Opposition Clashes with Kurds Raise Fears of Arab-Kurdish Civil War in Syria

27/01/2013 RUDAW By ADIB ABDULMAJID – AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – Thirty-three fighters have been killed in Syria in fighting between the main opposition and the country’s Kurdish minority in the city of Ras al-Ain (Serekaniye) on the Turkish border,  raising warnings of an Arab-Kurdish civil war.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which reported the deaths, said that 28 rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the main opposition fighting to topple the regime of President Hafez Assad, and five from the Kurdish Popular Protection Committee (YPG), were killed in last week’s encounter.

On Friday, armed groups loyal to the Islamic al-Nusra Front crossed into Ras al-Ain from the Turkish border with three tanks, news reports quoted a Kurdish activist in the city as saying. The FSA is accused of receiving Turkish backing and attacking the city to force the predominantly Kurdish residents out.

The latest clashes further complicate the fight to oust the regime, adding more worries among Syrian Kurds who have been hoping to gain greater rights, and even autonomy, in a post-Assad Syria. The FSA, the main Syrian opposition, also contains Kurdish fighters and brigades. On the other hand, the largest Kurdish opposition, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party which is behind the YPG and controls most of the Kurdish territories in Syria’s north, is accused of questionable ties both to the Assad regime and the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is opposed by neighboring Turkey.

The National Coordination Committee (NCC), Syria’s main opposition administration, recently warned of a Kurdish-Arab civil war due to the escalating battles between the FSA and Syrian Kurds. “Local and foreign parties are behind this collision (between the Kurds and Arabs) to achieve the goals, ambitions and agendas that do not serve the national interest of Syria,” the NCC said. It called on “all forces and local parties as well as the clans to unify” in the war for “democratic change” and “national unity.”

Kawa Silo, member of the YPG and a participant in the ongoing battles, told Rudaw that his fighters will not give up until Serekaniye is freed from “terrorists of the FSA.” “We are struggling against terrorist armed groups who have caused total destruction in the city and forced our people to leave their homes,” Silo told Rudaw over the phone. “We will confront all enemies of the Kurdish people, whether they belong to the regime or the FSA.” Silo said that fighters from the al-Nusra Front, Ghuraba al-Sham and the FSA were involved in the fighting. “Kurdish areas should remain under Kurdish control, otherwise the consequences will be severe for the future of our people,” he added.