“The other opposition” is a rather broad loose coalition of organisations and political forces that stretches from North-West Syria to the border with Iran and runs across the North of Syria and Iraq. Most easily to be able to identify through some of the common declarations issued by the KNK (Kurdistan National Congress).
THESE ORGANISATIONS AND POLITICAL FORCES ARE MOSTLY SECULAR, BROADLY PROGRESSIVE WITH REGARD TO FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS, WOMEN’S AND MINORITIES RIGHTS AND STRIVING FOR A CULTURE OF DEMOCRATIC PLURALISM.
Going from West to East, I already described in my previous article the new ‘Federation of Rojava North Syria’ that stretches alongside the Syrian-Turkish border from the Canton Afrin (North-West of Aleppo) to Canton Kobane and to Canton Jazire on the border with Iraq (albeit with an ISIS-controlled area between Afrin and Kobane). The major political force here is obviously the PYD but it is not the only one. The Syriac Union Party, some Arab parties and other Kurdish parties (like the Kurdish Green Party) are political forces supporting this process.
This alliance in turn is very close to the Sinjar Council in Iraq, that has been established by the Yazidi’s remaining in Sinjar and close-by in Northern Syria. Their forces are the YBS (Sinjar Resistance Units) and its female wing ‘Êzidxan Women’s Units’. Going further east it is crystal clear that the PUK and Goran Movement are key movements in this ‘other opposition’. In their case they are opposition in Iraqi Kurdistan (KRG) towards the KDP party of KRG President Massoud Barzani. To draw a complete picture it is correct to mention the HDP in Turkey as part of this ‘other opposition’.
Opposed to this ‘other opposition’ are Turkey, the KDP party and the Turkish/Saudi backed opposition in Syria united in the High Negotiation Committee/Syrian National Council. Their political ideology ranges from nationalism to pure Islamism. Subsequently they all oppose any representation from the Federation of Northern Syria in the (still) ongoing UN Peace Talks over Syria. But Jaysh Al Islam that conducted a chemical attack at the Kurdish quarter of Aleppo is still a major player in the Peace Talks.
In this sense, it is easy to see how two opposing worldviews are clashing across the whole north of Iraq and Syria. This insight may help western politicians to consider who are the real allies in tackling the core problems that cause so much mayhem in the Middle East and Europe. This angle may also redefine the term ‘strategic interest’.
The refugee streams, integration problems and terrorism are all Middle Eastern problems that have become European challenges. So far the European response at integration has focused at Europe itself. The main responses to the refugee streams has been an attempt to stem the streams or unlimited humanitarianism. The issue of terrorism is seen as connected to these issues but Europe has been very reluctant to cooperate with ‘the other opposition’ in the fight against ISIS. Attempts to address these issues in a more holistic way has so far more focused on the ‘dialogue’ and other more theoretical approaches.This ‘other opposition’ however offers an opportunity to tackle a number of core issues at the heart of these problems in cooperation with real forces and movements in the Middle East itself.
ONE OF THE CORE CAUSES OF ALL THIS MAYHEM IS AFTER ALL THE CHRONIC LACK OF FREEDOM WHICH IN TURN LEADS TO OPPRESSION OF WOMEN, MINORITIES, A LACK OF EDUCATION AND INNOVATION, AND A CULTURE OF DOMINANCE.
These are in turn causing violence, terrorism, refugee streams and integration issues.The main error blocking the west to embrace this other opposition is its narrow definition of ‘strategic interest’. Strategic interest is then defined in short-term economic interests or short-term security concerns. This definition of strategic interest blocks Europe to try to solve its real strategic problems caused by the mayhem of the Middle East. Redefining ‘strategic interest’ as ‘long-term solutions for strategic challenges’ can lead to a redefinition of Europe’s Foreign Affairs policy in the Middle East and Northern Africa.
A culture of freedom and ethnic-religious pluralism in the Middle East is clearly the solution for the strategic problems, coming from that region, that Europe is facing. It is then quite obvious that Europe should team up with those forces that make a serious beginning to put these principles into practice in the Middle East.