Kurdish National Council

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Kurdish National Council
Encûmena Niştimanî ya Kurdî li Sûriyê
Arabic name المجلس الوطني الكوردي
Leader Ibrahim Biro
Founded 26 October 2011 (6 years, 11 months ago)
Headquarters Qamishli
Erbil[1]
Paramilitary wing Rojava Peshmerga[2]
Ideology Kurdish nationalism[3][4]
Federalism[3][4]
Anti-Iranian[5]
Political position Centre to right-wing
National affiliation Kurdish Supreme Committee (2012-2015)
National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces[6]
International affiliation Kurdistan Democratic Party[3]
People's Council
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Democratic Council
2 / 43
Party flag
Flag of Kurdistan.svg
Seal of MSD.png
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Democratic Federation of Northern Syria

The Kurdish National Council (KNC, Kurdish: Encûmena Niştimanî ya Kurdî li Sûriyê‎, ENKS; Arabic: المجلس الوطني الكورديAl-Majlis Al-Watani Al-Kurdi) is a Syrian Kurdish political organization funded by the President of Iraqi Kurdistan Masoud Barzani and Turkey in the Syrian Civil War.[7][8][9] While KNC had initially more international support than the ruling Democratic Union Party (PYD)[10] during the early years of the Syrian civil war and a strong supporter basis among some Syrian Kurdish refugees,[11] the overwhelming popular support the PYD enjoys have shadowed it in Syrian Kurdistan.[10]

Since 2012, the alleged authoritarian and nationalist politics of the KNC has led many political parties to leave it. Over the years, its membership has shrunk and it has lost many of its supporters. Among the factions that left the KNC were the Kurdish Democratic Progressive Party in 2015,[12] the parties in the Kurdish National Alliance in Syria[13] as well as the Syrian Yazidi Council in 2016. As result, the KNC has only two seats left in the Syrian Democratic Council by 2017.[14][15][16]

History[edit]

The Kurdish National Council was founded in Hawler on 26 October 2011, under the sponsorship of Kurdish Regional Government President Massoud Barzani, following the earlier creation of the Syrian National Council. The organisation was originally composed of 11 Syrian Kurdish parties, however by May 2012 this had grown to 15.[3]

Several KNC parties have also on occasion come into conflict with other Kurdish groups like the Democratic Union Party (PYD).[17] In order to reduce tensions, Massoud Barzani mediated between the two groups in July 2012 at a diplomatic meeting in Hawler. As a result, the PYD and some other Kurdish groups joined with the Kurdish National Council to form the Kurdish Supreme Committee along with a popular defence force to defend Syrian Kurdistan.[18] The agreement became obsolete when the PYD with several pro-federal Kurdish parties abandoned the coalition after they accused the KNC of allying with Syrian rebels that were attacking Kurdish cities. Later, the PYD with other Kurdish, Arab and Assyrian parties made a deal for the aim of creating a polyethnic and progressive society and polity in the Rojava region, creating the Movement for a Democratic Society (TEV-DEM).

Criticism and conflict with the PYD[edit]

The Kurdish National Council has been widely criticized in Syrian Kurdistan.[19] The KNC has been accused of working with Turkey and the Syrian Salafist opposition forces against the Federation of Northern Syria – Rojava (NSR). In 2016, some KNC leaders and members were accused of corruption, money laundering, spying, making propaganda for Turkey and involving in assassinations of NSR authorities and politicians.[20][21][22][23][24][25] The KNC have several times formally refused to join the NSR administration and cooperating with other political parties.[20] The KNC leader Ibrahim Biro said in his interview on Turkish pro-government Sabah newspaper that his council will never accept the PYD and asked all Western countries to start supporting their own forces instead of PYD and other NSR entities.[26]

KNC members and leaders have several times kept meetings with Turkish authorities for seeking cooperation against the PYD and other Kurdish political parties that Turkey sees as a threat. In 2016, the KNC asked Turkey to support them against the US-backed Kurdish militia, People's Protection Units.[27]

There have been several demonstrations held by KNC supporters against the Federation of Northern Syria and PYD particularly.[26] Many experts have had difficulties to understand the KNC. Carl Drott, a sociology researcher at the University of Oxford, said in his interview on Ara News that "it is hard to know what the KNC actually wants. There is a fundamental contradiction between the Kurdish nationalist ideology of the KNC and the political project of its Syrian allies (Syrian opposition). Sometimes it seems that the only consistent policy of the KNC is to oppose anything that the PYD does".[28] The PYD members have described the KNC as "an enemy of the peoples of Syria."[19]

On 13 August 2016, Asayish arrested Ibrahim Biro, leader of the KNC and the Kurdish Union (Yekîtî) Party, in Qamishli and took him to an unknown location. At the same day, reporter Wedat Hussein Ali who was working for Roj tv, a TV channel linked to the PKK, had been killed in KDP-controlled area. Some ARA News journalists alluded that the two incidents might be linked to the rivalry between the PKK and KDP, which support the PYD and KNC, respectively. After Biro's detention, dozens who belonged to Yekîtî Party, organized a sit-in in front of the city's PYD office to condemn the arrest,[20] while PYD supporters took the South Kurdistan flag, symbol of both KNC as well as KDP, from the Yekîtî Party's office in southern Qamishli.[20][29] Biro was released the next day, claiming that he had been detained for the KNC's "political activities" and that the PYD would fail, because "it is impossible for the people of Syria to accept another dictatorship." He subsequently sought asylum in Dohuk with the KDP, though he said he would return to Rojava.[30]

According to SOHR, the Asayish arrested further Yekîtî Party and KDPS members in Amuda and the Afrin Canton on 16 August, most prominently Yekîtî politician Anwar Naso. The arrests prompted further sit-ins and protests by KNC supporters.[31] Most of the arrested KNC members, among them Anwar Naso, were released a few hours later.[32] The rest of them were released on 24 November 2016.[33]

After the outbreak of the Battle of al-Hasakah between pro-government and pro-PYD forces on the same day of August 2016, the KNC condemned the Syrian government for their attacks on civilians and urged both sides to stop fighting. At the same time, however, KNC politicians also said that the PYD should allow the Rojava Peshmerga into the city to protect the Kurdish population and that, at best, the government should be driven from Rojava.[28]

On 19 September, the Syrian Yazidi Council left both the KNC as well as the Syrian National Council after months of tension over the "failure to acknowledge the SNC's Arabism and Islamism problems" and the lack of representation for Yazidis within the Syrian opposition.[34]

On 25 October, the Kurdish National Council condemned the "indiscriminate" Turkish bombings on populated towns such as Jandairis and other towns in the northern Aleppo Governorate. The council stated that "the Turkish Army and allied Islamist rebels have been killing civilians, carrying out indiscriminate shelling and airstrikes on populated areas." and demanded the Turkish Armed Forces to withdraw its forces. A KNC member also denounced the Turkish focus on attacking the Syrian Democratic Forces as part of the Turkish military intervention in Syria.[35]

On 24 November, Asayish released some KNC politicians and many activists with the rest to be released "in the following days".[36] Zara Salih of the Yekîtî Party said that his party saw "this first step as a positive sign and a good start" and that his party's leadership is "ready to begin negotiations with PYD and the Movement for a Democratic Society, to reach a new deal."[36]

On 30 March 2017, the Kurdish National Council withdrew from the High Negotiations Committee in protest of the HNC's policies. An official in the Kurdish Unity Party, part of the KNC, stated that "The Syrian opposition are against federalism and constitutional Kurdish national rights, and they want to delay discussing Kurdish rights in the future."[37]

On 30 April, the Afrin branch of the Kurdish National Council released a statement condemning the April 2017 Turkish airstrikes in Syria and Iraq. "We condemn and denounce the Turkish aggression and demand the government of Ankara to stop the [attacks] immediately, we also ask PYD [Democratic Union Party] authorities to change its approach and authoritarian behavior and move towards a national and responsible approach to serve the unity of the Kurds and the Kurdish project in the face of challenges and serious risks in the present time and in the future for our Kurdish people", the council stated.[38]

Ideology[edit]

Although the KNC has joined the Syrian National Coalition and is a part of the Syrian opposition, there are some key differences between the KNC and the SNC over their approach to the issue of decentralization, with the KNC pressing for Kurdish autonomy, whereas the SNC has rejected anything more than administrative decentralization.[3] The issue of federalism and autonomy is also a point of contention for KNC and PYD, even though both parties have very similar aims. As such, the KNC has condemned the PYD's declaration of a federation in northern Syria as an attempt to break up Syria without previous "debate and democratic participation". The KNC further claimed that "it strictly opposes any attempt to impose federalism on the Syrian people without a preceding discussion". These statements have raised confusion among observers, with Carl Drott, a sociology researcher at the University of Oxford, commenting that "It is hard to know what the KNC actually wants. There is a fundamental contradiction between the Kurdish nationalist ideology of the KNC and the political project of its Syrian allies. Sometimes it seems that the only consistent policy of the KNC is to oppose anything that the PYD does."[4] Some Syrian Kurdish refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan, who are believed to mostly support the KNC, have been also critical of the federalism declaration by PYD. Some of them fear that further tensions in Syria would arise as result of the declaration, while they simply wish for an end of hostilities.[11] Despite these divisions about how to implement Kurdish autonomy, the KNC still generally supports federalism.[3] This was shown when Syrian opposition leader Michel Kilo outright condemned any attempt of Kurds to establish federalism in Syria, negatively comparing them to Israel. The KNC reacted to the statement in which it accused Kilo of racism and acting to please Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Turkey. Nevertheless, the KNC also argued that the Kurds still had friends among the Syrian National Coalition, thereby reiterating their general support for the Syrian opposition.[39]

Military wing[edit]

Rojava Peshmerga
Participant in Syrian Civil War and Iraqi Civil War
Headquarters Iraqi Kurdistan
Size 5,000+ (self claim)
Part of Kurdish National Council
Allies  Iraqi Kurdistan
Opponents

Sporadic clashes:

Battles and wars

Iraqi Civil War (2014–present)

The KNC leader claimed that partially in response to the military power of the PYD, the KNC formed its own paramilitary wing, the Rojava Peshmerga. Ibrahim Biro claimed that Rojava Peshmergas were mostly recruited from Syrian Kurdish refugees and Syrian Army deserters in northern Iraq.[40][41] Trained by Iraqi Peshmerga and Zeravani under Major General Bahjat Taymas, the Rojava Peshmerga had a claimed strength of 3,000 fighters by June 2016. Their primary purpose is to defend Kurdish areas, and to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[2]

According to Kurdishpolicy, an independent public policy institute, more than 5,000 Rojava Peshmergas were funded and trained by Turkey to be used against the PYD-ruled Kurdish autonomy in Syria. It has been seen as an attempt to gain leverage by empowering opposition Kurds against the PYD.[42]

Due to the tensions between PYD and KNC, and low manpower comparing to the People's Protection Units, the Rojava Peshmerga haven't been able to enter in Syria. In course of the Siege of Kobanî, the KNC offered to send 200 fighters to support the city's defenses, but was rejected by the PYD as the latter wanted all Kurdish units to fight as part of the YPG and YPJ.[43] The KNC leader claimed that the YPG even hindered the KNC's Peshmerga who had been trained in Iraqi Kurdistan from entering Rojava at all.[1] Since the formation of the Syrian Democratic Forces, YPG officials have declared, however, that KNC fighters are generally welcome to join the alliance. Despite discussions about possibly joining, the KNC has so far rejected military cooperation with pro-PYD forces. Ibrahim Biro stated as reasons for this that "they [the SDF] have a good relation with the Syrian regime, that's why we cannot join them." Despite their tensions with the PYD, however, the KNC has also rejected inquires of Syrian opposition groups to send the Rojava Peshmerga to Azaz to defend the city against both ISIL as well as YPG during the Northern Aleppo offensive. Bahjat Taymas declared that the Rojava Peshmerga "don’t want to fight Kurds, only ISIS."[2]

Currently, the Rojava Peshmerga are mostly fighting ISIL in Iraq.[2][41]

On 2nd March 2017, Rojava Peshmerga forces attacked Yezidi militia affiliated to the YBŞ in Sinjar resulting in the deaths of five as well as two militants affiliated to the PKK who attempted to prevent the clashes. At least four peshmerga were also injured in the clashes.[44]

List of constituent parties[45][edit]

Name Leader
Kurdish Democratic Equality Party in Syria Ni'mat Dawud
Kurdish Reform Movement Feysel Yusuf
Kurdish Democratic Left Party in Syria Shalal Gado
Kurdish Union Party in Syria (Yekîtî) Ibrahim Biro
Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria Si'ud Mala
Kurdish Future Movement in Syria Siamend Hajo

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Gunes, Lowe (2015), p. 5.
  2. ^ a b c d "Rojava's Peshmerga forces refuse to join Azaz battle to avoid confrontation with fellow Kurdish troops". ARA News. 14 June 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "The Kurdish National Council in Syria". Carnegie Middle East Center. Retrieved 2012-07-24.
  4. ^ a b c "Kurdish National Council in Syria condemns federalism declaration by Kurdish rival". ARA News. 19 March 2016.
  5. ^ "Syrian Kurds divided on relations with Iraqi Kurds". ARA News. 24 May 2016.
  6. ^ "PYD Leader Skeptical of Kurdish Agreement With Syrian Opposition". Rudaw.net. 9 March 2013. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
  7. ^ "The Kurdish National Council in Syria". Carnegie Middle East Center. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
  8. ^ "'Last chance' to avoid civil war in Syria: Annan". Agence France-Presse. 2012-05-09. Retrieved 2012-07-24.
  9. ^ "Political Groups to Run Liberated Kurdish Cities in Syria Through Joint Committee". Rudaw. 2012-07-20. Retrieved 2012-07-24.
  10. ^ a b Gunes, Lowe (2015), p. 13.
  11. ^ a b "Syrian Kurdish refugees divided over federalism decl". ARA News. 23 March 2016.
  12. ^ "Al-Qamishli: Progressive Party suspends its membership in Kurdish National Council". KurdWatch. 13 July 2015. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  13. ^ "Al-Qamishli: A new party alliance formed". Kurd Watch. 23 February 2016.
  14. ^ "Tensions between Syrian Kurdish parties intensify, local security forces deny involvement - ARA News". ARA News. 8 December 2016. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
  15. ^ Antonopoulos, Paul (19 September 2016). "Ezidi National Council resign from Turkey-based Syrian National Council". al-Masdar News. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
  16. ^ Azad, Reband. "Barzanis' Betrayal of the Kurds: Rojava, Yazidis, KNC and Turkey". Retrieved 9 January 2017.
  17. ^ "Syrian Kurdish moves ring alarm bells in Turkey". Reuters. Retrieved 2012-07-25.
  18. ^ "Barzani Unites Syrian Kurds Against Assad". Al-Monitor. Retrieved 2012-07-25.
  19. ^ a b "'SUK ve ENKS Suriye halklarının düşmanıdır'". tr.hawarnews.com. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  20. ^ a b c d "KNC leader arrested after increasing tensions between rival Kurdish parties in Syria". ARA News. 14 August 2016. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
  21. ^ "KNC leader arrested after increasing tensions between rival Kurdish parties in Syria". ARA News. 14 August 2016. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  22. ^ "Uyuyan hücrelerin başı ENKS başkanı çıktı!". tr.hawarnews.com. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  23. ^ "ENKS yenilgisine yeni kılıf hazırlamak istiyor". tr.hawarnews.com. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  24. ^ "PYD: Türkiye yasaları çiğniyor, ENKS de zalimlik yapıyor". tr.hawarnews.com. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  25. ^ "Qamişlo'daki Saldırılarda KDP/ENKS – SUK Parmağı 2". tr.hawarnews.com. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  26. ^ a b "Western nations ignore rights violations by PYD, head of Syria's Kurdish National Council says". DailySabah. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  27. ^ "http://www.rudaw.net/turkish/middleeast/250620161". www.rudaw.net. Retrieved 4 March 2017. External link in |title= (help)
  28. ^ a b "Kurdish National Council condemns Syrian regime attacks on civilians in Hasakah". ARA News. 21 August 2016. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
  29. ^ "RojNews reporter massacred in Duhok". ANF News. 13 August 2016. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
  30. ^ "KNC head: I was arrested for political reasons". Rudaw. 14 August 2016. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
  31. ^ "Asayish forces arrest more members of Kurdish parties in several areas in Syria and sit-ins and demonstrations for releasing them". SOHR. 16 August 2016. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  32. ^ "Asayish forces release more members of the Kurdish parties". SOHR. 17 August 2016. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  33. ^ "Syrian Kurds seek unity deal after release of opposition activists". ARA News. 25 November 2016. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  34. ^ Paul Antonopoulos (19 September 2016). "Ezidi National Council resign from Turkey-based Syrian National Council". al-Masdar News. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  35. ^ "Kurdish National Council condemns Turkey's intervention in Syria". ARA News. 25 October 2016.
  36. ^ a b Wladimir van Wilgenburg (23 November 2016). "Syrian Kurds seek unity deal after release of opposition activists". ARA News. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  37. ^ "Syrian Kurdish KNC withdraws from Geneva talks in protest at opposition". Kom News. 30 March 2017.
  38. ^ Wladimir van Wilgenburg (1 May 2017). "Syria's Kurdish National Council condemns 'Turkish aggression'". ARA News.
  39. ^ "Syrian Kurdish parties reject opposition leader's comments that Kurds want a second Israel". ARA News. 26 June 2016.
  40. ^ "KNC leader: If Int'l efforts fail, Rojava Kurds must unite for their own region". Rudaw. 4 March 2016. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  41. ^ a b Vager Saadullah (14 October 2015). "Politics Keep Syrian Kurdish Troops From Fighting in Their Homeland. Never mind Islamic State—one faction rejects another's fighters". Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  42. ^ Shamulddin, Sarkawt (13 January 2017). "Can Turkey Stop PKK Expansion? What Barzani Can Do for Ankara?". Kurdish Policy. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  43. ^ Rewan Othman (19 November 2014). "YPG refuses help from KNC in Kobane". The New Arab. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  44. ^ https://komnews.com/7-yazidi-fighters-killed-20-injured-in-shingal-clashes-with-peshmerga-force/
  45. ^ "About the KNC". KNC Geneva Office.

Bibliography[edit]