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MOSCOW, October 22. /TASS/. Russia would like Syria’s Kurds, alongside other parties concerned, to enjoy an opportunity to take part in the political settlement process in Syria. Moscow’s contacts with Kurdish representatives are continuing in line with old-time traditions, but the problem of recognizing a Kurdish autonomy in Syria is a purely internal affair of Syria and its people.
The political process in Syria must be comprehensive and inclusive, with the Kurds having a worthy say in it, Russian presidential envoy for the Middle East and Africa, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told TASS after a meeting with the co-chair of the Democratic Union Party, Asia Osman, and head of the local self-government of the city of Kobani, Anwar Muslim. "The focal idea of what was said at the meeting was it would be impossible to carry out political reform without the participation of various ethno-confessional groups of Syrian society, including Syria’s Kurds."
On Thursday, the Kurdish delegation had a meeting with Russian experts on Kurdish affairs at the Oriental Studies Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the institute’s leading research fellow, Stanislav Ivanov, has told TASS. "Syria’s Kurds were speaking about themselves and the fight for their cause," he said. "After all, they are in the forefront of the struggle and in very difficult conditions. In some cases they have to resist Islamic militants entirely on their own. They have observed neutrality for the past five years and avoided taking sides either with the government or the opposition. They take up arms only when the Islamists attack their native land. They say: we do not care who will take over in Damascus, provided a future constitution, future democratic Syria accommodates the rights of ethnic minorities."
Turkey’s ambassador to Russia Umit Yardym last week declared that Ankara was very much concerned over the possibility of cooperation "between individual states and Syrian Kurds." "We are discussing that issue not only with Russia," Yardim said. "If there follows support for the Kurds, including that from the United States, Turkey will respond without delay."
The Kurds have traditionally maintained good relations first with the Soviet Union, and then with Russia, senior research fellow of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Oriental Studies Institute, Boris Dolgov, told TASS. He noted the particular importance of these relations in the current conditions. "True, Turkey is very negative about the idea of recognizing the Kurds’ rights to an autonomy, let alone of creating a Kurdish national state. But the armed forces of Syrian and Iraqi Kurds have been actively fighting against the Islamic State and other Islamic organizations. In that sense they are Russia’s allies."
The situation is a no simple one, Professor Andrey Korotayev, of the Russian State Humanitarian University RGGU, leading research fellow at the Oriental Studies Institute, has told TASS. "Turkey’s firmly negative attitude to anyone’s attempts to establish any contacts with the Syrian Kurds is not the only stumbling block. The problem is Damascus is unprepared to grant autonomy to the Kurds. In the meantime, it would be impossible to ignore the Kurds in the struggle against the Islamic State, because they have displayed themselves as one of the most effective fighters against the Islamic radicals."
"In contrast to the autonomy in Iraq, which enjoys official recognition, the Kurds’ autonomy in Syria is not recognized formally. A noticeable part of the elite in Damascus is unprepared to discuss federalization at all. It is determined to keep Syria unitarian," Korotayev said.
According to pre-war statistics, Syria’s 2.5 million Kurds accounted for about 9% of the population and their position was always been grave, the leading research fellow at the institute of world economy and international relations IMEMO under the Russian Academy of Sciences, Viktor Nadein-Rayevsky, has told TASS. "Repression was systematic. They were denied citizenship and an opportunity to receive education in their mother tongue. During Bashar Assad’s presidency certain steps were taken to straighten out the situation somewhat, but still some 300,000 Kurds still remain without Syrian citizenship."
"When the Islamists came, things turned from bad to worse. The Kurds had to take up arms to keep terrorists, including the IS forces, out of their territory. They proclaimed an autonomy, although the Syrian Constitution does not allow for that. But Bashar Assad’s response to that was quite tolerant."
"When Russian combat aircraft appeared in the skies over Syria, the Kurds’ morale grew noticeably," Korotayev said. "Now they hope that Russia will help them with settling intra-Syrian problems."
Moscow’s official recognition of the Kurdish autonomy is not on the agenda, although Russia has traditionally come out in defence of peoples suffering from oppression and violence. In the meantime, the Kurds are in the forefront of struggle against Islamists.
"The question of an autonomy for Syria’s Kurds is in the first place an internal matter of the Syrian people. It is clear that some changes must follow. The situation in the country will fail to be normalized without recognizing the rights of the Kurdish population and other ethnic and religious groups and the equality of all peoples within the framework of an integral Syrian state," he said.
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