Kurdish votes pointing to regional assembly by January
Kurdish-held areas in northern Syria have voted in the first of three stages over new governing instituations for regional autonomy.
Voters on Friday selected leaders for about 3,700 local areas in three cantons — Afrin in the northwest, Kobani in the north, and Cezire in the northeast. The ballot will be followed in November by votes for local councils and in January for an assembly for a federal system of government.
“Today comes as a historical day for us. The people are choosing their way of life, politics, economy,” Renas Ahmed, 25, said on Friday.
Video from the Kurdish outlet ANHA:
Kurdish groups are defying Bashar al-Assad, who has objected to any federalism as he refuses to step aside in Syria’s 78-month conflict. Their plans are also opposed by Turkey, which sees the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD) and its YPG militia as part of the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK. The US has also objected, even though it is supporting the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces pushing back ISIS across parts of the north.
In the past week, clashes have begun between pro-Assad forces and the SDF near Deir ez-Zor city, one of the last two major Islamic State positions, in eastern Syria. Russian warplanes supporting the pro-Assad offensive have reportedly attacked the SDF after the Kurdish-led group warned the regime military and its foreign allies against crossing the Euphrates River — a warning soon dismissed as the pro-Assad advance moved to the river’s eastern bank.
Opposition forces, some of them supported by Turkey, also stand in the way of the Kurdish aspirations of connected the Afrin canton with those of Kobani and Cezire.
Reports: Russian Warplanes Attack Rebels in Idlib Province
Continuing their assault on opposition-held Idlib Province, Russian warplanes reportedly struck rebel headquarters on Saturday.
Idris al-Raad, a spokesman for the Failaq al-Sham faction, said their headquarters in the village of Tel Mardikh were hit with 12 raids including vacuum rockets. He said casualties included civilians.
Faylaq al-Sham has attended the talks in the Kazakh capital Astana in which Russia has declared de-escalation zones, including one covering Idlib Province.
Russia and regime warplanes broke the ceasefire in the Idlib zone — agreed earlier this month between Russia, Iran, and Turkey — after rebels and the jihadists of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham attacked regime positions in neighboring northern Hama Province.
The Russian and regime attacks have also targeted civilian sites, including medical facilities and civil defense centers, and tried to assassinate rebel commanders.