Who controls Syria’s Hasakah?


Hasakah city. File photo

ARA News

Hasakah, Syria Since the start of the Syrian crisis in March 2011, Kurds and Arabs together went into protests in the Kurdish and Arabic neighbourhoods of Hasakah city, northeast of Syria, demanding ” freedom, justice, and the fall of regime”.

With the control of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) on many Kurdish neighbourhoods -north of Hasakah- such as al-Salhya, al-Mufti and Tel Hajar, which demographically and geographically represent half of Hasakah city, and with the gradual withdrawal of the regime’s security forces, unrest among Hasakah’s different societal components started to emerge.

Like in other Syrian cities, the regime constituted the National Defence Army, which comprised 400 voluntary civilians of Arabs and Christians. They took al-Baath building as their military stronghold headed by a major called Bassam.

The main goal of the so-called “Masked”, as members of the National Defence Army were known for the masks they wear to hide their faces, is to take hold of Arabic neighbourhoods and arrest opposition activists to weaken the “revolution”. Then they localized in the city center in big numbers.

New irregular forces known as “militias” – linked to the regime- recently appeared on the ground to fight the Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG) –linked to PYD– to deepen disputes between Arabs and Kurds in the region.

Random practices and teases of these “militias” against residents annoyed Arabs too. They started to establish their own checkpoints inside the city’s neighbourhoods and on main roads asking cars to pay money to pass.

Another irregular group “militia” linked to the National Youth Party for Justice and development, presided by Berwin Ibrahim, appeared on the ground nearly four months ago.

This “militia”, headed by the member of the National Youth Party Fadi Hantosh, includes Arabs and Christians and gathers in the Sports Center, close to station street in central Hasakah.

Clashes between YPG and this “militia”, three times since the beginning of 2014, have led to many civilian and military casualties. Moreover, the “militia” abducted 16 Kurds from Hasaka central market in the last clashes, on May 20, 2014, and then released them after one day in a captured exchange with YPG. Residents believe this “militia” to be the “most tyrannical”.

In al-Azizya neighbourhood, another “militia”, headed by Khaled Hamdo from al-Jhish Arab tribe and constituted mostly from members of this tribe, was constituted to protect the governmental institutions, especially the national hospital and the water establishment in this neighbourhood, without interfering in the citizens’ affairs.

Clashes between the National Youth Party-linked pro-regime militia and the YPG forces took place last year for control over the water establishment, which was taken eventually by YPG. The national hospital is this militia’s sole stronghold now.

Currently, a new militia called “Arab People Protection Units” was established in Hasakah under the leadership of Fayz al-Namis. It comprises Arab pro-regime tribes whose aim is to protect Arabs from the YPG and prevent the Kurdish expansion in Hasakah city, according to its constituent statement. Its base is still unknown.

Lately last year, the regime-linked Criminal Security recruited many young men who, earlier this year, fought against Islamic troops in Giweran district where many were killed.

Until today, no Christian “militia”, like “Soroto” forces in Qamishli city, east of Hasakah, was established. However, many Christians joined the pro-Assad National Defence Forces as most Christians live in Hasakah city center and al-Nasera neighbourhood, where the National Defence is in control.

The general feature of each of these militias is not having one uniform and enjoying bad reputation, mostly. Their estimated number is 4 thousand volunteers.

Today, many Islamic and Arab troops are dominating Giweran and its surrounding neighbourhoods, such as Giweran Martyrs Brigade, Ansar al-Sharia, Jabht al-Nusra and al-Arab Brigade.

Talking to ARA News, Shekhmos Ahmad, member of the PYD local council in Hasakah, said: “The Syrian regime used many tools to fight the general Syrian revolution and Rojava’s (Syria’s Kurdish areas) revolution in the Kurdish-majority areas. It paved the way for al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabht al-Nusra to enter Syria and Rojava, but they failed.”

“These terrorist groups, supported by neighbouring countries, imposed siege on the Kurdish regions such as Kobane and Efrin in northern Syria,” Ahmad said.

According to Ahmad, “many clashes between YPG, on one hand, and al-Baath troops and the National Defence militias, on the other hand, took place in Hasakah recently”.

“The regime was able to recruit many Arab young men either by money or by status settlement, for those who were members of al-Nusra or the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Some of these militias enjoy chauvinistic nationalistic temper, which is used by the regime to fight the Kurdish forces of the YPG and Assayish (linked to PYD) and to weaken stability in the Kurdish areas. However, they failed due to YPG sacrifices,” Ahmad argued.

Ahmad concluded: “YPG was able to hold the fire department and water establishment in Hasakah city after intensive clashes with the pre-mentioned militias. The regime tried to create unrest in the region by rumoring that YPG will cut water from Arab neighbourhoods and prevent the water establishment employees from heading to work. Again, it failed as YPG is a national force aimed to protect all the region’s citizens.”


Reporting by: Sipan al-Kurdi

Source: ARA News

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