Divisions Plague Kurdish Opposition Groups in Syria

by RUDAW 14 – 9.5.2013 – By Bradost Azizi – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – For the second time in less than two weeks the Kurdish National Council in Syria (KNC) gathered in Erbil to seek a way out of a political deadlock over uniting Syria’s divided Kurdish groups under a single banner. Ibrahim Biro, the leader of the Kurdish Union Party in Syria told Rudaw that the KNC is now trying to bring the different forces under one umbrella. “We will later talk to the People’s Council in Syria in order to form a united force and find a name for it,” said Biro. The People’s Council in Syria is under the influence and largely controlled by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) that opposes all other opposition groups.

Ali Muslim, a Kurdish revolutionary leader who commands three armed battalions said that his group has preconditions for joining a united Kurdish force.

“The posts should be assigned equally in the new force,” he said. “No particular group should have dominance and the fighters should receive orders from a military council only.”

Other groups show stronger reservations about joining a united Kurdish force.

Bewar Mustafa, the commander of the Salahaddini Ayubbi battalion who defected from the Syrian army and joined hands with Arab rebels groups in Aleppo, said that their ideological differences with the People’s Defense Units (YPG) makes it unlikely that his forces would ever join any Kurdish army.

“We will not join any Kurdish project that has the YPG in it,” Mustafa said.

The YPG, the armed wing of the PYD, is the most dominant force in Syria’s Kurdish areas. In the past several months the YPG has clashed with Arab rebel groups and members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

In their latest gathering in Erbil, smaller Kurdish parties complained that the bigger groups have formed a bloc, which hampers the work of the national council. “Four major parties are members of the council, but in the meantime see themselves and act as an alternative to the council,” said Salih Gido, head of the Democratic Leftist party in Syria. But Oso, whose Freedom Party is considered a dominant party, said that his and three other parties have agreed to assimilate their forces and create one united party.

“After the meeting in Erbil, each party will debate the idea of the merger and we will soon announce the new party,” he said.

Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani, a major mediator among Syria’s Kurdish parties, met with KNC representatives last week and encouraged them to put differences aside in favor of a united force,” said Mustafa Oso, head of the Kurdish Freedom Party. “Barzani told us to form a national Kurdish force in Syria that belongs to no particular political group,” said Oso. Barzani also advised us to honor the Erbil Agreement that was signed by all Kurdish parties in Syria in July 2012, Oso added. The Erbil Agreement stipulates the formation of a united force in Syria that would restore order and provide security for the country’s Kurdish areas in the absence of Syrian regime forces that have largely withdrawn to other parts of the country.