PYD Leader: We Have no Relations With Syrian Regime, We Want it to Fall

25/09/2012 RUDAW By HEVIDAR AHMED – Last week Salih Muslim, the leader of Democratic Union Party (PYD), sat down with Rudaw to discuss a range of issues. During the interview, Muslim insisted that his party abides by the Erbil Agreement which stipulated the formation of a supreme committee that includes all Syrian Kurdish political parties to run Syrian Kurdistan’s affairs. Muslim dismissed claims made by other Kurdish political parties that the PYD hasn’t kept its promise to work through the committee, especially when it comes to its policies regarding Turkey.

Rudaw: A year and half has passed since Syria’s popular uprising broke out, but President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has survived. Why?

Salih Muslim: At the beginning, we knew overthrowing the regime would not be an easy task. We didn’t expect the regime to be ousted within three months. We estimated that the regime would survive for at least two years as it has been deeply rooted in Syria for the past 50 years.The regime alone has 170,000 security forces. Most Syrians who have positions in the government are affiliated with the regime and don’t want to see it go. The military commanders are still loyal to Assad and won’t work to overthrow him.

“The military commanders are still loyal to Assad and won’t work to overthrow him.”Rudaw: How much longer will the Assad regime survive?

Salih Muslim: The Syrian regime is still strong. The military is still loyal to the regime. The Alawites will establish an autonomous region even if the regime falls. The current situation is not in the hands of Syrians; instead, it is in the hands of the U.S. and Russia. In addition, Iran, Turkey and Hezbollah play major roles in Syria’s situation.

Rudaw: It is said that the PYD has a secret relationship with the Assad regime. Is this true?

Salih Muslim: When the PYD was founded in 2003, it established a relationship with the regime by the mediation of Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) leader. However, the relationship with the regime ended, especially after they found out about the establishment of the Adana coalition by Syrian and Turkish Kurds. Two hundred PKK members were captured and handed over to Turkey where they were sentenced to life in prison. Since its establishment, the PYD has been struggling for the Kurdish cause. We have sacrificed many lives. Ironically, we are now being accused of having a secret relationship with the government that we have fought in the past.

Rudaw: Does the PYD want the Assad regime to fall?

Salih Muslim: Yes, it does. The sooner the regime falls, the better. We are concerned about the replacement of this regime in the future.

If we think about Iraq, we realize that not everything will be resolved by overthrowing the regime. After several years of liberation, people still get killed daily. Kurdish rights in Iraq have not been secured and Article 140 has not been implemented. Maybe Syria will have the same outcome.

Those in the opposition who want to replace the Assad regime didn’t support Kurdish rights at the Cairo convention. We want the regime to fall, but we also think about the future of Kurds in Syria.

Rudaw: How is the relationship between the Syrian government and the Kurdish areas?

Salih Muslim: Each opposition group in Syria has its own way. The same is true for the government. The Muslim Brotherhood and the extremists receive logistical help from Turkey to fight the Assad regime. I believe the regime can hold onto its position. Winston Churchill said, “If you want to learn politics, go to Syria.”

“We want the regime to fall, but we also think about the future of Kurds in Syria.”

Rudaw: Is it the PYD that doesn’t tolerate Turkey, or it is the Kurds in Syria in general?

Salih Muslim: We established a supreme committee. The committee’s task is to roadmap the policy for Western (Syrian) Kurdistan. All the Syrian Kurdish political parties agreed to this. Kurdish officials from all four parts of Kurdistan in the Middle East support this committee and its decisions. So, the committee’s decision will be taken into consideration in Western Kurdistan.

Rudaw: The PYD says that it is the number one Kurdish party in Syria. Other Kurdish parties make the same claim. Who is really the number one party?

Salih Muslim: You should visit Western Kurdistan and then decide for yourself who is the most popular party there. I am not saying we are the number one party, but the majority of Kurds in Syria support the PYD’s policies.

Rudaw: Why is the PYD the only Kurdish party that carries arms?

Salih Muslim: The PYD is not a militia. It is a political party. Many groups and organizations, including the PYD, have gathered under the umbrella of the Democratic Association Group. This association has one armed division and that is the People’s Protection Committees (YPG). The PYD only operates under this association politically.

After the establishment of the supreme committee, the PYD, which was a secret organization formerly, declared itself an independent party to abide by the committee’s decisions.

Rudaw: The PYD is in control of the border areas between the Kurdistan Region and Syria. What would the Syrian regime get in return for allowing you to stay in control of these areas?

Salih Muslim: The Syrian government didn’t voluntarily let us control the area.

Rudaw: How did you control it then?

“We told the regime they must evacuate because we could protect the Kurdish areas.”

Salih Muslim: We told the regime they must evacuate because we could protect the Kurdish areas. We are also in control of the border areas with Turkey.

Rudaw: How many cities are under your control?

Salih Muslim: Currently, Efrin and Kobane are completely clear of Syrian security forces. We are in control of these two cities.

Rudaw: Why is Qamishli still under the regime’s control?

Salih Muslim: The situation in Qamishli is very sensitive. When the time comes, we will liberate that city too.

Rudaw: The Kurds in Syria are concerned that armed conflict will break out between the Kurdish parties. What assurances can you give that civil war will not break out?

Salih Muslim: Such a war is impossible if the Kurds stay united. Currently, 80 percent of the Kurds in Syria are united in their voice. I would like to mention that Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani has played a major role in preventing such a war from happening.

Rudaw: Can you promise that such a war won’t happen?

Salih Muslim: We promise to prevent such a thing from happening, even if the price is our blood.

Rudaw: The other Kurdish parties say that they also have struggled and sacrificed for the Kurdish cause in Syria and that it is not fair for the PYD to claim it is the only party who has sacrificed and that they should be in control. What have you to say about this?

Salih Muslim: No other Kurdish party in Syria has lost blood and sacrificed lives. The PYD is the only party that has paid that price.

Rudaw: Will you accept another Kurdish party carrying arms in Syria?

Salih Muslim: There must be only one armed group and that is the force protecting the Kurds. If anyone wants to carry arms, they must be under that force. The current force exists to protect the Kurds in Syria.

Rudaw: Turkey has fears that the PYD and PKK will control the Kurdish areas in Syria. Will you agree to negotiate with Ankara and assure them that your existence there will not endanger their interests?

Salih Muslim: We are ready to negotiate with them. We are not against the Turkish government and its people. We speak out against Turkey because it directly interferes in Syria’s domestic affairs. Turkish officials told Syria’s opposition that if they kicked Salih Muslim out of the group, they would reward them with $60 million. Turkey is negotiating with the other opposition groups but not with us. We are not a problem or danger to Turkey.