Syrian Kurdish Defectors Impatient to Fight Alongside Opposition

21/01/2013 1 RUDAW By ADIB ABDULMAJID – AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – Mizgin Mustafa Ramadan defected from the Syrian army about a year ago, after hearing that the military was firing on peaceful anti-regime demonstrators. Since then, he has been training at a cross-border camp in Iraqi Kurdistan, impatiently awaiting orders to return and join opposition forces fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

“We are waiting for the right moment to return and defend our areas and protect our people,” said Ramadan, one of about 2,200 Syrian-Kurdish soldiers at the Faysh Khabur training camp across the border from the Kurdish city of Derik in Syria.

“I decided to defect the moment I heard that the army was shooting against peaceful demonstrators in the southern city of Daraa. I knew the moment would come when I would be ordered to do the same against civilians,” said Ramadan.

He made a midnight escape from the army in April 2011 and headed for Qamishli, his hometown, to say goodbye to his family before stepping over the border, and into a dream.

“At the training camp I felt free as a Kurd for the first time, wearing military clothes with the Kurdish flag and training under Kurdish officers,” Ramadan said. “This was just a dream for me,” he told Rudaw by telephone.

He said that the majority of Syrian Kurdish trainees are eager to return to their country to fight against regime forces.

“We are constantly asking our officers to let us cross the border and start defending our cities and towns, but they say it’s still not time,” Ramadan said. “We trust the wisdom of the leadership of the Kurdistan Region, but we feel ashamed to stay here while our people are in urgent need of our presence,” he added.

A major reason that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) will not order the soldiers across the border is because of resistance by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), the most powerful Kurdish opposition in Syria.

The PYD, which has been accused by the main Syrian opposition of questionable ties with the Assad regime as well as the militant Kurdistan Workers Party, controls large parts of Kurdish territories in Syria together with the Popular Protection Committees. It opposes soldiers trained in the Kurdistan Region from joining the war against the Damascus regime.

“Our main loyalty is to our Kurdish people,” Ramadan said, adding that he disagrees with the PYD presence in Kurdish neighborhoods.

Kurdish soldiers, who complained they had faced discrimination in the Syrian military because of their ethnicity, were some of the first to desert, joining the main opposition Free Syrian Army or choosing to fight alongside Kurdish brigades, including the PYD.

Ramadan described the military training he receives along with his fellow soldiers – whose numbers have swelled from only 600 about a year ago — as “professional and efficient.”

On a visit to the training camp, President Massoud Barzani praised the trainees and emphasized their important future role in the Syrian Kurdish areas, especially in filling the security vacuum likely to follow the fall of the Assad regime.

“There is an accurate plan for each step we will take with the start of our operations in Syria, and the tasks are already assigned and distributed by our officers here,” Ramadan said.  “I’m ready to sacrifice my life for the sake of my people and land, and I eagerly and impatiently wait for our fighting orders.”