Rudaw interviewed Abdulhakim Bashar, secretary-general of the Kurdish Democratic Party in Syria.
Rudaw: The situation in Syria is turning increasingly violent and the western world has called on President Bashar al-Assad to step down. Where do you think things will go from here?
Abdulhakim Bashar: The Syrian regime will not fall merely based on the words and pleas of the west. The regime has made up its mind. Sanctions and international pressure will make things difficult, but the regime won’t collapse. We saw this in Iraq where 13 years of sanctions did not end Saddam Hussein’s regime until it was invaded. Syria is complicated. International pressure may encourage the protesters, but it will not be decisive.
Rudaw: Do you think the statements by western leaders will give the demonstrations a push?
Abdulhakim Bashar: It will, but the regime will also kill more of them. Currently, the regime won’t stop killing and the protesters aren’t willing to back down. The people of Syria are not the people of before March 15th (when the protests began) and the Syrian regime isn’t the same either. But Syria’s political (opposition) movement is not united. The meeting abroad will have no impact because it’s just propaganda.
Rudaw: How long do you think the Assad regime can hold out?
Abdulhakim Bashar: He may resist for quite a while. Also one of the following scenarios may occur: There may be a civil war in Syria, or a regional war because Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran both support the Assad regime. Syria is not alone. It’s part of an axis that is made up of Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas. Changing the regime in Syria will bring about major changes in the region.
Rudaw: What do you make of the Iraqi Kurdistan region’s silence about the events in Syria?
Abdulhakim Bashar: I believe that Syria is a sensitive case and any interference may cause a civil war. So we have to be careful and not do anything until the course of events is clear. We have to see what will happen to this regime and what will replace it. Then we can draw our own plan. The Syrian opposition has so far not recognized the rights of the Kurds and unless they do so we don’t know what the future of Syria will look like.
Rudaw: Is your party — the Kurdish Democratic Party of Syria — taking part in the protest?
Abdulhakim Bashar: We as the Kurdish parties of Syria decided that we don’t want blood spilled between us and the Syrian regime. We allowed the youth to take to the streets and ask for democracy and freedom and then we began holding our own conferences and meetings.
Rudaw: Don’t you think the lack of action by the Kurdish parties has created a gap between the parties and the Kurdish youth?
Abdulhakim Bashar: I don’t think so. In a city such as Qamishli where around 400,000 people live, we can bring 50,000 to the street. Two hundred or 300 people on the streets isn’t really a turnout. The Kurdish people are with the Kurdish parties. Around 50 percent of Syria’s Kurds are with our party and we can even mobilize the supporters of the other parties.
Rudaw: Fawzi Shingari, the leader of the Kurdish Accord in Syria, said in an interview with Rudaw that the Kurdish parties can liberate the Syrian Kurdish areas within 24 hours because the Syrian army no longer has a major presence in those areas. Do you think this is possible?
Abdulhakim Bashar: That information isn’t correct. The Syrian army and the Syrian regime’s intelligence apparatus are still in the Kurdish areas and there is heavy weaponry. Even if we manage to liberate the areas, how can we defend our people against a Syrian bombardment afterwards? You can’t take risks with the Kurdish cause. We have fighters and have fought in the past, but today you can’t bet on the lives of your people.
Rudaw: What is the plan of the 11 parties in the Council of Kurdish parties?
Abdulhakim Bashar: We are now preparing for a Kurdish National Congress in Syria. It may occur within 2 weeks. The parties, men and women, young people and intellectuals will take part so that we can draw up our future road map. We as the Kurdish Democratic Party of Syria have three main conditions for the Syrian opposition: to change Syria’s name from the Syrian Arab Republic to the Syrian Republic; to recognize Kurdish rights in writing; and to accept that Syria is not part of the Arab world.
This article was first published in Rudaw (published in Erbil) on 23 August 2011; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.