Asayish (Rojava cantons)
|Role||Security and policing|
|Chief of Asayish forces||Cowan Ibrahim|
The Asayîş or Asayish (Arabic: الأسايش, Kurdish for security) is the police force of the autonomous cantons within the Federation of Northern Syria – Rojava. Formed in the early stages of the Syrian Civil War, it had initially been established to police areas controlled by the Kurdish Supreme Committee. In October 2013, the Asayish claimed to have 4,000 members; by 2017, the number had reportedly risen to over 15,000.
Under the Constitution of Rojava, policing is a competence of the cantons. Overall, the Asayish forces of the cantons are composed of 26 official bureaus that aim to provide security and solutions to social problems. The six main units of Rojava Asayish are Checkpoints Administration, Anti-Terror Forces Command (HAT), Intelligence Directorate, Organized Crime Directorate, Traffic Directorate and Treasury Directorate. By 2016, 218 Asayish centers were established and 385 checkpoints with 10 Asayish members in each checkpoint were set up. 105 Asayish offices provide security against ISIL on the frontlines across Rojava. Larger cities have general directorates that are responsible for all aspects of security including road controls. Each Rojava canton has a HAT command and each Asayish center organizes itself autonomously. Overall chief of the police is the former journalist Cowan Ibrahim.
In Jazira Canton, the Asayish are further complemented by the Assyrian Sutoro police force, which is organized in every area with Christian population, and provides security and solutions to social problems in collaboration with other Asayish units. Though the Sutoro is officially subordinate to the Asayish, and represented on the Asayish executive board, it operates largely autonomous in regard to its internal affairs. Thus, it patrols the Christian neighborhoods of Qamishli without interference by the Asayish, and when the Sutoro members want appoint someone, they don't need the approval of the Asayish. The Assyrian Khabour Guards also provide security in towns along the Khabur River.
Strength, composition and payement
The Asayish police has around 15,000 personnel: 10,000 in Jazira Canton, 3,000 in Afrin Canton, and 2,000 in Kobanî Canton. Ethnically, Kurds dominate the Asayish, though half of the active personnel in Jazira Canton is Arab, while around 300 Turkmens have also enlisted, mostly in Tell Abyad. About 30% of the Asayish are women. Members of the force are paid $120 monthly salaries, which is above the average monthly salaries of Syrian civil servants, so that Asayish employment is rather attractive.
Involvement in Military Operations
While Asayish is primarly a police, the forces of Asayish were involved in tensions against the National Defense Forces, a pro-government militia. The tensions led to the Battle of Hasakah, on August 2016. Ultimately, the Syrian Arab Army was forced to give-up neighborhoods in the city.
As with other Rojavan institutions, the Asayish are striving for a force based on gender equality. An estimated 25% of Asayish members are women, and the Asayish organizations of the cantons are co-led by a man and woman. In addition to protecting civilians from armed attacks, the Asayish has created a special branch composed solely of women which is dedicated to gender-based violence, family disputes between women and protection of women during protests, and public celebrations. Their objective is to take care of every case in which a woman gets involved, from gender-based violence to a bank robbery.
Female members of the force face additional risk from attacks by radical Islamists. However, joining the Asayish is perceived as a huge act of personal and societal liberation from an extremely patriarchical background, for ethnic Kurdish and ethnic Arab women alike.
The Rojavan government is working towards providing all citizens with Asayish training. The ultimate hope is that once the vast majority of citizens have been trained, security can be maintained amongst the citizens and the Asayish itself can be dissolved.
In addition to the use of weapons, Asayish members are also trained in "mediation, ethics, the history of Kurdistan, imperialism, the psychological war waged by popular culture and the importance of education and self-critique."
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