Asayish crack down on political opponents in Al-Hasakah after protests

AMMAN: Security forces loyal to the dominant Kurdish political party in Syria’s northern Al-Hasakah province arrested dozens of political opponents on Tuesday and Wednesday after demonstrations in seven Kurdish cities.

The wave of arrests began Tuesday after multiple protests denouncing what they called PYD abuses, and reportedly included dozens of politicians, activists, photographers and civilians affiliated with the Kurdish National Council (KNC).

The KNC is the main political opposition to the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which leads the Self-Administration governing Kurdish-held territories, including the Jazira canton in Al-Hasakah, in Syria’s far-northeast corner.

 Pro-KNC demonstrators in Qamishli on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Syrian Revolution Network.

The PYD has close ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey, while the KNC is backed by Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The Asayish are the Self-Administration’s police force.

The latest tensions between the KNC and the PYD began over the weekend when the Asayish reportedly detained Ibrahim Biro, the leader of the KNC and affiliated Yekiti party, at gunpoint in Qamishli city.

Biro was held for six hours on Saturday and deported to Iraqi Kurdistan under “the threat that, in case of his return to Syria, he would be killed,” according to a statement published online Tuesday by the KNC’s Geneva office.

 A demonstrator in Amouda carries a picture of Ibrahim Biro, the head of the PYD-opposed KNC, who was arrested by the Asayish on Sunday and deported to Iraqi Kurdistan. Photo courtesy of ARTA FM.

Two days later, Asayish forces reportedly disrupted a funeral march for a Peshmerga fighter killed in Iraq and arrested several KNC officials who were in attendance.

The Asayish said in an online statement on Monday that their officers intervened to protect the marchers from a number of armed, pro-PYD would-be attackers.

The police later arrested several KNC supporters who “tried to attack members of our patrol.”

KNC supporters subsequently demonstrated against the PYD on Tuesday evening in seven major towns in Jazira canton.

The arrests began during the demonstrations and extended into Wednesday morning.

One of the arrested is Saleh Hussein Samou, the head of the KNC-affiliated local council in Dirik, one of the towns where demonstrations occurred on Tuesday. Samou “was arrested [Wednesday] morning for organizing Tuesday’s demonstration without a permit,” Muhammad Osou, a member of the Al-Hasakah is Being Slaughtered Silently media campaign told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

 Clashes at the funeral of a Peshmerga fighter in Girkê Legê (Muabadah) on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Muhammad Qadou.

“Any gathering or demonstration in any city must be licensed,” Kanaan Barakat, the co-president of the Internal Affairs Entity of Jazira canton, said in a press conference on Tuesday.

According to a 2014 law, any group wishing to hold a demonstration, celebration or gathering in Jazira canton must “form a council and present a request for a permit,” said Barakat.

“Anyone not abiding by that will subject himself to prosecution, and the appropriate legal measures will be taken,” he added.

The PYD-led Self Administration’s Internal Affairs Entity, which the Asayish belong to administratively, did not immediately respond on Wednesday to a request for comment.

In at least one of the towns where demonstrations were held, security was tight on Wednesday.

“There is intense inspection and scrutiny at the checkpoints,” Muhammad Fanoush, a pro-KNC resident of the northern Hasakah town of Girkê Legê ‎told Syria Direct. 

Mohammad Abdulssattar Ibrahim

Mohammad is from Amouda in Hasakah province. He moved to Jordan in 2004. Mohammad started work with the Syrian Revolution LCC in Amman by doing reporting and coordinating protests. After that he did volunteer work for refugees in Amman.

Maria Nelson

Maria Nelson was a 2014-2015 fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad program (CASA I) in Amman, Jordan. She holds a BA in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University, with a certificate in Arabic Language and Culture.