Syrian Kurdish refugees divided over federalism declaration

Syrian Kurdish refugees celebrating Newroz in Darashakran camp, Iraqi Kurdistan. Photo: ARA News

ARA News 

DARASHAKRAN – The Democratic Union Party (PYD) and it’s allies declared a federal region for Rojava and Northern Syria last week on 17 March. However, interviews done with Syrian Kurdish refugees during the Kurdish Newroz celebrations in the Darashakran refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan show they remain divided over federalism. 

Approximately 11,000 refugees from the Kurdish areas of Syria are hosted in the Darashakran refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan, after fleeing the Syrian civil war. The camp is full with flags of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by Masoud Barzani that dominates the Kurdish government in Iraq, and the provinces of Duhok and Erbil.

Some Syrian Kurdish refugees are critical of the federal region in Rojava, while others are very supportive. 

The divided opinions also reflect the political differences between the PYD backed by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Kurdish National Council (KNC) that is backed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and KRG president Barzani.

Supporters of the KNC are in general very critical of the declaration.

Hamada Shemdin, 20, lived for three years in the refugee camp “because life is difficult in Syria”. “There are no jobs, nor electricity,” he added. “I feel not comfortable here, and want to go back. But the war is not good,” he told ARA News.  

“The Kurds want a federal system, but the federal system is just for one party [PYD], and there are a lot of Arabs, and the Kurds left, so it is not good,” he said.

“Federalism is difficult. One party called for federalism, if all of them are in favour of it, it is ok. But if it’s only one party it will not work,” Hassan Ali Hussein, 27, said from Derik. “Derik is nice, but there is no work,” he said. 

“If every party supports federalism we can do it, but one can’t. If we are united it is better. If we are all under one hand of Masoud Barzani, we can go back, if not, we can’t,” said Medihi Omer, 35, from the city of Hasakah.

Nevertheless, there are also Syrian Kurdish refugees who live in the camp that are positive.

Abduljalil Hussein, 23, from Hasakah city expressed his optimism about the declaration of federalism in northern Syria. “Hopefully the Kurdistan state will be announced someday soon, and federalism in Rojava is a step forward. I hope to get back to my country when it gets better.” 

“If there is a federal state in Rojava, and an independent Kurdistan state, then everything will be better,” Saad Osman, 32, from the city of Amude told ARA News. “Federalism is great step; It doesn’t matter which Kurdish party declares it; it won’t make any difference for me, since it is a federal Kurdish state.”

However, most Kurds in the camp prefer Kurdish unity between the Kurdish parties.

“I am very happy with federalism, then we can be like any country in the world,” said Malik Hosyar Hussein, 25, from Qamishli. “But all Kurds have to unite. What’s the point of one party calling for federalism. If all parties are calling for it, it’s easier to become one,” he said. 

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg 

Source: ARA News 

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