Iron grip imposed: Will unarmed Syrian Kurds respond? – The Domination of PYD

By Adib Abdulmajid: Kurdistan Tribune – 7.7.2013 – Amid the ongoing destructive war between the Syrian rebel forces and the regime, the circle of violence is apparently expanding to include the north-eastern area of the country, where the Kurds form a majority of the population. However, unlike other clashes seen in the rest of the country, the Kurdish area is largely dominated by the forces of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) – affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The PYD has constantly tried to impose its domination through its armed forces of the so-called ‘Popular Protection Unites’ (YPG) in several Kurdish areas in Syria after the alleged silent withdrawal of the forces of the Assad regime from these areas without any resistance; the fact that led many to doubt the PYD’s position on the Assad regime, and some Syrian activists even argued that there are some confidential agreements between the regime and the PYD’s leadership, as the latter has shown more hostility towards the opposition forces than towards the regime.

Although the PYD tried recently to build a bridge of communication with the Syrian political opposition, the latter remains cautious of any relations with the party that has marginalised other Kurdish political parties in Syria and insisted on presenting itself as the sole legitimate representative and protector of the Syrian Kurds and their rights.

Undoubtedly, the declared “peace process” in Turkey between the PKK’s jailed leader, Abdullah Ocalan, and the Turkish government, led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has directly or indirectly influenced the PKK’s Syrian branch, the PYD. Thus, the PYD tries to hold contacts with the political opposition and some of its armed forces on the ground in Syria to maintain its presence as an important player even after the expected fall of the Assad regime; but, on the other hand, the PYD refuses to give up its allegiance with the regime, even if that would turn the party into a suppressive tool against the Kurdish people themselves –whom the PYD’s armed wing of the YPG (or the Popular Protection Units) persecutes while it’s supposedly established to protect the people.

Apparently, the PKK supporters and Ocalan disciples in Syria (namely the PYD) didn’t learn from their previous experiences with the Assad regime. As if the memory betrays them that this same regime surrendered the PKK’s leader to the Turkish authorities after hosting him for a while, beside arresting dozens of PKK’s members in Syria over the last decade.

As the sole Kurdish party in Syria that has weapons and fighters, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) explicitly oppresses its opponents in the Kurdish areas in the north of the country, arresting dozens of civil activists and killing others, opening fire against peaceful demonstrators and imposing a curfew on the residents. All of that is being carried out under the pretext of protecting the Kurdish people (mostly against their will) against the Islamist opposition.

The sad part of the story is that the number of Kurdish activists arrested and killed by the PYD’s forces since the start of the ongoing revolution exceeded the number of Kurds killed in the Kurdish region by the Assad regime itself during the same period. Thus, under the pretext of protection, Kurds are being killed by their peers; under the same pretext, people are being detained, insulted and humiliated. Seemingly, the PYD wants to convince Syrian Kurds that it is protecting them from their own thoughts and aspirations, from a prevailing disease in the area’s so-called ‘democracy’.

According to the same totalitarian mentality, people can never rule themselves by themselves; they need a leader to do so instead, a despotic leader; otherwise, chaos will prevail – as this mentality explicitly makes out. Reading this perspective turns me back to the ancient pre-democratic Greece, namely during the 7th century BC, when a tyrant was needed as a saviour and rescuer from instability and chaos, to cleanse all reasons for tension among groups and eliminate all kinds of possible competition or conflict. Despite the different connotations of the term between that time and our present day, the incentives to resort to the sanctification of the leader’s figure as the saviour remain relatively comparable.

It is evidently known that any armed authority cannot survive in an area without a minimum popular acceptance and support. However, the PYD’s leadership and its armed wing (the YPG) do not seem to have taken this issue sufficiently into consideration. Arresting activists, killing dozens of them, installing security checkpoints at the entrances of streets in different cities in the Kurdish area in Syria, suppressing anti-regime demonstrations, controlling the vital institutions and denying the non-supporters among Kurds any rights, and taking over the significant border checkpoint with Iraqi Kurdistan – these are all practices that resulted in an undeclared popular hostility against the party which hasn’t adequately thought through the potential outcomes of its actions and its future in a post-Assad Syria.

How would the same suppressed people, who suffer the most under the so-called Popular Protection Units YPG and its political leadership of the PYD, accept submission to the authority of the latter after all these unforgettable and unforgivable practices? Can those civilians trust this party to rule them after the fall of the dictator after all? To anticipate answers might be easy, but the only absolute answers can be attained by experiencing the outcome of the current devastating and extensive war.

Adib Abdulmajid is a Syrian journalist based in the Netherlands. As a member of the International Federation of journalists, Abdulmajid’s articles were published in several online and printed newspapers in English, Arabic and Dutch.