Qamishli Controlled Jointly by Regime and Kurdish Militia, Residents Charge

By BARZAN MUHAMMAD – RUDAW – 23.3.2013 – QAMISHLI, Syria – The Syrian regime remains in control of the city of Qamishli, allied with the main Kurdish militia that controls most of the country’s Kurdish heartland, residents charge.

Syria’s minority Kurds have been part of the two-year uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, but they are also divided among themselves. The Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG), whose fighters control most of Syria’s Kurdish areas, are indirectly linked to the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and deny opposition accusations they are working with Assad’s embattled regime. Syria’s civil war has led to an estimated 70,000 deaths and great destruction, but the Kurdish areas in the northeast have remained remarkably preserved.

“The city has not been liberated. Regime forces are still stronger than any other force,” complained Jasim Muhammed, a 40-year-old teacher in Qamishli.

“We have been struggling for decades, but it looks like we’re stepping backwards, now even willing to serve the Assad regime,” he said, adding it was common knowledge that the YPG was working hand-in-hand with the regime’s security forces. The city gate is manned by a Syrian army checkpoint, and dozens of secret service agents and army soldiers roam the center, some guarding a statue of the president’s late father, Hafez Assad, residents say. “Because of disunity among the opposition parties, the Assad regime succeeded in creating a number of armed groups to use for its own interests,” charged Muhammed Ismael, a member of the Kurdish Democratic Party in Syria (Al-Parti).

“The PYD works to serve the Assad regime in Kurdistan. It prolonged the life of Assad’s regime in Kurdistan,” he charged.According to the Erbil accord, the Kurdish National Council and The People’s Council are supposed to run the Kurdish regions through a joint committee.

Aldar Khalil, a senior YPG official, denied that his group served the regime’s interests, but stressed that its main aim was to avoid bloodshed.“We do not serve the Syrian regime’s interests in any way. However, we do not want to bring war to our cities and have people killed,” he said.“The control of the city is out of the hands of the Assad regime. The regime cannot threaten the people and kill them. We control everything in the town,” he said. “The YPG has imposed itself on the people by force,” said Muhammed. “If an election were carried out, I am sure they would win no more than 25 percent of the votes. The people do not support them,” the teacher added.