A power struggle is erupting in Syria’s remote northern Kurdish region that’s threatening to spark a messy new front in an already complex civil war.
Daily life appears normal, apart from long lines of people waiting for cooking gas. With little of the bloodshed seen elsewhere in the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, the Kurdish minority here is grabbing the chance to secure self-rule and the rights denied them for decades.
But the growing influence of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) is a concern for Turkey which is worried that border areas will become a foothold for Turkish Kurd PKK rebels. One of the party’s activists Mohammed Said says: “we have our rights, we have our land. That doesn’t mean that we want to separate or take lands from any country in the Middle East, but we want to guarantee the presence and rights of the Kurdish people.”
With Syrian forces and Arab rebels entangled in fighting to their west, the Syrian Kurds have exploited a vacuum to start Kurdish schools,
cultural centres, police stations and armed militias. But Syrian Arab fighters also see the Kurdish militias as a threat; and both sides have been engaged in fierce fighting over control of the region’s oil assets.