The American-led Coalition’s partner against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria, the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), presents itself, ideologically and in terms of the governance structure it controls, in universalistic liberal and democratic terms, emphasizing ecological and feminist themes. The reality is that the SDF is under the politico-military control of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a designated terrorist organization that has run a four-decade-long insurgency against Turkey. The PKK has brought some measure of stability to the areas it controls, but it continues to struggle for legitimacy and without locally-legitimate government IS and other jihadi-Salafists will find political room to operate. The PKK’s continued monopolization of power and abusive governance practices undermine the chances for the “Rojava” system to evolve into a long-term solution to the jihadist terrorists that have used Syrian territory to threaten the region and the wider world. Continue reading
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) controls areas of northern Syria, operating under the name of the Democratic Union Party or PYD (its political wing) and the People’s Protection Units or YPG (its military wing). On Tuesday, President Donald Trump approved plans to arm the YPG directly, abandoning a fiction that the U.S. was only arming the Arab parts of an ostensible coalition, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is in fact controlled by the YPG/PKK. This is in preparation for the U.S. backing the “SDF” to liberate Raqqa City, the Syrian capital of the Islamic State’s (IS) caliphate. Leaving aside the geopolitical implications of the U.S. decision for NATO and regional order, and putting aside, too, the likelihood that this decision will defeat its own purposes and give IS a new lease on life, there is a purely humanitarian dimension that deserves more attention. In March the PYD effectively legalized its one-party state in northern Syria and escalated its already-severe persecution of the Kurdish opposition. That crackdown has continued. Continue reading
Having written extensively about the authoritarian structure in the areas run by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), in northern Syria, and the problems of media, local and Western, in covering this, it was very interesting to see a report in The Wall Street Journal underlining some of these points.
The Journal notes that the PYD and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), have engaged in a ruthless consolidation of power within a single party, despite claims to be governing in a democratic way. This has included: heavy pressure on all non-pro-PYD media via various Soviet-style accusations of subversion; demographic engineering by a refusal to allow Arab inhabitants to return to homes or actively expelling them; forced conscription, including of children; the imposition of an ideological curriculum in schools; and the suppression and/or expulsion of all opposition. Continue reading