The Kurdish opposition bloc on April 6 walked out of the Syrian National Council at a meeting in Istanbul, after world leaders at the "Friends of Syria" summit urged the factions to unify. Syrian Kurdish opposition leader Abdul-Baki Yousef, a leader of the Kurdish Yakiti party, charged host country Turkey of "pressuring the SNC" to omit the demands of the Kurdish members in the final document outlining a transition plan for Syria. At the summit, Hillary Clinton pledged another $12 million in "humanitarian aid" to the Syrian opposition, although assembled leaders resisted calls from the SNC to arm the rebels. (Daily Star, Lebanon, April 6; McClatchy Newspapers, April 2)
The split comes as pressure is mounting on Turkey's own Kurds. A Turkish court on April 3 agreed to try 193 people accused of having links with the Union of Kurdistan Communities (KCK), which is allegedly the urban wing of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). (Reuters, April 3) A Turkish soldier was killed and another was injured April 4 in clashes with PKK rebels in Hakkari province. The government claims 21 rebels were killed in clashes over the past month. (Daily Star, April 4)
Istanbul, Diyarbakir and Batman saw street clashes on March 18, when, tens of thousands of Kurds massed to celebrate the Kurdish new year Nowruz—in defiance of a government ban. Riot police backed by helicopters and armored personnel-carriers fired tear gas to disperse the crowds. One Kurdish leader and a Turkish police officer died, and hundreds of Kurds were arrested. After the street clashes, PKK commander Murat Karayilan issued a call for civil resistance: "From here on we must stop serving in the Turkish army, paying taxes and using the Turkish language. A new phase has begun." (The Economist, March 24)
See our last posts on the Arab revolutions and the Kurdish struggle.
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Syrian war spilling into Turkey
The war in Syria that nobody wants to call a “war” spilled into Turkey April 9, as Syrian forces apparently fired on a refugee camp across the Turkish border in Kilis province, leaving at least two dead and several injured. Two Turkish security officials were said to be among the wounded. A Human Rights Watch report says Syrian security forces have summarily executed over 100 civilians and wounded or captured opposition fighters since March—and possibly many more. A UN-brokered ceasefire supposedly to take effect this week seems dead on arrival. (BBC News, Reuters, Jurist, April 9)
Non-war in Syria still going strong
Reuters informs us April 22 that Syrian military forces launched a tank assault on the town of Douma, east of Damascus, with Internet video footage showing “smoke rising from buildings and the sound of heavy gunfire in the background… The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that at least four soldiers were killed when a bomb hit an armored personnel carrier outside Douma. The official news agency SANA made no mention of fighting in Douma but said that at least one officer was killed by a bomb which struck a convoy of army officers and cadets in the northern province of Aleppo. Another bomb targeted a freight train transporting flour in Idlib province, it said.”
Sounds like that ceasefire is working out just great.
IRIN on April 11 gave a rare report of the refugee crisis in Jordan, where “thousands” of Syrians have fled to escape the fighting. The UN refugee agency has belatedly launched an $80 million appeal for Syrians who have fled to Jordan and Lebanon as well as Turkey.