August 1, 2012 ·1 Comments
The first new Kurdish police car in Kobani, the first city freed from Assad forces in Syria. Photograph: Benjamin Hiller/Corbis
ANKARA — A prominent Mideast expert at the University of Michigan, Professor Juan Cole, has said the Syrian Kurds want semi-autonomy in Syria, but are not pursuing the idea of joining with Kurdistan in northern Iraq.
“There is not a kind of pan-Kurdism going on here. This issue of Syrian Kurds being stateless is a very important background to their current activism. They have taken advantage of the political turmoil in Syria to press claims for semi-autonomy,” Cole, who was targeted by the CIA during the presidency of George W. Bush because of his critical views on the Iraq War, told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview on July 30.
Cole said the current situation of Kurds in Syria was not a political challenge to the integrity of Turkey, but it did pose a security threat. “Obviously, it is a security challenge to the extent that there is no proper government in those places and the PKK can certainly base themselves there and go back and forth to Turkey,” Cole said.
Cole said the main security issue for Turkey right now is that nobody is in control of the Syrian border. “It means PKK members can move freely. If the Syrian Kurds give the PKK a safe haven, like in Iraqi Kurdistan, that would be an important security issue for Turkey,” he said.
‘Civil war in Syria’
“Syrian Kurds were never incorporated properly into the Syrian state and they were never treated as Syrians, I don’t think they want independence and I don’t think they want to join with the Kurds of Iraq. There are so many people who were left out and now saying ‘we want a place at the table,’” Cole said.
Professor Cole also defined what is going on in Syria right now as a “civil war.”
“There are accusations that illegal Alawite forces are committing massacres and there are also allegations that Sunni militias are killing Alawites. So the sectarian dynamic is already there to
some extent and it could worsen,” he said.
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