Albin Szakola

Kurds take on Syria
regime in Qamishli

The Kurdish Cezire Canton issued a statement blaming the clashes on regime "provocations."

Qamishli. (image via albaath.news.sy)

BEIRUT – Fighting has erupted between Kurdish security forces and regime troops in Qamishli, where the Syrian government maintains one of its last armed bastions in the de-facto autonomous Kurdish Cezire canton.  


“Clashes have raged since prior to [Monday night] up until now… between Kurdish internal security (Asayesh) on one side and regime troops and militias allied with them on the other side in Qamishli,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Tuesday morning.


The monitoring NGO added that the Kurdish security troops had “targeted the area of the [city’s] Allaya Prison and the Eastern Prison, which are controlled by regime forces, with a number of mortar rounds.”


Several Iraq-based Kurdish news outlets covered the unusual round of fighting in the Kurdish-populated border town, which was reportedly sparked by the regime’s arrest of a number of Kurdish residents.


On Tuesday, ARA News, which focuses on developments in northern Syria, said Qamishli has “witnessed a number of explosions that reverberated throughout the city.”


One member of the Asayesh force—which maintains security for the Democratic Union Party (PYD)—told ARA that “they were trying to seize control of the Allaya Prison, which has seen clashes between the two sides.”


The security officer, who refused to disclose his name, said that a number of mortar rounds struck in the vicinity of the prison, adding that Asayesh members have surrounded the city’s train station, which is also controlled by Syrian regime forces.


"Regime provocations"

The Kurdish Cezire canton issued a statement on the dramatic events, blaming the fighting in Qamishli on Syrian regime "provocations."


"The Baathist regime provocatively arrested Kurdish and Arab youths from the Cezire area under the pretext [that they had to do] ‘military service [in] the regime’s army,'" a statement issued Tuesday said.


“Apart from this, regime warplanes have been carrying out provocative over-flights in the sky above the city of Qamishli," the Kurdish administrative body added.


“[After the arrests] the regime transgressed even further, by opening fire on the civic committee of the Democratic Self-Administration’s Supply Department.”


“Asayesh forces in the cities of Qamishli and Hasakeh responded to these actions […] by arresting [several] of the regime’s servicemen and officers to deter its barbaric actions.”


“We cannot remain silent over the regime’s attempt to break the will and determination of the [Arab and Kurdish inhabitants] of Hasakeh and Qamishli.”


“After clashes with regime shabiha, Qamishli’s Asayesh [forces] and traffic [police]supported by the YPG and the peoples committeesmanaged to take control of the old Transport Directorate and Military Intelligence building, and the municipality car park, as well as the train stationwhich was being used as a military barracks [by] the Shabiha.”


“That these actions by the regime should coincide with the liberation of Tel Abyad arouses our suspicion and reveals the regime’s true intentions.”


“We call on [the Arabs and Kurds] who live in Cezire to bear this fact in mind and be wary of the regime’s attempts to spread strife.”


Kurdish media outlets, in turn, reported that the clashes followed “reciprocal kidnappings” between Kurdish and Syrian regime forces, specifying that National Defense Force militia members had kidnapped members of the PYD, after which Kurdish Asayesh seized at least 20 NDF fighters.


Iraqi Kurdish Rudaw and Bas News both gave similar accounts of what caused the clashes, with both saying that regime-affiliated security members had arrested Kurdish residents, prompting Asayesh to take reciprocal action.


Rudaw said that that the arrested Kurds were members of the local Supply Department of the Kurdish-administered Cezire Canton.


The Qamishli clashes come only days after Syria’s Prime Minister visited the town as part of a tour of the northeastern Hasakeh province, during which he pledged a $7 million dollar budget allocation for local governance.


The Syrian regime has kept up public appearances of maintaining control over the northeastern Syrian region, even as the Kurds have moved increasingly toward autonomy amid tense non-aggression agreements with the remaining Syrian regime forces.


In January 2014, Kurdish authorities declared the formation of three self-ruled cantons (Cizire, Afrin and Kobane) under the Democratic Self-Rule Administration of Rojava, which has been dominated by the Democratic Union party (PYD) and its People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia forces.


The political reorganization was not recognized by the Syrian regime; however, it has become a de-facto reality, especially since pro-government forces withdrew from most Kurdish-populated regions in 2012, with the exception of Qamishli and the provincial capital Hasakeh 75 kilometers to the south.


Syria’s Kurds have been militarily ascendant in the past few months, rolling back ISIS in the Hasakeh province as well as in the Kobane region.


On Monday, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighting in Kobane and Hasekeh linked their frontlines for the first time in a historic victory for Syria’s Kurds that heralds the connection of their Kobane and Cezire cantons.


The next day, the YPG backed by Free Syrian Army Arab fighters and coalition airstrikes seized the ISIS stronghold of Tel Abyad, rolling back the extremist group from the Turkish border after lightning advances outside the town, which served as a key logistical line for ISIS down to their de-facto capital of Raqqa.

Clashes have erupted between Kurds and the Syrian regime in Qamishli. (image via albaath.news.sy)

We cannot remain silent over the regime’s attempt to break the will and determination of the [Arab and Kurdish inhabitants] of Hasakeh and Qamishli.