On one finish of Qamishli’s foremost road flies the two-starred Syrian nationwide flag. On the opposite, that of the Kurdish Democratic Union Celebration.
“One flag represents our previous oppression, the opposite our freedom,” says Mahmoud, who owns a clothes store which sits between the 2.
Earlier than the civil conflict, it could have been unthinkable for the Kurdish minority to brazenly pledge allegiance to something apart from the President Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian Arab Republic.
However seven years into Syria’s interminable battle the Kurds seem to have carved out one thing of a proto-state on this nook of northeastern Syria, thanks partly to their efforts to flush out Isil.
Whereas they’ve been crushing the Caliphate to a tiny sliver of territory – taking the final city held by the Islamist on Friday morning – their separatist ambitions have largely been missed. Till now.
Town of Qamishli has grow to be the centre of the Kurds’ bold self-administration challenge. Whereas a couple of authorities buildings and statues of President Assad stay, Qamishli and the encompassing areas at the moment are firmly underneath the management of the Democratic Union Celebration (PYD).
Mahmoud is a proud supporter of the PYD, however nonetheless he declines to offer his full identify to the Telegraph for concern of reprisal ought to the regime sooner or later return.
Assad has repeatedly promised to retake each inch of Syria, together with the third presently in Kurdish fingers.
The prospect appeared extra probably than at some other time within the conflict this week after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered Turkish troops and Ankara-backed Syrian rebels to prepared for an assault on Syria’s Kurds.
Turkey views the PYD’s army arm, the Standard Safety Models (YPG), as a terrorist organisation due to its hyperlinks to an rebel group inside Turkey, and has watched with rising concern at Kurdish expansionism on the opposite aspect of its border.
In recent times, Turkish forces have already swept into Syria pushing the YPG out of territory west of the Euphrates river. However previous offensives have stopped at its banks, partly to keep away from direct confrontation with US troops that again the Kurds.
“Turkey has misplaced sufficient time by way of intervening to scrub the phobia swamp east of the Euphrates. We do not have the persistence to attend another day,” Mr Erdogan warned on Friday.
The Kurds, who’ve thus far relied on the US for help of their battles towards Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), have threatened to desert the battle if they’re left to fend for themselves within the face of a Turkish onslaught.
However Washington has despatched combined indicators on whether or not it could be behind them in any battle towards Nato ally Turkey.
“We don’t depend on any authorities, we simply have strategic alliances,” Salih Muslim, a distinguished political participant in Rojava who till lately co-chaired the PYD, advised the Sunday Telegraph. “The Kurds have anticipated a transfer from Turkey for some time now and won’t simply again down.”
No matter they could say, it’s clear is that the Kurds can’t stave off Turkish aggression alone.
Within the absence of a dependable ally within the US, they might quickly be compelled to resolve whether or not to danger their possibilities, or eek out an unfavourable take care of Assad to safe long-term survival.
“We have now to take Assad at his phrase,” Khalaf Dahowd, head of the international committee of the Democratic Change Motion, advised the Sunday Telegraph from his workplace in Qamishli, refering to the president’s pledge to take again all Syria’s territory. “If he will get the prospect to take Rojava he’ll,” mentioned Mr Dahowd, utilizing the Kurdish identify for the realm of self-rule which covers some 15,000 sq. miles.
“Even when he was at his weakest level, earlier than Russia intervened and it appeared like he was going to lose every thing, Assad refused to work with the Kurds,” he mentioned. “Now he’s successful, and because the saying goes – the winner takes all.”
Kurdish officers who have been a part of the primary delegation to Damascus over the summer time say the Syrian authorities was not ready to make a single concession.
Regardless of this, the Kurds – who’re nearly the one aspect within the multi-faceted conflict to not have had a full-scale army battle with the regime – nonetheless maintain out hope for a political answer.
The Kurds, who quantity greater than two million in Syria, have made nice sacrifices for his or her “democratic experiment”, as they name their pseudo-state within the north.
The YPG has suffered appreciable losses within the battles towards Isil in Raqqa and Deir Ezzor within the east.
Officers estimate as much as 8,000 fighters have been killed and 5,000 injured. Fierce battles are nonetheless ongoing for the final sliver of jihadist territory in Deir Ezzor. At the least 5,000 IS fighters stay holed up within the pocket of territory, together with some 2,000 international fighters, principally Arabs and Europeans together with their households.
The YPG has additionally made vital beneficial properties, together with management of the nation’s borders with Turkey and Iraq, its most profitable oil fields and the liberty to as soon as once more communicate their native language after many years of repression.
“There are basic items we can’t quit; we’d like our democratic rights and our tradition and language to be protected,” mentioned Fawza al-Youssef, the co-chair of the manager physique of the North Syria Federation. “However there are different issues which might be negotiable.”
Relinquishing management of the borders and folding the YPG, into the nationwide military, can be among the many calls for she says the self-administration would contemplate in return for a decentralisation of presidency.
It could even be prepared to do a deal on the oil fields in japanese Deir Ezzor province, which account for greater than 80 per cent of the nation’s pre-war manufacturing and presently lie inside their management.
“We aren’t saying all of that is rightfully ours, however the individuals right here ought to profit,” Ms Youssef mentioned.
The subsequent few days will show pivotal for the Kurds as they face the best existential risk to their autonomy challenge because the conflict started.
“We will’t return to the place have been have been earlier than 2011, after we had nothing,” mentioned Ms Youssef. “We have now not fought this difficult for all of it to be destroyed.”