Faisal Yusuf, Chairman of the Kurdish National Council: »Sometimes things are demanded of the Council that only a government could accomplish«
KURDWATCH, December 28, 2012—Faisal Yusuf (b. 1954 in al‑Qamishli) has been chairman of the Kurdish National Council since 14. August 2012. In the early 1970s, he became a member of the Kurdish Democratic Advancement Party in Syria, later he was in the party’s politburo. In February 2010, he left the Advancement Party and with a group of supporters founded the Kurdish Democratic Advancement Party in Syria—Reform Movement, of which he is the chairman. Yusuf spoke with KurdWatch about the Kurdish National Council joining the National Alliance, as well as about its relationship to the People’s Council of West Kurdistan.
KurdWatch: Since the founding of the National Alliance on 11. November 2012, there has been discussions about whether or not the Kurdish National Council should join. How do things look?
Faisal Yusuf: In the Kurdish National Council, we’ve decided that, in accordance with the Erbil Agreement, we will structure our outside contacts together with our partners in the People’s Council of West Kurdistan. The members of the People’s Council have said: »You’ve opted to accept, we authorize you to also represent us in the Alliance«. We are prepared to join.
KurdWatch: So you want to join in the name of the Supreme Kurdish Committee and not as the Kurdish National Council?
Faisal Yusuf: Yes, that is our decision. If the Alliance truly wants to be broader, then it should accept our demand.
KurdWatch: What exactly are the Kurdish National Council’s substantive conditions for joining the National Alliance?
Faisal Yusuf: Our requirements are the constitutional recognition of the Kurdish people and its identity as well as the guarantee of its legitimate national rights in accordance with international norms and conventions. In addition, in accordance with its share of the total population of Syria, the Kurds should have approximately a fifteen percent share of representation in the Alliance and its committees. All discriminatory practices and decrees affecting the Kurds must be repealed, the victims must be compensated, and the status quo ante must be reinstated. Moreover, Syria should officially be called the »Republic of Syria«, not the »Syrian Arab Republic«. Furthermore, we demand that the Alliance commit itself to supporting all national armed groups, not only the Free Syrian Army. Those are our demands of the National Alliance.
KurdWatch: The National Alliance’s answer was initially negative; all of your demands were rejected, and only the position of a deputy chairman was approved. Your decision to join the National Alliance occurred after its chairman, Ahmad al‑Khatib, wrote you an additional letter. Is that correct? Fayzal Yusuf: Yes, we received a second letter from Ahmad al‑Khatib on December 10. He assured us that the Alliance supports the Kurdish people within the framework of the unity of the nation and the people.
KurdWatch: Have you formally answered the Alliance yet?
Faisal Yusuf: No, not yet, but we want to meet with its representatives and discuss our demands with them.
KurdWatch: There are many problems between the Kurdish National Council and the People’s Council of West Kurdistan. Has the People’s Council at any point accommodated you such that you are now, in turn, trying to integrate it into the National Alliance?
Faisal Yusuf: The most important thing is the interests of the Kurdish people. We protect the interests of our people; there must be agreement.
KurdWatch: Some of your members have accused the People’s Council of grave offenses, for example the abduction of members of the Kurdish National Council. Have all of those kidnapped by the People’s Council and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) since been released?
Faisal Yusuf: Our previously existing committees as well as the new committees composed of members of both councils [formed following the most recent Erbil talks of November 23 to 25, 2012] are working on solving these problems. In its last session, our executive committee decided to speed up the work and discuss all problems openly and find solutions so that the situation is not further exacerbated and our people do not suffer even more.
KurdWatch: Has there already been progress toward the unification of the Kurdish armed groups?
Faisal Yusuf: We have already formed a committee whose task is to bring together all armed groups and develop a mechanism so that this happens quickly. Moreover there will be bylaws that govern how these forces are organized.
KurdWatch: Have you also taken up contact with the PYD’s People’s Defense Units (YPG) in this regard? Do you also have their consent?
Faisal Yusuf: We are working within the framework of the Supreme Kurdish Committee; we don’t see the YPG as a third party.
KurdWatch: That means you haven’t yet taken any practical steps?
Faisal Yusuf: We have built committees whose members will soon sit down together.
KurdWatch: Some members claim that most of the committee sessions are spent on organizational questions. As chairman, are you satisfied with the work of your committees?
Faisal Yusuf: There are many demands made of us, and that is how it should be. Those who make demands must, however, keep in mind the capabilities of the Kurdish National Council. Sometimes things are demanded of the Council that only a government could accomplish. But I also want to emphasize that despite its deficits the Council can provide assistance. The Council can care for its people. What the Council accomplished for Raʾs al‑ʿAyn after armed groups marched into the city was no small matter. The securing of societal peace is also well underway. Yes, it is true that we have organizational problems in our sessions. But that isn’t everything; we also discuss the concerns of the opposition, the internal Kurdish problems, relations with Arabs, Christians, and other groups. The Council is respected at a national level as a defender and representative of the Kurdish people and its rights. The Council is not only concerned with itself, and it doesn’t only have deficiencies. It’s normal that differing opinions are represented; after all, many organizations, youth groups, and nonpartisans are represented in the Kurdish National Council. Some people are only waiting for our mistakes and exaggerate small problems. They are not prepared to support us in overcoming our deficiencies. There is no alternative to the Kurdish National Council.
KurdWatch: The Kurdish National Council was founded a year ago. Yet it still has practically no media outlets, not even an official website or a Facebook page, to say nothing of a radio or TV station.
Faisal Yusuf: To date the Council has not published any political journals, nor are we working in this direction. We are thankful to various Kurdish websites for publishing our press releases. As far as larger projects: Our opportunities are limited, still we hope for and are working to get several hours of broadcast time with a television station. Hopefully that will work.
KurdWatch: When will the second conference of the Kurdish National Council take place?
Faisal Yusuf: We are still in the preparation phase, but it should take place soon. We have only existed for a year; it’s not too late.