ANF has published this interview (full text below) with Salih Muhammad, president of the PYD in Syria, in which discusses the role of the Kurdish movement and the struggle for a new democracy in he country. You can also read the PYD’s statement, written in March 2011, demanding the release of all political prisoners in Syria and the recognition of the existence of the Kurdish people, here

13 November 2011 / ANF

The Syrian leading representative of opposition, PYD (Democratic Union Party) is preparing for a conference in the country where demonstration continued since March. PYD President Salih Muhammad who is fighting for ‘Democratic Autonomy and constitutional security for the rights of Kurds’ in Syria said that the outside world is told only one side of the story of the events in Syria.

Muhammad noted that Turkey has made serious moves to prevent the Kurds gaining ground in Syria and said that the issue of the Mavi Marmara (the Gaza bound flotilla attacked by Israeli navy) is also a part of this plan.

Can we start with a first hand account of what is happening in Syria?

The Syrian people until now were dispersed and not organised but they were resisting against the violence and repression of the regime for years. Now they have found an opportunity to voice this situation. The civil rebellion in Syria was stirred up by those who believed that the regime could be changed. On the other hand the regime which couldn’t tolerate the public rebellion, controlled the entire army, tortured and killed people and appointed its own men in all sensitive power positions. It was backed by up to 150-160 thousand people who could carry out a special war and were used against those rebelling for the continuation of the oppressive regime. We don’t believe that the army will loose much.

There are some international forces that want to benefit from the civil rebellion in Syria. As PYD, we believe that the plans of these forces are for the good of the people but the one-sided reports about the rebellion didn’t reflect our voice nor that of others like us.

Do the prominent opposition groups move in line with the people? Can they represent the people?

The discourses, loyalty and slogans all reflect the people’s demands but they are not strong enough to defend the people. They don’t have the power to maintain the resistance because they are weak, including the Muslim Brotherhood and other organizations. They have names, not dominance among the people because of the pressures by the Assad’s regime which kills people and restricts freedoms.

Of course there are also opponents in connection with international forces which can actually affect the opposition in a bad way. In other words, Turkey’s role is clear here: they side with the opposition to carry out their mission which is to form regimes in the Middle East governed by moderate Islam.

In return for its role in Syria, Turkey is given total support by international forces when it comes to repress and kill Kurds and fight against the rights obtained by Kurds. This is the reason why Turkey and Syria have so close relations. When we say Turkey, we refer to NATO and the powers behind it. These powers resort to all kinds of propaganda to form moderate Islam regimes and to kill Kurds.

How should we assess the ‘National Transition Council’ of the weak opposition that move in accordance with international powers? Can they solve the problems in Syria?

It is currently difficult to ensure the stability and to establish order in Syria. These disarticulated powers can solve neither the Kurdish problem nor the Alewi or Sunni issues.

They just sit at a desk and take many decisions. The Council they formed with 94 members including Kurdish collaborators was constituted unbeknown by the opposition. They have included organizations that are not working them. They just wrote some names and called them members. They also wrote the names of about 20 of our comrades. Our organization, some other Kurdish organizations and various formations do not recognise this Council backed by Saudi Arabia and the Turkish state. As PYD, we believe that a result can only be achieved through a open discussion of the people’s demands by all democratic powers and representatives of all ethnic groups in the country on condition of equal representation. The only solution to the problems in Syria goes through democratic ways.

How was your suggestion perceived by the other opposition organisations? In which relation are you with the rest of the opposition? The PYD doesn’t appear very often on press.

Let me tell you that the resistance of Kurds, of the PYD in particular, hasn’t died down since 2003. We would express our opinion till March 15 when our resistance increased even further. We were certainly staging a protest and march every day in Kurdish cities where we loudly shouted our demands and chanted our slogans. However, these were not really reflected in the press because the new system thought by Syria doesn’t include Kurds. For example, the five or six TV channels broadcasting in Arabic here don’t reflect the demonstrations with the colour and flag of Kurds.

The press ignores us although we take to streets in all Kurdish cities including Aleppo, Kobani, Afrin or Qamislo. This negligence is backed by Turkey and is a part of the state policy since the ’20s. Besides by not reflecting the resistance and demands of the Kurds, the media also makes propaganda against Kurds whom they claim to have relations with the regime. In fact, it is mostly us who suffer from this regime which constantly fight against us and killed and tortured our people. We don’t want Kurds to bleed any more and we don’t want to see the regime’s military tanks in the places we live in.

Did Kurds meet with Assad?

When these last events started, we were told that President Assad wanted to meet us but we refused to meet him in an environment of bloodshed and savagery. We were later sent a message through local committees to tell our demands but we again didn’t meet these committees.

How did the 11 Kurdish organizations in Syria decide to move together?

As PYD, we were in contact with other Kurdish parties since the first day. 11 Kurdish parties came together upon the PYD’s demand for the uniting and co-movement of Kurds. On May 14, we signed a protocol following discussions about the situation in Syria and what we could do for a solution. We are still loyal to the protocol but we have some problems as we are still unable to act as a party. We have different opinions and demands among each other. We will organize a conference in the coming month where delegates will be elected. The participation will be formed by 45 % political parties and 55 % public delegates. The assembly to be constituted there will be the most competent authority of Kurds.

What does the PYD demand?

We demand a Democratic Autonomy in Syria, believing that its practice won’t be much troublesome. The presence and right of the Kurdish people must be guaranteed in the Constitution. We firstly demand the recognition of the existence of Kurds and the solution of the Kurdish issue through democratic ways. The PYD demands a democratic country.

What about the Kurds, how do they assess the events in Syria? What was their first reaction?

The people in Western Kurdistan consider themselves as a part of Syria. They see these events as part of the struggle for democracy. When the civil rebellion first began they were bombarded by propaganda. But they believed that our policy was right.

On the other hand, they are in connection with the other parts of Kurdistan. The people in Western Kurdistan consider themselves as the Northern Kurdistan’s extension in Syria. They think that the solution to the Kurdish question must be found in accordance with the other parts. They are aware of the anti-Kurdish regimes that don’t recognize the existence of Kurds. They demand a common policy by Kurds against these enemies and condemn the attacks by Turkey and Iran.

The Syrian regime made some ‘reforms’ after the demonstrations. The remarkable among these was the return of identities. Hundreds of thousands of people still have no identity in Southern Kurdistan. How did Kurds view this step by Assad?

The regime rectified its mistake in the matter of the return of identities, while other reforms didn’t succeed. There are still many mistakes that need to be rectified by the regime. The return of identities means neither giving a right to Kurds nor the solution of the Kurdish issue. Still many Kurdish people did not get their identities back. Democratization in Syria can begin with the recognition of the presence of Kurds and granting them all their rights.

Why has the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan turned his back on Assad whom he called ‘brother’ until not long ago? Why has he opened to the opposition?

Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan and his party have a mission. Erdogan’s mission is to establish moderate Islamic regimes and to expel Kurds. This mission, which was given to him by international powers and NATO, needs to be put into practice to allow the continuation of Erdogan’s power. This mission was given to Erdogan during his meeting with (former U.S. President George W.) Bush in November of 2007. The Mavi Marmara issue is also a part of this mission. Erdogan aims to have his party accepted in the Middle East.

The play had yet not been staged in Syria at the time Erdogan was calling Assad ‘brother’. Erdogan began to change as the events in Syria broke out. He started to fulfill his mission. He is giving his contribution to the demolition of the Syrian regime and positioning international powers there.

Erdogan has two reasons to have an interest in Syria, the Kurds are the other side of the issue. Erdogan is making every effort to make Kurds end up as loser in this process. Some organizations among the opposition have close relations with the AKP separately. There are Kurdish collaborators within the opposition. Erdogan doesn’t want to solve the Kurdish problem, but he rather wants to tip the scales in their own favour. They are making propaganda against us in all the cities of the Western Kurdistan. This is not a coincidence.

What is the position of Iran who supports Assad? Will they also show Assad the door when it comes to Kurds?

There is a very strange situation; all countries unite when it comes to Kurds although they live many contradictions in other issues. Who could guess that Iranian aircraft would collect information with the help of the United States? The U.S. conveys this information to Turkey and Turkey to Iran who drops bombs on Kurds afterwards. Iran does not want the demolition of the Syrian regime because these two regimes are allies. However, when it comes to Kurds, it acts differently and moves together with Turkey. Besides competing about dominating the Middle East, Turkey and Iran unite against Kurds whom they want to eliminate.

Have international powers had any contacts with the allying Kurds?

Of course they have contacts with Kurds. But because they don’t like our position, they want to create their own Kurds. This is what they tried to put into practice in other parts of Kurdistan. America is dealing with the Kurds since 2003. The U.S. took tens of Kurd to America in 1994 and 95, trained them and then settled them back in Kurdistan. We however choose freedom, not to be the Kurds under their control.

We are going through a very powerful and fragile process in the Middle East. Kurds need to be vigilant and unite against the many games being played. We will otherwise end up losers in this process. All organizations in the four parts Kurdistan is divided should come together at a national conference and all powers should follow a common policy for the Kurds.


Further information:

You can also download the resolutions made at the PEN International Assembly of Delegates in September 2011, where the freedom of expression advocates expressed serious concerns for the Kurdish community in North/North-west Kurdistan, and called for the Syrian regime to grant the Kurdish people full and guaranteed political, cultural and civil rights: International PEN resolutions Sept 2011