Syrian Kurds Put Up a Show of Unity in Qamishlo’s Streets

06/08/2012 RUDAW-  By ROZH AHMAD – QAMISHLO, Western Kurdistan — Tens of thousands of Kurds took to the streets in Qamishlo, Syria’s largest Kurdish city, demanding their rights once the regime of President Bashar al-Assad is ousted.

They also expressed jubilation over the recent unity of Kurdish parties in the country.Syria’s Kurds have staged limited demonstrations demanding recognition of their rights and freedoms since the uprising started in the country a year and a half ago. Kurdish areas have been spared the violence that has gripped other parts of the country.Marching to Kurdish music and carrying Kurdish flags, around 100,000 people — young and old, men and women — rallied in the city’s streets toward the Heliliya quarter. People in houses overlooking the streets cheered the demonstrators on.Reflecting the spirit of unity, the demonstrators chanted slogans such as “Peshmerga and guerilla are the same,” referring to the Kurdish armed forces, and “long live the unity of Kurdish people.”

Halima Abdulwahid, 59, walked in the demonstration. She lost her two sons during the recent upheavals. Both were members of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the dominant party in Syrian Kurdistan.

“I would like to join the demonstrations every day but my legs are about to stop functioning,” said Abdulwahid. “But because … our leaders are united, I also want to be part of that unity on behalf of my sons. It’s great for us that they are united because that means there will not be any unpleasant things anymore. And this gives us peace.” Assad’s forces are still present in Qamishlo and the city is not considered one of the “liberated” areas of Syrian Kurdistan. But Syrian security forces were not seen on the streets during the demonstration. In recent weeks, Assad’s forces have withdrawn from a number of key Kurdish towns and cities, leading Kurdish parties to take over. In a show of unity, local leaders from various Kurdish parties were marching arm in arm in Qamishlo. This was the second demonstration aimed at strengthening unity among Syrian Kurds, after Kurdish parties stuck a deal in the Kurdistan Region in July – the Erbil Agreement — vowing to work together.

“We are very happy about the unity that has come about in Syrian Kurdistan,” said Abdulrahi Jamil Abdullah, a member of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Syria. “We hope we can stay united like this and, as you can see, our people are very happy about this unity.”He added, “Through this demonstration, people are showing that they have full confidence in political parties and the parties need to wisely maintain that trust.”

Sileman Hasso, a member of the Kurdish National Council (KNC) in Qamishlo, told Rudaw that the unity agreement has positively affected the revolution in Syrian Kurdistan and other parts of the country. “The Kurdish revolution has been tied to the Syrian revolution since day one. Before the unity (agreement), there were only like a thousand people demonstrating in Syrian Kurdistan’s streets, but now tens of thousands are demonstrating. This has energized the Syrian revolution as well … and we have seen the impact over the past couple of weeks,” said Hasso.

Pictures of Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani and Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), were raised by demonstrators. Many consider the PYD to be affiliated with the PKK.

The PKK-PYD presence in Syrian Kurdistan has set off alarm bells in Turkey, which has been in conflict with the PKK for nearly three decades. The PKK demands autonomy and recognition of Kurdish political and cultural rights in Turkey. During the demonstration, Ramziya Mohammed, co-president of the People’s Council in Qamishli, told demonstrators that the KNC should not have met with the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu alone when he visited the Kurdistan Region last week.

The KNC, which is part of the unity agreement with the PYD, took part in a meeting with Davutoglu attended by representatives of the Syrian National Council (SNC) and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Mohammed said such meetings could negatively affect the Kurdish cause in Syrian Kurdistan. “Kurds in Syrian Kurdistan love unity but this should not be exploited and used for a single group’s goals,” warned Mohammed, whose People’s Council is affiliated with the PYD. She added, “We must be careful about political games in the region, especially the political game that Turkey plays against Kurdish people.” Mohammed called on Kurdish parties to genuinely unite and not participate in “enemy plot.