Syria's "Kurdish Spring"
"Amid... deepening regional divisions, a new opening has emerged for one of the Middle East's longest-suffering minority groups: the Kurds."
The writers assert that the "shifting regional balance of power" brought about by the sectarian conflicts has "enabled the Kurds to exercise greater control over their destiny."
The blog suggests that "it is entirely plausible that Syria's Kurds will maintain autonomy in northeastern Syria when the dust eventually settles."
Just as Turkey's government for decades suppressed minority Kurdish ethnic expression within its boundaries and Saddam Hussein oppressed and massacred Kurds in Iraq during his reign of terror, so Syrian Kurds were massacred in Qamishli for "protesting against an Arab nationalist regime that had for decades dispossessed Kurdish farmers, confiscated Kurdish land, and outlawed the teaching of the Kurdish language", prompting a Syrian "Kurdish Spring" that began in 2004.
With the widespread violence now occurring in the rest of the country, the Syrian government has withdrawn most of its security forces from the Kurdish areas, "leaving the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) as the defacto regional government", just as the Kurdish region of northeastern Iraq had been left to the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) after the fall of Hussein.
But the Syrian Kurds face new threats, as Salafi jihadists, intent on overthrowing the Assad government, have also targeted Kurdish PYD forces, and attacks have also come from the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), who fear the Kurdish militia "is loyal to Assad's regime."
Since the conflict has exploded, over 35,000 Syrian refugees have fled to Iraqi Kurdistan. In response, the leader of the KRG, Masoud Barzani, declared his government was "prepared to defend" Syria's Kurds.
According to the writers, the KRG's support for the PYD "underscores Barzani's greater pan-Kurdish policies." Wagner and Cafiero assert "Barzani's likely motivation stems from his suspicion that a future war between central Iraq and the KRG could occur, and under such circumstances Syrian Kurdistan could provide strategic depth." They go so far as to suggest "if violence continues to plague Syria's northeast, the border between Syrian and Iraqi Kurdistan may ultimately dissolve."
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