Syria Report: Deadly Clashes Between Kurdish Groups in Amuda


Editor’s Note: Following last night’s coverage of clashes in the Kurdish-majority town of Amuda in northeastern Syria, EA correspondent Wladimir van Wilgenburg brings more details of the incident and the intricate politics in the area — offering insight into how the Syrian conflict is not simply a matter of regime and pro-regime forces fighting “the opposition”, but of a complex web of local groups and their interests.

On Thursday evening, after a unit of the Kurdish People’s Defence Units (YPG) clashed with protesters after returning from the Hasakah -Derbisiye Road. the YPG fought with troops from the Free Syrian Army (FSA), killing at least four people and wounding 20.

According to websites supporting the Democratic Union Party (PYD) — which has tried to manouevre between the Assad regime and the insurgents — a “mercenary group” attacked the YPG, killing one of its members (named as Îsa Selah Gulo) and 3 attackers.

Meanwhile, anti-PYD groups claim the YPG attacked Kurdish protestors in Amud, posting video (see top of entry).

Kurds in Amuda have been holding sit-in protests after three activists were arrested on charges of drug dealing 10 days ago. Deaths were reported in an earlier clash between the Asayish — the Kurdish security organization and the primary intelligence agency operating in Iraqi and Syrian Kurdistan — and an armed group dealing in hashish.

Thursday’s incident will likely lead to more tensions between the PYD, which is affiliated to the Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and Kurdish parties close to Iraq’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, headed by Masoud Barzani.

These are far from the first clashes to occur in Amuda, with skirmishes between youth groups and the YPG.

Thursday’s fighting also comes in the wake of earlier tensions between the Kurdish Democratic Party and the PYD, after the arrest of pro-KDP trained militia on 18 May when they crossed the Turkish border. That incident led to a temporary border closure.

Later fights broke out on 25 May between Islamist groups and the YPG around the Kurdish area of Efrin, near Aleppo and the Turkish border, which led to a Free Syrian Army embargo against the PYD. The FSA accused the PYD of charges of assisting the pro-regime Shiite villages of Al-Nubul and al-Zahra.

More protests are expected to take place in Amuda on Friday. While pro-PYD groups will likely link the events to alleged plots by Turkey — and possibly Barzani — ahead of a proposed international conference on Syria, anti-PYD groups will probably claim that the violence proves the YPG and PYD are working with the Syrian government.

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  1. Kurds killed by Kurds in Syria
    ARA News – On Monday, June 17, 2013, the PYD’s armed forces of the Popular Protection Unites (YPG) carried out a campaign of arrests against a number of prominent Kurdish activists in Amude city under the pretext that those activists are “drugs dealers”, while other activists in the city emphasized that those who the YPG have arrested are well-known civil activists who have organized many activities in Amude to support the pro-democratic movement in Syria. The action was followed by massive demonstrations in the city calling on the YPG forces to release the detained civil activists. However, the YPG didn’t respond and has reportedly threatened the demonstrators to return home or otherwise some actions would be taken against them.

    On Thursday evening, June 28, activists reported that the YPG forces have opened fire against the peaceful demonstrators in the city, killing four of them −Nadir Khallo, Saad Seyda, Rezan Qarno and Shekhi Ali− and injuring dozens. While the YPG’s political leadership, the PYD, reported that one of its fighters was killed by some “mercenaries” linked to the opposition.

    The killing of the four demonstrators and injuring others led the majority of the Kurdish activists and politicians to condemn the YPG’s practices against their peers in Amude city.

    Sources told ARA News that the YPG forces have prevented the residents from transferring the injured to the hospitals, as the forces closed the city’s entrances.


  2. It’s certainly true that the Efrin siege was connected directly to the rebel siege of loyalist Twelver Shi’as in the Zahra-Nubl pocket. It also seems true that some supplies were trickling in to the towns from PYD-held Kurd Dagh. However, there is no conclusive evidence that these supplies were military in nature, or that there was any strategic cooperation between loyalists and the YPG. Whatever the Kurdish opposition and rebels may think, it seems incorrect to characterise the PYD as Assad-loyalists in disguise.

    In fact, according to SOHR, the YPG fought both rebels and loyalists during the siege of Efrin. Some tens of kilometres away, YPG forces continue to block army thrusts against majority Kurdish districts in Aleppo city, effectively fighting in alignment with the rebels. One of the alleged government chemical weapons attacks occurred on these very districts. A few months ago, it even mediated a short-lived truce between rebels and the Zahra-Nubl pocket.

    The attacks on Efrin started around the time that rebels were pushed out of Qusayr, and were concentrated on YPG-held villages flanking Zahra-Nubl—likely more intended to encircle that pocket and exact revenge for Qusayr than to take over Kurd Dagh outright.

    It’s also important to remember that the FSA embargo on Efrin affected not only the PYD, but hundreds of thousands of civilians (including many refugees).

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