The president of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria, Sherkoh Abbas, saw no point in going to the Moscow conference scheduled for later this month. He suggested that the conference would only serve as a platform for Russian dictates upon the Syrian opposition while, in the end, the Syrian people would pay the price. In an interview with Al-Hayat, he also affirmed his support for the adoption of a Kurdish federal state in Syria, similar to Iraqi Kurdistan, and called on the opposition to abandon the ideas and plans set forth by Michel Aflaq, which he said have not served, nor will they serve, any purpose. Following is a transcript of the interview:
Al Hayat: What is your opinion of the Moscow I conference, scheduled to be held later this month, and in which Salih Muslim, the president of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), is expected to participate?
Abbas: The upcoming Moscow conference holds no importance and will lead to nothing beneficial. None of the previously held conferences resulted in any positive developments. It is evident to all that the ouster of Bashar al-Assad’s regime must be atop the list of priorities discussed; yet, this is a subject that Russia refuses to consider. As a result, the Syrian people shall reject the conference, particularly considering that it will only serve as a prelude toward the fragmentation and destruction of the opposition; or, at the very least, make it subservient to Russian dictates aimed at bolstering Assad’s regime. It is clear that the international community remains unwilling to solve the Syrian crisis, and that Russia does not intend to bring about radical democratic change to Syria. It is the Syrian people who will pay the price if the opposition agrees to meet with the regime in Russia.
Al Hayat: To what extent will some Kurdish parties continue to support the Assad regime?
Abbas: There are some things that fall under the category of media exaggeration. It is true that some factions of the PYD are collaborating with the Assad regime, but we must not construe this as an indication that Kurds in general collaborate with said regime. They, in fact, are at the forefront of those who stand against the regime, which has lost its legitimacy, and against which the majority stands. It should be noted that most of those who are helping and supporting the regime are Arabs. The regime is employing every means possible to stir up trouble in all Syrian territories; and, in my opinion, what is occurring inside Kurdish areas in general, revolves around those areas defending themselves against the attacks of takfiris, who are but pawns controlled by Syrian authorities and Iranian mullahs, whose aim is to cause conflict between Kurds and Arabs. There can be no doubt that the regime and its pawns are the ones who are benefiting from the intensification of this conflict.
Al Hayat: The issue of recruiting underage Kurdish girls to fight in the Syrian war, particularly by Kurdish People’s Projection Units (YPG), has caused a lot of debate and resentment, leading to demonstrations denouncing the practice in some areas. How do you view this?
Abbas: We previously said that underage girls should not play any political or military role. They cannot adequately express their opinions, and are unable to take decisions on their own. I, as president of the Kurdistan National Assembly, object to the recruitment of underage girls. I do not rule out the possibility that the Assad regime, which still has a strong presence in Kurdish areas, is responsible for these practices, especially considering that it stood behind the conflict that erupted between Kurds and Arabs, and the ensuing schism between them.
Al Hayat: The interim transitional administration has begun its work in Kurdish areas of Syria. Are you for this step?
Abbas: In my opinion, Syria, as a centralized state, was proven to be a failure, and I see the need for a federal state to arise, akin to the Swiss model. I am for the establishment of a Kurdish province, similar to the one in Iraqi Kurdistan. Without a doubt, had federalism been in place, the Assad regime would never have been able to act as it did, killing 250,000 people and displacing millions. We must do away with this chauvinist Arab concept that rejects the establishment of a Kurdish province. The majority there must be allowed to rule itself and exercise its right of self-determination. We as Kurds, just like any other ethnic nationality, possess this right. Furthermore, we were here before Islam, but the Arab opposition has this complex when it comes to the Kurds; and had Salahuddin al-Ayyoubi not been in Syria, there would not have been any victories over the crusaders. We must abandon the ideas and plans of Aflaq calling for unity, liberty and socialism, shown to be mere lies used to manipulate the Syrian people. There is no doubt that the current self-rule administration is controlled by a totalitarian party and is run in a manner that does not reflect the aspirations of the Kurdish people. We look forward toward the establishment of a joint administration that reflects the opinions of the Kurds and is controlled by all constituents of the Kurdish movement, with the formation of a Kurdish federal entity endowed with geographic cohesion, as part of a federal Syria.
Al Hayat: What is your opinion of the Syrian opposition, and its stance vis-à-vis the establishment of a Kurdish province in Syria?
Abbas: Unfortunately, the Arab Syrian opposition has been infiltrated by Assad’s regime, and many personalities therein espouse identical concepts and cultural proclivities; while others are drawn by regional and international agendas hostile to the Kurds. We do not know if this opposition wants a totalitarian centralized regime similar to the one that caused this carnage, or whether it wants a modern democratic Syria instead, where people can live as equals in a homeland for them all, and not for a particular sect or totalitarian party. My opposition brothers must understand that a federal Kurdistan, along with other federal entities, would serve to bolster Syrian unity and prevent their transformation into statelets; all the while standing against the takfiris and those who wish to manipulate the fate of the Syrian people.
Al Hayat: Your activities have increased lately in the US, and we heard about an opposition conference to be held there soon?
Abbas: Unfortunately, we have lost hope in President [Barack] Obama, who repeatedly spoke about supporting the opposition, but never acted upon that. When attention was directed toward terrorism, the Americans’ focus shifted solely on the Islamic State (IS), while Iran was also practicing terrorism by backing the Assad regime. Of course, the US played a major role in the Syrian crisis, and could have ended it; But, it negatively influenced the Syrian revolution. Twenty-four hours after President Obama threatened the regime when chemical weapons were used, the response came with the regime relinquishing its chemical weapons stockpile. But, the situation will change if a Republican president were to be elected.
Al Hayat: Does this mean waiting two more years?
Abbas: Yes, the regime will persist for two more years until the end of Obama’s term. Things will change if Jeb Bush, G.W. Bush’s brother, or Mitt Romney win the elections. But, that does not preclude us trying to hold a conference and conducting important meetings with the Congress and the Senate.
Al Hayat: Why aren’t the battles in Kobani receiving attention now?
Abbas: I think that the terrorist attack in Paris diverted attention from Kobani. I also do not see anything changing in the Syrian arena, and I affirm that Syrian opposition members who failed to achieve anything of significance must be replaced.
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