April 9, 2015
On March 20, two car bomb explosions at a Kurdish ‘Nowruz’ new year’s celebration in the city of Al-Hasakah killed at least 37 civilians and wounded dozens of others, reported Syrian state news.
Various news agencies, including SANA and the London-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, blamed the Islamic State for the attack on the provincial capital, currently ruled by both regime forces and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units [YPG].
The Islamic State (IS) did not claim responsibility for attack and does not have a presence in the city, says Bafi Shayar, a Kurdish journalist who works with the pro-opposition Al-Hasakah Today News Network.
Regardless of who planned and executed the bombing, “the YPG is still responsible because it was not able to protect the gathering,” Shayar tells Syria Direct’s Ghardinia Ashour.
Q: Was the Islamic State really behind the explosion?
There hasn’t been an official statement from IS about the explosion. Only activists who are outside the country say that. They hear [that IS is responsible] and circulate the news, just like they’ve circulated false news about the number of victims and wounded.
Kurdish mourn victims of last month’s Nowruz bombing. Photo courtesy of DIYAKO.
Q: Who is to blame?
The people have accused the YPG and, even if the group didn’t commit the act, the YPG is still responsible because it was not able to protect the gathering. The YPG knew when and where the celebration would occur and they gave assurances that the neighborhood was safe.
Q: In your opinion, who is the more likely culprit: IS or the YPG?
The attack targeted supporters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which is known for being close to Barzani’s government [Iraqi Kurdistan] and considers the YPG an enemy.
At the same time as the explosion, there was also a meeting of YPG members. The thinking on the streets is: why wasn’t the YPG targeted, knowing that one was a meeting of YPG enemies and the other a meeting of YPG members?
Q: Is there any IS presence Al-Hasakah city?
There is absolutely no IS presence in the city, but the group is present 10 km away in the south, 40 km in the west, and 50 km in the east. The al-Mufti neighborhood [where the bombing took place] is northeast of the city center.
The areas surrounding al-Mufti have very large barricades manned by the YPG and pro-regime militias.
The square in al-Mufti is widely known, with a heavy security presence and no history of explosions.
Q: Is there a connection between Nowruz and the killing? What does Nowruz represent? Is it a Persian New Year’s holiday or a national holiday?
The people of Al-Hasakah have grown accustomed to Nowruz, but at the same time Arabs and other sects largely ignore Nowruz and their participation in the holiday is limited.
In celebrating Nowruz, the Persian New Year, the Kurds trace their origins back to Persia and what they call Kurdistan, which [they believe] stretches from northwest Iran to central Asia.
Kurds escaped fighting in these areas and moved to Syria, Iraq, and Turkey.
Q: It is said that the bombing was meant to portray the Kurds as victims and turn attention away from the YPG’s burning of villages and displacement of locals.
Yes, that’s true. Even Kurds say that and many of the victims were Kurds.
Q: Do you think the explosion was meant to convince people that they are being targeted and to justify the PYD’s [the political arm of the YPG] actions?
Exactly, the incident and its circumstances resemble something that the regime would do; everything they say is a lie. The locals don’t trust a thing that the PYD says. [Pro-Kurdish and pro-regime] news channels falsify news and lie about the revolution and opposition.
The regime is the biggest supporter of the YPG and has supplied them with artillery and heavy weapons, in addition to giving them air support and militias.
The YPG, with US-led coalition air support, has pushed IS from various regions [in Al-Hasakah]. After IS is expelled and mines [placed in the town by IS] are removed, the YPG surrenders these areas to the regime, as it did in Tel Hamees. Afterwards, schools reopened and security forces and militias return to the town.