June 9, 2014
Three parties are currently competing for Syria’s most northeastern province of Al-Hasakah: the Assad regime, Kurdish parties, and Islamist groups.
Located in the far northeast corner of Syria, the province is strategically important because it is resource rich, accounting for almost half of the country’s oil production prior to the outbreak of the civil war. It also shares a border with Iraq and Turkey.
Hasakah is home to a burgeoning independent Kurdish government that is being nurtured by the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD). The PYD, the dominant military and political presence in the province, draws ideological support from the Turkish Kurdish movement the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and has ties –and often competition – with the Iraqi Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and an alternative Syrian Kurdish movement the Kurdish National Party (KNP). It declared self-governance in late 2013.
The Assad regime still holds a presence in the region, but mostly in the cities of Hasakah, the provincial capital, and Qamishli. The government has pulled back much of their security forces but kept government services under its charge, such as the paying of state employees. The regime has allegedly cooperated with the PYD and provided them with weapons and support to combat the Islamist presence in the region, though the PYD strongly denies it.
Meanwhile, the Islamist a-Qaeda splinter group the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and a-Sham has firmly established itself in the areas outside Qamishli and the Hasakah, the eponymous provincial capital.
Despite the regime’s tenuous presence in Hasakah, the presidential elections still took place in the province.
The Kurdish PYD rejected the elections, declaring they will hold their own elections in September this year.
“It felt more like an homage to Assad, not a presidential election,” Islam al-Khafji of the independent Hasakah News Center told Osama abu Zaid from Halakah city. Elections were held on June 3rd, the day of the Syria’s first multiparty presidential election in modern Syrian history.
Q: How was the security situation at the voting centers in al-Hasakah?
The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Asayish forces (Kurdish militias associated with the PYD) closed more than one voting center and insulted state employees responsible for the centers by hitting some of them. They turned away the civilians who came to vote. In addition, they prevented people from the northern villages from voting who were heading to the city.
The Islamic State (ISIS) did not allow people from southern villages to go to the city. They closed all the roads under their control, fearing that people may vote.
Until now there has been no security breach or shooting recorded. The streets are still closed and security forces distributed everywhere, especially in the heart of the city.
Al-Hasakeh, Syria’s far northeastern province, is majority Kurdish.
Q: Tell us more about the security around elections in Hasakah.
All the roads to the city and the neighborhoods that lead to the city center were closed on election day. The security preparations were very high: the security, army and National Defense patrols were in all the streets and alleys searching people and preventing cars from entering the city.
Q: Was there a large turnout at the voting centers? How did the election process go?
The voting centers began receiving voters at 7am. Some centers had good attendance, such as the National Hospital center and al-Hezib city branch center. It appears that some centers like the National Hospital turned into a place for popular dances such as dabka, with cheers of support for Bashar al-Assad. It felt more like an homage to Assad, not a presidential election between three competitors.
For more from Syria Direct, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.