Hundreds of displaced Syrian Kurds in a northern Iraq refugee camp demonstrated on Saturday against conscription, property confiscations and alleged abuses by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Kurdish-controlled territories in northern Syria.

“No to conscription,” read one sign held by men and women demonstrating Saturday in the Basirma refugee camp south of Erbil, the capital city of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, in images posted online Saturday by Afrin Event.

The conscription of youth aged 18 to 30 by the PYD is a policy that “forces many youth who refuse to take part in the battles to flee,” Bahouz, a Kurdish citizen journalist currently in the northeast Al-Hasakah town of al-Malikiyah told Syria Direct Sunday. Bahouz requested to be referred to only by his first name for security reasons.

The PKK-aligned PYD, alongside its military wing the YPG, is the strongest party in the self-administration governing the Syrian Kurdish territories.

Those who do not wish to serve “are internally displaced or go with their families to Iraq and Turkey,” added Bahouz.

There are currently an estimated 111,000 Syrian refugees living in Iraqi Kurdistan, according to UNHCR estimates.

Saturday’s demonstration in Basirma was called for and attended by representatives of the Kurdish National Council (KNC), a coalition of Syrian Kurdish parties aligned with Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Iraq. The KNC is the main political rival to the PYD inside Syria. 

The two groups have come into conflict in recent months about the administration of the territories. Key points of tension have been conscription, the introduction of allegedly PYD-biased primary school curricula and alleged arrests of KNC-aligned demonstrators and activists by PYD security forces.

“All of us Kurds believe in Kurdish nationalism and aspire to have our own national entity,” Bahouz adds, “but not in this way, which makes Kurdish youth lost, wandering far from home.”

Photo courtesy of Afrin Event.