Syrian Opposition Warns Against Kurdish Federalism

Coalition member says main opposition considers calls for Kurdish federalism a step toward partition and will lead to "endless tensions"

Imposing Kurdish federalism by force of arms in northern Syria would be unacceptable to the opposition and “would lead to endless tensions,” a Syrian dissident has warned.

Munzir Aqbeeq, a member of the Syrian National Coalition said in a statement to the Italian news agency AKI: “Steps taken by one party alone are unacceptable to the opposition, and are considered illegal. We do not recognize it, especially since this party controls a geographical area by force of arms, ruling by fait accompli without the need to obtain popular acceptance.”

Aqbeeq stressed the need to first achieve a transition of authority. After that, the Syrian people can define which forms of decentralization they accept. He said: “In parallel with our rejection of this step, we call on all parties not to take any provocative measures of this type, which would lead to endless tensions. We must wait for a solution to the political question in Syria, and the implementation of a transition of power and a democratic transition and, after that, implementation of legitimate representation of the people. This implementation will be carried out and thereafter a study of the forms of decentralization which the people want.”

A broad meeting was held in northern Syria which included around 200 representatives of different Kurdish forces, such as the self-administration, the Democratic Union Party, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, the forces of the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units, the Syrian Democratic Council, the Kurdish National Council, and some small non-Kurdish clans and parties to discuss a draft of the federalist project, amid expectations that the areas under Kurdish control will announce a united region under a framework of Syrian federalism expected to be called “the Federal Union of North Syria,” and will be given Kurdish names like “Rojava,” “Kobani,” and “Sari Kani,” regions which Syrians know as al-Jazira al-Suria, Ain al-Arab, and Ras al-Ain, respectively.

Although the main Syrian opposition rejects federalism at this time, the opposition says it does not reject discussing the idea after Syria is stabilized. It has noted that federalism is based on the unity of the nation and preserving its basic functions while providing freedom for local constituencies to manage their affairs – but sees it as unacceptable to talk about a Kurdish state as part of a regional, rather than Syrian, project. As prominent opposition member Michel Kilo put it: “This isn’t federalism, it’s partition.”

The opposition says that there are basic and major hurdles to implementing regional federalism in northern Syria as the Kurds desire, due to the ethnic and religious diversity of this area, and the presence of various nationalities and ethnic and sectarian constituencies who do not want it and have been told about it through the rule of fait accompli and force.

The Syrian Kurds’ announcement about their attempt to establish federalism was met by a swift and decisive response from Ankara, with the Turkish Foreign Ministry announcing that it supported Syrian national unity and considered all unilateral announcements about federalist rule to be void.

In taking these steps, the Kurds have taken advantage of support received from the Assad regime over four years, followed by Russian political and military support, and recently by the intersection of its military interests with the interests of the international coalition led by the United States to fight the Islamic State organization, in addition to the support of the majority of Syrian Kurds for the idea of federalism and self-rule, to the extent that there is large support even for the idea of the secession from Syria of what they call “west Kurdistan.”

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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