Kurds and the Syrian Uprising

Video: Kurds protesting against the Assad regime last month in Aleppo, Syria. Demonstrators carry the Kurdish colors and flags bearing the image of Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned founder of the Kurdistan Workers' Party based in Turkey. 

Syrian Kurds live mainly in the northeastern part of the country, close to the border with Turkey. Kurds make up approximately 9 percent of the Syrian population and they have faced routine discrimination, suppression, and harassment by the Syrian government. The current Syrian uprising caused division and strife among the Kurdish populations in Syria. 

Several months after the Syrian uprising began, in October 2011, the Syrian Kurdish leader Mashaal Tammo was gunned down in his home by masked men believed to be government agents. Tammo was a prominent liberal Kurdish activist whose goal was to establish a pluralistic democracy in Syria in which Kurds would play a prominent role. Over 50,000 people attended Tammo's funeral procession in the village of Qamishli in on October 8, 2011. Syrian security forced fired into the crowd, killing five people. Tammo's son, Fares Tammo said, "My father’s assassination is the screw in the regime’s coffin." Since then, there have been weekly protests of Kurds against the Syrian regime. 

However, not all Kurds in Syria are taking to the streets. The Syrian government has granted the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian arm of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a semi-autonomous enclave in the area of Afrin in exchange for suppressing Kurdish protest against the Assad regime. It is perhaps for this reason that the PYD claims that Mashaal Tammo was killed not by the Syrian government, but by Turkey. 

Video: An Al Jazeera report explains how Kurdish community has become divided in the context of the Syrian uprisings against Bashar al-Assad. 

Shoshi Shmuluvitz

Diwaniyya Contributor