Syria: What role have the Kurds played in the war?

The attacks perpetuated against the civilian population, allegedly with chemical weapons, are a reminder that this civil war is far from being over

Syria: What role have the Kurds played in the war?

The Kurds are an ethnic group that mainly inhabits the northern area of ​​Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey and are the largest minority in the Middle East that does not have an established sovereign state. Even in Syria, until recently, they were not recognized as citizens and in Turkey they are related to terrorist groups like the PKK.

Leer en español: Siria: ¿Qué papel han desempeñado los kurdos en la guerra?

The protests that arose as a result of the "Arab Spring", against the authoritarian regimes of the region (Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen, Oman, among several others), led Syria to a civil war in mid March 2011 against the dictatorship of Bassar al-Assad, a conflict that continues to this day.

After the start of the civil war, the Assad government had to withdraw most of its forces from the Kurdish regions to defend the cities in the west from the rebel forces. This allowed a Kurdish party, the PYU, to take the reins of the northern region of the country, which they call Rojava and divide it into 3 autonomous states governed in a democratic, egalitarian way (including for women in the political, social and political spheres) and guaranteeing the inclusion of all ethnic groups (Arab, Persians, Azeris, etc.). However, just as things began to take shape in mid-2014, ISIS began its expansion through Syria and managed to push the Kurds to the border town of Kobani.

It is here that the support of the United States enters into the equation, which trained and armed the Kurdish militias to fight against ISIS. The support was so successful that the Kurds, while pushing ISIS out of Syria, were consolidating territory and people within Rojava, thus creating the "Democratic Federation of Northern Syria".

By June 2016, the Kurds were at the gates of the "capital" of ISIS, the city of Raqqa. With this momentum, it seemed that the Kurdish dream was within reach, but there are local actors who do not agree with it. For example, the Syrian regime of Assad does not recognize the existence of the democratic federation and although it is not actively fighting against the Kurdish project, because all its efforts are focused on fighting the rebels in the west, surely they will not let them go without a fight.

On the other hand, Turkey claims that the Kurdish movement in Rojava is a front for the extremist Kurds of the PKK. This is a Kurdish extremist group that has been at war with the Turkish government since the 1980s, which is why the Turkish government does not want to give it the opportunity for these extremists to have a safe space in Rojava.

The Kurdish offensives against ISIS continued and they managed to take the city of Raqqa, which marked an important victory and moment for them. However, this prompted Turkish offensives to resume earlier this year when the Turks launched the "Olive branch" operation in the Afrin region of northern Syria. The offensive was aimed at weakening the Kurdish movement.

Additionally, ISIS is almost defeated and the US does not have much interest in continuing to support this movement, especially now that they are facing an ally of the NATO members. In this different scenario of the Syrian war, the Kurdish struggle is threatened once again and the solution they pose to the Syrian problem could be diluted in a conflict that does not have a soon ending.


Latin American Post | Gustavo Adolfo Hernández Ifante
Translated from "Siria: ¿Qué papel han desempeñado los kurdos en la guerra?"

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