Declaration of Northern Syria Federation, Rimelan, 16 March 2016
The Syrian Kurds and allied communities declared their areas the “Federation of Northern Syria – Rojava” on 17 March, and announced that democratic federalism is a viable alternative to the detrimental politics of both the Syrian regime and the jihadist opposition.
Syrian Kurds of the Rojava region called on the international community on the same day to support the establishment of their federation as a project that would pave the way for the formation of a democratic federal Syria, arguing that democracy, devolution of power and diversity can end the sectarian civil war that has destroyed the country for over five years now.
But almost all the major players involved in the bloodbath of the Syrian civil war, except for Russia, rejected the Syrian Kurdish political move to save what is left of the war-torn country and secure a democratic future for its generation lost in war.
Interestingly the rejection of the Syrian Kurdish federalism project has since turned into a focal point for unity among almost all the opposing forces involved in Syria’s civil war, revealing that these forces are not so different from one another when it comes to their shared racism and fascistic concern over the basic democratic rights of the Kurdish people and others living in the Rojava region.
The Syrian government and the country’s main opposition that have been at war for over five years quickly united in rejecting the Kurdish-led federalism and labelled it as a move that would result in the “partition of the country”.
Turkey called the move “separatist terrorism” and threatened to invade Rojava and “annihilate” the Kurds.
The shared fear over the Syrian Kurdish move for federalism eventually resulted in Ankara and Damascus beginning a process of “discreet talks” in Algeria to unite around an anti-Kurdish agenda despite their deep differences over all else on Syria’s civil war.
Turkey, Syria “discreetly” unite in Algeria
The prominent private Algerian French daily Al Watan newspaper on 8 April reported that Algeria was busy making "discreet mediations" between Turkey and Syria.
The Algerian daily quoted a senior Algerian diplomatic source as saying that the declaration of federalism by the Syrian Kurds “encouraged” Turkish and Syrian diplomats to exchange alarming concerns on the Kurdish issue.
The North African and Middle East media outlets have since e termed the negotiation between the two sides as “discreet talks”.
"Despite all the tensions between the two sides, they [the Turkish and Syrian governments’ officials] wanted to exchange around the Kurdish issue and the will of Syrian Kurds to create an independent state,” the Al-Watan daily quoted the senior Algerian diplomatic source as saying.
“The diplomatic advances achieved during these discussions were featured in detail in the recent visit by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mualem to Algiers,” the diplomatic source added.
The consequences of the “discreet talks” in Algeria have since resulted in simultaneous deadly attacks by the Turkish and Syrian states against the Kurds of Rojava.
Turkey, Syria troops attack Rojava Kurds
Turkey has since increased its artillery attacks against the Syrian Kurdish civilians of Rojava and the Turkish army has been busy building walls and trenches on the Rojava border to cut-off the region from the neighboring Kurdish region in Turkey.
Turkey-backed jihadist armed opposition groups have led an extensive military campaign of indiscriminate bombardment, killing and wounding hundreds of Kurdish civilians mostly women and the children in the predominantly Kurdish district of Sheikh Maqsoud in northern Aleppo.
International human rights organizations have said that the Turkey-backed jihadists used chemical weapon in their indiscriminate bombardments, deliberately targeting civilian Kurds in the Sheikh Maqsoud area.
Meanwhile, Syrian government troops and their affiliated militias attacked Kurds in Rojava’s unofficial capital, Al-Qamishli, right after the negotiations with Turkey had begun in Algeria.
Several days of deadly clashes between Syrian government troops and Kurdish forces resulted in Kurdish fighters capturing more territories from the Syrian government and taking over the notorious Alaya Prison in Al-Qamishli.
Kurds recall 1975 Algiers Agreement
The Kurds have compared the Ankara-Damascus “discreet talks” in Algiers to the 1975 Algiers Agreement between the then regional rivals Iran and Iraq, which put a bloody end to a five-year official Kurdish autonomy in northern Iraq.
The 1975 Algeria Agreement meant that the then Iraqi and Iranian governments put aside their differences so that the central government in Baghdad could put an end to Kurdish autonomy in Iraq. Despite the bitterness that existed between them regarding control of territories including the fate of the Persian Gulf, they had no qualms uniting against Kurds.
The Kurds are now saying that the Ankara-Damascus “discreet talks” resemble the regional plot against the Kurds made in 1975 in Algiers, but this time to put a bloody end to the Kurdish autonomy and federalism of Rojava in northern Syria.
Iran, Saudi Arabia also team-up against Kurds
Iran “condemned” the Syrian Kurds and said that the self-declared federalism was a “violation of Syria’s territorial integrity”, although the Kurds announced their federation as part of the united geographical boundaries of Syria.
The Sunni-led Arab League and officials of the Gulf States under the leadership of Saudi Arabia also rejected the Syrian Kurdish move and described their attempt to establish democracy and federalism as “an attempt to split Syria”.
The anti-Kurdish agenda uniting those two regional rivals is deeply rooted in the racist, arguably fascistic denial, of the democratic rights of the Kurdish people of Rojava.
Iran and Saudi Arabia are leading the deadliest proxy wars against each other in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere across the Middle East, and it is amazing to see how their shared fascistic instincts against the Kurds ingrained in the mentality of their top officials can so easily unite them.
US, Russia limbo dancing over Rojava
The US has also joined the Saudi-led Sunni camp and the Iran-led Shiite crescent in rejecting the Syrian Kurdish political proposal for the establishment of democracy and federalism in Syria.
American officials have since made it clear that they will not politically back the Kurdish-led project. Although the US continues to militarily back Rojava as its most effective ally on the ground fighting and defeating Islamic State (IS, ISIS/ISIL) and the other jihadist groups on a daily basis, it seems political support is one step too far.
The US stance against Syrian Kurdish federalism was also pure irony in the sense that America itself is a federal state.
Yet US officials in Washington have not shied away from outright rejection of the Syrian Kurdish move for democracy and federalism as a viable alternative to end the Syria war crises.
Russia has so far remained as the only country willing to politically back the Syrian Kurds and their call for a federal democratic Syria, but it’s not yet clear how long this will last and how faithful Moscow would remain to the Syrian Kurds of Rojava given that the Kremlin also has strategic aims with both Damascus and Tehran.
Despite the intensity of the multiple political and military attacks against the Kurds from all sides, they do not appear frightened or shocked by these developments; in fact they appear more determined and insistent on their demand for autonomy and a federal system.
Their determined fight back at all costs on multiple fronts against the onslaughts led by both Turkey and Syria has sent a clear message to the whole world that they will not accept life under the jackboots of the Turkish and Syrian states.
Will history repeat itself?
The 1975 Algiers Agreement led to short-lived cooperation between Tehran and Baghdad, which ended official Kurdish autonomy in northern Iraq that had been established under the leadership of Mela Mustafa Barzani of the Kurdistan Democratic Party-Iraq (KDP).
In the same year thousands of Iraqi Kurds were killed or imprisoned and hundreds of thousands fled abroad.
However, a Kurdish movement that was much stronger and more militantly determined was born in northern Iraq also in the same year.
A year later the movement formed a united front of Iraqi Kurdish forces that continued to fight until they secured autonomy in 1991.
And three decades after the 1975 Algiers Agreement, they played a key role on the ground in toppling the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
As for Iran, the Iranian Shah fled the country amid a popular uprising in 1979, and a year later the Iran-Iraq war broke out and lasted for eight years.
It’s hard to see today’s efforts in Algiers producing a better outcome than the one triggered by the agreement in 1975, especially when today’s Kurds of Rojava in northern Syria are much stronger and organised politically and militarily in comparison to the Iraqi Kurds of 1975.
But most important of all is the fact that the Kurds are no longer an “internal security issue,” as international and regional key players labelled Iraqi Kurds in 1975. Given that today’s Kurds, particularly those based in Rojava, have proved themselves as the world’s only hope on the ground to defeat Islamic State (IS), Al-Qaida and all those forces that use unprecedented terror to target global stability and peace, it is safe to say Kurds cannot be dismissed as an active agent once more.
- Aram Shaswar
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