[Marxism] Fwd: The demise of Arab-Kurdish solidarity in Syria

Chris Slee chris_w_slee at hotmail.com
Fri Aug 25 18:23:06 MDT 2017

Loubna Mrie recognises that Turkey played a major role in creating conflict between Arabs and Kurds in Syria.  She says:

"We cannot understand the root causes of such divisions without looking closely at the proxy powers and their funding of Sunni Arab rebel forces. Turkey, which has long backed the FSA, is the chief country through which support has been channelled. Unfortunately, Turkey's suppression of its own Kurds has coloured the way it views Syrian Kurds, and thus has aggravated ethnic divisions in Syria.

"Because the Syrian opposition desperately needs Turkey's support, it has been compelled to embrace Ankara's stance - which is sometimes at odds with the greater good of the Syrian people.

"One of the Syrian opposition's greatest mistakes was to buckle to Turkish pressure and exclude the Kurdish opposition from the Syrian National Council (SNC). This, in turn, led to the political under-representation of Kurds, even though there was a robust Kurdish political opposition that was eager to join the SNC. 

"It is very important to note here that Turkey was not only supporting the armed opposition, but was also the only country that offered a safe space for the Syrian political opposition to meet. This dynamic forced the Syrian opposition to give up on a Kurdish role in the political opposition, or rather, to turn a blind eye to the Kurdish struggle because they did not want to risk their relationship with Turkey. 

"In effect, Turkey played a major role in widening Arab-Kurd divisions."


But Mrie also blames the PYD for contributing to conflict between Arabs and Kurds.  She says:

"The Democratic Union Party (PYD) which currently controls several Kurdish areas never supported the revolution. In July 2012, it reached an agreement with the regime to consolidate control over its territories in return for rejecting the opposition. It later physically fought FSA units."

I disagree with Mrie's interpretation of what happened in July 2012.  In fact there was a largely peaceful uprising in Kurdish areas.  People surrounded military posts and called on the soldiers to surrender, which in most cases they did.  (See Revolution in Rojava, by Michael Knapp, Anja Flach and Ercan Ayboga, Pluto Press, 2016, p. 54-56)

The Assad regime, with its hands full elsewhere, accepted this as a fait accompli for the time being, though making it clear it wanted to eventually regain control of the Kurdish areas.

The revolutionary movement in Rojava, led by the PYD, remained separate from both the Assad regime and the Turkish-backed rebels.  The PYD's initial policy was to avoid armed conflict if possible, but to fight back if attacked.  Mrie notes that Kurdish areas were attacked by several groups:

"The Islamic State group, Ahrar al-Sham, some FSA groups, the Nusra Front and HTS/al-Qaeda etc all also played an important role in this division. They all attacked liberated Kurdish areas as part of a cynical strategy to gain control of oil fields. 

"Whenever these groups took control of a Kurdish area, they tried to impose their rules and ideology on Kurdish society. They started asking women to cover their head, targeted Christians, and even burned churches in cities like Ras al-Ayn."

But some rebel groups were willing to cooperate with the YPG/YPJ in fighting against ISIS and other reactionary groups.  This collaboration led eventually to the formation of the Syrian Democratic Forces.  There has been a rapid growth in the recruitment of Arabs to the SDF.  Today the SDF is one of the main vehicles for "Arab-Kurdish solidarity".

As its Arab component has increased, the SDF has become more willing to go on the offensive in predominantly Arab areas, in cases where there is local support for such a move.  For many of the Arab SDF fighters, this means liberating their own home towns from reactionary groups.

Chris Slee

From: Marxism <marxism-bounces at lists.csbs.utah.edu> on behalf of Louis Proyect via Marxism <marxism at lists.csbs.utah.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, 23 August 2017 2:38 AM
To: Chris Slee
Subject: [Marxism] Fwd: The demise of Arab-Kurdish solidarity in Syria

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