Iraqi Kurdistan–Rojava border affected by political rifts

The border between Iraqi Kurdistan and Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava), which has been closed for a month, is set to open but under certain conditions.

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – The border between Iraqi Kurdistan and Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava), which has been closed for a month, is set to open but under certain conditions, a Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) official said on Thursday.

Speaking to Kurdistan24, Hamid Darbandi, the official advisor and manager of the Syrian Kurdish crisis' file in the Kurdistan Region, said Faysh Khabur border crossing (also known as Semalka border crossing) has been closed for a month due to the KRG’s discontent with the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party's (PYD) handling of the border.

“The PYD monopolizes the revenues of the border gate, contrary to what has already been agreed. We had three agreements which were mediated by the President Masoud Barzani personally and directly a few years ago,” Darbandi said.

Darbandi explained that in the latest agreement made in Duhok on Oct. 22, 2014, between the PYD-led ruling council of Rojava and Syria’s Kurdish National Council (ENKS), both parties agreed on sharing the authority and revenues of the border gate, but unfortunately, the contract has been breached.

“Unfortunately, PYD controls the border gate alone, and refuses to share the authority and revenues with the ENKS because they think KRG supports a certain party over another,” he said.

Darbandi said that the KRG does not discriminate against any party; rather it plays the role of the mediator.

“ENKS is founded in Erbil, and most of their members are based in the Kurdistan Region, but this does not mean that KRG is against PYD or prejudiced against it; we are against their autocratic practices,” he said.  

The Kurdish National Council in Syria (ENKS, also known as KNC) was founded in Erbil on Oct. 26, 2011, with the support of the KRG President Masoud Barzani. 



The Kurdish administration in Rojava believes it was targeted by the KRG after the border was closed for more than one month.   

Abdul Karim Saroukhan, the head of the Kurdish-led administration in northeastern Syria, told Reuters on Wednesday that the border closure was made in coordination with Turkey, which is concerned by increasing Kurdish influence in Syria. 

“It later became clear that this was to impose a complete siege on Rojava based—according to our information—on coordination between the (Iraqi) Kurdish region and the Turkish government,” said Saroukhan.

Additionally, Abdulsalam Ahmad, the co-leader of the People's Council affiliated with the PYD, told Kurdistan24 on Monday that the crossing was closed as Syrian Kurds and other groups met to approve plans to deepen their autonomy in northern Syria. The discussions included plans to establish a new federal system for the regions under their control in northeast Syria.

“KRG took the step of closing the border at the time when the Syrian Kurds and their allies announced plans for a new system of autonomous government in northern Syria under the name of The Federal Democratic System of Rojava-North Syria,” Ahmad stated.



Responding to the claims made by Rojava officials, Darbandi said the decision to close the border had nothing to do with the federalism plans but was due to the “dictatorial behavior” of the main Syrian Kurdish party, the PYD, and its treatment of other Kurdish groups.

Darbandi further pointed out that since the border crossing was established between the Kurdistan Region and Rojava, the official statistics show that 218 wounded, and 9996 patients crossed from Rojava to the Kurdistan Region for treatment.

Additionally, the KRG President Masoud Barzani mediated between the PYD-led ruling council of Rojava and the ENKS. The agreements were meant to reach a common formula to rule Rojava, but neither was applied due to many political rifts.

The first agreement was made on June 11, 2012, in Erbil and was called the Hawler I Agreement, the second one was made on Dec. 24, 2013, called the Hawler II Agreement, and the third was made in Duhok on Oct. 22, 2014, called the Duhok Agreement.

On Jan. 16, 2013, the KRG inaugurated the Iraqi Kurdistan-Rojava border crossing (Faysh Khabur) by establishing a pontoon bridge across the Tigris about one kilometer downstream of the Iraqi-Syrian-Turkish trip point.

After the breakout of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, the Syrian-Turkish border remained closed. As a result, the crossing to Iraqi Kurdistan from northeastern Syria has been used to bring in produce and building materials.


Editing by Ava Homa and Karzan Sulaivany