On Dec. 27, leaders of the Kurdish autonmous administration in northern Syria, meeting as a Constituent Assembly at the town of Rmeilan (Rimelan), voted to remove the name “Rojava” from the federal system that governs the region. Initially called the “Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria-Rojava,” it is now to be named simply the “Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria.” (Kurdish Question, Jan. 3) The dropping of the traditional Kurdish name for the region is something of an about-face, following a campaign to revive Kurdish-language toponymy. This would appear to be motivated by the current political re-alignment in Syria, and the final breaking of what some have seen as a de facto alliance between the Kurdish forces and the Bashar Assad regime against Turkish-backed rebel militia.
The move comes just as Saleh Muslim, leader of the Kurds’ Democratic Union Party (PYD), has announced that the Kurdish forces have not been invited to join the new ceasefire deal in Syria—this one for the first time negotiated by Russia and Turkey without the participation of the US, the power that has been most closely backing the Kurds. “We aren’t included… Nobody asked us to join the truce because countries in the region deny that there is a nation called Kurds,” Muslim said. All too tellingly, this statement is eagerly jumped on by Kremlin mouthpiece Sputnik.
That Russia’s deal with Turkey would mean betrayal of the Kurds became evident with the Assad regime’s ultimatum that the Kurdish forces must abandon their enclave of Sheikh Maqsoud in Aleppo after the city’s fall to pro-regime forces. We have not received an update on the enclave’s evacuation, but the fact that it was ordered means the Kurds are not viewed as reliable proxies by the regime or its foreign backers.
Is there a sign of hope in the dropping of the “Rojava” name? Betrayed by Russia and Assad, the Kurds may be tilting back to a more accommodationist posture on Syrian unity and seeking to rebuild ties to the other revolutionary forces. The Arab rebel forces, now betrayed by Turkey, could answer with a more accommodationist posture on Kurdish autonomy.
War crimes apparently continue in Aleppo. The Syrian Coalition, umbrella group for the opposition, issued a statement charging thay Iranian forces are summarily executing civilians in the conquered city, and stressed that “the international community bears responsibility for these crimes as it failed to prevent them.” The statement cited reports from local activists that Iranian militiamen summarily executed six young men in the neighborhood of Sakhour on Dec. 23.
EuroNews provides a chilling comparison of before-and-after photos, betraying the scale of the destruction in Aleppo. One of the oldest cities on earth is nearly reduced to rubble, the minaret of the Ummayad Mosque toppled…
Regime warplanes have meanwhile resumed bombardment of rebel held areas outside Damascus on Jan. 1—despite the supposed ceasefire agreement. Hundreds fled the rebel-controlled valley of Wadi Barada. (Jurist, Jan. 2)
But abandoned by all the Great Powers, Syria’s civil resistance is again emphasizing internal unity. Activists have called for demonstrations throughout the liberated areas of Syria, under the slogan of “Revolution Brings us Together,” to demand the unification of all factions commited to “the goals and principles of the Syrian revolution.” (El-Dorar al-Shamia, Dec. 29)