| ABDULHAKIM BASHAR: “WE WANT SYRIA TO HAVE A DECENTRALIZED STRUCTURE”
Despite changes the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria (Al Party), which is the first Kurdish party established in Syria, has gone through and organizational problems the party has encountered since 1957; today, it is considered as one of the most powerful parties of Syrian Kurds. Therefore, ORSAM, which has published interviews with various Syrian opposition groups, talked to Abdulhakim Bashar, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria, in Arbil.
ORSAM: First of all, could you introduce yourself and your party?
Abdulhakim Bashar: My name is Abdulhakim Bashar. I am secretary-general of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria which is one of the most significant and most supported parties among Syrian Kurds.
ORSAM: Could you tell us about the history of your party and the phases your party has gone through?
Bashar: Our party was established on 14 June 1957. We have carried out 10 congresses, one of which held in North Iraq in 1972, so far. Our fight against practices of the regime in Syria have been going on for many years. Throughout this running battle, many of our fellows have been arrested and condemned to various sentences. Most of our leaders were held under arrest for a long time in 1970's. The last congress we held following the problems we went through was carried out in 2007. In this congress I was elected as the secretary-general. The most important part of the congress held in 2007 was the fact that it witnessed a serious self-criticism. With the self-criticism made in this congress, the underlying reasons why we could not reach our goals were discussed. The idea that the underlying reason why we could not succeed as a result of this congress was the enemies was left aside. We decided that the main reason why Kurds cannot have their rights stemmed from us and that the most basic fault stemmed from the lack of sufficient preparation. Besides, we also reached the conclusion that Kurds could not reach the point they desired because of reasons such as tribal bonds.
ORSAM: Can you inform us about the social structure of Kurds in Syria?
Bashar: There is not any certain study conducted on this subject, but it is seen that Syria is a mosaic both in religious and ethnical terms. Nowadays, the population of Syria is some 21-23 million. The number of Kurdish population among them can be suggested as approximately 3.5 – 4 million. In Syria, Kurds basically live in three provinces. The largest of these three provinces is Haseke. The other two regions other than that are Kobani and Afrin regions, also known as Ayn al-Arab. The majority of the population in these settlements is also composed of Kurds. Other than this, there are Kurds living in the center of Damascus and Aleppo, and in the rural regions of provinces such as Latakia, Idlib and Hama.
ORSAM: It is seen that the number of anti-regime demonstrations are increasing in Syria with each passing day. Do you believe that the Bashar Assad regime can be toppled through these demonstrations or through the struggle of certain armed groups against the regime?
Bashar: We believe that it is not possible for the regime to survive. After all these massacres and violence, the regime cannot survive. As it is already seen, the regime has not achieved suppressing the uprising despite this much use of force. However, it cannot be suggested either that the opposition could make use of the process since the beginning of the uprising. In the meantime, especially the Syrian National Council made certain mistakes. Christians and Druses have not taken part in the “revolution” so far. Because the Ba'ath regime assured them for years that an Islamic regime would be established in case this regime was toppled. As an Islamic regime's coming to power would create a major problem for them, these groups do not still support the protests. It is mainly because of the opposition movement. Because they do not have an open program.
I personally do not think that Islamists will rule Syria after Bashar Assad's regime is toppled. I believe that all Syrians will rule the country. However, the aforesaid propaganda of the regime can be effective in certain circles in Syria. It is quite important for the opposition to work in three ways in order to overcome the impacts of this propaganda. First of all, it is necessary to put forward a very clear and explicit program, to directly establish dialogues with all parties, and to tell that Syria will be a much better country in the future. Second of all, clergymen should announce everyone by giving fetwas that Christians, Muslims and others will be all equal in new Syria. And thirdly, it is necessary to directly get in touch with those people in the field, and to directly emphasize it. Protesting against the regime only in streets is not enough, it would be better to create a political front against the regime. If all these are accomplished, we will see the end of regime. Sunni Arabs and Kurds have participated in the uprising so far. Only intellectual circles or prominents of the other groups support the uprising, but it is seen that the grassroots of these groups do not support the protest demonstrations.
ORSAM: A disunity in the Syrian opposition was observed for about a year. While there were some divisions among the Arab opposition and the Kurdish opposition; there were certain problems in the relations between these two major opposition groups as well. Could this problem be solved?
Bashar: This kind of disunities are quite normal in dictatorial systems. Establishing democracy will create much better political results. In a democratic system, small parties will melt in bigger parties. Because these parties will not be necessary anymore. On the other hand, it works different in the regimes ruled by dictatorship. As Kurds, we are striving to come to an agreement both among ourselves and also with the other parties in the most correct way possible. During the conference held in Qamishli on 26 October 2011, 11 Kurdish parties came together and created the Kurdish National Council (KNC). This institution's center of activity is in Qamishli, Syria. I was elected as the first head of KNC. Tomorrow, my chairmanship term will end. I recommended the leader of Yekiti Party Ismail Hami for the next Chairmanship.
ORSAM: There were problems between the Arab Opposition and the Kurdish opposition in Syria. Could they make any progress on making opposition together.
Bashar: I talked to most of the parties which are members of the Syrian National Council. The leader of Syrian National Council Burhan Ghaliun was also in Arbil some time ago. I talked to him, we made a progress; but I cannot say that we reached a certain agreement.
ORSAM: What are the expectations of KNC from the Syrian National Council?
Bashar: In case these two council join together, more than half of the Syrian population will gather under a single roof. However, there are certain disagreements. We want Syria to have a decentralized structure in the future. Because Syria is composed of different ethnical groups. In a decentralized system, each group is provided with their rights, and the use of these rights is not under the control of a certain party. This situation will make it easier for the other dissident parties to gather under this roof as well. Our second expectation is a secular state. What we mean by secularism is two things: Keeping state and religion institutionally separate, and thus enabling each person to reach a level they desire in Syria. In addition to this, this secular system prevents outdated thoughts from taking roots in state institutions.
A major disagreement between SNC and KNC is related to methods regarding how the Kurdish problem will be solved. At this point, what comes to forefront most is self-determination. SNC states that the Kurdish problem should be solved in a democratic way, but the democratic solution they offer is not explicit. We do not know what it means. Methods such as providing support to open TV channels, schools, or to publish periodicals are offered as a solution; but we do not agree. We ask for Kurds' rights to be written in the constitution and to be turned into constitutional rights. Other opponent organizations should understand that: Syria does not only belong to the opposition, but to all of us. The opposition cannot give what it wants and refuse what it does not want. This kind of thoughts stem from the education given by the Ba'ath regime. We want to be recognized and treated as equal. But we also want the protection of Syria's territorial integrity.
As SNC believes that self-determination will probably result in the establishment of a new state, it opposes to this. Nevertheless, we do not ask for a Kurdish state, besides, it is not quite possible considering the geography. Because the regions, where Kurds currently live, in Syria are split into three parts. The most important of all is that creation of a Kurdish state will come to mean that the political map will change. It is a matter that exceeds the countries in the region and requires the involvement of great powers. Super powers will decide it.
ORSAM: Do you believe that the current demonstrations or events will be sufficient
to topple the Bashar Assad's regime?
Bashar: It is certainly not sufficient on its own. It is necessary to start from the demonstrations and join all forces within the country, then what is required to do is that: these uprisings should spread into all cities and provinces. If we can achieve this, the Syrian administration will not have a chance to control these uprisings, and economic and political pressures on the regime from outside will increase. If the Syrian opposition can join their forces, an external intervention will not be necessary; because two most important institutions which are the basis of the regime in Syria are about to collapse: Military and economics. These two factors' joining their forces is enough to topple the regime. Other than that, the direct intervention of the external powers is dangerous. Because especially Iran would oppose to the foreign intervention.
ORSAM: Recently, the international media has been discussing about the idea that a buffer zone can be created within Syria. What do you think about that?
Bashar: Creating a buffer zone would be good. But what is important is that where and how it will be created. Thinking reasonably; the buffer needs to be created over Turkey. Well, does Turkey assume such a role? The neighborhood of Iran and Turkey loads the dice against it. At first, the Syrian people leaned towards the role to be assumed by Turkey. Especially Sunni Arabs thought Turkey would rapidly intervene. However, this expectation was not fulfilled. One of the underlying reasons is Turkey's worries about Kurds in Syria. Therefore, there is an instability in Turkey's attitude. It is high time that Turkey should change this attitude.
ORSAM: Do you expect a decision that will put a spoke in Bashar Assad regime's wheel to be taken by UNSC?
Bashar: I believe that Russia will change her attitude soon. There are some issues before Russia. For example, the elections to be held soon: Putin tries to gain time to take a decision. Besides, the future of the new regime which is planned to be created in Syria is not certain either. And thirdly, all the weapons of Syria is provided by Russia. Russia is worried that the secrets of these weapons can be heard by the West, in case the regime changes. Thus, Russia's not giving a support is because the bargains with the West still continues and because of the effort to gain time. However, we will be pleased if a decision is issued by UN. We consent to every decision to be issued by UN.
ORSAM: Is there any message you would like to give to Turkey?
Bashar: This is a message for the Turkish people. The Turkish people and the Syrian people are fellows and friends. This friendship should be confirmed on the constitution. They should live as a family from different countries.
ORSAM: Thank you.
* This interview was carried out in Arbil, on 10 February 2012.