The US Must Not Abandon the People of Rojava

A woman shouts during a protest near Parliament Square in London, Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014. Demonstrators were calling for sup
A woman shouts during a protest near Parliament Square in London, Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014. Demonstrators were calling for support for the Kurdish resistance against the Islamic State group in Kobani and Rojava. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

On June 18, 2015, the Syrian town of Tel Abyad was freed from the clutches of the Islamic State in Syria and Levant (ISIL). The liberation was the result of a coordinated attack by the People's Protection Army (YPG), moderate opposition forces and the allied support. The battle of Tel Abyad was a major defeat for the ISIL terrorists and a triumph for humanity. It sparked hope that ISIL can be defeated and Syria can be a better place.

For over four years, Syria has been plagued by a conflict between a dictatorial regime and fragmented opposition groups. The number of casualties in the Syrian war have sadly exceeded 250,000, with twice as many injured and millions of displaced refuges.

Syria is a complex country and so is its upraising. From the inception of the uprisings in 2011, Democratic Union Party (PYD) remained on the sidelines and established a self-governance system in northern Syria, known as Rojava, which includes most of the political parties and NGO's, including the PYD.

We also established the YPG military units that are inclusive to all people regardless of religion, gender or ethnicity. These forces were able to maintain the security of Rojava and defend it against the ISIL assaults. Also, progressive laws have already been passed to ensure gender equality. While th civil war has displaced over 9 million Syrians, Rojava is hosting over a million of refugees with very limited resources. Also, as ISIL crucifies Christians and enslaves Yezidi women for sex, we have included them in our military and administrative units.

However, we are admittedly far from perfect, but we are willing to improve. We have repeatedly called on international organizations to visit Rojava to assess our needs in terms of the basic living services and humanitarian aid. We also welcome U.S. diplomats to visit Rojava and make objective assessments. We are determined to transfer our region to a transparent democracy that respects the rule of law and gender equality.

The Rojava self-governance is by no means a threat to the unity of Syria or to our neighbors. The PYD has made it clear that that Syria is a multi-ethnic country and critical to the stability of the region. Only cooperation amongst the Syrian ethnicities can safeguard a peaceful solution to the civil war.

Despite our efforts though, we have been accused of false allegations, including cooperation with Assad forces against the opposition, ethnic-cleansing of areas under YPG control and even seeking to establish an independent Western Kurdistan. In reality, however, PYD is seeking to crush ISIL, end the totalitarian regime in Syria and be helpful in building a decentralized and viable democratic system that promotes human rights and respects its neighbors.

It must be emphasized again that Turkey is an important neighbor of Syria, and we will do everything we can to protect its borders. However, the future of Syria must be determined by the Syrian people without any regional influence, realizing that a dictatorial system is no longer feasible for Syria.

The failed policies of dealing with the Syrian conflict led to the emergence of ISIL. It has now transformed to a Frankenstein monster, operating independently and poses a direct threat to the free world. The YPG units so far are the only effective force on ground against ISIL. In fact, the U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter went on the record and recognized the effectiveness of the YPG against ISIL.

We are determined to capture or kill these terrorists and hold the liberated grounds to ensure better governance and deliver service with our limited resources. Our fight against ISIL will not be limited to the Rojava region; we will fight them anywhere they exist.

As we are waging this war against ISIL, together with the allied countries, the United States must not abandon the people of Rojava for the interests of the regional states who are actually doing very little to fight ISIL. Such policy could potentially reverse all the progress that we have made on ground against ISIL.

While we value the decision of President Obama to support Rojava militarily against ISIL, the administration can do more. The YPG collaboration with the allied countries has proven effective against ISIL, and we ready to hold diplomatic talks with the U.S. government to exchange political views.


Saleh Muslim Muhammed is the co-chair of the Democratic Union Party.