Mustafa Jamal. Photo: Rudaw.
Mustafa Juma, a leading member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria (KDPS), says that a federal system in Syria will ensure Kurdish rights. Juma, who was the leader of the Syrian Kurdish Azadi (freedom) party until it merged into the KDPS with three other groups in April 2014, called on Turkey to have good relations with Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan). He sat down for an interview with Rudaw in Copenhagen.
Rudaw: How does the Syria truce help the Kurds in Rojava?
If the ceasefire ends in success and the conflict gets solved, a dialogue can start. It will be good for the peoples of Syria, so they can all get their rights. For the Kurds it is good if they are accepted in the negotiations and their rights are secured. Not only the Kurds, but also other groups, such as the Assyrians, the Druze, etc. There are six ethnic groups and six religions in Syria. But unfortunately the ceasefire didn’t start well and it is possible that it fails and the problems get worse.
How has the truce affected the Kurdish parties like yours to resume political activities and be part of the Rojava administration?
We continue our political work in Western Kurdistan (Rojava), as always. But whenever our work goes very well the Democratic Union Party (PYD) jails our friends. And militarily, PYD does not allow our Peshmergas to enter Western Kurdistan.
What do you think is the solution?
The PYD must allow our Peshmergas to enter so we can together defend our people. PYD should accept that we can become a support for each other, but they don’t accept. They are controlled by Qandil (in Iraqi Kurdistan where the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) maintains its miitary base.
The PYD says that your Peshmerga can enter, but under command of the Peoples’ Protections Units (YPG), because an area cannot have two armies?
We also say one area can’t have two armies. Therefore, we say a new alliance should be formed, something like The National Kurdish Army, where we support each other.
Did you participate in the Geneva Talks?
The Kurdish National Council (KNC) participates and the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria (KDPS) is part of the KNC.
What is your view about how the outside world views other Kurdish parties in Syria?
There are many parties in Western Kurdistan. But there is war in Syria right now. PYD, YPG and their women’s wing,YPJ, are fighting in this war. Therefore, of course their names are mentioned. We can’t enter, since our Peshmerga are not allowed. They (PYD) only want their name to be mentioned (in the international media) and they only want themselves to be there. That is wrong.
What do you think of the new talk of federalism for Syria, as the Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani has proposed?
President Masoud [Barzani] did a good thing when he suggested a federation. We should accept a federation. We should support each other in creating a federal Syria. The Kurds must unite for this goal.
Why federation and not an independent Kurdistan?
Federation could be the first step for the Kurds towards getting their own rights, including independence. Kurds will achieve their own rights in a federal system. In the future, through a referendum, we can ask people what they want, for example independence. In a federal system people should also have the right to decide their own destiny.
This might mean every group will get to keep the area it is in at the moment?
We do not know yet. Now it seems that there will be three main regions in Syria: Alawites, Kurds and Sunnis. Additionally, there are other groups like the Druze, Assyrians, etc. They don’t have their own large homogeneous regions. Their rights must also be guaranteed in the constitution of a federal state.
Who will control the Sunni region? Will it be the Nusrah Front or ISIS?
ISIS is not going to stay there. We hope it will be controlled by moderate and democratic Arab groups.
Has the regime in Damascus tried to contact you to bring you to its side in the Geneva talks, or have there been other such efforts?
No, there has been no such contact.
Do you have good relations with the Saudi-led coalition?
The KNC, which we are part of, has no direct relations with Saudi Arabia. But we are part of the opposition, which has relations with the Saudis.
How do you think Turkey will react to a federal Syria with a Kurdish region?
Turkey is not positive about a Kurdish region in Syria. But Turkey should accept the Kurds’ rights in Syria, and also in their Turkey. They should have good relations with the Kurds in Syria, because the new federal region will become a neighbor to Turkey. Having good relations with the Kurds will be an advantage for Turkey. They should see the Kurds in Syria as their friends, not enemies.