For longer suffering Kurds in Syria, the
boot is now on the other foot
By Bashdar Ismaeel,
longtime contributing writer for ekurd.net
With protests, government crackdowns and the current
crisis for the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad
deepening by the day, a confident mood is in the air
that the once unthinkable may soon be a reality -
the end of the Syrian Baathist dictatorship. Nowhere
in Syria will this dawn be heralded more than in
The ever-changing Middle Eastern political landscape
and the current wave of revolutionary doctrine
prompting a bold new democratic era may have
predominantly Arab colours based but poses a unique
opportunity for Kurds in Syria. If the protests and
the reformist euphoria were likened to an Arabic
spring, then it can certainly have a Kurdish summer
If the Arabs in Syria had reasons for common
frustration, grievances and anger at decades of
iron-fisted Baathist control, corruption and lack of
freedoms just imagine the Kurds.
The Kurds in Syria, although compromising over 10%
of the Syrian
Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel, senior UK Editor.
population, have been left to the scrapheap of
Syrian society and a second class status, without
cultural freedoms, political representation,
investment, access to basic services and for over
300,000 people not even an official existence on the
lands of their ancestors.
While the protests and rallies in Egypt, Tunisia and
Libya were dramatic and highly publicised, the
Syrian revolt has only slowly reached the coverage
it deserves in Western circles. Protests were
initially sporadic and localised but a heavy handed
response by Assad's regime coupled with increasing
public bitterness and a growing feeling that the
Assad's grip on power is cracking, has added
considerable fuel to the Syrian motion.
The Kurds were slow to immerse themselves in the
brewing unrest, fearing separatist accusations and a
backlash from Arab nationalists, but they are
without a doubt the key to the unlocking of the
regime. Assad's government quickly acknowledged this
reality with a number of diplomatic and political
overtures to the Kurds, including the granting of
citizenship to stateless Kurds and promising greater
When the masses lose fear and have nothing to lose,
there is no point of return. As Karl Marx famously
proclaimed to the bourgeoisie, "...you have nothing
to lose but your chains", this statement could not
be truer for the Kurds.
Having endured decades of repression, systematic
discrimination, imprisonments and for a large
portion of Kurds not even the basic of citizenship,
the time for half-measures or compromise is long
gone. The boot is now on the other foot and this is
clearly recognised by the Assad government.
With reports of Assad inviting representatives from
12 Kurdish parties for talks, there is no greater
indication of the historic leverage that the Kurds
If the Arabs can bring the Syrian government to its
knees, then the Kurds can certainly serve the knock
out blow. Assad knows that if he can win over the
Kurds and thus a large portion of discontent, then
he may be better able to alienate the Arab voices.
Kurds in Syria must not be fooled by symbolic
gestures or temporary overtures. The granting of
citizenship to stateless Kurds, the end of emergency
rule, the release of political prisoners and more
cultural rights is not a concession by the Syrian
government, it is only giving to the Kurds their
basic human rights.
Decades of emotional scars, destruction, repression
and systematic denial can not be eroded in mere
days. The question for the Kurds, is whether Assad
would be promising the same reform and reaching the
same hand to the Kurds if he was not on the brink?
Assad is politically wounded and if the Kurds are to
apply the dressing and tonic to heal his pain, then
this must come at a heavy price.
As the Kurds are approached and courted by
contrasting sides of the government and opposition
groups, the fundamental goal does not change.
Kurds recently took part in a summit in Turkey
amongst other key oppositional leaders,
intellectuals and journalists, which was hailed as a
success and an iconic stepping stone to uniting
While Arab opposition and discord with successive
governments is not new, they have failed to unite
under a common voice and vision and importantly have
continuously failed to effectively entice Kurds to
join the fold. The failure to invite some of the top
Kurdish parties to the Antalya conference underpins
The Kurds must be clear on their demands and the
future they envision for their region. Just as one
Arab nationalist may depart, the Kurds would be
unwise to assume that only fraternity and union will
commence. The price for Kurdish support of either
the opposition or the ailing government must come
with heavy concessions and the rewriting of the
The basic demands should include the granting of
autonomy, recognition as the second nation in Syria,
cultural freedoms and unmolested political
While the US and Western voices of concern and
warnings have progressively grown, Washington and
European countries have been slow to formulate a
policy against Assad and introduce firm measures
against the regime to highlight their intent. This
is highlighted by the time taken to issue a UN
resolution, which is likely to be vetoed by Russia,
a key Syrian ally.
In reality, Syria is a sensitive addition to the
agenda of the new reformist wave for a number of
reasons. At the heart of almost every Middle Eastern
political storm or juncture, from Hezbollah in
Lebanon, anti-Israeli sentiments, Hamas in
Palestinian, insurgency in Iraq and the growing
power of Tehran, lays Damascus. A new passage in
Syria will turn the pages of history more than has
been felt anywhere else in this revolutionary dawn.
As a stable pan-Arab nationalist state, many of the
neighbouring Sunni elite particularly Saudi Arabia
and Jordan, will be watching with great concern. As
with Iraq, Syria has a wide array of sectarian and
ethnic mixes and a regime collapse will leave
Western and regional powers weary.
Furthermore, Western powers do not have the power of
the Arab league and thus intervention will not match
that of Libya.
Unlike in Egypt, Syrian security forces which
comprise mainly of the Alawite minority are
loyalists and Assad continues to have a strong
support base across segments of society but
particularly the middle classes and those minorities
that continue to flourish under his power.
However, as the protests continue to gain momentum
and if the Kurds can join in en-masse, even if Assad
remains in power, his rule will never be the same
There is increasing signs that Turkey, once an arch
foe of Syria, is losing patience with the
government. However, from a Kurdish perspective the
greatest advocates of their rights should be from
the KRG, a strategic power a stone throw across the
The Kurds have been continuously carved and divided,
yet the Kurds often choose to divide themselves into
further pieces. A Syrian, Iranian, Turkish or Iraqi
Kurd is absolutely no different to any other. Just
as their ancestral lands were selfishly carved by
imperialist powers, this does not mean you divide
hearts, history, culture or heritage.
The KRG must place the Syrian government under
pressure to reconcile with the Kurds and ensure the
Kurds achieve their elusive rights. The KRG should
represent a figure of hope and a role model for the
Syrian Kurds not a distant passive brother. What
good is a flourishing Kurdistan region in Iraq,www.ekurd.netif
Kurds elsewhere continuously suffer?
Reports that KRG President Massaud Barzani refused
to meet the Syrian Foreign Minister in Iraq, on an
apparent mission to seek KRG help in reigning in the
Syrian Kurds, is a welcome step.
It waits to be seen whether Assad's plans to meet
with the Kurds in addition to establishing a
national dialogue committee to appease opposition
forces, will make any significant inroads in
curtailing the Syrian revolutionary machine,
however, the Kurds are in an unprecedented driving
seat and anything less than second best and their
full entitlement of rights may see them miss out on
a great historic opportunity.
First Published On: Kurdish Globe
Other Primary Sources of Republication: eKurd.net,
Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel is a London-based freelance
writer and analyst,
contributing writer for ekurd.net website.
Ismaeel whose primary focus and
expertise is on the Kurds, Iraq and Middle Eastern
current affairs. The main focus of his writing is to
promote peace, justice and increase awareness of the
diversity, suffering and at times explosive mix in
Iraq and the Middle East.
Most recently he has produced work for the
Washington Examiner, Asian Times, The Epoch Times,
Asia News, The Daily Star (Lebanon), Kurdish Globe,
Hewler Post, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), KurdishMedia, PUK Online and OnlineOpinion.
He has achieved seminar recommended readings for Le
High University (Pennsylvania) and Massachusetts
Institute of Technology. His work has been
republished extensively elsewhere on the Internet.
You may reach the author via email at:
, Bashdar's website
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