| MAHMOUD ALI MUHAMMED: “WE WANT AUTONOMY FOR KURDS IN SYRIA”
Kurdish opposition movement in Syria is composed of many prominent figures. One of the significant parties among Syrian Kurds that dissidences have created wide range of parties is Kurdish Democratic Union Party. Therefore, we talked to Mahmoud Ali Muhammed, Northern Iraq representative of this party.
ORSAM: Could you introduce yourself and your party?
Mahmoud Ali Muhammed: My name is Mahmoud Ali Muhammed. I am a member of the politburo of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party and representative in Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Our party arose from the Kurdish Democratic Party in Syria created in 1957. Following the congresses held after 1957, some splits took place, and finally, upon the fact that 5 parties came together in 1993, our party took its current form and name. The present leader and secretary-general of our party is Muhiddin Sheikh Ali. Our objective is to bring all Kurds in Syria together. Establishing democracy in Syria and giving rights to Kurds are the two most important agendas in our program.
ORSAM: How do you evaluate the developments taking place in Syria? Do you believe Bashar Assad regime has any chance to do reform or to stay in power?
Muhammed: Today, there is still a fight for revolution in Syria for freedom and democracy. The regime wants to make the development in Syria look like a sectarian conflict. Thus, the regime tries to give an impression that a civil war will break out in case Syria does not have its own regime. But it is not true. The people in Syria turned towards revolution against one-party and dictatorship period. The only reason lying behind the events currently taking place in Syria is anti-democratic practices of the regime. In Syria Kurd, Arab, Turkmen, Circassian, Sunni, Shia came together and they are trying to topple the regime. The people poured into streets to build a secular, democratic, constitutional and decentralized system.
ORSAM: Do you believe that the people's pouring into streets will be sufficient to topple the regime? Can the regime be toppled through the current conflicts or demonstrations?
Muhammed: The current events are not sufficient to topple the regime. The power of the people on its own may not be sufficient for this kind of revolution to succeed. However, on the other hand, we are against the intervention of the external powers.
ORSAM: If the demonstrations are not sufficient to topple the regime, if you are against external intervention, how will the Assad regime be toppled?
Muhammed: As a result of UN, EU and Arab League's oppressing the syrian regime, the regime can be weakened. In case popular uprising carries on as a result of this weakening, the regime can be toppled. As we know that we will suffer a big loss in case external powers intervene; we are against it. However, we are also aware of the fact that it is quite difficult to topple the regime through the current means.
ORSAM: After Bashar Assad is toppled, does a conflict environment emerge in Syria? Does a civil war break out as in Iraq?
Muhammed: Syria's situation is different from the countries in the region. Syria carried on living with nations such as Arab, Kurd, Turkmen, Circassian and Armenian in fraternity. This situation brings an original feature to Syria. There might be divergence between political groups, but there is no such conflict among the people. Today, the biggest conflict takes place between the pro-regime supporters and their opponents. Nevertheless, the state of group fed by the regime might be different after the toppling of the current regime. However, the idea that a civil war can break out after the toppling of the regime is largely as a result of the propaganda that the country can drift into a disaster in case the regime does not exist itself.
ORSAM: What do you demand about the future of Kurds in Syria?
Muhammed: As party, we have been asking for autonomy for Kurds since 1993. We took such a decision in the Conference in Qamishli on 26 October 2011. In the future, we ask for a democratic, secular, decentralized political structure in Syria. These demands do not only belong to our party, we see that other parties defend the same points as well. Kurds should solve their problems in the countries they live in. Kurds live in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. Kurds living in each country should solve the problems they go through within the borders of these countries. We also want to solve our problems in Syria.
ORSAM: Qamishli events in 2004 proved how strongly Kurds can oppose in Syria when they want. Could it be suggested that current demonstrations are as strong as in the past?
Muhammed: Most of the people uprising so far have been threatened with death. However, Kurds poured into the streets as much as the other groups. Since 1953, the Ba'ath regime has wanted conflict between Kurds and the other nations, as well as split. Even today, Kurds have been strived to be pictured as separatist and pro-Israeli by the regime. When Kurds rose up in 2004, the regime tried to provoke Arabs living in the region against us. Nevertheless, during the recent uprisings, right after Arabs' uprising, Kurds rose up as well. This situation contributed to change of Arabs' views on Kurds. Even on the first day the uprising emerged in Daraa, Kurds sent aids here. If the Kurdish population and the number of people taking part in the uprising are proportioned, it is seen that rather Kurds poured into streets compared to the others. As Kurds, we have had demands both related to overall situation of the country and also related to the state of the Kurdish from the Bashar Assad regime. Our demands at national level was to enact law for the removal of state of emergency in the country, the release of political prisoners, the withdrawal of army from the streets and for the people to freely go out in the street. And our demands for Kurds were: giving up racist approaches adopted against the Kurdish, according rights to the Kurdish, and adding a statement in the constitution indicating that Syria is composed of two nations as Arabs and Kurds, and minorities. The Syrian regime has not resorted to weapon in Kurdish regions so far: because they try to show the people that it is a different situation. The regime strives to give the impression to the people in Syria that there is an agreement with Kurds and the regime. The people in Aleppo and Damascus have not taken part in the demonstrations so far. What the regime is afraid of is that there are 600.000 Kurds in total living in Aleppo and Syria. If weapon is used against the people in the regions with Kurdish population, then Kurds living in these metropolitans will rise up as well. Thus, problems will take place in these cities as well. The regime does not use weapon in the Kurdish region in order to prevent this situation, and it is trying to make the importance and dosage of uprisings in the Kurdish region look like small-scaled.
ORSAM: Why is there this many Kurdish parties in Syria?
Muhammed: We formed a Congress upon the coalition of 11 parties. Thus, we achieved to gather 60% of the Kurdish in Syria. Diversity is a good thing, but the existence of this many parties is not a positive development. The underlying reasons of this situation are factors such as underdevelopment of Kurds, practices carried out by the Syrian regime to set Kurds back, and oppressive regime. Nevertheless, today, Kurds have started to come together. Other than 11 parties, invitations will be sent to include Rekeftin and Reform Movements in KUK (National Liberation of Kurdistan).
ORSAM: Are you content with the results come up with during the meeting held in Arbil?
Muhammed: Despite some deficiencies, we are extremely content with the fact that the Conference was held. We believe that this meeting especially aiming at gathering Kurds who live abroad together was successful. All these developments should be considered as a major step in achievement of the Kurdish uprising in Syria.
ORSAM: How are the relations between the Arab opposition and KUK?
Muhammed: Currently, the Arab opposition could not unite. As much as different Arab dissident parties, there are also divergences among the the Kurdish. Our desire is that all dissident parties join together and create a joint power and carry on their opposition together.
ORSAM: Thank you.
* This interview was carried out in Sulaymaniyah, on 6 February 2012.