The National Coordination Body (NCB), which includes the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD)
as one of its member, released a statement on March 31 granting Kurds and other ethnic groups “proportional representation with decentralized principles.”
The statement comes after Burhan Ghalioun, head of the Syrian National Council (SNC), angered Kurds by telling Rudaw that “there is no such a thing as Syrian Kurdistan.”
PYD leaders assert that they grant the Kurds more rights than the rival Syrian National Council (KNC), which they accuse of following Turkish commands. The PYD and the PKK oppose any Turkish influence in Syria.
On May 6, PYD’s foreign affairs representative Alan Semo told Rudaw that the latest declaration of the NCB adopts self-governance, self-rule and even self-determination for the Kurds.
“The assurance is for all Syrian ethnicities, including the Kurds, that all parties, organizations and individuals within the NCB agree and guarantee a new change and transitional process leading to a democratic, pluralistic Syria where national rights of Kurds and others ethnicities are equally represented in the new democratic Syrian constitution,” Semo told Rudaw by email.
He added that the SNC is relying on foreign (Turkish) and Western interests and has no clear policy towards ethnic groups. “That’s the main difference between SNC and NCB and why the SNC has withdrawn their signature from the agreement signed by both sides in January in Cairo.”
Semo suggests that Ghalioun’s statements show “that there is no difference in views between the current, discriminatory Syrian regime and SNC regarding Syrian Kurds and other ethnicities.”
Kawa Rashid, a representative of a Kurdish youth group based outside of Syria, told Rudaw that it seems the NCB gives more rights to the Kurds than the SNC. “They want the Kurds to stay with them, and they did that well. But we do not know how serious they are.”
But last Wednesday, Arab NCB politician Hassan Abdel Azim angered many Syrian Kurds by saying that there is no “Kurdistan of Syria.”
“We (in NCB) don’t accept talk of federalism and ‘Syrian Kurdistan.’ We prefer administrative decentralization and local administration for all regions (in Syria).”
Although Azim is not against a Kurdish state, he denies that there is a Syrian Kurdistan. “There is no Kurdish area belonging to ‘Kurdistan’ in Syria and there is no area in Syria where the majority is Kurdish. Even in Al-Hassaka province, Kurds only represent about 33 to 35 percent of the population and the rest are Arabs. Syria is a part of the Arab world, and this issue is settled.”
The statement was harshly criticized by writer Sayf al-Din on the official website of the PYD. “This is a chronic illness in the mentality of the majority of the Syrian opposition, but it is an expression of the strong and far-reaching Baath influence -- both ideologically and politically -- on the opposition, that is calling for the overthrow of the nationalist (Arabist) Baath regime in Syria,” he argued.
Heyam Aqil, the London representative of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Syria -- a prominent member of the Kurdish National Council -- told Rudaw that they do not trust the Syrian opposition. “Both bodies are playing with words and their statements are not worth the paper they are written on. Our problem is not with Ghalioun or other figures at the NCB. In fact, it's with the millions of nationalist Arabs in Syria who refuse to admit the Kurds their rights.”
Fadi Mqayed, a Syrian activist living in Germany, told Rudaw that the NCB “wanted to ‘woo’ Kurds after Ghalioun messed up – but, ironically, their concessions were worse than what the SNC offered.”
Mqayed suggests it’s unlikely that the PYD can achieve any of its objectives by supporting the NCB since it is full of Arab nationalists.
Moreover, Sherkoh Abbas, president of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria based in the U.S., told Rudaw that the Kurds have the choice “of bad or worse.”
“The Syrian revolution and Syrian Kurds do not support any of them. The ruthless Syrian dictatorship has managed to penetrate both groups to make them ineffective,” Abbas said.
He added, “Any Kurd who takes sides with the regime, SNC or NCB will lose legitimacy among Kurds.”
Omar Hossino, author of a report on Syria's Kurdish opposition for the Henry Jackson Society, concludes that there isn’t much difference between the SNC and NCB concerning Kurds. “Although PYD members who are in the NCB say that they have felt more of a willingness from the NCB to be receptive to Kurdish concerns, such claims do not match reality.”
Hossino thinks that both the SNC and NCB support a post-Assad political system that has decentralized principles, Kurdish language rights and Kurdish national recognition.
“Both support what they say is ‘a just democratic solution to the Kurdish issue’ but both make sure to state that this solution is within the unity of the country’s land and people which does not contradict that Syria is part and parcel of the Arab world,” he said.
By WLADIMIR van WILGENBURG