Syrian Kurds Opening their Doors to Fleeing Arabs

09/10/2012 RUDAW By WLADIMIR van WILGENBURG – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Syrian Kurds are welcoming Arabs fleeing the violence of the ongoing uprising to take refuge in areas of the country largely under their control.

“We welcome anyone to our villages and cities that doesn’t have a gun,” said Hadji Rashid, a representative of TEV-DEM, an organization affiliated with the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in the United Kingdom.

“We feel them for them and we are against the mass killing of Arabs and all people in Syria by the regime. We are against all killing. They are welcome to live here because at the moment it is peaceful. We don’t want problems to come to us,” Rashid told Rudaw. Abd-al-Baqi Yusuf, a leading figure in the Kurdish Union Party based in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, told Asharq Alawsat that there is a massive migration from Arab Sunni areas to the Kurdish areas in Syria “because they are safer than other cities, which are under daily air and artillery bombardment by Bashar al-Assad’s regime.” But Yusuf indicated this is not without its problems. “This situation regrettably makes the economic crisis in the Kurdish areas of Syria worse as the price of commodities has peaked while foodstuffs are becoming scarcer. The price of a butane gas cylinder rose to 60 Syrian pounds, and a diesel oil barrel rose to 20,000 Syrian pounds from 7,000. The crisis is going from bad to worse.”

Kawa Rashid, a spokesperson of the Syrian Kurdistan Movement, a new Kurdish youth group, told Rudaw that Kurds who lived in Arab cities have also moved to the predominantly Kurdish areas. “They lost their houses in Idlib and Damascus and now have to stay with families and acquaintances. The PYD checkpoints allow refugees to come, but not radical groups.”

According to the PYD’s foreign representative, Alan Semo, the group has mostly helped Kurds fleeing back to the Kurdish areas, but also Arabs. “It is our human duty to welcome them. It is a human duty to protect peace and democracy.”

Kadar Scheikhmous, a Kurd from Aleppo, told Rudaw that Arab internally displaced people (IDP) are “welcomed as guests,” but not as people. “My own district has about five families living in the same house in four rooms. This causes big problems. There are thousands of refugees now living in Qamishli and this sometimes creates tensions,” Scheikmous said.

Thomas McGee, a researcher studying Syria’s Kurds, confirmed to Rudaw that Kurds are helping out displaced Arab families. “There are groups of Kurds I know who are trying to find housing for displaced Arab families. This is usually with Kurdish host families, but they are saying that they cannot meet the demand. People are sleeping in schools.”

The Kurds McGee spoke with told him that if they do not have enough resources to share with the displaced Arabs, then problems will occur. “Many people that I have spoken to say that this is one of the most pressing problems in the Kurdish region,” he said.

Azad Dewani, a Kurdish Ph.D. student and human rights advocate, told Rudaw that international humanitarian organizations should be helping the IDPs flee to Kurdish areas. He called on Syrian Kurds to establish a committee to deal with this issue. “It would be wise for the Kurds to call on international organizations to support them and establish their offices in the Kurdish regions,” Dewani said. A bomb attack on a security branch in Qamishli on Sept. 30 spread fears that the violence is spreading to Kurdish areas.

The coordination office of Kurdish Youth in Derek released a statement condemning the bombing. “We renew our call for the need to maintain security in the city of Qamishli and other Kurdish cities, which have become a safe haven for our brothers displaced from the affected areas,” it said. The Kurdish Youth Movement (TCK) also released a statement condemning the attack and called on the armed Syrian opposition to stay away from Kurdish areas. “Will the regime fall if we carry weapons? Is it not enough that we embraced our brothers from Deir Ezzor, Homs and other Syrian cities? Do you want to displace and destroy the rest of the cities?”