Kurdish militants tighten grip on Syria's northeast

AMMAN Sun Oct 27, 2013 3:43pm EDT

1 of 6. A Syrian Kurd Asaish stands at a security checkpoint at Derik in Al-Hasakah October 31, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Thaier al-Sudani

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AMMAN (Reuters) - Kurdish militants sought to consolidate their control of an oil-producing region in northeastern Syria on Sunday after seizing a border crossing with Iraq from Islamist rebels, activists said.

Fighters linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought in neighboring Turkey for decades, were clearing pockets of resistance of the al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, al-Nusra Front, and Ahrar al-Sham in the border town of Yarubiya, Syrian opposition sources said.

"The Kurds are now in control of the Yarubiya border post. They now have a clear route to market the region's oil, which should belong to all Syrians. Thousands of Arabs have fled," said Yasser Farhan, a member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition.

The northeastern province of Hasakah, which borders Iraq and Turkey, has a population of over one million, 70 percent Kurdish and 30 percent Arab. The fighting there deepens sectarian and ethnic faultlines in Syria and threatens to draw neighboring powers into the country's civil war.

A statement by the Syrian National Coalition said Iraqi ground forces had attacked Yarubiya on Saturday in coordination with the Kurdish militia. Syrian rebel sources said Syrian warplanes had also bombarded the town.

"The Iraqi government has committed a grave error by its unprecedented interference in Syrian affairs," the statement said, adding that the Shi'ite-dominated Baghdad government had been aiding the transfer to Syria of Iraqi Shi'ite militia who are fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

An Iraqi security official denied involvement in the capture of Yarubiya. "The last thing we need is to get dragged into military combat in Syria. We will not engage in any way," he said.

Other Iraqi officials said some wounded Kurdish fighters had been evacuated in Iraqi army Humvees and taken to areas controlled by Iraqi Kurdish fighters, then into Iraq.

Rami Abdelrahman, head of the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, said Kurdish fighters had taken over 90 percent of Yarubiya town.

Video footage released by the group showed Kurdish fighters manning a tower at the crossing and others carrying the flag of the Kurdistan People's Protection Units militia.

In a statement, the militia said three of its members had been killed in four days of fighting to take Yarubiya, which it said Islamist militants had used as a base to prepare bombs and send suicide bombers into Kurdish regions. There was no immediate casualty figure for their opponents.


Kurds in Syria have played a complex role in Syria's civil war, which has pitted mostly Sunni Muslim rebels against Assad's Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

Different Kurdish militia have fought on both sides while the rise of al Qaeda has strengthened Kurdish militants linked to the PKK, which has been traditionally opposed by non-violent Kurdish political parties.

Kurds comprise around 10 percent of Syria's 23 million population. They are concentrated in Hasakah, in parts of Damascus and in Ifrin province north of Aleppo, where there has also been intense fighting between Kurds and Arab rebel units.

Since the uprising, Assad has pulled many of his forces from the mostly Kurdish northeast but kept a presence for his intelligence and secret police units in Qamishli and Hasakah, the two major cities in the area, activists said.

Massoud Akko, a prominent Kurdish dissident living in exile in Norway, said it was normal for the Kurds to try to secure as much territory as they could in their home region.

"Syria is already becoming divided. The Islamists and the Free Syrian Army have much of the north and east, while Assad and his loyalists are holding out in the center and the coast," he said.

Akko said that while the Kurdish community had misgivings about the PKK and its allies, they were regarded as a bulwark against al Qaeda.

"With the Syrian National Coalition remaining silent on al Qaeda and economic conditions deteriorating in the northeast, the Kurds have no one to turn to except the PKK and its allies, and the Iraqi Kurdistan government," he said.

(Additional reporting by Oliver Holmes in Beirut, Isabel Coles in Arbil and Ziad al-Sinjary in Mosul; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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Comments (7)
kurdstaat wrote:
Kurds in Syria seek complete autonomy and formal Statehood recognized by the rest of the world. We want our own State, and national and individual human rights protected by our own army and legislateve institutions. Kurds want to be seperated from the Arabs, Turks and Fars altogether. Not only Kurds in Syria, but also Kurds in Turkey, Iraq and Iran want formal Statehood. Kurds want to be a majority in their own State of Kurdstaan, instead of being four minorities in four States. The world has the responsibility of recognizing the Kurdish State formally.

Kurds in Syria have gained a great victory by establishing military superiority over the Arabs supported by terrorist Turks supported by NATO. Kurds are Aryan and speak the Aryan language, and the world has betrayed us so far. It is time for us to fight NATO’s terrorism, Turkish terrorism, Arabic terrorism, Fars terrorism to establish a the foundation of Kurdish State by establishing military control of our State. Any Turk, Arab or Fars in our State is not welcome to govern over Kurdish State. Kurd Staat must be governed by Kurds only. No Turkish, Arab or Fars military units have the right to carry guns in Kurdish inhabited areas, or they face certain death or imprisonment.

Kurds in Syria have been oppressed as a nation since the end of WWI. The Arabs who run the State of Syria have banned the Aryan Kurdish language, ruined thousands of Kurdish villages and imprisoned and murdered hundreds of thousands of Kurdish elite and civilians. The Arabs in Syria have stoped the Kurds in Syria from realizing their fundamental national and individual human rights.

According to international law if a nation such as the nation of Kurds in Syira are subjected to genocide and terrorism in their host State, then that nation has the right to complete cessesion and an independent State.The Kurds in Syria alone have the right to Statehood and their own seat in the UN. Kurds in are getting closer to reaching realization of their national and individual human rights.

PKK is the national Kurdish military and has the responsibility to protect all Kurds across Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. PKK was formed originally as the Kurdish military to protect all Kurds and establish a Kurdish military and State. The goal of PKK has not changed and it will never change. PKK members have sacrificed their lives for 32 years to protect every Kurdish civilian in occupied Kurdish territories in the Middle East and the world. PKK has been supported by Syrin Kurds from the start. In fact many Syrian Kurds helped establish the PKK and constitute the backbone of PKK. PKK members of heros of Kurdish nation and are looked up to as immortals. In fact the PKK are the immortals that the west has decided fight against in a terrorist manner.

The Kurds all across the globe support the PKK and will continue to support the PKK until a formal Kurdish State is established to protect all Kurds now and in the future. NATO has decided to terrorize the Kurdish nation and destroy us by helping our sworn enemies the Turks, Fars and Arabs to control our homeland. We as the nation of Aryan Kurds ask all Western civilization to stop NATO’s terrorism against us and give us a formal recognition of our State.

Recognize Kurdish State and the Kurdish nation’s right to her fundamental national rights.

Liberate Kurds.

Stop NATO’s terrorism against Kurdish nation.

Oct 27, 2013 3:24pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
MikeBarnett wrote:
No country will fight a massive, regional war for the Kurds who live in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. If the armed forces of the United States of America and a number of its allies could not defeat Iraq after 8 years and 9 months of war, what chance does any other collection of military forces have in a war against Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran? Some of those countries have been distracted in other wars and have been forced to accept some forms of semi-autonomy that they can remove at any time because no other country or group of countries will try to repeat the US and Coalition debacle in Iraq.

Oct 27, 2013 4:23pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
RiffakLedifni wrote:
This is great news for the Kurds. Both Shiite Arabs and Sunni Arabs are enemies of Kurds. The more the Arabs kill each other the more the Arabs weaken each other.

Oct 27, 2013 4:37pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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