Dr. Abbas: "Syria's Kurds must go with one voice"
- 27/05/2006 00:00:00
Dr. Sherkoh Abbas, a native of western (Syrian) Kurdistan, is a veteran Kurdish-American activist. As the US and world community has focused its attention on the Syrian dictatorship following the elimination of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, Dr. Abbas, working with other Kurdish activists, sought to unite the Syrian Kurdish movement, form a united Syrian Kurdish front, and work with non-Kurdish Syrians and others to bring freedom and democracy to Syria. On March 12 and 13 of this year, Dr. Abbas chaired the conference on Democracy in Syria and Kurdish Human and National Rights conference in Washington, DC. Syrian Kurdish oppositionists and activists including the representatives of all major Kurdish political parties in Syria participated in the conference. The conference created a draft document containing 13 points of basic demands and beliefs of a unified Syrian Kurdish opposition movement. The conference also decided to hold another conference in Brussels, Belgium to discuss the possibility of creating an organization to unify the Kurdish opposition in Syria. This weekend Dr. Abbas will be chairing this follow-up conference in Brussels.
Can you please discuss the current state of the Syrian Kurdish opposition movement? How unified are the various Kurdish groups in Syria, and what degrees of support do they receive from Kurdish groups outside of Syria and other external parties?
The biggest issue that the Kurdish movement in Syria is there no a unified voice to speak on the behalf of Kurdish opposition in Syria. The Kurdish opposition in Syria is fragmented into many Kurdish political parties, and you can categorize them into 4 main blocs. The Itihalof, or Alliance, bloc includes four political parties. This bloc is asking for cultural rights. The next major bloc is the Jabha, or Front. They are asking for cultural rights and some local governance.
The other two major blocs are the Azadi (Freedom) Party and the Yeketi Party. They are independent of the Itihalof and Jabha. The Mustaqbal (Future) Party, Kurdistani Democratic Party, and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) will also be attending.
Following the Washington conference, as a consequence of the publicity received by this event, some people and groups and political parties inside Syria have been experiencing pressure from the Syrian regime not to attend the conference. The regime has arrested people to prevent them from attending, including Ibrahim al-Yousif, a Syrian Kurdish writer and journalist. The Syrian regime is blackmailing parties not to attend the Brussels conference. On the other hand, the Kurdish masses in Syria want all Kurdish groups in Syria to attend the conference. I believe there was an article or two and an announcement by a political party criticizing the conference. Nevertheless, we understand the Syrian regime’s pressure and one more time we declare that the conference doors are open to all Kurdish groups in Syria so that we can speak with one voice. Most of the independent Kurds and religious leaders in Europe outside of Syria will attend the conference. We are very pleased with the support we have from the Kurdish masses in Syria.
How are the Kurds of Syria reacting to the actions of Abdulhalim Khaddam and Rifat al-Asad, two prominent former members of the Syrian regime who now state that they oppose the regime of Hafez al-Asad? And how is the relationship between the Kurds of Syria and non-Kurdish Syrian groups?
They see anyone speaking against the regime as a positive move. Obviously they know that Abdulhalim Khaddam was a member of this regime and an architect of the regime’s Arabization policy. They are suspicious and this is a reason the Kurdish movement needs to be united. We see that the Reform Party of Syria is accepting federalism. We see some other Syrian parties are accepting federalism. We see that Rifat al-Asad is interested in resolving the Kurdish issue by creating dialogue. What we have seen from Abdulhalim Khaddam is a platform that comes slightly below cultural rights and most Kurds reject this. This does not mean that we cannot have dialogue. We must go with one voice.
What lessons has your movement attempted to learn from the experience of the Kurds of Iraq in their opposition to Saddam Hussein’s regime?
There are a lot of lessons to learn from the Kurdish movement in southern Kurdistan. First, I congratulate the Kurdish leaderships in Iraq for being able to unify their efforts for the Kurdish people in southern Kurdistan to speak with one voice. Also I congratulate them for achieving many demands and goals of our Kurdish nation in Iraq. Nevertheless, the Kurdish parties in Iraq made mistakes in fighting each other and I hope that this will never happen to us in Syria. The Kurdish opposition in Iraq has a lot of experiences in dealing with other Iraqi opposition groups and there are a lot for us to learn from them in this regard. From their experience, it is clear Kurdish nation can only get its rights through a united Kurdish front. Indeed, that is our main goal of our conference in Brussels - to find the means to unite the Kurdish people in Syria. I am hoping that we can learn from them how to pursue alliances with other Syrian groups and work with those who accept the democratic demands of the Syrian Kurdish movement. Those who do not accept our demands, we are suspicious of them. The Kurds are unified and know what they want – we want autonomy and we don’t want independence, we want to be part of Syria, but at the same time you have to respect our land and our rights. We will work with the opposition - this regime will never correct any mistake.
Following the successful conference in Washington, what are the aims of the upcoming Brussels conference, and what lies ahead?
In Washington we created the drafted the 13 points – thirteen basic demands and beliefs of a unified Syrian Kurdish movement, and one point was the creation a representative body, a congress, for the Kurds of Syria. In this conference we are debating whether this will be a Kurdish assembly or a Kurdistani assembly. Most people are in favor of creating a Kurdistani assembly as then Arabs, Assyrians, and others can be members of and represented by the assembly. In fact, some of the Syrian Arab oppositionists, representing Arabs living in Kurdistan, have stated that this should be Kurdistani as it will be more geographic in nature and represent all of the people of the Kurdistan region of Syria.
With respect to those Kurdish groups who will not be attending the Brussels conference, we want them to know that the door is open; we want them to join us now or in the future. Our goal is to have the Syrian Kurdish opposition speaking in one voice and to lead the Syrian Kurdish opposition in cooperation with the Arab and other opposition groups to bring about democracy in Syria.
Dr. Abbas, thank you very much for your time. We wish you all the best in your efforts on behalf of the Kurdish and Syrian people.
Thank you. We ask all other Syrian opposition and democratic countries, especially the US and UK and the European countries to start working with the Kurds and Arabs alike and perhaps create a larger conference to unite them. There are forces in the Middle East who want democracy, the Kurds and other Syrians, and the US should engage them seriously.
- 27/05/2006 00:00:00