Mar 20,2016 – JORDAN TIMES – EDITORIAL
The March 17 decision of Kurds in the north of Syria to vote in favour of autonomy for their areas can only complicate the already complex process intended to end the five-year-old civil war in the country and then, hopefully, usher in a new era of democracy and rule of law.
Syria’s Kurds seek to unite the three Kurdish-controlled provinces in the north of Syria and establish autonomous self-rule within a projected federated form of government, to be named the Federal Democratic System of Rojava (or Syrian Kurdistan).
The Kurds, whose Constituent Assembly — the one that came up with the idea of the “federal system” — was attended by 31 parties and 200 delegates, including Arab, Assyrian, Syriac, Armenian, Turkmen and Chechen, insist that “this can serve as a model for the rest of Syria, providing a solution for the Syrian crisis”.
Yet, the move was condemned by the Russian-backed regime in Damascus, by the Western-backed opposition Syrian National Coalition and by the governments of Turkey and the US.
The Syrian fear is that the Kurdish plan could serve as a prelude to the partitioning of the country along ethnic or sectarian lines.
The Syrian government issued a statement saying that the Kurdish proposal “has no legal value as long as it does not reflect the wishes of the entire Syrian people”.
Ankara also condemned the Kurdish move, aware that it could encourage a similar step among its own Kurdish communities.
Strangely, while the US criticised the Kurdish initiative, Russia remained silent; that, perhaps, as a snub to the Syrian president who had expressed desire to gain control over the whole of Syria, a clearly impossible move without the help of Moscow’s air power.
Condemnations apart, the right to achieve self-determination is enshrined in all UN human rights treaties and international law.
Article 1 of both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights stipulate that all peoples “have the right of self determination”; by virtue of that right, they may freely determine their political status and pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
While the right to self-determination is sacrosanct, it needs to be exercised by a people, and not by ethnic groups residing in a certain geographic area of any given country.
This does not seem to be the case in the north of Syria.