Kurd political arrests in Syria spark internal dispute


Nearly a dozen arrests of Syrian-Kurdish political figures sparked an internal row and calls for protests on Tuesday in the northeast city of Qamishli, an AFP correspondent there said.

The Kurdish police force, known as the Asayish, arrested at least 11 officials from two Kurdish political parties on Monday and Tuesday, party members told AFP.

The officials were from the Yekiti party and the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), two factions that oppose the powerful Democratic Union Party (PYD).

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the Asayish had detained nine members of the Kurdish Democratic Party and at least two Yekiti officials, including its vice-president.

"They have been taken to an unknown location," the Observatory said.

Both the Yekiti party and the KDP are members of the Kurdish National Council (KNC), a key component of the mainstream Syrian opposition National Coalition.

The KNC fiercely opposed a decision in March by the PYD and other Kurdish parties to establish a federal region in northern Syria.

On Tuesday, the KNC called for protests across Kurdish-majority cities in Syria to condemn the arrests.

Abdelsamad Khalaf Berro, head of the Yekiti politburo, told AFP that the PYD and Asayish arrested his fellow party members in an attempt "to stop us from our political work".

He said they had arrested KNC head Ibrahim Berro at the weekend "and expelled him to the Kurdish region of Iraq".

The National Coalition condemned what it described as Berro's "kidnapping" from Qamishli, calling it a "violation of human rights".

But a representative of the autonomous Kurdish administration denied that internal rivalries were behind the arrests.

Kenaan Barakat to ld AFP that the party members had been detained after "holding political gatherings without respecting the law on demonstrations".

"They will be transferred to the courts and tried according to the law," he said.

Barakat denied any involvement in Berro's transfer to the Kurdish region of Iraq.

Syria's conflict, which erupted in March 2011, has seen rebels, jihadists, the regime and Kurdish groups carve out zones of control across the country.

In the northeast, Kurdish parties began laying the groundwork for an autonomous administration -- complete with schools and police forces -- after regime forces withdrew from Kurdish-majority areas in 2012.

The armed branch of the PYD, known as the People's Defence Units (YPG), is one of the most effective fighting forces against jihadist groups in Syria.

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