Syria: Nusra Front cleanses Kurds

Up to 20,000 refugees have crossed from Syria into Iraqi Kurdistan in the past three days, apparently fleeing fighting between Kurdish militias of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Salafist factions led by the Nusra Front. The PYD reportedly drove Salafist forces from the northeastern town of Ras al-Ain, taking control of a border post on the Turkish frontier. But the Salafists are apparenlty launching bloody reprisals, with refugees who have fled to Iraq reporting massacres in Kurdish villages.

PYD leader Salih Muslim has assured the Syrian opposition as well as Turkey that the de-facto autonomy in the areas under its control is only a temporary measure until the rebellion is victorious, and that it is not seeking an independent Kurdish state. Col Abdel Jabbar al-Oqaidi, head of the military council of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Aleppo, recently accused the PYD of siding with the regime, and vowed in a video statement to destroy it. The Kurdish National Council (KNC), a coalition of 10 other Kurdish parties, rejected the autonomy move, saying that the Kurdish problem can best be addressed through the creation of a democratic and pluralistic state that upholds the rights of all its citizens, including Kurds. The KNC criticised the PYD for taking a step "towards secession." (BBC News, BBC News, Aug. 18; Ahram Online, Aug. 14)

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  1. Syrian Kurds defend autonomous enclave

    A Nov. 8 report in Jerusalem Post brings the welcome news that Kurdish militias in Syria's northeast have turned the tide against the jihadist factions in recent weeks, effectively carving out an autonomous enclave they call "Rojava" or Western Kurdistan. The turning point came Oct. 26, when Kurdish fighters of the People's Protection Committees (YPG) seized the Yarubiya (Kurdish: Tal Kojar) border crossing, which had been held by jihadist faction ISIS since March. The rebel Syrian National Coalition issued an improbable claim that Iraqi regular forces had participated alongside the Kurdish fighters—another manifestation of distrust of the Kurds by the rebel leadership. It is noted that the YPG enclave is in Hasakah governorate, which has both a 70% Kurdish majority and the greater part of Syria's oil reserves…