#Syria Nov 24/12 Kurds and Arabs …. Syrians gathered together to say no to fighting between brothers …
A plea for unity from Qamishli
Syrian rebels clashed with Kurdish militia in the northern city of Aleppo, leaving 30 dead and some 200 captured, a watchdog said Saturday, sparking fears of a new front in an already fractured country.
The fighting between armed rebels and members of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), erupted on Friday in the majority Kurdish neighborhood of Ashrafieh, it said.
“There were 30 people – Arabs and Kurds – killed in the fighting, including 22 combatants from both sides,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement, adding that Ashrafieh is now under PYD militia control.
Scores of people were then captured, mostly by the rebels, the Observatory said.
“More than 200 people have been kidnapped,” Observatory Director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. “Some 20 rebels were kidnapped by the PYD. The rest of the those kidnapped are Kurds.”
The area had been relatively free of the violence that has rattled Aleppo since fighting between regime forces and armed rebels erupted in the city on July 20.
But on Thursday, residents said some 200 rebels moved into the district, announcing they had come to spend the Eid al-Adha Muslim holidays, starting the next day, in the area.
“Snipers have set up in the buildings and 50 armed men, dressed in black and wearing headbands with Islamic slogans, entered a school near me. I heard them tell the residents: ‘We are here to spend Eid with you’,” one resident said soon after the rebel force arrived.
“I am waiting for things to calm down before leaving,” he said.
The fighting came the next day – on Friday, coinciding with the first day of a truce between Syria’s warring parties which has largely been ignored by all.
Syria’s Kurdish minority has on the whole remained neutral during the country’s civil war, which has sown divisions among the country’s patchwork of ethnic and religious groups.
The conflict, which has pitted the army, security forces and pro-regime militias against rebel fighters since a revolt against Assad morphed into an armed insurgency, has left at least 35,000 people dead, according to the Observatory.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Ankara, the United States and the European Union, took up arms in the Kurdish-majority southeast of Turkey in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed about 45,000 lives
The UN’s chief humanitarian coordinators for Syria, on a Gulf tour to seek aid, have warned that already scarce resources for the growing number of displaced in the war-torn country are quickly drying up.
The UN’s regional refugee coordinator, Panos Mumtzis, told AFP in Dubai that the aid effort was hit by a “significant funding shortfall,” adding that financial support is needed for shelter, winter preparation, health and water.
The UN estimates some half a million Syrians have fled the country. About 335,000 of them are registered refugees who have escaped to neighboring Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.
By the end of the year, the UN expects the number to registered refugees to more than double to around 710,000 refugees.
Inside Syria, there are an estimated 1.2 million displaced Syrians living in ill-equipped public buildings.
“This is no longer business as usual. We have moved into an emergency situation. It is a crisis,” said Mumtzis of the 18-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime that shows no signs of abating.
“When we get 2,000 to 3,000 refugees per day crossing the border continuously now for two months, this is really serious.”
The UN has requested $488 million for Syrian refugee assistance alone. So far $142 million, only 29 percent, has been provided.
The situation is just as grim for the UN’s humanitarian agencies assisting Syria’s internally displaced and other vulnerable populations within the country.
A UN call for $348 million for those still trapped within the country’s war-ravaged borders is only 38 percent funded.
The biggest reason for the funding shortage is that the Syrian crisis is unfolding “a lot faster than anyone had thought,” Mumtzis added.
The UN has been forced to revise its humanitarian appeals on three separate occasions in the past six months.
The “speed [of escalation] is reaching levels where we need to have an equally speedy funding mechanism,” said Mumtzis.
But time is one thing the aid agencies don’t have.
Winter is fast approaching, refugee numbers are rising every day and funds are being depleted at an ever-faster rate.
Even more alarming is the fact that at least three quarters of the refugees are women and children, raising fears that a persistent shortage of funds could put the conflict’s most vulnerable populations at even greater risk.
The most urgent need right now is “to be ready for winter,” the UN’s regional humanitarian coordinator Radhoune Nouicer told AFP, adding that the aid community’s level of preparedness “will depend on funding.”
In total, more than 2.5 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance. So far, more than 32,000 people have been killed in the revolt, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“Today we are coping… from hand to mouth,” said Mumtzis, who warned the UN “absolutely [does] not” have enough for the increasing demands of the deadly conflict.
“The funds are going out very very quickly because more and more people keep on coming [for help],” said Mumtzis.
The largest donors through the UN system are the United States and the European Union. Arab countries have been primarily donating through local and regional charities, or bilaterally.
Few of the Arab donations, with the exception of a million-dollar pledge by Kuwait and a $7.5 million pledge by Saudi Arabia, have gone through UN agencies.
Saudi Arabia also held a five-day public fundraiser in July raising more than $72.33 million, $5.3 million of which was from King Abdullah himself, though most of it has yet to be allocated and it remains unclear how much of it will go through the UN.
The UN coordinators said they hoped their tour of the oil-rich Arab states of the Gulf which will include Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia will result in pledges of both aid and greater cooperation.
Source: reuters // Reuters
By Tom Perry
MUKHTARA, Lebanon, Aug 14 (Reuters) - Foreign states must do more to help Syrian rebels defeat President Bashar al-Assad and spare the country an “endless civil war” and possible partition, a leading politician in neighbouring Lebanon said on Tuesday.
Walid Jumblatt said the battle for Syria hinged on foreign backing to the rebels, who he believes can “easily” expel Assad from Damascus if the necessary weapons are supplied to their forces in the south, not far from the capital. He said the failure to provide such weapons was hypocritical and “fishy”.
“The more you accelerate the downfall, the more you save Syria from a possible partition,” Jumblatt, head of Lebanon’s most influential Druze family, said in an interview at Mukhtara, his family mansion in the mountains south of Beirut.
Asked what such a break-up would entail, he said: “It would look like an endless civil war in Syria.”
Jumblatt is the latest regional leader to raise the spectre of civil war leading to the division of Syria along ethnic and sectarian lines that could separate the Alawite minority to which Assad belongs from a mainly Sunni population, while creating new boundaries between Syrian Kurds and Arabs.
King Abdullah of Jordan last week said Assad could seek to establish an Alawite enclave if he cannot keep control of the whole country, describing it as the “worst-case scenario” in a region whose modern borders were drawn less than a century ago.
But Jumblatt, a leader during Lebanon’s civil war, said he was “not that pessimistic” about Syria’s future, saying nationalist sentiment in the Syrian opposition should help hold the country together. “But they have to be helped,” he said.
“Up until now, they are just begging for help, and the more it goes on, the more you have the danger of sectarian bloodshed,” he said. “The Syrians have enough awareness, enough knowledge and enough power to keep Syria united,” he said.
A leader of one of Lebanon’s smaller communities, Jumblatt’s stance towards Syria has shifted more than once in recent years as he adjusts to shifting power dynamics at home and abroad.
He was a leading voice in the anti-Syrian movement that sought to curb Assad’s influence in Lebanon before and after the 2005 assassination of Rafik al-Hariri - a killing he still blames on Syria. Following the Hariri assassination, he publicly accused Syria of killing his father, Kamal Jumblatt, in 1977.
Jumblatt then moderated his attitude after a rapprochement with Syria’s allies in Lebanon, including the powerful Hezbollah, a Shi’ite party and guerrilla group backed by Tehran.
Jumblatt’s party is part of a Lebanese coalition government which includes Syria’s allies and which has adopted a cautious, neutral position towards the Syrian crisis.
But he has reverted to his position of hostility towards Assad. In March, he marked the 35th anniversary of his father’s assassination by laying the Syrian rebel flag on his grave.
Jumblatt said the Syrian rebels were in dire need of long-range anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft missiles to counter what he described as Assad’s “scorched-earth” strategy. He described the apparent downing of a Syrian fighter jet this week as “a good sign”, though not enough.
“If you provide weapons to the rebels in Deraa, you can get him (Assad) out of Damascus easily,” he said, referring to a town near the border with Jordan where the uprising began 17 months ago.
He accused the “Friends of Syria”, which groups the United States, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, among many others, of hypocrisy for not doing more to help, saying they had used Russian and Chinese opposition to U.N. measures as an excuse for inaction.
“The Syrian people will overcome and they will succeed, (but) with a huge price because of the indifference, in a way, of the international community, the hesitancy of the so-called Friends of Syria,” Jumblatt said.
“It looks like they are leaving the regime free to kill more people, slaughter more people and destroy Syria.”
He said the length of the conflict now depended primarily on support to anti-Assad forces, saying there was little more that Iran and Assad’s other backers could do to prop up his rule.
“I am asking for specific weapons (for Syrian rebels): anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons - long-range anti-tank weapons.
“The B-7 is short-range, you can of course destroy a tank with the B-7, but you have to be very, very close,” said Jumblatt, referring to the type of rocket-propelled grenade being used by the rebels.
Jumblatt has urged the Druze community in Syria to join the rebellion and criticised members of the sect who have helped Assad during the crackdown. He cited at least one example of a Druze officer killed while fighting Assad’s forces, saying this was positive, but insufficient. “The mood has changed,” he said.
LONDON — The Kurds of Syria could provide the tipping point in a year-long revolt against the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad. But on Tuesday night their delegates walked out of opposition unity talks in Istanbul over the failure of their Arab partners to acknowledge their national rights.
There are about 2.5 million Kurds in Syria or around 10 percent of the population — the Damascus regime never formally counts them for fear of acknowledging the size of their community. By some estimates, Kurds may be Syria’s largest minority, larger even than the ruling Alawite sect.
A new report by the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based foreign policy think tank, describes them as “the decisive minority” in the Syrian revolution. Their participation in a unified opposition that would be “in the interests of the U.S. for a stable and inclusive Syria and would boost the rapid overthrow of the Assad regime,” the report says.
The importance of the Kurdish position has been marginalized in the mainstream opposition narrative of the Syrian revolt, despite the fact that some of the earliest demonstrations took place in the northeast where Kurds inhabit a strategic area bordering Turkey and Iraq.
The Kurds are a combative people. In the face of more powerful enemies, they have had to be. As a nation of more than 20 million with their own language and culture, they have defended their presence for millennia in what is today the troubled borderland of Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran. “Fighting is better than idleness,” as the Kurdish proverb goes.
Yet overall their participation in the revolution has been muted — and so, notably, has been the response of the regime. It has spared this traditionally oppressed minority the worst excesses of its crackdown, as it attempts to play a “Kurdish card” in a strategy of divide and rule.
The Kurds have reasons enough to bide their time. When they rose against the Assad regime in widespread rioting in 2004, their short-lived revolt was met with disdain and even hostility from potential allies in the Arab opposition.
They now find themselves on the margins of an opposition movement dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and Arab nationalists, two tendencies implacably opposed to recognizing Kurdish minority rights.
Worse still, from the Kurdish perspective, the Syrian opposition is being shepherded towards unity by Turkey, a country with a long history of repressing its own 14 million-strong Kurdish minority.
“The U.S. outsourced the task to Turkey,” Michael Weiss, a Syria expert and communications director at the Henry Jackson Society told Rendezvous. “If the unity conference were hosted by the U.S., the Kurds would have been much happier.”
The main Kurdish opposition alliance — the Syrian Kurdish National Council or KNC — has been pressing for the past year for its Arab allies to recognize the Kurdish people and their national identity in a post-Assad constitution. If the Assad government fell, the Kurds would likely press for reparations for past forced “Arabization” of Kurdish land.
But the current talks on unity have hardly been felicitous. As recently as Monday night, Kurdish delegates in Istanbul obtained a copy of a “national pact,” penned by the Arab-dominated Syrian National Council (SNC), which contained “no single word” on the Kurds in Syria, according to a Kurdish activist familiar with the document.
Recent efforts by the U.S. and others to cajole the SNC into embracing the Kurds may have come too late, as President Assad seeks to re-impose his control.
The Kurds have at least one loyal ally — the leadership of Iraqi Kurdistan, the most peaceful and prosperous region of post-Saddam Iraq. Masoud Barzani, president of the region, has acted as the godfather of the KNC in Syria.
It is a partnership with a downside: the prospect of an alliance between an influential Iraqi Kurdistan and a possible autonomous Kurdish zone in Syria only serves to heighten Turkish fear about the unsettling effect it might have on its own Kurdish population.
As Syria’s Kurds debate their next move, they face divisions within their own ranks — the curse of Kurdish politics throughout the ages.
The Assad regime appears to have renewed its links with the cultish Kurdish Workers’ Party, the PKK, and is accused of employing a local offshoot of the PKK to crack down on other Kurds.
Although it proclaims itself to be a pan-Kurdish movement, the PKK is essentially a Turkish-oriented movement that Damascus has in the past used as a cat’s paw in its relations with Ankara.
A number of moderate Kurdish leaders have been assassinated since the PKK affiliate attacked Kurds demonstrating against the Damascus regime.
There is no mystery in why the regime seeks to divide the Kurds, according to Heyam Aqil, London representative of the Kurdish Democratic Party in Syria that is prominent in the KNC. “Assad knows the Kurds are well-organized,” she told Rendezvous. “If the SNC allied with the Kurds, other minorities would join.”
The Kurds and their supporters claim it would be a tragedy if they were cut out of the Syrian equation. They say the Syrian Kurds are predominantly secular, western-oriented and embrace a pluralistic vision for a “new” Syria, in contrast to some other opponents of the Assad regime.
Just the kind of people who deserve support, you might think.
Source: The New York Times