Assyrian Confederation of Europe – 31/1/17
Syria’s disintegration as a result of the Syrian Civil War created the conditions for the rise of Kurdish autonomy in northern Syria, specifically in the governorates of Al-Hasakah and Aleppo. This region, known by Kurds as ‘Rojava’ (‘West’, in West Kurdistan), came under the control of the Kurdish socialist Democratic Union Party (abbreviated PYD) in 2012, after the strain of the civil war caused the weakened Syrian state to withdraw and leave the area under local militia control.
The 2012 PYD takeover of northern Syria is often described in Western media as the ‘Rojava Revolution.’ The governorates of Al-Hasakah and Aleppo are referred to by the PYD as the cantons of Kobani, Afrin, and Jazire. In March 2016, the PYD officially declared its intention to become an autonomous federation, a move rejected by the Syrian state and opposition groups.
Read the full report
The PYD’s self-proclaimed Autonomous Administration maintains security through the Asayish, its police, and the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which serves as its armed forces. The rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in summer 2014 has further boosted the Kurdish struggle for autonomy and brought international recognition and support to the YPG, as they have been successful in combating ISIL with the help of U.S support. Aside from their fight against ISIS, the Autonomous Administration has earned praise due to its inclusive constitution, adopted in 2014, which guarantees non-Kurdish communities protection, freedom of religion, and the freedom to use and teach their own language. Despite the democratic and inclusive language used by the Kurdish administration, severe human rights abuses against non-Kurdish groups have been noted by international human rights organizations. Among them is Amnesty International, whose October 2015 publication outlines destructive campaigns against the Arab population living in the region.
Assyrians have experienced similar abuses. This ethnic group resides mainly in Al-Hasakah governorate (‘Jazire’ canton under the PYD, known by Assyrians as Gozarto). The largest city in Al-Hasakah, Qamishli, now serves as the de facto capital of ‘Rojava’, although Qamishli’s population has historically been majority Assyrian and the city itself was established by Assyrians fleeing from genocide in the early 20th century.
Incidents against Assyrians are underreported. Kurdish-led media outlets, favorable to the Kurdish cause, prefer to minimize the severity of repression and its effects on and significance for the non-Kurdish populations. These outlets often provide information used by the mainstream media when covering areas of Syria dominated by the Kurdish administration. A recent report by NPR in the United States quotes a Kurdish man who was too “afraid of the Kurdish forces” in Hasakah to allow the reporters to use his real name. Given that this state of affairs prevails among the Kurdish population, it should be no surprise that Assyrians, with their comparative lack of demographic, political and military clout, are in a weak position when it comes to speaking out against abuses committed against them.
This report addresses legal burdens, intimidation and violent incidents experienced by Assyrians under the Autonomous Administration, abuses which depict a pattern of attempted ethnic cleansing of Hasakah, overreaches by Kurdish forces, and retribution against Assyrian individuals and groups which refuse to join Kurdish organizations.
©Assyrian International News Agency.