Syrian Kurdish women and members of the Peoples Protection Units stand guard at the funeral of one of their comrades in Qamishli. Photo: AFP
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – Kurdish groups from Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region say they believe in the Syrian revolution, but have not encouraged supporters to join the fight to oust the Damascus regime.
“Many people would join the revolution as they believe it is the greatest jihad (holy war), if the Islamic parties in (Iraqi) Kurdistan called on people to join it,” said Shwan Qaladizai, spokesman of the Islamic Movement in Kurdistan (IMK).
He said that his group has not encouraged its members to join the fight to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Last month, a 25-year-old Kurdish man from Sulaimani named Hawkar Muhammad was reportedly killed in a fight to control Jaraha airport in the Syrian city of Aleppo. “I fight oppression wherever it exists,” Muhammad had posted on his Facebook page before his death, borrowing a quote from the Argentinean revolutionary hero Che Guevara.
Qaladizai said Muhammad was likely affiliated with an Islamic group, but had not consulted any Islamic party about his decision to join the fight in neighboring Syria.
“The daily video footage from the Syrian civil war must awaken humanity,” said Rebin Muhammad, a university student in Sulaimani who collects aid for Syrian refugees, and believes that youth from Iraqi Kurdistan should go to Syria to help in the revolution.
Kurdish groups in Syria have a hand in the fight to oust Assad, but they are not part of the opposition coalition. The largest Syrian Kurdish group, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) has been accused by the main opposition of suspicious ties to the Damascus regime.
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.
Muhammad Hakim, spokesman of the Islamic League (Komal), said that the Syrian revolution is a just cause, but dismissed claims that his party has encouraged supporters to go and fight there. He said that some people might have independently gone to join the fight.
Many Muslim youth from Arab countries are fighting in Syria, where they consider the civil war to be a jihad.
Abdul Hamid Darwish, secretary of Syria’s Democratic Progressive Party, said that people from Iraqi Kurdistan may be going to fight in Syria, but they do so without the regional government’s knowledge.
“They don’t inform the Kurdistan Regional Government, nor do they register with the opposition groups,” he says.
Bakir Tamas, a former official of the IMK, revealed that the Ansar Islam group, which fled to Iran from Iraqi Kurdistan in 2003, has moved to Syrian Kurdistan.
“They fight the Assad regime independently,” he said, adding that they played a crucial role in controlling Derzur airport.
Tamas believes that around 100 members of the group crossed into Syria. “The group is there for the jihad to help oust the Assad regime,” he added.