Skip to main content

Syrian Kurds aim to benefit from Islamist infighting

Syrian Kurdish forces navigate the fighting between the Free Syrian Army and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham to gain ground in northern Syria.
Members of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) walk together in Al-Rmelan, Qamshli province November 11, 2013. With a string of military gains across northeastern Syria, a Kurdish militia is solidifying a geographic and political presence in the war-torn country, posing a dilemma for regional powers. Long oppressed under Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his father before him, Kurds view the civil war as an opportunity to gain the kind of autonomy enjoyed by their ethnic kin in neighbouring Iraq.
Read in 

Clashes erupted between Islamist groups in the north of Syria on Jan. 3, leaving at least 700 dead. For more than a year, armed groups have imposed a blockade on the isolated Kurdish enclaves in Afrin and Ain al-Arab (Kobani) to pressure the Syrian Kurdish fighters to give up their territory. Syrian Kurds now hope the clashes between the Islamist groups will end the siege on their regions.

Last summer, clashes erupted between Kurdish forces, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) — which are close to the Democratic Union Party (PYD) — and al-Qaeda-affiliated battalions and other Islamist groups. This led to a siege on the isolated Kurdish regions of Afrin and Kobani by Islamist groups accusing the YPG of working with the Syrian regime. Moreover, several civilians were kidnapped and others executed on charges of working with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), to which the PYD is affiliated.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.