A Syrian Kurdish woman holds a portrait of jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan during a rally in Qamishli, northern Syria, January 2017. File photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Following US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the 2,000 US troops currently stationed in northern Syria (Rojava), the Democratic Union Party (PYD)-led administration has said it will lift its ban on rival parties in the interests of Kurdish unity.
However, the Syrian Kurdish National Council (ENKS), which is backed by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), is not convinced the PYD is genuinely opening up the Rojava administration.
Nouri Brimo, an ENKS spokesman, told KDP media that Saturday’s announcement by the PYD is “baseless” as the party “does not believe in political coexistence.”
The PYD and ENKS have long been fierce rivals.
“The PYD does not have faith in political life outside their ideology and 56 of our offices are closed in Western Kurdistan (Rojava) as per their decree,” Brimo said.
“Whenever the PYD starts believing in political coexistence and allowing Peshmerga to enter Western Kurdistan, then it will issues such a decree,” he added.
ENKS will only take the PYD’s statement seriously when the Rojava administration releases its political prisoners, “because hundreds of cadres and members of the ENKS leadership are in the PYD’s prisons,” Brimo said.
The Rojava administration released a statement on Saturday saying it will lift the ban on unregistered political parties in response to calls from the Kurdish National Council (KNC or KNK) – a pro-Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) group.
“The KNK has an initiative to form unity in Rojava because everyone knows that today is an historic and sensitive situation. Kurds are fighting for their existence. All Kurdish parties have to reach a consensus on all current internal and foreign issues. The KNK has requested our support for the initiative by lifting the ban on illegal parties as a goodwill gesture in order to realise the initiative,” the Rojava’s administration’s legal team said in its statement.
Jadan Ali, head of the ENKS office in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, welcomed the decision but expressed regret over the poor condition of ENKS-PYD relations.
“They have put us in a condition where Kurdish people do not have faith in our agreements [with the PYD]. They are the ruling party, therefore they have to return trust,” he said, adding that a decision is “useless as long as prisoners are not released.”
An ENKS delegation has arrived in the Kurdistan Region to meet with KDP leader Masoud Barzani to discuss the latest development in Syria and Rojava.
The enclave has entered a new period of uncertainty since Trump declared he intends to withdraw US forces, which have been assisting the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the fight against ISIS.
The withdrawal could leave Rojava vulnerable to a Turkish invasion similar to the 2018 Afrin operation. It could also push the Syrian Kurds into the arms of Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers.
Before Trump announced his planned withdrawal, the US had been trying to broker a détente between PYD- and KDP-backed groups – with minimal success.