Photo: BBC News
We reported Syria could be a free-for-all if the Assad regime falls, and it seems the land grab has begun.
Syrian Kurds have taken over about 50 per cent of the territory in northeast Syria relinquished by Syrian forces and plan to create an autonomous zone, Orla Guerin of BBC reports.
“We want to take over own affairs, and not just in Syria,” one man told Guerin. “All the Kurds want a greater Kurdistan.”
More than 30 million Kurds live in Iraq (6 million), Iran (6 million), Syria (2 million) and Turkey (20 million), making them one of the world’s largest stateless people.
The situation in northern Syria has alarmed the Turkish government because Syria’s Kurdish region borders Iraqi Kurdistan and the Kurdish region of Turkey.
Turkey has actively supported the uprising against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad but has also launched an offensive against rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq.
The Turkish government considers the PKK a terrorist group as the rebels have been fighting for autonomy – something Turkey refuses to grant – since 1984, at a cost of more than 40,000 (mostly Kurdish) lives.
Earlier this month AP reported that PKK rebels seized five towns along the Turkey/Syria border in collaboration with Syria’s Democratic Union Party (PYD).
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed that his country would “not allow a terrorist group to establish camps in northern Syria,” according to Al Arabiya.
While in Turkey this month, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed U.S. support by saying “Syria must not become a haven for PKK terrorists.”
In northeast Syria Kurds are now running their own checkpoints in towns and cities as well as teaching their children Kurdish without fear of being jailed.
A Kurdish political leader told BBC that if Assad’s forces return to northeast Syria – or perhaps if other troops enter – they will “fight to defend their territory.”
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.