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Autonomous Administration of Northern and Eastern Syria - Rojava

Rêveberiya Xweser a Bakur û Rojhilatê Sûriyeyê (kurd.)
اتحاد شمال سوريا و روج آفا (Arabic)
ܦܕܪܐܠܝܘܬ݂ܐ ܕܝܡܩܪܐܛܝܬܐ ܕܓܪܒܝ ܣܘܪܝܐ (aram.)

De facto SA-NES Flag.svg
Emblem of the Self Administration of Northern and Eastern Syria.svg
De facto regime , area
is part of under international law
Official language Kurmanji , Arabic and Aramaic
Seat of government Ain Issa
Form of government Democratic Confederalism
Head of government de facto:
Chair of the Executive Committee:
Îlham Ehmed and Mansur Selum
population 4.6 million (2014 estimate)
currency Syrian pound
founding March 17, 2016 as the Federation of Northern Syria - Rojava
Time zone OEZ
Telephone code +963

The Autonomous Administration of Northern and Eastern Syria - also known by the Kurdish name Rojava ( pronunciation: [roʒɑːˈvɑ] ; Kurdish رۆژاڤایا کوردستانێ, Rojavaya Kurdistanê ; Arabic كردستان السورية, DMG Kurdistān as-sūriyya , Aramaic ܦܕܪܐܠܝܘܬ݂ܐ ܕܝܡܩܪܐܛܝܬܐ ܕܓܪܒܝ ܣܘܪܝܐ Federaloyotho Demoqraṭoyto l'Gozarto b'Garbyo d'Suriya ), in German West Kurdistan , is a de facto autonomous area in Syria . On March 17, 2016, a meeting of Kurdish , Assyrian-Aramaic , Arab and Turkmen delegates proclaimed the autonomous federation of Northern Syria, which at that time consisted of the cantons of Afrin , Kobanê and Cizîrê .


In the Kurdish language Kurmanji , the term Rojava is made up of the Kurdish words roj (“sun / day”) and ava (“end / setting (of the sun)”) and literally means “sunset”. The term also means west and can be understood as the western sub-region of the historical settlement region of the Kurds.

Geography and administration

Development of Rojavas
Rojava february 2014.png
Regions of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria.png
While Rojava in 2014 consisted more or less only of the three founding cantons Afrin, Kobanê and Cizîrê, it grew considerably until 2017 and now takes up most of northern Syria. However, the cities of al-Hasakah and Qamishli are partially under the control of the Syrian government.

Rojava roughly corresponds to the predominantly Kurdish regions in northern Syria along the border with Turkey , which are separated from each other by areas populated by Arabs. Because of this territorial separation, older Kurdish authors did not speak of a "Syrian Kurdistan", but only of "Kurdish areas in Syria". The region is mountainous in the west around Afrin, while the rest consists of plains that are further east through various rivers such as the Euphrates and the Chabur are watered. The area around Hasakah, also known as Jazīra , consists of fertile plains. The Syrian Desert begins south of Rojava .

From an administrative point of view, Rojava consists of parts of the Syrian governorates of Aleppo , al-Hasakah and ar-Raqqa . After the Syrian army withdrew from the north as far as possible in 2012, three cantons (Afrin, Kobani and Cizre) were declared by the Kurdish rulers. However, in the course of the Syrian civil war, the borders of Rojava changed, so that both the name (away from Rojava towards the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria ) and the administration went through an evolution. With cities like Manbij , ath-Thaura , ar-Raqqa and al-Schaddadi , large non-Kurdish areas came under the Rojava administration. With the fall of the canton of Afrin to Turkey and its allied Syrian forces in February 2018, Rojava suffered a significant loss.

The difference between the claim of the Kurdish parties to an autonomous northern Syrian territory and the de facto state (military and political) should also be considered. As a result of a restructuring in 2017, the cantons were renamed into regions, which are then divided into further smaller units.

History of origin

The Kurdish minority in Syria was discriminated against for decades under the Arab nationalist Ba'ath regime. In the course of the civil war in Syria , the Syrian government gave up control of the regions on the northern border towards the end of 2013. Local Kurdish forces took control in many places. On November 12, 2013, the "Party of the Democratic Union" (decided Democratic Union Party , PYD), together with the Christian - Syrian Unity Party (an Assyrian / Aramaic Party) and set up a transitional administration other small parties in northern Syria, dating from around the by the war To counter deficiencies in administration and supply of the population. The administration was established in Cizîrê on January 21, 2014, in Kobanê on January 27, and a few days later in Afrin.

On March 17, 2016, a meeting of Kurdish, Assyrian, Arab and Turkmen delegates in Rumaylan proclaimed an autonomous federation of Northern Syria - Rojava , consisting of the three cantons of Rojavas. Neither the USA and Russia, nor the Assad regime and the Syrian opposition support the drive for autonomy.

The Federation of Northern Syria - Rojava has representations in Moscow , Stockholm and, since May 2016, also in Paris and Berlin . The aim of the representation is to establish diplomatic relations with the German state and to inform the public about the developments in Rojava, explained the representative of the autonomous region, Sipan Ibrahim. "We want to make it clear to the people in Germany that in Rojava Kurds, Arabs and other population groups live together like brothers and sisters." There is also a representative of the self-defense armed forces YPG in Prague .


The officially checked Rojavas in spring 2016 areas correspond approximately to the Syrian government units District Afrin , Ayn al-Arab district and Tall Abyad district and the Al-Hasakah Governorate . According to the 2004 census, these four administrative units had a population of around 1,900,000 people. The population consisted predominantly of Kurds, Arabs and Assyrian-Aramaeans . The civil war resulted in both emigration and immigration of refugees. In 2014 the population was estimated at around 4.6 million.

This list contains all cities in Rojava with more than 10,000 inhabitants according to the 2004 census. Cities in gray are in some areas under the control of the Syrian central government, such as the airport and the border crossing to Turkey in Qamishli. The capitals of the three cantons are in bold.

Surname (Kurdish) (Arabic) (Aramaic) 2004 residents Canton
al-Hasakah Hesîçe الحسكة ܚܣܟܗ 188.160 Cizîrê
Qamishli Qamişlo القامشلي ܩܡܫܠܐ 184.231 Cizîrê
Manbij Minbic منبج ܡܒܘܓ 99,497 Afrin
Ain al-Arab Kobanî عين العرب 44,821 Kobane
Afrin Afrin عفرين ܥܦܪܝܢ 36,562 Afrin
Raʾs al-ʿAin Serêkaniyê رأس العين ܪܝܫ ܥܝܢܐ 29,347 Cizîrê
Amude Amûdê عامودا 26,821 Cizîrê
al-Malikiyah Dêrika Hemko المالكية ܕܪܝܟ 26,311 Cizîrê
Tall Rifaat Arpet تل رفعت 20,514 Afrin
al-Qahtaniyah Tirbespî القحطانية ܩܒܪ̈ܐ ܚܘܪ̈ܐ 16,946 Cizîrê
Ash-Schaddadi Şeddadê الشدادي 15,806 Cizîrê
al-Mu'abbada Girkê Legê المعبدة 15,759 Cizîrê
Tall Abyad Girê Spî تل أبيض 14,825 Kobane
as-Sab'a wa Arba'in السبعة وأربعين 14,177 Cizîrê
Jindires Cindarêsê جنديرس 13,661 Afrin
al-Manajir Menacîr المناجير 12,156 Cizîrê

Political system


schematic representation of the council system in Rojava

The administration is supposed to reflect the multi-ethnic and multi-religious situation in Northern Syria and consists of one Kurdish, one Arab and one Christian-Assyrian minister per department. Overall, the plan is to build a democratic system in the sense of self-governing democratic confederalism based on the work of Abdullah Öcalan , for example a 40% quota of women in the administration is targeted. According to the PYD , the longer-term plan is to unite all three cantons under one administration. On July 27 and 28, 2017, the Constituent Council of the Federation of Northern Syria decided to reorganize the administrative regions. The federation therefore currently consists of the three federal regions Cizîrê, Firat and Afrin. The federal regions are divided into 6 cantons, namely Cizîrê in the cantons Hesekê and Qamişlo, Firat in the cantons Kobanê and Girê Spî and Afrin in the cantons Efrîn and Şehba.

With this move, however, the PYD met with criticism both within Syria and internationally. One point of criticism is that the PYD also claims predominantly non-Kurdish populated areas for the contiguous stretch of land "Rojava" in northern Syria, which v. a. meets resistance from the Arab-Sunni majority in these areas.

In the social contract of Rojava , the administration of the de facto autonomous areas pledges to respect human rights. In particular, to differentiate between the Syrian government and ISIS, the following are mentioned:

  • Equal Rights for Women
  • Religious freedom
  • Prohibition of the death penalty

Syrian laws only apply insofar as they do not contradict the principles of the social contract.


Local elections September 2017

Local elections took place on September 22, 2017, in which the co-chairs of the 3,732 local authorities were elected. One man and one woman are elected co-chairpersons for each municipality. For many it was the first time that they got to vote.

Regional council elections December 2017

Regional council elections were held on December 1, 2017. Two electoral alliances took part. The “List of the Democratic Nation” (Lîsteya Hevgirtina Neteweya Demokratîk, LND) consists of 17 parties that are related to the PYD . And the Kurdish National Alliance (Lîsteya Koalîsyona Neteweyî ya Kurd a Sûriyeyê, LKNKS) in Syria which consists of 5 parties, of which 4 parties were previously close to the Kurdish National Council (ENKS), which was boycotting the elections . The ENKS excluded the 4 parties because they work together with the PYD.

Results of the regional council elections December 2017

Cizre region:

Total number of seats on all councils that stood for election: 2902

  • LND: 2718 seats
  • LKNKS: 40 seats
  • Independent: 144 seats

Euphrates region:

Total number of seats on all councils that stood for election: 954

  • LND: 847 seats
  • LKNKS: 40 seats
  • Independent: 67 seats

Afrin region:

Total number of seats in all councils that stood for election: 1175 seats

  • LND: 1056 seats
  • LKNKS: 72 seats
  • Independent: 40 seats
  • Syrian Alliance list: 8 seats


The economic order in Rojava is based on the principles of democratic confederalism based on the work of Abdullah Öcalan . Private property and entrepreneurship are protected according to the principle of "ownership through use". Dara Kurdaxi, an economist from Rojava, formulated the principle: "The method in Rojava is less directed against private property, but rather aims to private property to provide all citizens of Rojava in the service." The focus of the economic policy is based on an extension of public service and cooperative economic activity; several hundred cooperatives with mostly between 20 and 35 members have been founded since 2012. According to information from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, around three quarters of the land was under public management at the beginning of 2015 and one third of industrial production was provided by companies administered by workers' councils. There are no taxes in Rojava ; the administration's income comes from customs duties and the sale of extracted oil and other natural resources. Public administration employees are partially paid by the Syrian central government.

The economy in Rojava has experienced comparatively less destruction in the civil war than other parts of Syria and has coped with the circumstances comparatively well. In May 2016, Ahmed Yousef, Minister of Economics and President of Afrin University, estimated Rojava's economic output at that time to be 55 percent of Syria's gross domestic product.

Trade and investment

The production of crude oil and agricultural goods in Rojava exceeds demand; export goods are in particular crude oil , cotton and food ( wheat , sheep products ); Import goods are in particular industrial consumer goods and auto parts. Foreign trade and humanitarian assistance from the outside is made difficult by the total embargo of Turkey against Rojava. In general, Rojava solicits international investments, both in the form of donations for the development of community projects and as classic investments.

Oil production in Rojava

Oil and natural gas deposits (gray) in Syria

In cooperation with the Syrian government of Assad, the PYD's strategy also included maintaining control of the oil fields in the far north-east of Syria, which are mainly in operation in the small town of Rmeilan, near the PYD stronghold al-Malikiya (Dêrik) were. The large oil fields in northeast Syria thus remained under the control of a de facto alliance of the Assad regime and the PYD-led autonomous Kurdish administration. The Wall Street Journal correspondent Sam Dagher quoted representatives from the PYD-controlled part of Hasakah, according to which the oil fields in this region were producing 40,000 barrels a day under the supervision of the YPG . This oil was sold to local Arab tribal organizations for around $ 15 a barrel. The crude oil was then processed into diesel and gasoline through allegedly around 3,000 makeshift furnaces located in the area, which were sold to dealers for around $ 40 a barrel. One operator was quoted as saying that eight barrels of crude oil would produce six barrels of products in this way. According to Jihad Yazigi, editor of the Syrian business paper The Syria Report , a daily sales volume of 50,000 barrels of oil could secure the livelihood of around two million people. Since the PYD was responsible for distributing all fuels in the province of al-Hasakah, it was able to stop the black market and sell gas or heating oil at prices set by the state - that is, relatively low prices for the population in the region. Although the oil fields in Syria were more often fought over during the years of civil war, oil production was always quickly resumed. This was made possible because the local workers mostly remained the same and initially worked as Syrian government employees, in the meantime as employees of the radical Islamist Nusra Front and later, among others, employees paid by the IS. In both Syria and Iraq, oil smuggling worked across ideological and military borders.

Infrastructure and traffic

The public infrastructure in what is now Rojava was deliberately neglected by the Arab nationalist Ba'ath regime before the civil war . In the canton of Kobanê, the civil war also led to considerable destruction in the battle for Kobanê . The establishment of public infrastructure across all areas is the priority of the Rojava administration. Since 2016, exemplary projects have been presented on the “Rojavaplan” website.

In contrast to other public infrastructure, the road network in the area of ​​today's Rojava was well developed. The only airport in the Rojava area is Qamishli Airport , it is controlled and operated by the Syrian central government. The Rimelan and Minakh military airfields are under Kurdish control .


Independent and Kurdish-speaking media were banned in Rojava until the beginning of the civil war. After the Syrian troops withdrew from Rojava and the Kurds took over the government function, the working environment for the media became freer. The media in Rojava have more rights than in other parts of Syria and the international press is welcome. In August 2013 the Free Media Union (YRA) was founded, where the media have to apply for a license in order to be allowed to start their work. The majority of the media is very politicized, and there is a split between media that are close to the PYD and media that are close to the largest Kurdish party in Iraq, the KDP. There are also reports of arrests and expulsions, mainly of journalists, who are attributed to the opposition, but the duration of the arrests is short and no one remained in custody until the end of 2015.

The following is a selection of the media available in Rojava:

  • Ronahi TV and Ronahi newspaper with a circulation of 10,000
  • Zagros TV
  • Bûyerpress, a newspaper that appears in Kurdish and Arabic, was founded on May 15, 2015.
  • Arta FM radio
  • Rudaw's license was revoked in August 2015 to report from the Cizre Canton in Rojava.


Under the Baath regime, the school system was characterized by purely Arabic-speaking public schools, supplemented by Assyrian church private schools. In the summer of 2015, the Rojava administration introduced bilingual teaching in Kurdish and Arabic in public schools . The endeavor to gradually revise the curricula in the public schools, which are shaped by Ba'ath ideology, is characterized by complex negotiations between the Syrian central government, which basically continues to pay the teachers' salaries, the Rojava administration, which wants to displace the Ba'ath ideology, and the Assyrian community, to whose church private schools Kurdish and Arab parents now also want to send their children.

None of the universities in Syria that existed when the civil war began in 2011 is located on the territory of today's Rojava. In September 2014, the Mesopotamian Academy of Social Sciences in Qamishli began teaching as a new university . Other such academies with different subject orientations are in the foundation or planning stage. In August 2015, the University of Afrin in Afrin, designed as a classic university , began teaching.

In July 2016, another university was opened in Qamishlo with Rojava University. This includes the faculties of medicine, engineering, classical sciences and art and human sciences.


YPJ fighter fighting ISIS

Rojava's armed forces are the PYD-affiliated People's Defense Units (YPG / YPJ ). In the articles of association they are referred to as the national institution of all three cantons. Their relationship with the army of the central government of Syria should therefore be determined by Rojava's laws. They are closely supported by the allied Christian Syrian-Aramaic Sutoro militias and FSA brigades such as u. a. Liwa Thuwwar al-Raqqa within the Burkān al-Furāt Alliance and through the PKK and MLKP . For a long time, the most important opponent was the terrorist organization Islamic State (IS), but since the Afrin offensive, Turkey in particular has developed into an opponent for the militias represented in Rojava. Since the defense of Kobanê in September 2014, the YPG have been supported by air strikes by the US-led international coalition . Since the fight over Kobane, the USA has begun to supply the Rojavas militias, which are involved in the fight against IS, with weapons. During the battle for Kobane they were supported by Peshmerga from the autonomous region of Kurdistan in Iraq .

On October 10, 2015, the YPG formed a military alliance with the Sunni-Arab Army of Revolutionaries (Jaish ath-Thuwwar) , the Sunni-Arab Shammar tribal militia Quwat as-Sanadid and the Assyrian-Aramaic Military Council of Assyrians (MFS), which under the name of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) jointly with the US-led international coalition against IS in Syria. The anti-IS coalition also supports the militias represented in the Syrian Democratic Forces with arms deliveries.

Judicial system

In Rojava, the administration is trying to get international recognition of its courts because of the fact that it holds many foreign IS fighters as prisoners. Because their courts have not yet been internationally recognized, the handover of ex-IS fighters to their countries of origin is difficult or even impossible (as of July 2018). For example, the PYD has abolished the death penalty and the longest sentence is life, which means a 20-year prison sentence. It also tries to ensure that religions have equal rights in court, and so Christians can swear by the Bible and Muslims on the Koran in court .

IS tribunals

In the trials with IS fighters, the judges seek reconciliation. Last year, for example, amnesties were negotiated for 80 IS fighters in order to encourage other IS fighters to surrender to the SDF. The penalties for ex-ISIS fighters can be very low if they surrendered themselves and were, for example, minors when they joined ISIS.

But there is also criticism of the judicial system. So far there are no lawyers who speak up for the accused and no courts of appeal. In addition, the judges remain anonymous.

Detention centers

In 2015 the administration in Rojava started working with international organizations like Geneva Call to better run their prisons. The prison guards are said to have received training from Geneva Call. The prisons are called academies because the focus is on reintegration into society.

Human rights situation

For most of Rojava's population, the human rights situation has improved significantly after taking over government, but reports of human rights violations continue to exist.

Women as well as ethnic minorities are now more involved in politics. Teaching in the respective mother tongue is also encouraged. During the Assad government, the state offered classes only in Arabic. Underage marriages and polygamy, as was common during the Assad government, were also banned. Anyone who marries a second wife can be imprisoned for 1 year and has to pay a fine.

In a 2014 report, the human rights organization Human Rights Watch raised serious allegations against the ruling PYD and the YPG, including arbitrary arrests of political opponents, mistreatment of prisoners, unsolved kidnapping and murder cases, and the use of child soldiers as war crimes . However, HRW also makes it clear in the report that the human rights violations proven by the PYD are far less blatant and widespread than those documented by the Syrian government and other rebel groups since 2011.

In August 2015, the Kurdish television broadcaster Rudaw Media Network urged the PYD to refrain from restricting press freedom after the canton of Cizîrê had withdrawn his license.

After the YPG conquered the corridor between the Syrian cantons of Cizîrê and Kobanê, which was previously dominated by IS and where more Arabs than Kurds live, reports of expulsions of Arabs and Turkmens became loud. While the Turkish and Arab media and blogs in particular had reported on it, Western newspapers and broadcasters hardly took up the allegations. The YPG denied the allegations and spoke against it of offers that had been made to civilians from the combat areas in order to prevent IS from using them as living shields.

In October 2015, Amnesty International (AI) accused the US-supported YPG war crimes in the form of displacement or forced resettlement of the civilian population and the destruction of their villages and spoke of a real wave of expulsions of thousands, primarily non-Kurdish (especially Turkmen and Arab) residents after the YPG took their villages. In particular, what happened in Hassaka Province, where Kurds and Christians as well as Sunni Arabs lived. The expulsion was viewed by AI as a “targeted and coordinated campaign for collective punishment” by the YPG against villages in which the YPG perceived residents to have sympathized with IS or other non-state armed groups (such as the FSA). AI accused the Kurdish-led administration of abusing their power and disregarding international law in a way that equated to war crimes. In their allegations, AI relied on satellite images and eyewitness reports from dozens of residents in Hasakah and Raqqa provinces that the YPG threatened to request air strikes by the US-led alliance.

A YPG spokesman has denied the allegations, describing them as "arbitrary", "partisan" and "unprofessional" and further accused Amnesty International of fueling ethnic tensions between Kurds and Arabs. He claimed that many of the areas investigated were destroyed by ISIS and other terrorist organizations using mines and booby traps. He also suspected Amnesty's witnesses to be complicit in ISIS. Finally, he pointed out alliances with Arab militias in the villages.

In a report from March 2017, the UN Human Rights Council also rejected the allegations of ethnic cleansing. Although isolated (sometimes temporary) resettlements were necessary due to mines and self-made explosive devices, there is no evidence that the cantonal governments took action against Arab communities, nor that the “demographic composition of the areas they control through acts of violence against certain ethnic groups systematically changed ”.

Course of war

Kurdish-controlled areas in the civil war in Syria
  • area controlled by Kurds
  • Area controlled by the IS militia
  • area controlled by Syrian rebels
  • area controlled by the Syrian government
  • The middle canton was almost completely destroyed in the course of the battle for Kobanê in September 2014 by the terrorist organization Islamic State (IS), but was held after months of fighting and the IS was pushed back.

    In February 2015, the YPG and its allies, supported by air strikes by the US-led international coalition, began a counter-offensive with the aim of capturing the city of Tall Abyad in order to interrupt the IS supply route from the Turkish border town Akçakale to the Syrian IS capital Raqqa to connect the two cantons of Kobanê and Cizîrê. On June 16, 2015, the YPG announced it had taken control of Tall Abyad.

    As a result of the fighting that broke out in northern Syria in June 2015, according to UNHCR, over 23,000 people from the Syrian governorate of Ar-Raqqa fled to Turkey, over 70% of whom were women and children. Shortly after the complete expulsion of IS from Tall Abyad and the surrounding area, thousands of refugees returned.

    At the end of December 2015, the SDF , an alliance of the Kurdish YPG with Arab militias, liberated the Tischrin Dam from IS and took control of the foreland of the dam on the west bank of the Euphrates.

    On February 13, 2016, Turkey began bombarding Kurdish positions near the city of Azaz and the canton capital Afrin with heavy artillery after the SDF began to fight against Arab rebel groups supported by Turkey and recorded land gains (capture of Tall Rifaat and the Menagh military airfield ). The US government has repeatedly called on both Turkey and the Kurds to cease hostilities.

    On February 19, 2016, the SDF freed the city of Ash-Shaddadi and the surrounding area south of al-Hasakah from the IS occupation in northeast Syria, supported by air strikes by the US-led coalition .

    On 31 May 2016, the SDF started, supported by a small number of US - special forces and air strikes by the US-led coalition launched an offensive with the aim of liberating the city manbij and its surroundings from the IS. In order to prevent Turkish countermeasures, it was declared that the majority of the fighters involved were Arabs and not Kurds on the part of the SDF. As part of the offensive, a siege ring was closed around the city on June 10th and the surrounding area was secured until June 17th. In a protracted house-to-house war, the SDF drove away the IS fighters and took full control of the city on August 12th. Thousands of refugees returned the very next day. Immediately after the Manbij offensive, the SDF marched west and north to connect with the canton of Afrin. But Turkey started a military offensive against IS and SDF with allied FSA groups in August 2016 , which ended with the capture of the city of al-Bab in February 2017.

    After lengthy operations, the SDF was able to drive IS from its self-declared capital ar-Raqqa in mid-October 2017 with the help of the international coalition in the battle for ar-Raqqa . At the same time as the Syrian army, IS was displaced along the Euphrates and the long besieged city of Deir ez-Zor was liberated by the Syrian army at the end of November 2017. Since then, the Euphrates has been considered the demarcation line between the Syrian army and the SDF.

    In mid-July 2017, it became known that the Turkish government was apparently gathering troops on the border with Syria in order to possibly use them against the canton of Afrin. The background to this should be an agreement with Russia, according to which the Russians and their allies would no longer defend the area against a Turkish attack. On January 20, 2018, Turkish armed forces, supported by FSA rebels, began their military offensive on Afrin and captured the city of Afrin on March 18, 2018 after the Rojavas government had evacuated the city.

    On October 28, 2018, one day after a four-way meeting between the heads of government of Germany, Russia, France and Turkey, Turkey began bombing additional targets in northern Syria, whereupon the SDF temporarily suspended its offensive against IS and the US set up observation posts announced on the Syrian-Turkish border. Nevertheless, on December 12, Turkey announced its intention to invade Syria east of the Euphrates, at the expense of US losses. Barriers were dismantled at the border and military equipment was put into position. After the US announced a few days later that it would withdraw its troops from Syria within 60 to 100 days, Turkey postponed the attack until after the withdrawal. However, Turkey continued to gather troops on the border, and Russia offered to station soldiers from the Syrian government on the border with Turkey. On December 25, in view of the announced Turkish attack, the SDF handed over the city of Arima west of Manbij to troops of the Syrian government. On January 6, 2019, the USA announced that it would make the withdrawal of troops dependent on a Turkish security guarantee for the Kurdish fighters. In March, SDF troops captured the last IS-held areas in Syria.

    At the end of July 2019, the Turkish government threatened to invade again after talks with the US about the establishment of a buffer zone had failed. According to the request of the Turkish government, this should be 30 to 40 kilometers wide; the USA rejected the invasion plans and, after further negotiations, decided, together with Turkey, to create a coordination center for the establishment of a security zone of still unknown size, which the Syrian government criticized as a violation of Syrian sovereignty. According to the Turkish Ministry of Defense, the zone should the return of Syrian refugees permit from Turkey, which is why in the time warned of the possibility of expulsions and "ethnic land consolidation" as they had already taken place in Afrin. From September, Turkish and US troops carried out joint patrols in the Syrian border area with Turkey. However, after a security zone had not been established, Turkish President Erdoğan announced another invasion on October 5, and on October 7, the US withdrew its own troops and announced that it would not support or commit to the planned military offensive to contribute. The offensive began on October 9th.

    Rejection by Turkey

    The Turkish President Erdoğan accuses the Rojava ruling PYD of ethnic cleansing of Arabs and Turkmens. He is taking up allegations of Syrian (including Islamist) rebel groups. Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights , found these allegations unfounded in an interview conducted by the Society for Threatened Peoples , while Amnesty International documented that the YPG had committed war crimes against and expulsions of the non-Kurdish population.

    The background to the allegations is above all the conflict between the Republic of Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), in which Turkey has been fighting for decades against the PKK, which is allied with the PYD. Turkey fears a strengthening of the PKK in the region.

    In the Syrian civil war, the Turkish government was not a direct party to the war, but its main political goal is the overthrow of the Syrian government. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights accuses Turkey of supporting Islamist groups that are fighting not only the Syrian government but also the administration of Rojava established by the PYD.

    Turkey has long been calling for the creation of a "protection zone" in the Syrian border areas and is therefore in a direct conflict of interests with the PYD and its territorial claims, known as "Rojava", in northern Syria. Two weeks after the Kurds took Tall Abyad, Turkey increased its military presence along the border. Speculations that Turkey would set up a buffer zone up to 40 kilometers deep in the areas between Jarabulus and Azaz that had been held by IS up to now were sparked by President Erdoğan when he immediately stated the goal of preventing a Kurdish state in northern Syria, "Cost what it may". As a result, ISIS began to mine its border with Turkey and dig trenches. Although the largest ethnic groups in the area in question are not Kurds, but Arabs and Turkmens, the PYD announced that it would consider Turkish troops as occupation troops in these areas previously held by IS and want to fight them if they intervene without a UN mandate. Furthermore, the PKK leadership threatened Turkey to wage war on its entire national territory if Turkey intervened in Rojava. The US ambassador to Ankara, John Bass, made the US position clear, according to which IS is the common enemy and everyone who has a border with IS must fight against it.

    With its two military offensives ( Euphrates Shield and Operation Olive Branch ) in northern Syria, Turkey attacked IS and YPG areas. After the capture of Afrin, President Erdoğan emphasized that the YPG and SDF would cleanse the entire border from Manbidsch or create a corridor through Operation Peace Source.

    Future of Rojava

    From the beginning, despite the support of the Syrian Kurds by the USA, the existence of Rojava was endangered. This threat became acute with the announcement and implementation of the withdrawal of US troops from Syria in 2018/2019. In view of this situation, there were negotiations in 2018/2019 between the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria and the central government in Damascus on the design of the post-war order in the north-east of the country. Some points of the Kurdish offer to the central government in Damascus were announced in mid-January 2019. They include, among other things, the “protection of the sovereignty of the state of Syria” and the formation of a “democratic republic”, of which the Kurdish plan includes the autonomous administration as a part.

    In addition, the Kurdish offer from January 2019 provided:

    • The representatives of the Autonomous Administration are to become part of the National Assembly.
    • The flag of the Autonomous Administration is to be hoisted together with the national flag of Syria.
    • The Autonomous Administration should be allowed to maintain its own diplomatic relations as long as they are in line with the interests of the Syrian nation-state and the constitution.
    • The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are to be integrated into the Syrian national army and form part of the border protection.
    • Internal security forces are said to be under the control of regional assemblies in the autonomous region.
    • In the Syrian regions of the Autonomous Administration, the mother tongue is to be established as the language of education, while Arabic is to be retained as the official language.
    • Faculties for history, culture, language, literature and other subjects are to be set up where teaching is to take place in the respective regional language.
    • All natural resources should be distributed “fairly and equally” across the entire country.

    On January 23, 2019, Russia suggested applying the Adana Agreement to the areas east of the Euphrates, which can be interpreted as authorizing Turkey to take cross-border action against "Kurdish terrorists" in northeastern Syria, with Syria tolerating the action. As early as April 2019, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation took the view that Russia had “considerable indirect power to define the framework conditions for Kurdish autonomy within the Syrian nation state”.

    See also


    • Elke Dangeleit: Rojava: Proclamation of a Kurdish-Syrian "Democratic Federation" . Telepolis, March 20, 2016.
    • Elke Dangeleit: The Rojava model . Telepolis, October 12, 2014.
    • Dr. Bawar Bammarny: The Legal Status of the Kurds in Iraq and Syria . In: Constitutionalism, Human Rights, and Islam After the Arab Spring. Oxford University Press, 2016, ISBN 978-0-19-062764-5 , pp. 475-495.
    • Thomas Schmidinger : War and Revolution in Syrian Kurdistan. Analysis and voices from Rojava. Mandelbaum Verlag, Vienna, fourth, expanded and updated edition 2017 (first 2014), ISBN 978-3-85476-636-0 .
    • Thomas Schmidinger : Battle for the Kurdish Mountain - Past and Present of the Afrin Region . Bahoe Books , Vienna 2018. ISBN 978-3-903022-84-3 .
    • Ismail Küpeli (Ed.): Kampf um Kobanê - Struggle for the future of the Middle East , edition assemblage, Münster 2015, ISBN 978-3-942885-89-8 .
    • Wes Enzinna: Utopia in War , Philosophie Magazin 3/2016.
    • Anja Flach / Ercan Ayboğa / Michael Knapp: Revolution in Rojava. Women's movement and communalism between war and embargo , 3rd updated edition, VSA Verlag, Hamburg 2016, ISBN 978-3-89965-736-4 .
    • Oso Sabio: Rojava. The alternative to imperialism, nationalism and Islamism in the Middle East. , Unrast Verlag, Münster 2016, ISBN 978-3-89771-058-0 .
    • Doc Sportello (Ed.): Rojava - Has the uprising come? Three texts by Gilles Dauvé, Il Lato Cattivo and Becky, translated from the French by Doc Sportello. Bahoe Books , 2nd updated edition, Vienna 2016, ISBN 978-3-903022-14-0 .
    • Matthias Hofmann: Kurdistan from the beginning. Saladin Publishing House. Berlin 2019. ISBN 978-3-947765-00-3 .

    Web links

    Commons : Rojava  - collection of images, videos and audio files

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