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PYD supporters demonstrate for greater autonomy
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/C. P. Tesson

Syria's Kurds approve autonomous region

Lewis Sanders IV
March 17, 2016

Kurdish groups have declared a democratic federal system in regions of northern Syria that border Turkey. Washington, which has been supportive of Syrian Kurds, said it does not recognize autonomous zones in the country.


The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) of Syria, along with several allied groups, on Thursday announced that three Kurdish-led regions voted in favor of a democratic federal system under the name Rojava-Northern Syria.

"The Rojava-Northern Syria founding document was adopted by the constituent assembly," the PYD said in a tweet.

Kurds took to the streets in the Syrian city of al-Qamishli near the Turkish border to celebrate the announcement.

Mansour al-Salum, head of the administrative council of Rojava-Northern Syria, said the new authorities would work to unify all ethnic groups living in the areas, reported Irbil-based Kurdish news outlet Rudaw.

"We will preserve the oneness of the Syrian land and the right of all elements living under the federal system [in Syria's Kurdistan]," said al-Salum at a press conference.

"We had a successful experience with the system of canton in the past and this decree of federalism system will help resolve issues in Syria," al-Salum added.

Kurds in Syria, the country's largest ethnic minority group, have been systematically persecuted by Syrian and Turkish authorities, according to human rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Turkey: Dreaming of Kurdistan


The Syrian government decried attempts to undermine the nation's territorial integrity in a statement made by a foreign ministry source, carried by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA).

"Raising the issue of a federation or that of federalization would affect the territorial integrity of Syria, which goes against the constitution, national concepts and international resolution," the source said.

The PYD and other Kurdish groups were not invited to UN-backed negotiations between Damascus and the Saudi-backed mainstream opposition alliance High Negotiations Committee (HNC).

Meanwhile, US State Department spokesman John Kirby said Washington does not recognize self-governing areas or autonomous zones in Syria.

"We're not interested in self-autonomous ... areas in Syria," Kirby said, adding that federalism would have to be an option explored by all parties of the conflict.

The US has been supportive of Syrian Kurds fighting the "Islamic State" militant group in Syria, with Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Thursday saying the Kurds "have proven to be excellent partners of ours on the ground in fighting ISIL (Islamic State)," referring to the PYD's armed wing, People's Protection Unit (YPG), according to AFP news agency.

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