Sunday, 20 March 2016

News from Syria - 03/19/2016

Russian, Syrian air forces launch largest aerial campaign over Raqqa

19 March, 2016

The Russian and Syrian air forces have launched their most powerful series of airstrikes over the Al-Raqqa Governorate on Saturday morning, hitting several Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) targets between the provincial capital and the city of Tabaqa.

According to a senior officer from the Syrian Air Defense, the Russian and Syrian air forces have struck the ISIS courthouse, Faculty of Arts building (weapons depot), the Al-Fardous District, Al-Tawleed Hospital (ISIS base), and several other military targets belonging to the terrorist group in the Al-Raqqa Governorate.

The source added that Russian and Syrian fighter jets have not yet dissipated the frequency of their airstrikes. This latest air campaign over the Al-Raqqa Governorate is meant to disrupt ISIS’ main supply route from their capital (Raqqa City) to the city of Palmyra (Tadmur).

The Syrian Armed Forces and their allies have begun a massive offensive in the Homs Governroate’s eastern countryside to liberate the city of Palmyra; it is currently ongoing

Kurdish National Council in Syria condemns federalism declaration by Kurdish rival

Kurdish National Council in Syria condemns federalism declaration by Kurdish rival

19 March, 2016

SULAIMANIYAH – The Kurdish National Council (KNC), which is a part of the Syrian Coalition that participates in the Geneva talks, denounced the federalism declaration in Rumelan.

The Kurdish National Council in Syria strongly denounces this step by the PYD [Democratic Union Party]. Although the KNC is in favour of federalism since 2012, it strictly opposes any attempt to impose federalism on the Syrian people without a preceding discussion,” said the KNC in a statement obtained by ARA News.

The statement shows the divisions between the KNC and the PYD, the main Syrian Kurdish parties, despite of three previous power-sharing agreements signed in Erbil and Duhok under the sponsorship of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). While the KNC is part of the Syrian opposition’s delegation in Geneva, the PYD is considered the most powerful Kurdish actor on the ground, and was excluded from the peace talks that continued on 14 March.

On 17 March, the PYD and it’s Arab allies announced a Democratic Federal System for Rojava and Norhern Syria in a two-days conference in the oil-rich town of Rumelan, appointing Hediya Yousef, a Kurd, and Mansur Selam, an Arab, as co-leaders, after they were excluded from the talks.

Announcing federalism all of a sudden, lacking the urgently needed debate and democratic participation to possibly come to that decision, is just another form of dictatorship,” said Kamiran Hajo, chairman of the Foreign Relations Office of the KNC in a public statement.

The KNC also criticized the UN Deputy Special Envoy Ramzy Ezzeddine Ramzy for saying a united, sovereign Syria, is non-negotiable, which indicates that both the Syrian opposition and regime agree on a ‘unified’ Syria, and oppose federalism, while disagreeing on everything else.

The Kurdish National Council objects the hereby implied correlation between federalism and the breakdown of Syria. On the contrary, one of the essential principles of most federal systems is ‘unity in diversity’, hence, federalism could strengthen the unity in Syria, providing for democratic participation of diverse groups on diverse levels of government at the same time,” the KNC said.

PYD and UN seem to have clear stances towards federalism, but neither the one nor the other had discussed about what it really means,” said Kamiran Hajo. “At the end of the day inclusive talks cannot only mean to speak to everyone but to speak about every potential approach for a future Syria. Federalism is one of them.”

Pro-PYD politicians suggest that the KNC is under Turkish and Syrian opposition influence, and therefore is against the federal region announced by Kurds and Arabs in Syria.

This is because they are under Turkish pressure and some parts of the Syrian opposition that are against the democratic administration in Rojava [Syria’s Kurdish region],” Idris Nassan, Kurdish analyst and a former official in the local administration in Kobane, told ARA News.

Turkey is afraid of spreading feelings of freedom, democracy and equality to millions of Kurds in Turkey, and the opposition tries to renew the central power in Syria and wants to replace Assad by a Sunni,” he stated.

So even the KNC demanded federalism with the start of Syrian uprising, but now they don’t accept Rojava federalism,” Nassan said.

Experts suggest the KNC statement shows the internal rivalry among the main Kurdish factions in Syria.

It is hard to know what the KNC actually wants. There is a fundamental contradiction between the Kurdish nationalist ideology of the KNC and the political project of its Syrian allies. Sometimes it seems that the only consistent policy of the KNC is to oppose anything that the PYD does,” Carl Drott, a sociology researcher at the University of Oxford, UK, told ARA News.

It’s most likely that tensions between the KNC and PYD over power-sharing will continue, while the only thing the Syrian opposition and the Assad regime agree upon is that the Kurds should not get any form of self-rule in northern Syria.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg

Source: ARA News

Caught On Tape: Turkey Shoots At Kurds Waving White Flag In Cizre

Buildings, which were damaged during the security operations and clashes between Turkish security forces and Kurdish militants, are seen in the southeastern town of Cizre in Sirnak province, Turkey. © Sertac Kayar

19 March, 2016

As a string of suicide attacks on Ankara and Istanbul have made abundantly clear, Turkey is in a state of turmoil. In fact, one might fairly say that the country has descended into outright chaos.

Today’s bombing of Istiklal Caddesi was just the latest tragedy to strike one of Turkey’s urban centers. Images from the aftermath of the blast are, much like those that appeared on social media in the wake of last Sunday’s TAK attack on a transit hub in Ankara’s Kizilay, horrific.

It’s important that the world consider why this is happening. Whether these are false flags or actual PKK/TAK attacks is irrelevant. The critical thing to understand is that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is allegedly committing genocide against the country’s Kurdish population. Does that excuse suicide attacks staged by Kurdish militants? Obviously not, but what’s happening in the country’s Kurdish southeast is appalling.

Between August and February, the Turkish army -which has mobilised 10,000 troops to smoke out PKK militants - has imposed 59 curfews in the cities of Diyarbakir, Sirnak, Mardin, Hakkari, Mus, Elazig and Batman, affecting 1.3 million people,” France 24 writes, adding that “in Cizre, where a curfew was lifted earlier this month, 80% of the city has been destroyed.”

We’ve profiled Cizre before (see here). Here’s how Vice put it last summer when hostilities between Ankara and the PKK began anew:

Cizre has spent years on the fringes of war. The unremarkable-looking town of just over 100,000 lies on the Tigris River, around 30 miles from the tripoint where Turkey meets conflict-ravaged Syria and Iraq, and violence regularly strays over the national boundaries. Now, the cycle of airstrikes and renewed PKK attacks on Turkish troops threaten a return to the three-decade-long struggle between the two sides that claimed more than 40,000 lives. And here, residents feel like they're at the heart of the fight.”

Last month, allegations emerged that Turkish soldiers had encircled a burning apartment building in the city. Hundreds of people were trapped inside. According to some reports (see here and here to suggest a few) they were burned alive. Below, find footage from January which appears to show the Turkish military firing on a group of Kurds in Cizre who look to be crossing the street waving a white flag

Warning: Graphic

Two days ago, the Obama administration accused ISIS of committing genocide. Where, one might ask, is the accountability for Washington's NATO ally Erdogan?

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