Syria’s Kurds have captured media attention recently, not just for their military conquests but also for their civil society activities. A number of Kurds protested against the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a left-wing Kurdish political party that has dominated much of the Kurdish political landscape in Northern Syria over the past four years and has recently arrested politicians and activists., Meanwhile, in Turkey, some activists in alongside the Geroun Media Network launched a campaign to highlight the plight of political prisoners. This campaign was a collaboration with the Survivors of Detention group.
Protests Against the PYD
A number of northern Syrian cities (Al-Qamishli, Amuda, al-Maʿbadah, Tell Tamr, ad-Darbasiyah, and al-Malikiyah) have protested against the PYD on August 16, 2016, in response to the party’s arrest of politicians and activists, such as Mohammad Ismaʿil and Neshat Zaza, members of the Kurdish National Council (KNC, a coalition of political parties allied with Masʿud Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan) political bureau; Saleh Jamil, ʿAbdul-Karim Haji, and Nafeʿ ʿAbdullah, members of the KNC Central Committee; Mizkin Mohammad Ramadan, a member of the Secretariat General of the latter; and Ibrahim Barro, the president of the KNC who was arrested by the party and exiled to Iraqi Kurdistan for taking part in demonstrations and criticizing the PYD’s policies.
In al-Qamishli, in front of the Salman al-Farsi Mosque, people chanted “No to silencing dissent… No to starvation”, “The people are stronger than any military force” and “No to PYD harassment of other Kurdish parties”. In Amuda, the people raised banners saying “Shame on the enemies of the Kurdish people and their causes” and “Those who experienced the regime’s prisons will not be deterred by their servant’s prisons”. In al-Maʿbadah, a sit-in was organized against the party, which featured people carrying banners reading “The national flag is like our anthem; a symbol of unity, and an expression of our sacrifices”, in response to the PYD removing the "Colorful Flag" adopted by Iraqi Kurdistan.In al-Malikiyyah people hosted a sit-in where they raised banners that read “Abducting Ibrahim Barro does not help our struggle” and “No to political arrests”. In ad-Darbasiyah, the sit-in called for the release of detainees, with people holding up banners featuring their names. In Tell Tamr, people held banners at the organized sit-in reading “Do not empty the region of its youth’s power” in response to the PYD conscription for young people. According to the PYD’s opponents, the problems began when the PYD attempted to instigate clashes during the funeral of one of their peshmerga, Habib Qadri Mohammad Saʿid, who had been killed in Iraq while fighting against the self-declared Islamic State. In an official statement put forth by the Asayish (the PYD-controlled security forces), they said: “Our forces arrested various PYD supporters and some families of our martyrs today, confiscating a number of weapons in their possession, after they had tried to attack the people gathered to mourn for the peshmerga. We also arrested Kurdish National Council supporters, after our patrol members had been assaulted by them while escorting the funeral.”
In collaboration with the Survivors of Detention group, Geroun Media Network launched a campaign entitled “Detainees First" on August 11, which was attended by a number of intellectuals and artists. The event was held at the Harmoon Center for Contemporary Studies in Gaziantep, Turkey.
ʿAbdul-Hakim Qubtan, a renowned anti-Asad artist, kicked off the launch event. Taysir Ghalyoun, known as the "Falcon of Homs", followed with a concert that included revolutionary songs. The ceremony ended with a brief contribution by artist Faris al-Helu, who spoke about the creation of the campaign “Detainees First” which was initiated on August 1 in Paris and Berlin.
On August 12, the Harmoon Center hosted a talk with former detainees Hasan an-Nifi and Wa'el Saʿddeddin, who is also a poet, where they discussed the years they spent behind bars. Then came the turn of Dr. Jalal Nofal, a former prisoner and psychiatrist. During this event, they debated about the “historical course of arrests in Syria” under the Asads.On the last day of this event, the film “The Prisoner of Solitary Confinement Cell n.319" was screened. Directed by the young filmmaker Rudy ʿAbdur-Rahman, the movie deals with man’s struggles with his inner fears through the lens of a detainee and his suffering. No To Drugs in Southern Syria
The vacuum of state authority in parts of Syria has led to the rise of certain social ills, including drug addiction. This has prompted a number of activists in Tasil, in the Darʿa outskirts, to launch a campaign called “No to Drugs” to combat both drug use and trafficking, after the Free Syrian Army-run Darʿa Military Council discovered a network of drug dealers in the city in late July, according to the Syrian opposition website All4Syria.The Darʿa Council and the Local Council of Tasil collaborated on this project, and have included a number of activities in the campaign with a focus on sports, and medical and religious awareness, according to the initative's supervisor Mohammad al-Maqdam.
The first day of the campaign was dedicated to raising awareness about the medical side effects of drugs and their impact on the community. The second day focused on sporting events to bring the youth together, and the third day focused on religious education and Islam’s opinions on drugs.
The campaign will last a period of 40 days and will include home visits and the distribution of pamphlets containing information about drugs and their negative side effects.
[Main Photo: The al-Qamishli demonstration against the PYD - al-Hasakah province - 16-8-2016 (Syria Freedom Forever blog)].