Ethnic Kurds in northeastern Syria have declared an interim administration in the wake of gains against Islamist rebels in the region. Long oppressed under the Syrian regime, Kurds are now seeking more autonomy.
The transitional authority was formed by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), the dominant force on the ground in Syria’s Kurdish areas, following talks in the northeastern city of Qamishlo.
“There will be a temporary administration to manage the affairs of the region until the situation in Syria stabilizes and there can be a democratic government and legitimate elections,” Hussein Shawish of the PYD-aligned Movement for a Democratic Society, one of the groups participating in the meeting, told news agency dpa.
“This is within the framework of Syrian unity, not outside Syria,” Shawish added.
The move further solidifies their geographic and political presence in the region following recent territorial gains against mainly Arab Islamist forces in the northeast, where Kurds predominate. Last month Kurdish forces, battling to prevent the wider conflict spreading to the region, took control of a border crossing with Iraq from an Islamist rebel group.
According to news agency AFP, however, it is not immediately clear whether all Kurdish factions had signed on to the declaration. The Kurdish National Council, which includes a broad spectrum of parties, will not take part in the administration, it reported, raising questions over its durability.
Push for autonomy
Syria’s Kurdish minority were long subjected to discriminatory measures under the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Arab nationalist Baath Party. Kurds, who make up an estimated 10 percent of the population, view the civil war as an opportunity to gain more autonomy.
The announcement comes amid increasing moves towards independence by neighboring Iraq’s own autonomous Kurdish region and a general strengthening of Kurdish rights in Turkey, which has fought a three-decade war against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
More than 25 million non-Arab Kurds populate parts of Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq in territories they call Kurdistan. They are often described as the world’s largest ethnic group without a state.
ccp/ch (AFP, dpa, AP)