MESOP “SYRIA UNTOLD” : CONTRA PYD/PKK – Report on Civil Activities (Aug 9-29): Kurdish Protests & “Detainees First” Campaign

Translated by Lilah Khoja.  – Syria’s Kurds have captured media attention recently, not just for their military conquests but also for their civil society activities. A number of Kurds protested against the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a left-wing Kurdish political party that has dominated much of the Kurdish political landscape in Northern Syria over the past four years and has recently arrested politicians and activists., Meanwhile, in Turkey, some activists in alongside the Geroun Media Network launched a campaign to highlight the plight of political prisoners. This campaign was a collaboration with the Survivors of Detention group.

Protests Against the PYD

A number of northern Syrian cities (Al-Qamishli, Amuda, al-Maʿbadah, Tell Tamr, ad-Darbasiyah, and al-Malikiyah) have protested against the PYD on August 16, 2016, in response to the party’s arrest of politicians and activists, such as Mohammad Ismaʿil and Neshat Zaza, members of the Kurdish National Council (KNC, a coalition of political parties allied with Masʿud Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan) political bureau; Saleh Jamil, ʿAbdul-Karim Haji, and Nafeʿ ʿAbdullah, members of the KNC Central Committee; Mizkin Mohammad Ramadan, a member of the Secretariat General of the latter; and Ibrahim Barro, the president of the KNC who was arrested by the party and exiled to Iraqi Kurdistan for taking part in demonstrations and criticizing the PYD’s policies.

In al-Qamishli, in front of the Salman al-Farsi Mosque, people chanted “No to silencing dissent… No to starvation”, “The people are stronger than any military force” and “No to PYD harassment of other Kurdish parties”. In Amuda, the people raised banners saying “Shame on the enemies of the Kurdish people and their causes” and “Those who experienced the regime’s prisons will not be deterred by their servant’s prisons”. In al-Maʿbadah, a sit-in was organized against the party, which featured people carrying banners reading “The national flag is like our anthem; a symbol of unity, and an expression of our sacrifices”, in response to the PYD removing the “Colorful Flag” adopted by Iraqi Kurdistan.

In al-Malikiyyah people hosted a sit-in where they raised banners that read “Abducting Ibrahim Barro does not help our struggle” and “No to political arrests”. In ad-Darbasiyah, the sit-in called for the release of detainees, with people holding up banners featuring their names. In Tell Tamr, people held banners at the organized sit-in reading “Do not empty the region of its youth’s power” in response to the PYD conscription for young people.

[Photo: From the ad-Darbasiyah sit-in in support of the Kurdish National Council – al-Hasakah province – 16-8-2016 (Syria Freedom Forever blog)].

According to the PYD’s opponents, the problems began when the PYD attempted to instigate clashes during the funeral of one of their peshmerga, Habib Qadri Mohammad Saʿid, who had been killed in Iraq while fighting against the self-declared Islamic State. In an official statement put forth by the Asayish (the PYD-controlled security forces), they said: “Our forces arrested various PYD supporters and some families of our martyrs today, confiscating a number of weapons in their possession, after they had tried to attack the people gathered to mourn for the peshmerga. We also arrested Kurdish National Council supporters, after our patrol members had been assaulted by them while escorting the funeral.”