Syrian Kurdish groups attempt to unify after Trump withdrawal decision

Local authorities in the northeastern province of Hasakah announced on Saturday, as part of attempts to unify various Kurdish factions in Syria, that unlicensed parties can now open local offices.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Local authorities in the northeastern province of Hasakah announced on Saturday, as part of attempts to unify various Kurdish factions in Syria, that unlicensed parties can now open local offices.

The move comes following Turkish threats to invade northeast Syria and a decision by US president Donald Trump to withdraw US troops.

The Political Parties Affairs Committee of the legislative council of the Self-Administration in the Jazira region, in response to an initiative of the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK), declared on Saturday that it would lift a previous restriction on parties not licensed by the self-administration from opening offices, beginning that day.   

The goal, they said, was to create “the conditions and climate for a Kurdish-Kurdish dialogue,” adding that the decision follows the call of the KNK's Rojava branch, and has the aim “to deter Turkish threats.”

The Kurds fear any Turkish attack could lead to the kind of mass human rights violations against Kurds that has been documented by various international organizations in Afrin since the area fell under Turkish control in March.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo affirmed on Thursday that the US would ensure Turkey will not “slaughter the Kurds“ because of the withdrawal of US military forces.

In March 2017, the legislative council of the autonomous Kurdish authorities in northeastern Hasakeh decided to implement a three-year-old political party license law which closed offices of political organizations not officially registered by the council.

As a result, the offices of the Kurdish National Council (KNC), which refused to recognize the local authorities or apply for registration, were shuttered. 

The KNC was founded in Erbil on Oct. 26, 2011, with the support of the former president of the Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani. Furthermore, it’s a member of the Turkish-backed opposition based in Turkey.

Dr. Abdulkarim Omar, co-chair of the Foreign Relations Commission of the Self Administration in Northern and Eastern Syria (NES) and a KNK member told Kurdistan 24 on Wednesday that a committee consisting of five persons was formed to unite the Kurdish parties after the continued threats of “the Turkish occupier.”

“Turkey is off course threatening any Kurdish force anywhere, as we have seen during the Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum. We are in a time period of to be or not to be,” he told Kurdistan 24. “This period is critical and it needs for all Kurdish parties to sit together and work together.”

Omar said the goal was to create a unified stance which would lead to a national Kurdish conference.

Furat FM reported that the KNK had also pledged to investigate whether or not there are any political detainees in the prisons run by the self-administration.

KNC member Bedran Misto welcomed the decision in a statement that read, “We consider this step to be positive and on the right track, but it needs to be implemented practically on the ground.”

Misto called for an international guarantor to hold a meeting between the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the KNC to reconcile their differences.

In early December, the former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner called for more Kurdish unity between the parties during an international conference in northern Syria. 

Tensions between the KNC and PYD have increased since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, with the latter playing a significant role in the establishment of a self-administration that now rules over northeastern Syria.

Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, previously mediated between the two. Three agreements were signed between 2012 and 2014 but were never implemented because of political disagreements that, so far, have proven intractable. 

The KNC said it is expecting to again meet with him this Saturday to discuss Trump’s withdrawal decision and other recent developments. 

Editing by John J. Catherine