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Kurdish Council in Syria Bans War Refugees from Fleeing to Iraqi Kurdistan

Syrian Kurdish children play at a refugee camp in Kurdistan Region's Duhok province. Photo: AFP
Syrian Kurdish children play at a refugee camp in Kurdistan Region's Duhok province. Photo: AFP

AMSTERDAM, the Netherlands – Syria’s Kurdish Supreme Council (KSC) says it is banning any further emigration of Syrian Kurds across the border to Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region “under any conditions,” putting a halt to the large numbers escaping Syria’s anti-regime civil war.

“The council decided to place constraints on emigration of the Kurdish people in Syria to Iraqi Kurdistan due to the large numbers of people who fled the country and resorted to the region over the last few months,” the KSC said in a statement Sunday.

The KSC, a coalition of several Kurdish political parties in Syria, said it was imposing the ban because of “the danger of such a mass emigration on our areas in Syria.” It called on the people to “show cooperation” in this regard.

It added that its armed Popular Protection Units (YPG), which control the border areas, will start to implement the council’s decision immediately, preventing all citizens without special permission from crossing the border to the Kurdistan Region.

Kurdish groups in Syria have a hand in the fight to oust President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, but they are not part of the main opposition coalition. The largest Syrian Kurdish group, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) which controls the YPG fighters, has been accused by the main opposition of suspicious ties to the Damascus regime, and of mistreating refugees trying to flee the violence.

Syria’s Kurdish regions have remained relatively untouched by the civil war, which is now beginning its third year and in which an estimated 70,000 have been killed nationwide.

“In more than two years of crisis, the Kurdish areas in Syria saw an intensive emigration by Arab families from other cities fleeing violence, while the Kurdish residents themselves are leaving their homes and lands for some unconvincing reasons,” said Kawa Ramadan, a member of the YPG forces in Qamishli.

“We need to act responsibly in this historical and crucial phase, and we have to serve our people and region instead of fleeing and leaving it to the Arabs and later on mourning our loss,” he told Rudaw.

But many Kurdish activists consider the KSC’s decision a “clear violation and abuse” of basic rights of Syrian Kurds, opposing the “policy of imposing constraints” on people’s freedom.

Hosheng Ose, a prominent Syrian Kurdish writer and journalist, told Rudaw that the KSC is trying to “arbitrarily” deprive the people of their freedom, after failing to help accomplish any of the basic demands of Syrian Kurds since its establishment.

“With this decision, the KSC proved its inability to provide any solutions to the crisis of the Kurdish people in Syria,” Ose said.  He added this was, “As if the KSC is trying to play the role of a jailor against our people, through turning the Kurdish cities into open prisons, and the residents into prisoners. That’s absolutely the worst way of imposing power.”

The KSC was founded on the basis of the Erbil Agreement among the Syrian Kurdish political parties in July last year, sponsored by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that controls Iraqi Kurdistan.

Ose said that, although it is supposed to be a coalition between the PYD and Kurdish National Council (KNC), the KSC is mainly dominated by the PYD.

“It became an umbrella for this party to achieve its goals and enact its private agenda in the name of the Kurdish people,” he argued.

Another Kurdish activist from Qamishli, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons, said it was the PYD’s own policies in Qamishli that had forced many families to flee.

“They dominated all means of life in our cities, and the humanitarian aid coming from the Kurdistan Region is only being distributed to their allies and supporters,” he accused, arguing that the PYD is using the name of the Supreme Council in order to gain more supporters among Syrian Kurds, “not to fight for our rights.”

“Why is Kurdish emigration to the Kurdistan Region in particular being banned?” he asked.

Saroxan Ali, another Kurdish activist, told Rudaw that only “the enemies of the Kurdish people” were benefitting from Syrian Kurds leaving their homes.

“The KRG opened its borders to the Syrian Kurds not to encourage them to resort to the Kurdistan Region and leave their homes, but to provide them with the needed humanitarian aid,” Ali said.

 “Undoubtedly, only the enemies of the Kurdish people will benefit from this emigration.” 

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