From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Sun Aug 28 2011 - 08:15:29 EDT
Turkey playing "opportunistic" role in Syrian crisis - Syrian Kurdish leader
By Shirzad Shikhani
Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat -Abdel Hamid Darwish is the leader of the Democratic
Progressive Kurdish Party in Syria, and served as Vice Chairman of the
National Council of the 2005 Damascus Declaration for National Democratic
The Damascus Declaration was a historic statement of unity by Syrian
opposition figures criticizing the Syrian government as being
"authoritarian" and 'totalitarian" and calling for "reform" based upon
dialogue and cooperation. The al-Assad regime failed to meet the demands of
the Damascus Declaration, which in part led to the popular uprising against
the al-Assad regime being seen in Syria today.
Asharq Al-Awsat spoke with prominent Syrian Kurdish leader Abdel Hamid
Darwish about the situation in Syria, his hopes for the future of the
country, and the best way to resolve the current unrest being seen
The following is the full text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Since the beginning of the Syrian uprising, many people
have complained that the Kurds have failed to take a strong and decisive
position regarding the situation on the ground. Indeed some say that Syrian
Kurds are pursuing a policy of appeasement towards the al-Assad regime, what
is the reason for the Kurdish indecision?
[Darwish] It is not fair to accuse the Kurds of having a different position
than that of all other Syrian citizens, for the Kurds were, and continue to
be, among those who have called and fought the most for freedom and
democracy in Syria, especially as the Kurds suffered the most at the hands
of this totalitarian and fascist regime. Our suffering was two-fold, first
as Syrians, then as Kurds. It is important that we be aware that the Kurds
occupy a special and sensitive position [in Syria] with regards to the areas
where they live alongside their Arab and Assyrian brothers. We were
extremely fearful at the beginning of the uprising that the Kurds would,
once more, be subject to accusations of separatism, isolation, and other
[Asharq Al-Awsat] We previously heard the al-Assad regime promise to grant
Kurdish citizens Syrian nationality, although this has yet to be
implemented. Do you believe the al-Assad regime will fulfill its promises to
the Syrian Kurds and to the people of Syria in general?
[Darwish] The events that were seen in Kurdish cities in 2004 [Al-Qamishli
riots] were orchestrated by some of the ruling elite, and such incidents
have only increased the suffering of Syria's Kurds. This incident was used
as a pretext to increase Syria's security grip on the Kurds and to increase
its policy of suppression and oppression of the Kurdish people. The issuance
of Decree 49, granting Syrian nationality to the Kurds, took place after the
beginning of the uprising and under exceptional circumstances for the ruling
regime, and therefore I do not expect the current regime to grant the
Kurdish people any national rights.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] From the statements issued by some Syrian Kurdish leaders,
we can see that the ceiling of the Kurdish national demands has been raised,
to the point of demanding the establishment of an autonomous Kurdish federal
region. Do you believe that this is possible under the current al-Assad
regime? Or is there a possibility for this to be established following a
successful Syrian revolution?
[Darwish] The Kurd's struggle focuses on finding a just democratic solution
to the Kurdish Cause in Syria, and this solution - and its form - will
follow a cooperational path between the Kurds and Arabs. As for statements
issued by one individual or party, these reflect their own personal or
partisan viewpoint. In this regard, I am not optimistic that the current
regime will be able to find an appropriate solution to the Kurdish Cause,
whilst at the same time I look forward to a future away from suspicion and
doubt, a future where Syria will be for all of its citizens; Arabs, Kurds,
and Assyrians, free from persecution, following the success of the uprising.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] With the exception of the 2005 "Damascus Declaration"
which was signed by "secular and religious, Arab and Kurdish" political
opposition figures, the Kurdish political relations with Syrian opposition
parties and figures is practically non-existent. How can the Kurdish
opposition play an effective role in drawing up the future of Syria, if
there is no political coordination?
[Darwish] This is not true and contrary to reality. We have good relations
with all components of the [Syrian] opposition. This is not to mention the
Damascus Declaration; I was also Vice-Chairman of the Damascus Declaration
National Council, which - at the time - represented the largest Syrian
political opposition framework.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Many Syrian political opposition conferences and summits
have been held since the beginning of the Syrian uprising, however the Kurds
have protested at the deliberate "marginalization" of their role within the
opposition. What is the reason for this?
[Darwish] It's true that a number of summits were held by the [Syrian]
opposition abroad in the recent period, and in some of these [summits] the
Kurds were given a weak role, although I would not describe it as
"marginal." In any case, we are relying upon the [Syrian] opposition at
home, which represent the foundation [of the Syrian opposition], although we
appreciate the efforts of the [Syrian] opposition abroad.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] There are real Kurdish fears regarding the future role of
the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, who enjoy clear Turkish support. Why is there
this Kurdish fear regarding the role of the Muslim Brotherhood?
[Darwish] Let me tell you frankly, I am not afraid of the role of the Muslim
Brotherhood or any other peaceful Islamist trends, particularly as the
Muslim Brotherhood - or any other [political] religious organizations - do
not have a presence in the Kurdish regions [of Syria]. In my own opinion, I
see no reason why we should fear the Muslim Brotherhood or exclude them from
political participation, or persecute them in any way.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] There have been a number of calls for a national
conference of Kurdish political parties to be held [to discuss the Syrian
crisis]. Where have the efforts to hold such a conference reached? What are
your hopes from such a conference? Is it even feasible to hold a Kurdish
national conference in light of the [political] divisions within the Syrian
[Darwish] Efforts are being exerted by Kurdish parties to hold a Kurdish
national conference, and such efforts have made great strides towards
achieving this goal, and I hope that we will succeed in holding such a
conference despite all the difficulties and obstacles that we are facing.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your view of the future of Syria, particularly in
light of the al-Assad regime's insistence on pursuing a security solution,
rather than a political one? There are a number of scenarios that Syria
might follow, including even the Libyan scenario, i.e. an armed uprising
against the regime. What is your opinion of this?
[Darwish] The ruling regime, by continuing to pursue a security solution to
the crisis, has committed a grave mistake, for the situation cannot be
resolved in this manner, and this is only causing greater problems. If there
are any such parties calling for arms to be raised to confront the regime,
as you claim, then I do not support this.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] There have been concerns about a civil war igniting in
Syria, and the situation on the ground shares some features of a civil war,
including Arab tribes - living in Kurdish regions of Syria - threatening the
popular demonstrations taking place in Kurdish cities. Do you believe that
we might see any confrontation between the Kurds and Arab tribes or Syria's
Christian community in the future?
[Darwish] Civil war is certainly something destructive and to be feared,
however the Syrian people are educated and alert, and will certainly not
allow the country to slide into such a dangerous outcome. The Syrian Kurds
are part of the [Syrian] people, and they have strong relations with their
Arab and Christian brothers, and they will not allow any chance for fighting
[Asharq Al-Awsat] The Damascus Declaration, which was a strong oppositional
framework, has now been largely marginalized following the recent events in
Syria, do you think this there is any possibility of this document playing a
future role in Syria?
[Darwish] I will not hide the fact that the Damascus Declaration has lost
much of its power and influence since its inception, and this was due to the
suppression and persecution carried out by government authorities against
its leadership and principles. Even so, this framework had a substantial
impact on Syrian society, and it will no doubt occupy a prominent place in
[Asharq Al-Awsat] The Libyan rebels, with the escalation of events in the
country, formed a "National Transitional Council" that was recognized by
most of the international community. With NATO cooperation, the Libyan
rebels then managed to overthrow the Gaddafi regime. Do you think the Syrian
opposition should form a national transitional council?
[Darwish] The [Syrian] national opposition remains divided at home, and we
are exerting effort to - first and foremost - unite, and after we are united
then we will decide what must be done.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Would you favor international intervention in the Syrian
[Darwish] We do not support foreign military intervention, but this does not
mean that we reject political pressure being exerted on the ruling regime in
order to push it to respond to the Syrian people's demands for freedom and
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Turkey has intervened in a clear manner in the Syrian
crisis; do you accept this regional intervention, particularly as Turkey has
its own fears regarding the growing Kurdish role in Syria?
[Darwish] The Turkish role in relation to what is happening in Syria is
opportunistic and hesitant; they are waiting for an opportunity to guide the
course of events in the direction that best serves their own interests.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] With regards to foreign intervention, can you tell us if
the Syrian Kurdish parties are in contact with the Kurdistan Regional
Government, particularly regarding your own party and its relations with
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan [PUK]?
[Darwish] We have strong relations with all other Kurdish parties,
particularly with the PUK and its leader President Jalal Talabani; however
our policies stem from our own experiences and position within
Syria.although this does not conflict with our good and brotherly relations
with other Kurdish parties.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] The US position towards the situation in Syria has now
reached the stage of Washington calling for al-Assad to step down. What do
you think is the best way out for the Syrian crisis?
[Darwish] In my opinion, the way out of this crisis is for the regime to
respond to the people's demands, and this can be achieved after the
opposition unifies and puts an end to its internal division, which the
[al-Assad] regime is benefiting from. The political pressure being exerted
by the international community, human rights organization and international
public opinion has reached the stage today where it can affect the situation
on the ground and benefit the Syrian people's struggle for freedom and
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you think there is any possibility of a military coup
taking place and the Syrian regime being overthrown from within? How would
the Syrian opposition deal with this?
[Darwish] The prospect of the regime being overthrown from within in order
to put an end to the crisis facing the country remains a possibility, and
may be the solution that is most in harmony with reality and the interests
of the Syrian people.
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