Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat – The ongoing Syrian revolution, which initially broke out more than 18 months ago, has had huge repercussions on domestic and regional affairs. Indeed the Arab Spring as a whole has resulted in significant shifts within Arab society and politics, particularly the actions and behavior of dictatorial regimes. Such regimes previously relied on strong security and intelligence apparatus to intimidate the opposition and cow the general public. Many Arab regimes, including the al-Assad regime in Syria, succeeded over the past decades in such endeavors, securely clinging on to power and facing only sporadic internal dissent that was swiftly crushed. Hafez al-Assad instituted this policy in Syria, laying the foundations for a Baathist regime and establishing a strong security apparatus; these were inherited by Bashar al-Assad when he came to power in Syria in 2000.
Over the past 40 years, the Syrian security apparatus has been successful in clamping down on the entire country. Public political dissent was virtually non-existent, whilst any Syrian citizen wishing to travel abroad would have to pass a number of stringent security checks. However the Syrian security apparatus has seen its grip on the country slacken following the outbreak of the Syrian revolution, to the point that much of the country is now outside of the control of the central government. Syrian citizens, across the country, have taken up arms to tear down the regime that the security apparatus is tasked with defending, and many believe that it is just a matter of time before the al-Assad regime collapses completely.
A prominent Syrian Kurdish dissident, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, mused on the huge changes that have taken place in Syria following the outbreak of the revolution, saying “security elements today are now afraid of us, after we suffered at their hands for more than 40 years!” He revealed that “they [Syrian security] are sheltering in their institutional headquarters like rats, and they do not dare to come out for fear of being arrested or killed by the citizens!”
He added “the borders are now open to us, nobody can call us to account regarding entry and exit, and this is the first time in my political life that I have enjoyed this freedom” revealing that “I was able to visit my children, who are refugees in Europe, after long decades of separation!”
Asharq Al-Awsat met with this well-known Syrian Kurdish political dissident, who asked for his identity to be concealed for fear of reprisals by al-Assad regime forces, in Erbil on Wednesday. He was returning from a visit to Turkey, which finds itself in a virtual state of war with the al-Assad regime after tensions erupted along the Syrian – Turkish border.
He informed Asharq Al-Awsat “I was invited by Turkish Kurdish parties [to visit], so I left Qamishli and crossed the border into the Kurdistan Region, and from there I traveled to Diyarbakir and met with a number of Kurdish leaders there. We conducted talks on the Kurdistan situation in Syria and Turkey, and I am not returning to Qamishli.”
He revealed that many Syrian Kurdish dissidents are travelling to the Kurdistan Region on a daily basis, whether in political delegations or individually, to meet with Kurdish leaders there and discuss the post-Assad period in Syria. He added that other Syrian Kurdish dissidents also traveled to Brussels, Washington and Paris to take part in Syrian opposition summits, and that nobody – not least the ailing al-Assad regime – is capable of stopping them.
Another Syrian opposition source, also speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, revealed “I am a member of the political bureau of a [Syrian] Kurdish opposition party currently residing in Kurdistan Region. I do not feel any fear of travelling to Qamishli or any other Kurdish town [in Syria] to meet with my party leaders. Nobody dares to hold us to account or investigate us….all Syrian security apparatus – officers and privates – are now staying within their own institutions, nobody dares to come out, so we are free of them!”
He added “in the past, we were afraid of them and would flee their pursuit, and indeed we would spend millions in bribes to them so that they did not kill us or accuse us of crimes against the regime…whilst today they are contacting us in secret to guarantee them their lives.”
The Syrian Kurdish opposition figure called on Syrian soldiers and officers to defect from the al-Assad regime and join the Syrian revolution, adding “we will not stop until we get rid of this oppressive and violent regime that is killing its own people. It rejected every peaceful solution that would guarantee a safe departure from Syria, and these officers and soldiers must not link their fate with the fate of this regime whose ouster is inevitable…they must return to the ranks of the Syrian people before it is too late”