Mustafa Juma: Syrian Opposition Accepts Kurdish Rights


By Deniz Serinci – RUDAW – 22-7-2014 – Mustafa Juma: ‘Our Peshmergas have been trained in Iraqi Kurdistan and we will soon be stronger than the PYD.’

Mustafa Juma, a politburo member of the new Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria (KDPS), says that the Syrian opposition accepts Kurdish rights after the fall of Bashar al-Assad. Juma, who was the leader of the Syrian Kurdish Azadi (freedom) party until it merged into the KDPS with three other groups in April, claims that KDPS has thousands of trained fighters, and “soon will be stronger” than the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the dominant force in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan).

The KDPS, comprised of parties known for their links to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Iraqi Kurdistan, was formed as a united front in the Syrian war. Juma spoke to Rudaw in Denmark, where he came to appeal for European support and medical aid. Here is an edited transcript of his interview:

Rudaw: Four parties have recently merged into one: The Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria (KDPS). What is its aim?

Mustafa Juma: Four parties came together because we wanted to create a new political and strong party. We wanted Syria’s Kurds to achieve their national rights within a federal Syria.

Rudaw: So you don’t want independence?

Mustafa Juma: No, we want a new Syrian constitution that mentions Kurdish rights.  After that, we will see if it will be federalism or autonomy.

Rudaw: Kobane is currently under intense attack by the Islamic State (IS/ISIS). What do you think of this?

Mustafa Juma: ISIS has long attacked Kobane and it is a very serious situation. I refuse to believe that ISIS acts alone. ISIS is a project in which regional powers like (Bashar) Assad, Iran, and so on have a hand, because they want to push back the progress made by the Kurds.

ISIS has already taken over areas east and west of Kobane. But these areas are geographically separate, with Kobane in the center.  If ISIS manages to take over Kobane in order to link their already conquered territories together, the Kurds will be displaced and exiled. So it is a very sad situation.

Rudaw: What are the intentions of regional actors, including Iran?

Mustafa Juma: To prevent the Kurds in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) from gaining autonomy. Iran fears that would inspire its own Kurds. It is part of their project against the Kurds, not only against Kobane, but the whole of Rojava.

Rudaw: Is KDPS armed?

Mustafa Juma: We have not yet taken a decision to be armed. If one day we are armed, we will support the Syrians and Kurds. We have thousands of people. Our Peshmergas have been trained in Iraqi Kurdistan and we will soon be stronger than the Democratic Unity Party (PYD).

Rudaw: How is your relationship with PYD?

Mustafa Juma: PYD is an outlandish project, supported by Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, who does not accept other groups engaging in political activities.  PYD wants everyone to work under them and they are hostile toward other parties.

Rudaw: How does that affect you?

Mustafa Juma: I cannot return to Rojava. I myself was arrested by the PYD in June 2012 when I tried to get to Rojava. Some of our party comrades were also arrested and one, namely Behzad Dorsin, has completely disappeared. Nor do we forget the killings in Amude last summer.

Rudaw: PYD claims that other Kurdish parties are sending fighters to Rojava to fight Assad alongside the Syrian opposition. They say this will drag the Kurdish areas into the civil war. What is your response?

Mustafa Juma: Those accusations are untrue.  The truth is that the PYD does not allow others to engage in political activities.

Rudaw: PYD says that those who will fight in Rojava can do so under the People’s Protection Units (YPG). Why do you not do that?

Mustafa Juma: We want to be democratically allowed to have our own party. In addition, YPG and PYD have nothing to do with Kurdishness.

Rudaw: How so?

Mustafa Juma: PYD stands for the Democratic Unity Party and YPG for People’s Protection Units. There is nothing Kurdish in their names. PYD is not the result of any Kurdish revolution in Rojava. There is no revolution. These are empty words without meaning. There is a Syrian revolution. PYD did not fight and get the areas (under its control). Assad gave them these areas, and PYD became strong with his support.

Rudaw: But you claim that the KDPS has trained Peshmergas. Then why don’t they participate in the fighting against ISIS?

Mustafa Juma: PYD does not allow anyone except themselves. They require everyone to be a part of YPG, which is their armed wing. We will not force our forces into Rojava. We do not want civil war between Kurds.

Rudaw: But do you have plans in future to enter into a dialogue with PYD?

Mustafa Juma: I hope we can work together, because it will be better for the Kurds. But it does not look good, because PYD does not accept others and wants everyone to be like them. We will not accept that.

Rudaw: In criticizing you, the PYD says you are naive for trusting the Syrian opposition. A Syria after Assad is likely to be even worse because of the many Islamist groups in the opposition, they believe. What is your response?

Mustafa Juma: I am not satisfied with all parts of the opposition. But they are not all Islamists. They are also communists, liberals, Arabs, Kurds and so on. It is an alliance of various types. I’m not saying that the opposition is perfect. But they represent the Syrian revolution, so we are part of it.

Rudaw: But PYD does not believe that the opposition will give the Kurds their rights?

Mustafa Juma: We have documents showing that the opposition accepts the rights of the Kurds. The documents mention Kurdish national rights, including language and culture.

Rudaw: Last year, the former leader of the Syrian National Council, Burhan Ghalion, said, “there is no such thing as Syrian Kurdistan,” and compared Syria’s Kurds to immigrants in France?

Mustafa Juma: It was his personal, political view, which we do not accept. We say that Kurdistan exists. The Kurds are a nation with its their language and culture. They are divided in four states, Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq. They are 50 million people, and they have rights like everyone else.

Rudaw: You are now visiting various countries in Europe, including Norway and Denmark. What do you want from Europe and the West?

Mustafa Juma

: We hope that Europe will support the Syrian revolution. We need help with medicines and medical treatment. There is suppression, starvation and so on. Give us political and moral support against the dictatorial regime in Damascus. Make it fall, so people in the region can have a dignified life with freedom.