the rebels was to throw the (Kurdish) flag on the ground and attack the activists raising their flags. Hence, the suffering began as the regime started its attack on the city by air and explosive barrels, while Islamic fundamentalist groups began imposing their extremists customs and laws. Kurds for their majority had moderate customs and ways of practicing their religion and their own traditions and did not accept these fundamentalist groups. Some stood to the side of the PYD people in the war against these groups (from the principle that we stood against the regime not to be replaced by another authoritarian one, or even worst).
What do you think of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in general? And what do you make of the self-governance/autonomy experiment in Syrian Kurdistan?
Dr. Aziz Abd El-Krim: The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is an ideological and authoritarian nationalist party and considers itself as a leftist party and is built as many left-wing parties in the Middle East on the idea of deification of the leader and the one-party system.
As for the activity of the PKK in Turkey, it is linked to specific circumstances in relation to the Turkish state, which refuses dialogue and is working hard to dissolve all nationalities in Turkish nationalism. The Turkish state did not leave any choice for the PKK except the armed struggle, despite the declaration of PKK to stop the war and the proposition of numerous unilateral peace initiatives more than once, however, the Turkish state did not respect or adhere to it.
As a point of departure, I am with any people wanting to pursue its self-determination and that is their right according to international laws and constitutions.
As for the self-management experience or the project of laws of the PYD in the Syrian Kurdish areas, it has some positive aspects, such as secular administrations, equality rights between men and women and involvement of minorities and recognition of their rights. On the other hand, there are many negative aspects, such as the non-recognition of other parties and trying to smelt (mold) the society into a single one-party, and the imposition of party ideology on the rest of the components of the population and in the educational system. In addition, they use means of pressure on the free medias and other civil society organizations, while arbitrarily arresting people opposed to their policies and trying to control nearly all sectors of the life of the citizen control under the pretext of protecting the achievements and gains. I think that the continuation of the PYD in this format will eventually lead to the reproduction of a totalitarian regime, like the Baath Party.
Do you think it is possible to build a Third Force, that is democratic and progressive and guarantees the fulfilment of the original goals of the revolution, and that is independent from the regime and the backward Islamist forces?
Dr. Aziz Abd El-Krim: When the Syrian Revolution began in 2011, this force, which was the third, was the one to trigger the uprising, that came out on the street and the demonstrations and calling for peacefulness, for freedom and democracy; however, because of the regime’s brutality, the militarization of the revolution and the entry of fundamentalist Islamic groups, this has led to the disappearance of these forces and thus stranding the Revolution of its objectives. I think that these groups (Islamic fundamentalist movements) are alien to our revolution and its role will end sooner or later, but it will take time, which may be long, but I am optimistic that this segment that has become a third force will return to its natural place and is working for a democratic and free Syria.
11 February 2016
Arabic version: https://syriafreedomforever.wordpress.com/2016/02/11/عن-الثورة-السورية-والمسألة-الكوردية-ح-2/