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But why is there a new phase in repression, especially now? It looks as though the Ba’ath regime is now facing a new generation of militants, more radical and more militant than their predecessors. Some of the Syrian Kurdish political groups are not asking merely for the Kurds to be granted full citizenship who were ostracized by the 1962 “special census.” They are demanding more. At the time M. al-Youssef was giving the interview, in the last days of December 2009, three members of the PYKS executive committee were arrested alongside a prominent activist. They were arrested after a Party conference during which they called for autonomy. The Democratic Union Party – PYD recent Congress in October, was held under the theme “Forward with Autonomy.” Messages were passed to jailed PYD members, with promises that Party members would not be arrested if the Party lowered its demands, and the arrest of Central Committee member Issa Ibrahim Hesso just after the October congress, demonstrates the regime’s concerns with the re-vindication of “autonomy.”
In this context, the new developments in Turkey, with the prolongation of the ceasefire and the rumors about opening of negotiations, are not good news for the Syrian government. As long as the war lasts, Syria remains a useful ally for the Turks. Their strategy of encirclement, aiming at isolating the PKK rebels in their mountains, requires Syrian co-operation. A press release from an Anatolian news agency (mentioned in Today’s Zaman online edition from the 17/06/2010), talking about military operations by the Syrian army in the Kurdish provinces and resulting in the death of 11 PKK fighters, has been dismissed as a manipulation. The journalist Newaf Khalil, who spoke to the BBC the July 1, 2010, said that the idea was to entice Syria to join the ongoing offensive against the PKK and PJAK, and to assimilate the Syrian Kurdish political activists into the insurgents, so making them legitimate military targets. The promises of amnesties and regularization of status that have been made at several opportunities by President al-Assad, appear as attempts to encourage the one thousand six hundred Syrian Kurds fighting in the PKK’s army to desert ranks and so break the organization’s military force.
Worryingly for Damascus, numerous Syrian Kurds have previously joined the PKK (Fehman Huseyin, commander of the PKK army, is a Syrian). Would those well-trained men and women be tempted to take back the weapons they laid down and resume the fight in Syria rather than in south-eastern Turkey? Nothing indicated anything like this, and representatives from the PYD, who share with the PKK a common ideology and similar goals, insist on their determination to achieve their objectives by peaceful means. Nonetheless, this supposed “threat” can be used as a pretext for a new step in repression.
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