Syria (Rojava or Western Kurdistan)

Rojava Cantons Syrian Kurdistan

The Kurdish region of northeastern Syria is inhabited primarily by people of Kurdish descent. It is estimated that less than 2 million Kurds live within the Kurdish region of northeastern Syria, also known as Rojava, constituting the largest ethnic minority in Syria.

The Kurdish region of Syria is also known as Rojava. Rojava is broken into three cantons. Afrin Canton in the West, Kobane Canton in the center, and Cizre Canton in the East. These three cantons are working in cooperation with many local and international players to push back the Islamic State.

Syrian Kurdistan Political Parties

Currently, the largest political group in the Kurdish region of Syria is the Democratic Union Party (PYD). The PYD is a Kurdish political party that was founded in 2003 as an affiliate of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) in Turkey. Founded by Kurdish activists, the party has between 60,000 and 80,000 members. The PYD is the primary Kurdish force fighting against the Syrian Government and against the Islamic State. The military wing of the PYD includes both the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), which is, in part, famous for its all-female special unit that handles crimes of domestic violence and rape.

The second largest Kurdish political party in Syria is the Kurdish National Council (KNC). The KNC was founded under the sponsorship of the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani in 2011. The KNC is an alliance of around 15 Kurdish political parties pushing for Kurdish autonomy in Syria. The KNC has intermintently been at odds with the PYD, even though the two parties are united under an alliance called the Kurdish Supreme Committee. The primary point of contention is how to accomplish Kurdish autonomy for the Kurdish regions of Syria.

Syrian Civil War

The Kurdish population in Syria has played a significant role in both the Syrian Civil War and the fight against the Islamic State, which began in 2012 and 2014, respectively. As of 2015, Syrian government troops have pulled out of Kurdish regions of Syria, and have left Kurdish forces in control. The future of the Kurdish region of Syria is in the hands of the KNC and the PYD, who are currently at odds over how to defeat the Islamic State and how to best govern the region.

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Explore the Kurdish Region of Syria