Will Syria’s Kurds benefit from the crisis?
In any assessment of the potential winners and losers from the political chaos in Syria, the country’s Kurdish minority could be among the winners.
The Kurds make up a little over 10% of the population. Long marginalised by the Alawite-dominated government, they are largely concentrated in north-eastern Syria, up towards the Turkish border.
Aaron David Miller, a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC, believes that the Kurds could be one of the main beneficiaries of the demise of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
“Syria is coming apart, and there’s not much chance it will be reassembled with the kind of centralised authority we saw under the Assads.”
For the Syrian Kurds, whom he describes as “part of the largest single ethnic grouping in the region that lacks a state”, there is “an opportunity to create more autonomy and respect for Kurdish rights”.
“They have the motivation, opportunity, and their Kurdish allies in Iraq and Turkey to encourage them. But what will hold them back is Turkey’s determination to prevent a mini-statelet in Syria along with the Kurds own internal divisions,” he says.
“It is unlikely,” he believes, “that Syria’s Kurds will be able to establish a separate entity in Syria. Nor will the United States, nor the international community accept that.”
“At the same time, the several dimensions of the Kurdish problem - the Iraqi Kurds’ growing determination to remain a separate entity; Turkish determination to avoid another mini-Kurdistan along the Syrian-Iraqi border; and the issue of the PKK, the armed Kurdish insurgents fighting the Turkish Army - will create a real flashpoint.”
There in a nutshell is the scale of the problem.
The Kurds’ future in Syria will have an important bearing upon what sort of country it is going to become.
Pictured: Syria’s Kurdish activists have begun to take control of towns near the border with Turkey