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MEN TALK in front of closed shops in Afrin, Syria, in 2018.
(photo credit: KHALIL ASHAWI / REUTERS)

The Jerusalem Post: After Trump’s betrayal, unity among Syrian Kurds is timely – opinion

Syrian Kurds are now happy and hopeful after the two main Kurdish political parties reached an initial agreement on the common political vision and Kurdish unity.

The Kurdish unity agreement has raised hopes again about guaranteeing constitutional rights for the Kurdish people in Syria. It also showed the important role that the Kurdish leadership in Iraq played to unify Syrian Kurdish parties.

Syrian Kurds are now happy and hopeful after the two main Kurdish political parties reached an initial agreement on the common political vision and Kurdish unity.

The unity agreement has been announced after several negotiating rounds with the support of the leaders of the Kurdistan region of Iraq and the presence of the American guarantor.

The political situation in the Kurdish regions prior to the new agreement, was in a state of disagreement and division for many years in light of the war in Syria. A feeling of optimism and an atmosphere of trust prevails among most of Kurdish activists and people of the region. They had previously felt that the Kurdish political movement had failed them, and did not meet the aspirations and the national demands of the Kurdish people.

During these years, Syrian Kurds were cautiously observing the developments in Syria and their region in the absence of an active and supportive role of the United States of America, the military ally of the Kurdish forces, the most prominent force that fought a war against ISIS and contributed to ending the group geographically.

The Kurdish concerns about the future of the region have increased mostly after new facts on the ground in the Kurdish areas following President Trump’s decision to withdraw some of the American forces from the border areas with Turkey, and make way for the Turkish invasion and occupation of Kurdish cities like Ras al-Ain and Tel Abyad. Another reason is the growing Russian desire to fill the void and build a foothold in the Kurdish oil-rich region.

Syrian Kurds were concerned that their region would be handed over to Russia, which to their belief would not abandon the regime of Bashar Assad in favor of them. Also, the current cooperation between Russia and Turkey regarding Syria will undoubtedly have negative effects on the future role of the Kurds in Syria. Turkey has been repeatedly trying to weaken the Kurds in favor of its own affiliate opposition factions. This was demonstrated by the notable absence of Kurdish parties from the Syrian Constitutional Committee and the unsubstantial presence of Kurds within the delegations of the Syrian opposition in previous rounds of the Geneva talks because of Turkey’s opposition.

In fact, the Kurdish political movement in Syria has united political programs concerning its calls for the national goals of the Kurdish people; particularly the ethnic identity of Kurds, which was the basis on which these parties advocated when they were formed in the middle and late last century in Syria.

THE DISPUTES between these parties were related to the power-sharing of the Syrian Kurdish regions, and the political vision regarding how to deal with the Syrian opposition, which was the core of the dispute and the most complicated issue between the two main parties: the Kurdish National Council and the Democratic Union party.

There was a media war between the two sides that included blaming each other and exchanging charges for responsibility of the political stalemate that occurred in previous years.

The Syrian Kurdish movement has fought for half a century and faced suppression during the rule of the Assad family. It was among the first in forming political parties and standing up to the exclusionary Ba’ath regime. The persecution that the regime practiced on the Syrian Kurdish movement imposed a role in the division and differences of these parties.

The political division after the outbreak of the Syrian uprising was the most dangerous, both internally and regionally, and has negatively affected the Kurdish national demands.

The Kurdish people in Syria, with all their different political views, firmly believe that their rights in the new Syria should not be limited to merely cultural and social rights. Rather, the issue of federalism should always remain a crucial issue. Kurds in Syria consider themselves part of a nation that has been divided between four countries, and they live on their historical land.

Up to this point, both the opposition and the regime continue to reject the Kurdish national demands. And they both reject totally any form of Kurdish autonomy, taking advantage of the lack of an integrated Kurdish political alliance, consistent with the aspirations of the Kurdish people.

The post-war phase in Syria, that is, the start of the negotiating process regarding the future of the country and the political settlement, is important to the future of the Kurds in Syria.

Now, more than ever, Syrian Kurdish politicians should put their differences and divisions aside, and take up the challenges of the stage to confront regional threats that do not cease against them. They must practice politics in a brilliant way, and read the course of events in an accurate way, because the battle will not be easy in light of the consensus of both the regime and the opposition to reject the national demands of the Kurds.

They must negotiate in the future with all the Syrian parties to put forward the national demands of the Kurdish people in Syria, in the best way that guarantees their rights in the constitution. They mustn’t trust slogans and the rhetoric language of the opposition that are only announced in the media regarding the future role of the Kurds.

It is difficult to predict the course of events in Syria in general, but this Kurdish unity agreement has spread hope again about guaranteeing constitutional rights for the Kurdish people in Syria. It also showed the important role that the Kurdish leadership in Iraq played to unify Syrian Kurdish parties. This agreement will hopefully open the door for more American support of the Kurds, which will eventually empower the Kurdish position in any future negotiations.

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