The silhouette of an armed fighter from the Committees for the Protection of the Kurdish People (YPG) runs along the front line on October 16, 2013 in Ras al-Ain
The silhouette of an armed fighter from the Committees for the Protection of the Kurdish People (YPG) runs along the front line on October 16, 2013 in Ras al-Ain © Fabio Bucciarelli - AFP/File
The silhouette of an armed fighter from the Committees for the Protection of the Kurdish People (YPG) runs along the front line on October 16, 2013 in Ras al-Ain
AFP
Last updated: January 21, 2014

Syria Kurds name municipal council in northeast

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Syria's Kurds named a municipal council Tuesday for one of three majority-Kurdish regions in the country's northeast, two months after they declared self-rule, an official said.

"We have named a municipal government for the Jazeera area," Saleh Muslim, head of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), told AFP.

"Soon similar councils will be named for Afrin and Kobani, the two other cantons of the Kurdish regions" in Syria, he said.

In November, Syria's Kurds announced self-rule across the majority-Kurdish regions in north and northeast Syria, a move blasted as "hostile" by the main opposition National Coalition.

Muslim said the announcement of a 22-member council for Jazeera was "necessary to ensure there is no political vacuum."

The area known as Jazeera to the Kurds is located in Hasake province.

Haseke city is officially the provincial capital, but Kurds consider Qamishli to be Jazeera's capital.

Syrian troops mostly withdrew from majority Kurdish areas in summer 2012, focusing their attention on rebel fighters and allowing the Kurds to develop semi-autonomy in their areas.

Kurdish fighters, especially those affiliated with the PYD, have since fought fierce battles against extremist opposition groups.

The jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) sees the Kurds as "heretics" and an obstacle to setting up an Islamic "caliphate" stretching from Iraq, which borders Hasake, to Syria.

The 22-member Jazeera council includes representatives tasked with leading on defence, interior, planning and finance portfolios.

"We can't wait until there is a political solution for the Syrian crisis to start running affairs on the ground. People have to have their basic needs covered," said Muslim, who stressed that "the council is not exclusively Kurdish.

"Muslim and Christian Arabs are also taking part. The idea is not for self-rule to be exclusive at all," he added.

The PYD is the best-armed Kurdish force in Syria, and its detractors accuse it of seeking to dominate the ethnic minority's future.

"The ones participating are either PYD or people afraid of the PYD," said Havidar, a Kurdish Syrian journalist and dissident now based in Turkey.

"I am all for this kind of project, but how can they announce a municipal council if they can't even provide electricity or basic healthcare for people?" he told AFP.

Activists in Hasake -- as in most of Syria -- frequently report dismal living conditions, shortages and massive flight into neighbouring countries.

Havidar added: "I am all for ideas that help guarantee our rights as Kurds. But what the PYD is is not about rights, it is about imposing power through weapons."

The PYD has been widely accused, like all other parties in Syria's war, of using brutal methods to quell peaceful dissent.

Syria's Kurds constitute 15 percent of the population. They have suffered decades of marginalisation and oppression by the authorities.

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