Kurds declare autonomy in northern Syria ahead of Geneva II

A team of militants seen from a PYD camp in northern Syria. (Photo: Cihan)

January 21, 2014, Tuesday/ 18:22:00

Syrians Kurds on Tuesday declared an autonomous administration in the northern part of civil war-torn Syria ahead of the international peace conference for Syria, according to news outlets.

The administration in Rojava [the Kurdish name for northern Syria] is expected to be divided into three autonomous provinces – the predominantly Kurdish-populated territories of Qamishli, Afrin and Kobani.

The capital of the administration, which was named Cizre Canton and will have 22 different ministers, will be the Syrian city of Qamishli, which is right across the border from the southeastern Turkish town of Nusaybin. The head of the administration is Ekrem Haso, according to media outlets.

According to the Fırat News Agency, a tripartite model was adopted for the administration, and if the president is a Kurd, its deputies should be an Arab and an Assyrian. On Tuesday, Kurds elected an Assyrian, Elizabeth Gawriya, and an Arab, Hussein Azam, as deputies, according to the agency.

As the crisis in Syria deepened, Syrian Kurds gained ground in Syria's north after a fierce struggle with the al-Qaeda-linked groups and made major territorial gains.

In December, Saleh Muslim, the head of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in northern Syria, noted that Syrian Kurds are looking to establish three separate autonomous federal states in the country's north.

Muslim also confirmed that a commission was in the process of preparing a constitution for the northeastern and northwestern regions of Syria, which are majority Kurdish.

“The [Syrian] Kurdistan region will be divided into three autonomous provinces: Kobani [center], Afrin [west] and Qamishli [east],” he said, speaking through a Kurdish-French translator.

Syria's Kurds make up around 15 percent of the population and are mostly concentrated in the northeast and northwest of the country, along the Turkish and Iraqi borders.

The Syrian government withdrew troops from those regions in mid-2012. When the PYD and other Kurdish parties announced the establishment of an autonomous transitional administration in November, Turkey harshly criticized the self-rule declaration and accused the PYD of not “keeping its promise.”

The PYD presence in northern Syria is a source of concern in Turkey because of the group's links with the PKK. Ankara is also wary of autonomy moves that could encourage further demands for autonomy among its own Kurdish population.

Previously, Muslim accused Turkey of providing support to al-Qaeda-linked groups fighting Kurds in Syria's north, particularly al-Nusra.

Turkey's pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputies Selahattin Demirtaş and Gülten Kışanak have welcomed the declaration of the autonomous administration.

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