Due to popular demand, I will touch on the topic of the Kurdish stance in Syria. First, it is important to note that the Kurds are neutral; they have clashed with the Opposition and the Government. The Democratic Union Party (PYD) leader, Salih Muslim, was originally outspoken in his criticism of Dr. Bashar al-Assad, but since the violent clashes with radical Islamist groups like ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra in Ras al-‘ayn, the PYD has been rather subtle in their stance against either side in the conflict.
Who is who?
The two groups that are important to note are the YPG and the PYD. The PYD is the political wing for the Syrian Kurds and they seem to possess the majority of Syrian Kurds support. The PYD is secular and promotes social liberalization and religious freedoms. The PYD is a Kurdish nationalist party, so their political discourse does contrast with the Ba’ath Party’s Arab Nationalism. The PYD tends to support the Syrian Opposition, but due to Ahmad Jarba’s harsh criticism and antipathy for the YPG, both parties seem to be going down a rocky patch.
The PYD is the imperative political wing; however, I am sure you constantly hear and read about the People’s Protection Party, better known as the YPG. The YPG is not political, but they do believe in Kurdish autonomy. Very similar to the Druze, they have taken a defensive position in this conflict. The soldiers have not expressed any angst against the Syrian Arab Army stationed in Hasakah and Qamishli, but tensions have been rising as of late. Despite their relatively new formation, the YPG is actually the 3rd biggest unified fighting force in Syria behind the SAA and NDF. Their soldiers are primarily infantry that receive much of their supplies from Erbil in northern Iraq. The YPG has been effective in protecting Kurdish lands and obstructing both SAA and Opposition advances in Aleppo.
I cannot mention the Syrian Kurds without mentioning the PKK. The PKK is considered a pariah in Turkey due to their volatile history with the government. During the 1980’s and 1990’s, Hafezh al-Assad granted many PKK fighters amnesty and protection in Syria. Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the PKK, was considered the Osama Bin Laden of Turkey. The Turkish authorities were furious with Syria for safeguarding him until 1998. The PKK is an armed political wing that the Syrian Government is not afraid to arm in Turkey. As result, the Turkish is constantly on alert of any movement on the ground.
Where do we go from here?
Personally, I abhor their stance because they know very well that the Islamists in the Opposition will not honor their wishes; but, I can understand their hesitancy and agitation towards the government. The Kurds are attempting to stay neutral, but the longer this war continues, the more beneficial it is for the Kurds. In reality, this works out for them; it is very similar to Iraq in that the Kurds are the only ones who benefit from the bloodshed in the end.