Will The Syrian Kurds Be Better Off After Al Assad Goes?
Do the Kurds have a right to a country, even when the governments of Iraq, Syria, and Turkey don’t agree?
Kurds to Pursue More Autonomy in a Fallen Syria - Tim Arango via NYTimes.com
Just off a main highway that stretches east of this city and slices through a moonscape of craggy hills, a few hundred Syrian Kurdish men have been training for battle, marching through scrub brush and practicing rifle drills.
The men, many of them defectors from the Syrian Army living in white trailers dotting a hillside camp, are not here to join the armed uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s government. They are preparing for the fight they expect to come after, when Mr. Assad falls and there is a scramble across Syria for power and turf.
These men want an autonomous Kurdish region in what is now Syria, a prospect they see as a step toward fulfilling a centuries-old dream of linking the Kurdish minorities in Iraq, Turkey and Iran into an independent nation.
But that desire, to right a historical grievance for a people divided and oppressed through generations, also threatens to draw a violent reaction from those other nations. They have signaled a willingness to take extreme actions to prevent the loss of territory to a greater Kurdistan.
The first step is already in motion, as the Iraqi Kurds provide haven, training and arms to the would-be militia. “They are being trained for after the fall, for the security vacuum that will come after the Assad government collapses,” said Mahmood Sabir, one of a number of Syrian Kurdish opposition figures operating in Iraq.
That the Kurds are arming themselves for a fight, one that could prove decisive in shaping post-revolutionary Syria, adds another element of volatility to the conflict. It suggests that the government’s fall would not lead to peace — but, instead, an all-out sectarian war that could drag in neighboring countries.
Against the backdrop of the raging civil war, Syrian Kurds have already etched out a measure of autonomy in their territories — not because they have taken up arms against the government, but because the government has relinquished Kurdish communities to local control, allowing the Kurds to gain a head start on self-rule. Kurdish flags fly over former government buildings in those areas, and schools have opened that teach in the Kurdish language, something the Assad government had prohibited.
So: what will our policy be, after the fall of the Alawites? Will we support the Kurds’ desire for autonomy?
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