Turkey, the Kurds and the Imrali Peace Process: An Historic Opportunity – Brussels, European Parliament, 4th & 5th of December 2013
Brussels, 5th December, 2013
On behalf of the Kurdish people in Rojava, I would like to thank the President of the European Parliament and all those who have granted us the opportunity to address the European Parliament and through them the peoples of Europe. Our hope is that we can bring attention and awareness to the plight and suffering of the Kurdish people and to involve Europe in a solution to end it. We believe that such a thing will contribute greatly to the development of democracy in the Middle East and indeed in the world.
The causes and the events of the Arab Spring have already been widely discussed in this parliament as well as elsewhere and there is no need for me to elaborate any further other than to state what most of us already know, the Arab Spring has turned to a harsh and gruesome winter and the interests of the people in Syria, at least, has been ignored and derailed much due to external interferences and efforts which has put geopolitical shortsighted gains in place of the longsighted wellbeing of all peoples in the Middle East.
A popular movement which demanded democracy and freedom in Syria began in mid- March 2011, and at that time many of the democratic forces in Syria converged with each other, our Party (the PYD) included. It was decided that it would play a vanguard role by peaceful and democratic means and that it would exercise a legitimate right to self-defense if attacked by regime forces since this was the only way to secure and spread the movement to a grassroots level which would in turn carry out mass civil disobedience which would be enough to eventually topple the regime. We were very careful not to turn the revolution to a armed revolution because it was our assessment that this would benefit the regime and we also realized that this would open the door to external forces to whom we would have to pay too high of a price; we knew that a armed revolution would necessitate support from external forces and that these forces would always put their political gains first and the will of the peoples second.
Unfortunately and despite our best efforts it did eventually turn to a armed revolution, and now as we can see the revolution is more about securing geopolitical gains for outside forces and less about achieving freedom and democracy for the Syrian people. This dangerous change of course in the revolution came about after 30/06/2011 when the National Coordination Body (NCB) was announced in Damascus. We Kurds who had already been suffering at the hands of a brutal and unjust regime needed to behave wisely. We have seen in this revolution a derailment which have been caused by sectarian tensions, fueled and encouraged in a direction which has resulted in armed conflict. Kurdish doubts have increased as we have clearly observed the relationship between armed religious groups and the Turkish government. Therefore we, as a Kurdish majority representative in Syria, have taken the lead to organize our Kurdish people within civil organizations as part of our democratic self-management project which was outlined at our third party conference in 2007. However at that time we could not implement it due to regime suppression. The project includes legal self-defense units as well. We started by establishing the Movement for a Democratic Society or TEV-DEM (Tevgara Civaka Demoqratik) which represents the majority of Kurds and other ethnic and religious groups in Rojava through its council (Western Kurdistan Council) and its civil organizations.
Throughout the developments in Syria, the Peoples Protection Units (the YPG) have had to defend the Kurdish people whenever and wherever they have been attacked by Syrian regime forces in Aleppo, Efrin, Kobani and Aljazira. We have had dozens of martyrs from these units and civilians as a result of numerous confrontations with the Syrian regime. As the fighting between regime forces and Jihadist, Salafist Islamic groups began to erupt in the Kurdish region our people with the help of the Peoples Protection Units started to expel Syrian regime forces, on 19/07/2013 this was done in Kobani, Efrin and Derik and it laid the foundation for the peoples and the civil popular organizations to truly assume their role in Western Kurdistan.
One year after establishing and activating the mentioned civil organizations in our region, we found it necessary to expand the democratic self-management project by including all components of Rojava, so as to make it more representative for all peoples living in Western Kurdistan. Thus, our party have proposed a Joint Interim self-management project till we find a political solution for the Syrian crisis. The vacuum created by the absence of the Baath regime in Rojava, needed to be filled to ensure that our society would not be exposed to chaos, crime and looting, not to mention hunger, diseases and the countless difficulties of life when facing a situation like this. For example, last winter people did not have fuel or any source for heating their houses, bread was sold by 10 Syrian pounds at one place and at ten times that price at other places! We were suffering by a lack of medicines as well. Despite our best efforts, rumors started brewing and there was dissatisfaction among some claiming that we were differentiating or favoring some regions or some people. Therefore we realized that our region needed to have a legalized elected administration to manage administrative affairs temporarily.
Several meeting were held during the course of one month to discuss and plan future elections. They were attended by organizations and the two main councils in Rojava which represent our society (The Western Kurdistan council and the National Kurdish council) finally after long discussions, an extended meeting was held which included all components of society. The meeting was attended by 82 men and women from 35 organizations and parties representing Kurds Arabs, Syriacs, Turkmans and other groups. Eventually it was decided in these meetings that joint interim management would be established in Rojava. Three committees consisting of 19 members were assigned to determine a form for this management, to write a bylaw and to set up a social contract which will serve as a constitution for all components of Rojava. They were also assigned with the task to set up rules and conditions for the elections and to formulate a form and objectives for the intended management. On 2/12/2013 the initial decision of the council was announced, it was decided that Rojava would be administratively divided into three cantons: Efrin, Kobani and Aljazira, each canton will have its own local council and the three of them will be united at a later stage when the suitable circumstances allows them to do so. We believe the cantons and their councils will be successful in carrying out its administrative roles and that they will be able to face the difficulties and challenges that our peoples are currently facing.
The councils and organizations will be evenly constituted by a 50/50 split between men and women. The presidency system will be co-chaired by one man and one woman; this is the case for our own party structure as well. The Peoples Protection Units include the Women Protection Units who are defending attacks against the peoples of Rojava and their shared common values.
Without doubt democracy is something which acquires accumulative knowledge; it needs our combined efforts and time. It needs the right tools and the right methods and it also needs to be protected in order for it to grow. No one can grant democracy to anyone, neither is it something which can be purchased. The repressive forces of authoritarianism, which has had a monopoly on power, money and the exploitation of communities, cannot survive in a democracy. That is why they will fight democracy every step of the way, perhaps even more aggressively when it is in its infancy. This is why these small yet significant democratic steps taken in Western Kurdistan have faced bitter attacks and will face even more.
Our party have been struggling under the chauvinist Baathist regime since 2004 and we were able to expel them from Rojava, but as soon as did we found ourselves facing a new struggle against an even more aggressive and brutal force which wants to drag humanity back to the stone ages. Unfortunately these forces are supported by some regional and international powers which intend to choke our young democracy. It is a sorrowful fact that we are alone in our fight against the tyranny, backwardness and brutality of the Baathist regime, the Alnusra front and Islamic state in Iraq and Levant. We are struggling by our own and by our own capabilities without any support or help from countries, parties and organizations which support and encourage democracy! Meanwhile the other side, which we are fighting against, is getting materialistic, logistic and moral support from several regional and international countries! As this is going on we face unfounded accusations which are not worthy of our struggle and sacrifices. We strongly believe that the model of democracy which we are developing today can serve as a model not only to the rest of Syria but in all of the Middle-East, therefore we must protect it and remain committed to it.
We believe that the values of European democracy has contributed to the improvement of the whole of humanity, therefore all of humanity should commit and defend it. We in the PYD revere your democracy and we are trying to use it as a model so that we can develop it in our country and in our communities. We believe that democratic values integrate between national, social and cultural borders, the system and the values which we want for ourselves are extracted from the European democracy. Subsequently, Europe and the European Parliament should cherish these values wherever they may bloom, protect it and maintain them in order to make them accessible and utilized for all of humanity. Only then can justice and freedom rule all over the world. So we call on the European Union for its support so that democracy may not be constrained to the European continent but spread all over the world.
Once more, I salute you and give my thanks to the European Parliament and all those involved in this event, I am confident that victory will never disappoint. Democracy, justice and freedom in the
Middle-east and the world will bring us all closer as one united community.
Thank you All
Saleh Muslim* : Co-President of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), Syria-Kurdistan