Syrian Kurds List Federal Government Among Key Demands

Article Summary
In an interview with Sami Belqadi, Mustafa Osso of the newly-formed Kurdish National Council in Syria says that recognition of the Kurds’ national identity and right to self-determination are key to the unification of the Syrian opposition. According to Osso, certain opposition groups are attempting to marginalize the Kurdish role in the Syrian revolution. These groups wish to present themselves as the sole representatives of the Syrian people - a claim which he says is false.

Mustafa Osso, Secretary of the Kurdish Azadi Party and member of the opposition party Kurdish National Council [KNC], spoke with El-Khabar during a recent a phone interview [on the situation of Syrian Kurdish groups within the opposition]. [He asserted] that [certain opposition parties] are actively trying to downplay the struggle and [role] of the Kurds in the Syrian revolution, and that [certain groups] are trying to highlight themselves as the sole representatives of the Syrian revolution. He stressed that the issue of Kurdish federalism, a demand consistently mentioned by the Kurds, continues to be a point of contention that stands in the way of an agreement [between Syrian opposition groups].

El-Khabar  The KNC recently stepped into the Syrian political arena after confirmations that Burhan Ghalioun’s Syrian National Council [SNC] sought to reach an agreement with the Kurds. Where was the KNC before?

Osso  In fact, the KNC, and the Kurds in general, have been present since the beginning of the Syrian revolution. The council was formed by 11 Kurdish parties and a number of independent Kurdish figures. We are striving to overthrow the current regime. As for the issue of us [rarely] appearing in the media, we believe that there is a media [conspiracy] against us that aims to overshadow the KNC and give preference to a certain opposition [group]. Little attention has been paid to our council, while media focus has been directed toward the SNC and its National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change [NCC] in Turkey. However, this [lack of media attention] does not negate the fact that we are present in Syria, and that we are struggling for the rights of the Syrian and Kurdish peoples alike.

El-Khabar  Does the contact that was recently announced between the KNC and the SNC imply that there are plans to unite the two councils?

Osso  This is not the first time contact has been made between the SNC and the KNC. We met in Cairo during the Syrian opposition meetings. Contact was [recently] renewed in an attempt to overcome the differences that we reached during the Cairo [meetings].

El-Khabar  What are the major barriers [between the KNC] and the rest of the Syrian opposition, whether it be the SNC or the NCC?

Osso  The National Kurdish Council was formed to defend the rights of Kurds. We have demanded that an agreement be signed with the opposition recognizing the legitimate Kurdish right to self-determination and that [a partially autonomous Kurdish political system] be established and recognized. In other words, we demand federalism, which the SNC and NNC both reject. We believe that the opposition will not be able to unite as long as they refuse to recognize the Kurdish right to a federalist system. [Our parties have their other differences] as well, but the issue of recognizing our national [identity] is the most important. On this we have not yet reached a solution.

El-Khabar  Does this mean that you agree on the SNC’s other demands regarding foreign intervention?

Osso  [Our position] on the issue of [foreign] intervention is clear. We demand [the establishment of] a safe zone to protect civilians. Foreign intervention is indispensable. It must not necessarily be a military one, but its [aim] must be to protect the Syrian people from the oppression of this tyrannical regime.

El-Khabar  Because you are in the area of ​​Qamishli in Syria, have you received any government invitation [to hold talks]? Or do you reject dialogue with the regime?

Osso  The KNC rejects unilateral dialogue. We are for efforts to unite the ranks of the opposition, and that [only a united opposition can make these decisions]. However, in principle, we believe that a dialogue [with the regime] cannot be undertaken amid the current insecurity and continued repression. There are conditions for dialogue, chief among them is unifying the voice of the opposition.

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