Western Kurdistan completes process of autonomy declaration

Canton of Efrîn proclaims itself to be self-governing · Kurdish guerrilla in control of three regions in Syria's north · South Kurdistan (Iraq) President opposes process

All Western Kurdistan (Syria's north) under the control of Kurdish forces has now declared self-government, after this morning the canton of Efrîn has done so. The cantons of Cizîre and Kobanê had previously self-proclaimed autonomy (last week and on Monday). Like them, Efrîn has formed a government made up of a President, two deputies and 22 ministers. Elections for the Efrîn Assembly should be held within four months.

All three cantons, according to Kurdish plans, make up a federal Western Kurdistan. The leaders of the three regions insist that Western Kurdistan will continue to be part of Syria and that different peoples living there (including not only the Kurds but also the Arabs and the Syriacs) will be respected.

Cantons roughly correspond to the three areas -geographically unconnected- that Kurdish forces control in northern Syria. As can be seen on the left map (compiled from local sources by Thomas van Linge) , regions controlled by the YPG guerrilla (in yellow) are Efrîn and its province (north-west Syria), Kobanê (east to the Euphrates river) and Cizîre (north-eastern Syria). In Cizîre, YPG is fighting against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Salafist guerrilla, which is linked to Al Qaeda and wants to impose an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria -including Kurdistan.

The proclamation of the three Kurdish-majority autonomous cantons has been led by the Democratic Union Party (PYD, Kurdish acronym), which defines itself as a PKK "sister party". Other Kurdish parties in Syria make up a coalition called the Kurdish National Council (KNC). Valencian journalist specialized in Western Kurdistan David Meseguer explains in this article that Syrian Kurdish parties close to South Kurdistan (Iraq) President Massoud Barzani have left the coalition, but those that have remained within the KNC are supporting the proclamation of the autonomies. The KNC admits that the PYD-driven solution was required, since there was a power vacuum in Western Kurdistan following the withdrawal of government forces.

PYD President Salih Muslim says in this interview that the autonomy declarations had been agreed with the KNC. He also admitted that the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria (Syrian section of Barzani's party) and the Freedom Party were not involved in the autonomy process and that they would not be standing for election. Barzani, who is now Turkey's close ally, opposes Western Kurdistan process since it is led by the PYD.