Çiya Kurd: Ankara and Damascus together against Rojava

Kurdish politician Bedran Çiya Kurd warns against joint plans by the governments in Damascus and Ankara to destroy Rojava. He says that ISIS in particular would benefit from such a crisis.

In the slipstream of the Ukraine war, Turkey's attacks against the autonomous region of northern and eastern Syria are becoming increasingly aggressive. Bombs and shells are hitting settlements along the border with the Turkish occupied zone on a daily basis, and drones of the NATO state are carrying out targeted assassinations. Meanwhile, the regime in Damascus places parts of the region under a heavy embargo. The Kurdish neighborhoods of Şêxmeqsûd (Sheikh Maqsoud) and Eşrefiyê (Ashrafiyah) in Aleppo are particularly affected. They are de facto encircled by the regime. As a result, the canton of Şehba, which borders Aleppo, is also affected by the blockade.

Bedran Çiya Kurd, deputy co-chair of the Executive Council of North and East Syria, now warns against an alliance between Damascus and Ankara. "The fact that Damascus is forming such an alliance means that the regime is participating in the rights violations of the Turkish state. This poses great dangers to the people of Syria," Kurd said in an interview with ANF.


What is the current situation around Şêxmeqsûd, Eşrefiyê and Şehba? What is the status of the embargo?

The siege is a major crisis. It is also felt in Qamişlo and Hesekê. As the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, we are against the escalation of this crisis and the increase of tensions. However, the regime is increasing this unrest and tensions with its policies. Although great efforts have been made in recent days to resolve both the situation in Şêxmeqsûd and Eşrefiyê and the situation in Qamişlo-Hesêkê, unfortunately the regime's attitude has not changed so far. Russia wanted to mediate to ensure that this problem would be solved and not grow. According to our latest information, the regime has strengthened its forces in the 4th Division (the checkpoints between the regime and autonomous areas are operated by the 4th Division). It should not deceive itself and believe that whatever it says should be done. This will lead us to take some steps as well. Even though we don't want the problem to grow even more, we will think and talk about a different attitude. For everything that will happen, the regime in Syria is responsible.

What does the regime want?

Hundreds of thousands of residents in Şêxmeqsûd and Eşrefiyê and the Şehba region are facing an embargo and encirclement by the Syrian regime. This attitude and policy aim to break the will of our people there and force them to surrender. This is how the regime wants to impose its policies and goals. The regime, which has been pursuing this policy for many years, has done nothing to solve the problems in Syria. On the contrary, it has deepened the problems and created causes for flight. An example of this is what happened in Ghouta and Homs. Now the regime wants to apply the same policy in Şêxmeqsûd, Eşrefiyê and Şehba. This policy has led to massive demographic change and flight.

However, it is not possible for the regime to break the will of the people. In particular, the people in Şêxmeqsûd and Eşrefiyê have been waging a defensive struggle for years, especially against jihadist groups. There are hundreds who have died in battle in these neighborhoods. They have defended their existence and continue to do so. Therefore, such a policy can never break the will of our people. The regime will never win in the face of our people's resistance. It would have to rethink its policy and reconcile with all components of the population. But instead, the Damascus government maintains its old hierarchical and monistic way of thinking. The autonomy and will of the people are not recognized. Instead, everyone is wanted to become like the regime. It wants to restore its rule in all regions. This misguided policy will lead to ever greater problems in Syria. The specificity of each region should be taken into account. Otherwise, the regime will also lose what it has left.

This siege situation is unacceptable. Our people will never surrender to the regime's policies. These areas have been the center of our political-democratic struggle in Syria and Rojava for many years. The struggle there has become a political-democratic struggle for all of Rojava.

The regime, because it has recently reestablished relations with some Arab states, thinks it can return to the status quo ante. If Damascus really believes that, it is fooling itself. It will not be possible for the regime to return to its former position of ruling everywhere and dominating this country with its old mentality. Neither the people of Syria nor the countries of the region and the world will accept this.

The regime believes it has solved the problems in Daraa and Suweida and can now reinstall its rule in Şêxmeqsûd, Eşrefiyê and Şehba. But the regime has not solved the problems in southern Syria, nor can it solve the problems that exist in Aleppo and Şehba. Because it is not possible to solve conflicts with such a policy.

Why is this long-standing siege being intensified right now? What is behind it?

The regime in Damascus has rich experience of forcing surrender on the majority of the Syrian people through a policy of siege. In this context, there is this embargo that has been going on for years and the siege of Şehba and Aleppo. One can focus on two reasons why the siege and embargo are being expanded right now.

First, the Syrian regime thinks that the whole globe is busy with the war between Ukraine and Russia and the attention of the world community is there. In such a situation, it sees itself in a position to build pressure on these neighborhoods and eventually invade them. The idea is to completely eliminate the specificity of these places. This stage is understood as a chance to impose its own rule and break the will of our people.

Second, there seem to have been many talks between Turkish intelligence and the Syrian regime recently. Such talks are not new, of course. Both regimes have been trying to get closer for some time. The point of disagreement between Damascus and Ankara is their stance against the will of the people of northern and eastern Syria and the project of autonomous administration. Turkey's main desire at the moment is to destroy the existence of our people and the democratic autonomous administration. Talks are constantly taking place in this sense. This causes great concern.

The regime in Ankara has been committing all kinds of crimes in Syria for eleven years, from robbery to massacres, occupation and so on. What is happening in Efrîn, Serêkaniyê and Girê Spî is obvious. If the regime in Damascus enters into an alliance with Ankara, it means either that it has not seen these crimes or that it ignores them. Thus, the regime is complicit in what Turkey and the militias it supports are doing in Syria. Ankara and Damascus are thus uniting in terms of their power interests against the people here. This poses a great danger to the peoples of Syria and especially to those who live in our region. Many people are therefore worried and will never accept this.

Do you have information about meetings between MIT and Syrian intelligence?

Talks between MIT and Syrian intelligence have been on the agenda for some time. Information about this keeps surfacing. We are monitoring this situation. As far as we know, these talks are actually taking place. There is some cooperation. In fact, contact with Turkish intelligence has never broken off. There have always been relations, but recently these intelligence relations have been brought to the level of political and diplomatic relations. As far as is known, Russia is mediating in this process. This applies both to improving relations with Arab states and to transforming intelligence relations with Turkey into political relations with the aim of breaking the political and diplomatic encirclement of the regime in Damascus.

The AKP/MHP government has stated that meetings with the Syrian regime can begin on the condition of breaking the autonomous administration of Rojava. What do you think about this point?

The AKP/MHP government's plans for Rojava are clear. Ankara is working towards the destruction of the autonomous administration and our region. So far, this is the central plan. And to get support for this, the Turkish regime is ready for any alliance. Be it with Damascus, NATO countries or Russia. The idea is to create a backdrop for new attacks. Destruction and genocide are essential for the AKP/MHP regime, which has started the election campaign. In the process, everything will be done to advance hostility towards the Kurds this year. Both parties are working around the clock to build anti-Kurd alliances.

As all can follow, the attacks on the autonomous areas in northern and eastern Syria have never stopped. Whether drones or mortars, there are attacks every day and people from the civilian population are murdered. The concept of destroying and occupying our regions has always been on Turkey's desk and its implementation is ongoing.

Were there any talks between Rojava and Damascus before or after the siege of Şêxmeqsûd, Eşrefiyê and Şehba?

As everyone has observed, there has been no meeting between the autonomous administration and Damascus recently. No dialogue developed because the regime was not willing to move it forward. Because the regime demanded the end of all institutions of autonomous administration and did not accept the specificity of the region in any way, no dialogue could develop.

Our security forces and Russia tried to resolve the situation in Qamişlo and Hesekê, which developed in connection with what happened in Aleppo and Şehba. But the regime has not taken a single step so far. Therefore, although we do not want it, we must now take some imperative measures.

Russia must seriously fulfill its mission and role in this regard. It should not allow this problem to develop in this way. On the contrary, Russia should pave the way to solve all existing problems in Syria through dialogue.

What is the U.S. and Russian position on the siege and attacks in northern and eastern Syria?

There is a general embargo and encirclement of northern and eastern Syria. The idea is to restrict the region economically and deepen the problems here. There are problems on the regime side. Russia has also opposed the opening of the Til Koçer (Al-Yarubiyah) border crossing. Similarly, there is also no serious practical effort by the international coalition and the U.S. regarding the embargo and encirclement. It has been repeatedly said that they want to exempt northern and eastern Syria from the Caesar Act (2019 U.S. Syria Sanctions Act, introduced by former U.S. President Donald Trump). But there are no practical steps.

There is nothing in this context that we can evaluate. Because on the ground everything is the same. The doors are closed and the siege continues in every sense. We are following the statements of the United States. They say they want to grant sanctions exemptions for our region, but so far no official decision has been made.

What are the dangers for the region?

The economic encirclement of northern and eastern Syria and the attacks by the Turkish state are intended to plunge the region into chaos and pit the people against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the autonomous administration. In this way, they want to force the autonomous administration to take steps backwards on many issues. If this situation continues and a crisis arises, ISIS in particular will benefit from it. Everyone is seeing ISIS reorganize and revive. People are looking at the situation in the region as an opportunity. The international coalition and Russia are primarily responsible for this. The policy against SDF and autonomous administration is a big problem. First of all, ISIS is revived. Therefore, everyone must evaluate and deal with this situation accordingly today.