Jadan Ali, head of ENKS’ office in the Kurdistan Region. File photo: Rudaw
A delegation of the Kurdish-backed Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) made their first official visit to Damascus late last week, opening the door to future negotiations on the future of the self-autonomous Rojava region.
The Kurdish National Council (ENKS), however, thinks that a solution will not be found in Damascus.
“We believe the only solution is an international solution. Syria itself cannot do anything - not Assad or the opposition. The decision is rather in the hands of the US, Russia, European countries, and regional countries like Turkey and Iran,” Jadan Ali, head of ENKS’ office in the Kurdistan Region, told Rudaw in an interview earlier this month.
ENKS is a Rojava political council backed by the KDP. They are the opposition party to the Democratic Union Party (PYD) that rules northern Syria.
They have participated in international Syrian peace efforts as part of the Syrian opposition.
Rudaw: A lot is happening on the ground in Rojava right now between YPG, US, Turkish, and other forces. Do you as ENKS have any involvement in the situation there?
We as the Kurdish Council do not have any share or participation in the agreements among them. Just like all Kurds, we are observers and wait to see what happens. We hope that anything happening between YPG/PYD/PKK and other forces do not harm the Kurdish people or cause in the region. We seriously fear that Kurdish demands and aims are never on the agenda of the PKK and its branch in Syria. The presence of this party is to gain fame through its policies. It's not for the sake of Kurdish rights. Therefore, we
Unilateral agreements... have not gained the rights of any ethnic or religious minorities in Syria, including Kurds
fear that they make deals on behalf of the Kurdish people, the Kurdish question and Kurdish region.
The right path of ENKS is through the opposition, the international community, and Geneva. We want the rights of Kurds to be installed in the new constitution in Syria as per international rules. We do not think that Kurdish rights will be gained by another way. Unilateral agreements, especially military ones, have not gained the rights of any ethnic or religious minorities in Syria, including Kurds.
In the past you complained that ENKS and other Kurdish parties weren't allowed to work in Rojava. Has that changed now?
No, it has deteriorated. Fear has increased in Rojava, Syrian Kurdistan, because after the Afrin crime, which was followed by Manbij agreements and east of the Euphrates, our people do not know what their future will be. They do not know who will govern them. Arabs and Christians will retaliate against Kurds for the PYD's political actions in the name of Kurds.
What can you offer to Rojava politically, militarily, and socially if you're allowed to operate freely?
As a political movement, we want the establishment of Kurdish political rights in Syria and we want them to gain their rights as a main entity. What PYD is doing cannot disconnect ENKS from Kurds. They also cannot harm ENKS' will and position. The right path is the unity of Kurds, but PYD does consider itself as part of it. PYD considers itself as the authority, fighter, owner of money, and ruler of borders. Now you can see that they have struck deals with Bashar al-Assad where they have removed portraits of Mr Apo [Abdullah Ocalan] and martyrs on the grounds of improving the appearance of the city. We have never been and will never be distant from the Kurdish people because we are one with them.
Why do you think the PYD has removed the portraits and flags of Ocalan?
The US has treated the PYD only militarily
There has been an agreement with them and Assad. According to this agreement, which is ending, PYD represents the Syrian government.
Your critics say you live in the comfort of Erbil, but you have to be there in Rojava and challenge PYD on the ground and face the consequences.
We are inside Syria and their prisons. Their attacks on our houses at night and closing of our offices prove our presence. Most of our officials are in Syrian Kurdistan, except those few who are barred from entering it. With these exceptions, all of our officials and supporters are in this Kurdistan. If they want a peaceful political life, then they should not arrest us, not close our offices, but let us be free in our political activities.
The right path is the unity of Kurds
Let them look at the warm reception of the bodies of Roj Peshmerga - who were martyred in Iraqi Kurdistan in the ISIS war - by Syrian Kurds in Syria. Let them compare the reception of these martyrs and their martyrs, although they are both Kurdish martyrs. Tens of thousands of people welcome Roj Peshmerga, but they [PYD] complained that their martyrs are welcomed well. This shows whether we have a presence among the people or not.
You've been invited to most peace talks and seem to have good ties with regional countries such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the KRG. What have these countries offered you that could help your cause on the ground in Rojava?
We as the Kurdish Council chose to be among the Syrian opposition in the beginning of the Syrian crisis. We did not choose Bashar al-Assad or the third line. We are part of the opposition. Through the opposition, we have relations with Turkey, Saudi Arabia, powerful countries who govern Syria, and Russia. Except Iran. We meet all countries except Iran and our members take part in talks. We always discuss the Kurdish case. At the Riyadh summit, Kurdish demands were somehow met. There were six components in the negotiation body and at the Riyadh summit they decided to treat Kurds as a main and seventh component. Now De Mistura, Russia, the US, Turkey, and all countries who have a role in Syria say that Kurdish rights should be included in the new Syria.
The Rojava administration accuses you of coordination with Turkey, especially in Afrin. Is it true? How are your relations with Turkey in Afrin? Are you allowed to enter Afrin?
Our relations with Turkey are not very good due to our position on Afrin. Our position has not been like the position of the [Syrian] Coalition and YPG when Turkey was making threats before and after their incursion. We have a political position as per the interests of our nation. Therefore, there is a difference between our position and Turkey's. Turkey wanted to find an alternative to the Kurdish Council in Afrin after the PYD left it.
If we have relations with Turkey, we do not think Turkey will politically oppose the Kurdish cause. We want to be friends because we cannot fight the Turks. There is an 800km border between Syrian and Turkish Kurdistan. Fighting Erdogan and Turkey will not serve
We meet all countries except Iran and our members take part in talks
the Kurdish cause at all. Iran and Assad's regime and the YPG will benefit from this. Our relations with neighboring Iraq and other countries should be in the interests of Syrian Kurds and the PKK.
The US and coalition forces have relations with you and with the PYD at the same time. How does that work? Can they help mediate in any way?
It has not done this so far. The US has treated the PYD only militarily. The US has never denied this. They say: 'Our relations with and support for the YPG or Syrian Democratic Forces - we merely use them on the ground against ISIS.' When ISIS is over, there is no pledge that they will support the Kurds. They merely use them for military purposes inside Syria. They [YPG] should have worked for the Kurdish cause with the US. Unfortunately, The PKK/YPG/PYD's relation with the US is not like that. Our negotiations with the opposition are political. Our only objective is Kurdish rights and the partnership of Kurds in the new Syria and the constitution.
If you are given the role of mediator in Rojava between PYD and Turkey, would you take it? How can you resolve the Rojava-Turkey issue?
No, we cannot take on this role. This is larger than us. We are a political entity. Our position is clear toward all countries. Our existence is for the rights of Kurds in Syrian Kurdistan. Being a mediator between Turkey and the PKK is above us. We cannot do this. Only the US and Russia can play this role, not people like us. We do not want to praise ourselves with such a role. We cannot do it.
What do you predict the situation in Rojava will be like in the coming few years?
We believe the only solution is an international solution. Syria itself cannot do anything - not Assad or the opposition. The decision is rather in the hands of the US, Russia, European countries, and regional countries like Turkey and Iran. We say that the solution is political, not military… Neither the opposition nor Assad has prevailed in military efforts.