At least 56 people have been killed over the past week in fighting between FSA rebels and Kurdish separatists in northeast Syria, says The British Based ‘Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’.
The increasing fragmentation of Syria along sectarian faultlines is making the idea of a unified opposition a distant dream.
The Observatory claimed on Tuesday that rebels from the Free Syrian Army had deployed tanks and mortar rockets in a territorial dispute with Kurdish forces. Rebel units from Ras al-Ain in the Hasaka province of Syria are reported to have clashed with members of the Kurdish People’s Defence Units.
“The clashes erupted (last) Wednesday … and (have) resulted in the deaths of at least 56 fighters,” said a statement issued by the Observatory.
The incident highlights the increasing fragmentation of Syria into competing armed groups, and the difficulties faced by organisations such as the Syrian National Council who are trying to create a unified opposition to the government of President Assad. On the front lines of Syria’s conflict the sectarian divisions which are increasingly divided the country are often put aside, as rebels band together to fight the government forces of Bashar al Assad. But move out into rebel held territories away from the front line and Sunni Islamists, secular pro-democracy rebels, and Kurdish separatists are increasingly engaged in a bitter power struggle for their own, very different, visions of a post-Assad Syria.
Although the country’s Kurdish minority are no friends of the current government, which has afforded them few cultural rights, many are wary of the Sunni Islamist dominated opposition. Like many Kurds in neighbouring Iraq and Turkey, they dream of an independent Kurdistan, and have seized on the civil war as an opportunity to move towards the kind of autonomy enjoyed by the Kurdish people of northern Iraq. Kurdish groups have set up their own alternative government in areas which they control, with Kurdish schools and cultural centers, police and armed militias. These fledgling institutions represent the future which Syria’s Kurds want – not the Sunni Islamic state of the Syrian National Council. With a significant part of the country’s oil reserves located in Kurdish area, Kurdish separatists fear that any post-Assad regime would be unlikely to agree to give them their autonomy.
Stalemate still reigns between government and rebels; It is unlikely that the rebels could win an outright victory in the near or medium term future – but even if they did, the civil war may still continue as rival groups fight it out with each other. The future truly looks bleak in Syria.
Yet despite the lack of unified opposition to Assad’s government, and the high numbers of foreign Islamists fighting alongside local rebels, the powers that be from America Egypt to Saudi Arabia still throw their support behind this bloody war of attrition. Meanwhile in Bahrain, peaceful democracy protests are put down with brutal force, and those same powers remain silent…