Syrian Curds in Struggle for Their Rights and Freedoms

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2016-60-9-37-47

S. Ivanov, Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation (


For thousands of years, the Kurds have lived in the territory of the present-day Syria and in adjacent countries, always playing an important role in the political and public life of the Middle East. Unfortunately, after the World War I, the victorious powers did not let the Kurds create their own state, and as a result, they became ethnic minorities in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. For a long time, the authorities of all these states have been pursuing a policy of forced assimilation of Kurds ignoring their ethnic rights and freedoms. The toppling of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the civil war in Syria gave a chance for the Iraqi and Syrian Kurds to create their own autonomous areas. The Kurdish communities in Iraq and Syria play a very important role in stabilization of the situation in the respective countries and in the region as a whole. Due to their ethnic and religious tolerance, the Kurds have been trying to keep neutrality in inter-Arab conflicts and have turned into one of the main military forces resisting the Islamists. The Kurdish community's People’s Defense Units managed not only to defend the indigenous territories of the Syrian Kurdistan, but also to oust jihadi fighters from a number of adjoining areas. Yet the readiness of Kurds to cooperate with any political and military forces in Syria interested in stability and safety of the region has not been rewarded. Neither Damascus, nor the opposition have invited Kurds to the negotiating table in Geneva and have not given them any guarantees that their ethnic rights will be provided for in the country’s new Constitution. The inertial thinking of the existing Arab authorities still does not allow to perceive Kurds as an important and equal part of the Syrian society. The pre-war situation of Kurds as "second class people" also suits most of the external actors involved in Syria. Bashar Assad's representatives continue to ignore them in every respect, and avoid any promises and guarantees to the Kurdish minority regarding the implementation of its legitimate rights and freedoms. For these reasons, the Syrian Kurds may be only at the initial stage of their fight for self-determination. So far, neither Damascus, nor the Syrian opposition have voiced their support for the Kurdish autonomy which has been set up de facto in the north of the country, and the authorities of the neighboring Turkey periodically conduct heavy artillery strikes against the Kurdish enclaves in Syria. Meanwhile, the option of Syria's federalization proposed by the Kurds deserves the closest attention, and it is not to be ruled out that this project could allow to keep the Syrian state together. The democratic self-government in the Kurdish regions of Syria has been set up as a Kurdish ideological response to the attempts made by radical Islamists to destroy the Syrian state and to build a new Islamic caliphate (similar to the one that existed in the 7th century AD) on its territory. The Kurdish experience can become both an attractive model for a peaceful resolution of ethno-confessional problems in the Middle East and an alternative to the throwback that the Islamists are trying to impose.


Kurds, national rights, civil wars, radical Islamists, self-determination, autonomy, territorial subject of the federation, Syrian Kurdistan, Middle East, Geneva negotiations, UN Security Council 


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For citation:
Ivanov S. Syrian Curds in Struggle for Their Rights and Freedoms. Mirovaya ekonomika i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya, 2016, vol. 60, No 9, pp. 37-47.

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