04/06/2014 - 23:00
What does Rojava mean to who?

By Mela Ehmed

Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, both regional and international powers have been forced to re-adapt their positions. Currently Syria is divided into four.

One side of the country is under the control of the Western backed Islamic Front in which Al-Nusra is also taking its place; on the other side you have ISIS, an organisation that has de-associated itself from Al-Qaeda but has been infiltrated by the Syrian regime, local powers and international powers; some of the country is under the control of the current Syrian regime and though disconnected to each other, the Kurds are controlling the area widely knows as Rojava. The forces that are in control of these areas have at times fought each other, and at other times have formed loose coalitions to fight against joint enemies.

At present, it seems as if this war will go on for a long time yet. However, the areas under the control of the kurds (Rojava) — Kurds were not even given citizenship by the Baath regime — hold a very different significance; most of the oil fields in Syria are located there and most of the agricultural land is located there. Due to the military and political aspirations concerning Rojava of all the forces in this battle, opposing groups have on several occasions formed coalitions.

The meaning of Rojava for the USA and Russia

It is safe to say that the USA and Russia, while interlocked in hegemonic battle, are the two most important deciders of the fate of Syria. For both the USA and Russia, the outcome of the Syrian civil war will be decisive in shaping the future of the Middle East. The scope of this article does not encompass the detailing USA's and Russia's ambitions for Syria in general. However, we can say that the gravity of the consequences of the Syrian civil war is enough for both the USA and Russia to keep all possible means of political and military interventions on the table.

It is in Russia's interest for the Assad regime to preserve itself; however, the USA's interest lies in the opposite scenario. For both sides, the political and military manoeuvres of the regime and the opposition (fighting on behalf of Russia and the USA respectively) are very important. The deepening of the disagreement between the USA and Russia over Ukraine, only serves to guarantee the longevity of the Syrian conflict.

When it comes to Rojava, Russia is approaching the Kurds with a significant amount of caution as it does not want to open up another military front against Assad. The USA however, is openly hostile towards Rojava. The USA went as far as not allowing entrance to Salih Muslim into the USA for a conference. During the Geneva Conferences, despite Russia's insistence, the USA was adamant in blocking an independent Kurdish delegation from attending the conference. Currently, both the USA and the Turkish government are imposing their policies on Rojava through the agency of the KDP. However, it can't be said that they are being successful.

The fact that the USA's stance towards Rojava is hostile — despite the fact that in Al-Qaeda, Rojava's Kurds are effectively fighting America's joint enemies — is important to show the USA's two-faced approach towards "the war on terror". Despite this approach, the Rojava administration has always stated an openness to meet with the USA.

The meaning of Rojava for ISIS

ISIS is an organisation that deems Al-Qaeda as "inadequate fighters of Islam" and is formed of "Mucahir" (foreign fighters) from all over the World. For ISIS, Rojava is seen as a territory that needs to submit to its authority, otherwise all sorts of massacres are legitimate. ISIS has attacked both the cantons of Jazeera and Kobani on many occasions. In these attacks, ISIS was attempting to gain control of areas among the border with Iraq to adjoin these areas to the "Islamic state of Iraq", and to gain control of the border crossings with Turkey. ISIS's plans did not materialise; however, in Tel Abyad and Cerablus ISIS was able to gain control of two border crossings with Turkey from territories they gained from the FSA and Ahrar Sham. However, ISIS does not feel safe in Tel Abyad sandwiched in between Serekaniye and Kobani. This feeling of insecurity resulted in the civilian massacre in the village of Tileliye last week. Although ISIS is an organisation beholding a religious reference, the fact that it is deploying Arabic nationalist rhetoric in Hasakah and Tel Abyad shows that is willing to try any method to subjugate Rojava.

The meaning of Rojava for the FSA-Islamic Front

This organisation was initially largely formed by Sunni Arabs fed up of the Baathist regimes oppression. However, subsequently this organisation took in a significant number of foreign fighters into its ranks. The approach of this Western backed organisation towards Rojava is no different to that of the approaches of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey to their own Kurdish populations. From the most radical factions to the most "moderate" factions within this organisation, Rojava is deemed "land of the Syrian Arab Republic that has been handed over to the infidel Kurds by Assad, and therefore must be liberated". A different approach cannot be expected of an organisation that is politically, militarily, logistically and diplomatically supported by the Turkish state. When they are reminded of this approach of theirs, they repeat a slogan repeated by the Turkish state for decades: "Arabs and Kurds are Muslim brothers, the PKK is treacherous!" The KDP's branches in Syria are also a political part of this organisation, even though this organisation rejects all national rights of the Kurdish people.

Although currently relaxed, this organisation imposed an embargo on the Afrin region and all its attacks to subjugate Afrin were fiercely resisted by the YPG. This organisation and the YPG later agreed on a ceasefire; this organisation later diverted its attention to ISIS. However, they were not very successful against ISIS too and many of their fighters fled and seeked refuge in the Rpjava towns of Afrin and Kobani. Currently, this organisation has accepted the fact that the Kurds are in control of their own territory. However, in the future, it will not be surprising if the Turkish state or the West once again push this organisation to fight the Kurds once more.


You can follow Mela Ehmed on Twitter @mela_ehmed

*This article was translated from www.kurdistan24.org

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of KurdishQuestion.com