For many the bold move of ´the Syrian Kurds´ may have come as a bit of a surprise. 17 March last they declared that the Democratic Self-Administration (DSA) in Northern Syria would continue as the ‘Federation of Rojava Northern Syria’.
The move came after it became crystal clear that the DSA would probably never receive an invitation from De Mistura to become part of the UN Peace Talks over Syria. Only the representatives of Assad and the representatives of the Saudi-Turkish backed opposition are part of these talks. In my conversations with DSA representatives and activists in the running up towards the declaration it became clear that much of the reasoning behind this bold move was based on the exclusion at the UN Peace Talks. One Kurdish representative expressed this very clearly:
DO THEY REALLY EXPECT US TO SIGN UP FOR SOMETHING WE HAD NO OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE ANY SAY IN IT? WE CANNOT SIT DOWN AND WAIT UNTIL OTHERS DECIDE OVER US, NOBODY WOULD ACCEPT THAT AND NEITHER WILL WE.
This makes sense, especially if it is considered that by now the DSA stretches over a considerable part of Syria. This can best be seen in a very recent political map of Syria. The size of the Rojava/DSA area is clearly indicated in this map.
It is clear that they represent a far larger group than any other opposition force. Furthermore it is true and well-known that their forces (Syrian Democratic Forces) have by far been the most effective force against ISIS on the ground.
If these facts are taken into account it is an almost surreal assumption that millions of people who already govern themselves can be excluded from the national political process without any response from their side.
From their view they are the true representatives of the original spirit of the Syrian revolution. Even more they dare to state that it is their declaration of Federation that may force the UN Peace Talks to come to a real outcome. Sanherib Barssom, minister of humanitarian affairs of the DSA Jazire Canton and Syriac Christian (Syriac Union Party) stated: ,,The Declaration of a Federal Syria will speed up an agreement between the parties who are currently negotiating in Geneva. These parties however do not really differ as they both advocate central authoritarianism and forgot that those who announced the Federation are also Syrians who now had to make this decision. This declaration is a reminder for all that a real compromise has to start in Syria first and then be moved to the UN.”
SO WHAT IS THIS NEW FEDERATION? IS IT THE PRECURSOR OF A NEW KURDISH STATE?
The dominant role of the (mainly) Kurdish YPG on the battlefield and the leading role of the PYD in the process have somehow obfuscated that the most important key characteristic of this new Federation is that it is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious entity. It’s ‘Social Contract’ is a de facto constitution that explicitly embraces a secular democracy and equal freedom and rights of women. There is real freedom of religion, people can freely decide their own religion. Right from the start the Democratic Self-Administration of Rojava has been a multi-ethnic and multi-religious effort.
The best example is Canton Jazire in which all governmental posts and departments are divided between Arabs, Kurds and Syriac Christians. Furthermore 40% of all political positions in all Cantons is held by women. When our delegation was there we had the honor to sit down a whole evening with the Syriac-Assyrian Christian ministers and state secretaries of that Canton, many of them women. It is also seen in the SDF where the Syriac Military Council (Syriac Christians) and Arab forces work together with the YPG.
The new federation is not intended as independent state according to the official announcement: ”The realization of a federal and democratic system shall take place within a sovereign Syria.“.
Aside from finding international support each of the ethnic components will need to convince all opposition inside its own ethnicity. This is why Ishu Gawriye, leader of the Syriac Union Party emphasised the following when the Federation was declared: “Our call for our people, after 5 years of war, is the right of people to have the possibility to live freely with full rights. Also being present for new Syria with all domains under federal Syria with full participation all segments of the society.”
Mr. Abulkharim Omar, minister of Foreign Affairs of the DSA pointed however to the biggest challenge. This challenge is the economic and humanitarian situation. „Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government need to open their borders with us for medical and other aid “. This corresponds with the message I got from the pastor of Kobane who said: “children are dying here because of lack of medicine “.
Still regardless the challenges ahead the declaration of the Federation has been for many a crown at their sacrifices and efforts. Habun Farzand, MP in the Parliament of Jazire Canton, stated: “This can in time end the war because all components can govern themselves and make their own future. “
All EU Member States wrestle with the consequences of a chronic lack of fundamental freedom in the Middle East. The EU wrestles with terrorism. The EU cannot solve these issues in Europe. Supporting this new federation in all aspects is the start of a solution in the Middle East itself.
“One million people can be resettled in the liberated territories”- say Sergio Bianchi, Middle East Expert and Member of the Center of Excellence of the EU-RAN, “provided that we support demining actions and empower local governments and the civil society with a grassroots initiative. This represents a serious and viable alternative to forced emigration to Europe or, even worst, to the horrific business of refugees practiced by State and Non-State actors.”