It is no longer unlikely for relations to sour between the Free Syrian Army or any militias operating under its name on one hand and Syrian Kurdish armed groups in the provinces of Hasaka, or Aleppo on the other hand. This deterioration will not be confined to an institutional level. The impact of such development is as detrimental to the Syrian revolution and to the future of Syria as a Sunni-Alawite conflict. It is no exaggeration to say that Arab-Kurdish relations are the most vital in Syria on the strategic and geopolitical fronts.
To avoid such a bleak scenario, it is necessary to reach an early settlement that takes into consideration the specificity of minority groups and which Arab activists and analysts tend to overlook, even if unintentionally. Add to this that national sentiments could lead to eyeing the participation of Kurdish groups in the Syrian revolution with suspicion. Such a settlement would be a good start for envisioning Syria as a diverse, non-centralized entity.
Syria, the purely Arab nation, is gone forever and so did all justifications of the subjugation of minorities and for which Syrian Kurds have for long been paying a dear price.
It is important in this context to differentiate between the Syrian Kurds and their Turkish counterparts since the latter’s problems with the regime take a much more complicated shape and would require endless negotiations to solve. However, this matter should be of more importance to Syrian Kurds than the importance of the role played by Turkey, whether under Erdogan or not, in toppling the regime of Bashar al-Assad. If Syrian Kurds are demanding their national rights, they also need to look at their national duties. These duties are not confined to stirring clear from the terrorist activities of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, but should also include an abandonment of the idea of a cross-border Kurdish state and which, in many ways, resembles cross-border Arab nationalist illusions.
If Syrian Arabs are required to shed off all national centralist prejudices in favor of a pluralist homeland, their Kurdish compatriots also need to give precedence to the interests of this homeland, the most important of which now is toppling the regime.
Good intentions will not rule out the possibility of one party unintentionally taking up arms where it shouldn’t, which is where it serves the regime’s agenda. In this case, we will end up with an ominous scene in which Arabs fight “separatist” Kurds and Kurds fight Arab “collaboration” with Turkey while Bashar al-Assad laughs and gloats.
(The writer is a columnist at al-Hayat, where this article was published on Nov. 13, 2012)