Kurds of Syria: No World Attention and No Local Leadership

August 20, 2013

The influx of refugees into Iraqi Kurdistan is not because they are afraid or to seek a better life. It is because they feel abandoned and insecure in their land. Their leaders are not with them, the international community does not want to know anything about them, Turkey is not helping and Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani is at a loss over what to do with them.

The crisis of Syrian Kurdistan keeps creating new realities every day for all involved; so far, no one seems able to take the lead. Those who are supposed to be involved in the situation are not, and those who are supposed to stay out are involved.

The international community talks constantly about Syria, the conflict and its future. But there is scant mention of the Kurds in that country. It is clear that none of the capitals that matter have a clear policy on Syrian Kurds. What is left is neighboring Turkey, which has its own problems, and links every Kurdish issue in the region to the success or failure of its peace process with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

This means that Iraqi Kurds are expected to help with the peace process in favor of Turkey, which hopes to influence its relations with the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the dominant Kurdish group in Syria which is seen as a wing of the PKK.

In fact, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu sees it as “natural” to link Ankara’s relations with PYD to the ongoing peace process inside Turkey.

History tells us that Kurds on various sides of the border can have close ties and unite their visions and aspirations. But they cannot mix their issues and no one part can represent the aspirations or the demands of the other.

Every part of Kurdistan has its own interests and can help the other; but it cannot represent the other’s aspirations and demands.

In the absence of a strong indigenous leadership that represents the will of the Kurdish people of Syria, it seems that the Kurdish parties of Iraq and Turkey are faced with handling the politics — as well as the military and humanitarian aspects of the crisis — each on their own terms and interests.

To observers of the situation, the difference between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and PKK over Syria could evolve into a serious one if immediate measures are not taken.

Instead of a general National Conference, the KDP and PKK should hold an emergency meeting and plan the way ahead for helping and supporting the Kurds of Syria. Each party can play its role at internal, regional and international levels.

But above all they should pressure the leaders of the Kurds of Syria to remain on the ground, not abroad. Perhaps this will contribute to stopping the mass exodus that is taking place, and create a more representative and aware leadership for Syrian Kurds.

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