Human rights violations and anti-democratic measures have reached new heights in northern Syria under the Kurdish Union Democratic Party (PYD) group, according to a leading Kurdish studies researcher.
Eva Savelsberg, chair of the Berlin-based European Center for Kurdish Studies, said the PYD, which is the Syrian affiliate of the PKK terrorist organization, was given free rein to recruit in northern Syria by the Assad regime.
She told Anadolu Agency that “for us there is no difference really between the PKK on the one hand and the PYD on the other; the PYD is simply the Syrian branch of the PKK.”
Savelsberg said the Assad regime had granted the PYD a form of autonomy in Syria’s northern territories at the expense of other Kurdish groups.
“What they [the PYD] regularly do, for example, is they take the party offices of other Syrian Kurdish political parties. They arrest members of these parties and put them in jail sometimes only for a couple of days, but sometimes also for weeks or months.”
“A lot of human rights organizations, for example Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, also agree with us that there is torture taking place in those PYD prisons.”
Savelsberg went on to say: “Another real problem is the forced recruitment which has been taking place since 2013. I think that it’s a problem to recruit people into a militia, of course, and they don’t have any chance to say ‘No, I don’t want that,’ and, interestingly, the Syrian regime doesn’t recruit people anymore in the Kurdish regions, so they really handed over this job to the PYD.”
The Center launched an online campaign against the PYD’s recruiting of children, Savelsberg added. She also said that the PYD militias executed members of the local population of the region and cracked down on journalists and Kurdish politicians from other parties. She stressed that ongoing conflict must not be used as a justification for violations of human rights.
“In 2009, we launched a project entitled: ‘The Kurds Watch’ to monitor human rights violations by the Assad regime against both the Kurds and the Arabs alike. In early 2012, the Assad regime began handing over areas in northern Syria to the PYD whose violations of human rights outweigh those committed by the Assad regime. The only difference now is that those who carry out torture speak Kurdish, not Arabic. The PYD established a system similar to the Baathist regime.”
The PYD was established in 2003 in the Qandil mountains of northern Iraq by Osman Ocalan with the aim of creating a haven for the PKK militants to continue their activities after Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK’s leader, was forced to leave Syria in 1998, Savelsberg said.
“Claims that the PKK has recently transformed into a political organization are untrue. The West’s positive perception of the PKK does not rightly reflect the reality in the region.”
“The West must realize who they are arming and consider the potential consequences of arming the PYD. Responsibility for human rights violations rests with those who give support for those who engage in such violations. The PYD does not use these weapons against ISIS only. The West should stop arguing that they arm the PYD because ‘there in no one else’ eligible to receive support.”
Savelsberg also said that PYD cracks down on Syria’s Kurds who do not embrace the PKK’s ideology. “The PYD does not tolerate dissent. Its militias have been executing Kurdish opponents of the Assad regime since 2011. They have also clamped down on journalists and independent activists, with the PYD’s prisons now containing over 100 Kurdish dissident politicians. The PYD has also attacked offices of Kurdish parties and arrested their members, not to mention the torture against dissident Kurdish figures in its prisons.”
Savelsberg referred to the story of a Kurdish girl who, two years ago, managed to escape from one of the PKK’s camps in northern Iraq and made it to Germany with the help of the German Foreign Ministry. “The girl explained that she was kidnapped from the town of Qamishli in Syria and taken to a camp in northern Iraq where there were many children who were trying to escape. The girl said that the PKK militants executed a 17-year old girl in front of all the children in the camp after she tried to escape nine times.”
On the relationship between the PYD with the Assad regime, Savelsberg pointed out that Bashar al-Assad clearly said on at least three occasions that they have handed over northern Syria to the PYD and supplied it with weapons. She concluded her statements by saying that there is a marriage of convenience between the Assad regime and the PYD. (Source: Anadolu Agency)