Hediya Yousef

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Hediya Yousef
Hediya Yûsif
Co-president of the Executive Council
In office
17 March 2016 – 18 July 2018
Serving with Mansur Selum
Preceded byPosition established
Personal details
NationalitySyrian (Rojavan)
Political partyDemocratic Union Party

Hediya Yousef (Kurdish: Hediya Yûsif‎, Arabic: هدية يوسف‎) is a Syrian-Kurdish[1] politician who held the office of co-president of the Executive Council of Rojava from 17 March 2016 to 16 July 2018. Yousef is an ethnic Kurd, and served with fellow co-president Mansur Selum, an ethnic Arab.[2][3]

Early life[edit]

State emblem of the Jazeera (also spelled "Jazira") Canton

In her twenties, Yousef, then a guerilla, had been imprisoned by the Assad government for two years in Damascus on charges of having been a member of a secret organization aiming to break up Syria.[4][5]

Co-presidency of Jazeera Canton[edit]

Yousef first held the office of co-president of Jazeera Canton in the northeast of the newly established Rojava federation. Yousef served as co-president with fellow co-president Humeydi Daham al-Hadi, an Arab tribal leader.[4] Yousef's office was located in the former headquarters of the state-owned Syrian Petroleum Company in the oil-rich[6] city of Rmelan,[4] the city where the Rojava federation had been declared.[6]

"Co-governance" and Kurdish-Arab cooperation[edit]

During her tenure as co-president, Yousef worked towards greater inter-sectarian cooperation particularly between Kurds and Arabs.[1] The Rojava federation, Yousef said, "is something beyond the nation-state. It's a place where all people, all minorities, and all genders are equally represented."[4] Also during her tenure, Yousef pursued the policy of "co-governance" which, as she explained in an interview, ensures that "every position at every level of government in Rojava . . . includes a female equivalent of equal authority."[4]

Co-presidency of the Rojava federation[edit]

In March 2016, Yousef was elected co-president of the Rojava federation. The federation covered about 16 percent of Syria's land area.[6] In an interview upon her election, Yousef described the mission of the committee as creating "a wider and more comprehensive system" in the areas liberated from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) "that [gives] rights to all the groups to represent themselves and to form their own administrations."[7]

Referring to the principle of co-governance's attempt to ensure that Syria is government so as to include the country's many ethnic groups (predominantly Arabs and Kurds), Abdulsalem Mohammed said that "Hediya [Yousef] represents Rojava and [Mansur] Selam represents northern Syria." Mohammed, a Kurdish teacher and activist from Qamishli, added that "This is based on the principle of our co-chair system and different nations, and equality between women and men."[8]

"Democratic confederalism" and Kurdish separatism[edit]

In addition to supporting the policy of "co-governance," Yousef also supports the policy of "democratic confederalism" which honorary Group of Communities in Kurdistan leader Abdullah Ocalan wrote in 2005 was "not a State system [but] the democratic system of a people without a State."[9] Yousef has spoken in support of Western intervention in the Syrian civil war but, in line with her democratic confederalist beliefs, opposes intervention for the purposes of establishing a Kurdish state separate from Syria.[5] "We will not allow the fragmentation of Syria," she said in July 2016. "We want the democratization of Syria."[10]

The Unification of Rojava[edit]

As the Syrian civil war unfolded and the Rojava federation emerged, Yousef voiced her "desire for Manbij [a city in the Governorate of Aleppo then occupied by ISIL forces] to be part of the democratic federal area [of Rojava] after its liberation."[11] This was part of a wider campaign to unify the cantons of Rojava into a contiguous federation.

Early offensives[edit]

Throughout June 2016, roughly three months after Yousef became co-president, U.S.-backed[12] Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) carried out a campaign to liberate the territories still held by ISIL in northern Syria and to unify the cantons. On June 10, less than a week after liberated eight surrounding villages[13] and the Manbij Military Council cut off ISIL's supply route between Manbij and the de facto ISIL capital of Raqqa,[14] the SDF captured the city of Osajli[15] Ten days later, the SDF captured Arima.[16]

The liberation of Manbij[edit]

In July 2016, roughly one and a half months after the launch of the Manbij offensive by the SDF during which Osajli, Arima, and other cities were captures, ISIL suffered heavy losses in the west and north of the city of Manbij despite repeated attempts to break the SDF siege.[17] As ISIL's expulsion from the city neared, Yousef announced that Manbij, a city of strategic importance, would soon join the Rojava federation[18] via a popular referendum.[19][20] The incorporation of Manbij would be a significant step toward uniting the currently non-contiguous Rojava federation cantons of Afrin and Kobani.[19]

On Thursday July 21, 2016, the Syrian Democratic Forces gave ISIL forces a 48-hour ultimatum to leave Manbij.[21] ISIL refused the ultimatum, and clashes broke out on Friday.[22] By Monday the 25th, the Manbij Military Council (MMC), aligned with the SDF, had gained control of a majority of the city. By August 5, the MMC had captured roughly 80 percent of the city.[23] On August 6, Syrian Democratic Forces declares that they had gained "almost complete control" of the city.[24] Manbij was liberated on August 15, 2016.[25]

The al-Bab offensive[edit]

Shortly after the liberation of Manbij, the "al-Bab Military Council" was created for the planned offensive to liberate the city of Al-Bab from the ISIL.[26]


  1. ^ a b "The Cezire Canton: An Arab Sheikh and A Woman Guerrilla at the Helm". Syandan. 4 October 2014. Archived from the original on 9 August 2016. Retrieved 2016-07-19.
  2. ^ "Syrian Kurds declare new federation in bid for recognition". Middle East Eye. 17 March 2016. Retrieved 2016-07-19.
  3. ^ Fetah, Vîviyan (17 July 2018). "Îlham Ehmed: Dê rêxistinên me li Şamê jî ava bibin". www.rudaw.net (in Kurdish). Rudaw Media Network. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e "A Dream of Secular Utopia in ISIS' Backyard". The New York Times. 29 November 2015. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Syrian Kurds in six-month countdown to federalism". The Daily Star. 13 April 2016. Retrieved 2016-07-19.
  6. ^ a b c http://www.thearabweekly.com/, The Arab Weekly. "Kurds' 'federal' project in Syria raises concerns". Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  7. ^ "Syrian Kurds in six-month countdown to federalism". Reuters. 12 April 2016. Retrieved 2016-07-19.
  8. ^ "ANALYSIS: 'This is a new Syria, not a new Kurdistan'". Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  9. ^ "Declaration of Democratic Confederalism in Kurdistan - Free media library". Archived from the original on 29 September 2016. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  10. ^ "Hediye Yusuf: Suriye'nin parçalanmasına izin vermeyeceğiz". 11 July 2016. Archived from the original on 2016-09-10. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  11. ^ "Federal plan for northern Syria advances with U.S.-backed forces". 16 June 2016. Retrieved 17 September 2016 – via Reuters.
  12. ^ "Fights to Retake Fallujah, Manbij City From ISIL Begin". Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  13. ^ "US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces advance against ISIS near Manbij, liberate eight villages - ARA News". 4 June 2016. Archived from the original on 2016-09-09. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  14. ^ "SDF-led Manbij Military Council cuts off ISIS supply route between Raqqa and Manbij - ARA News". 5 June 2016. Archived from the original on 2016-06-06. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  15. ^ "YPG has captured Osajli from ISIS,thus is close to Arima". Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  16. ^ "SDF took over Arima town on half way to al-Bab city". Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  17. ^ Tomson, Chris (17 July 2016). "ISIS stronghold on the verge of collapse as the SDF captures half of Manbij city". Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  18. ^ sitesi, nerinaazad.com Kürdistan haber. "Hediye Yusuf: Menbiç alınırsa federasyona bağlanacak - Nerina Azad". Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  19. ^ a b Sputnik. "When Liberated Manbij Will Join Autonomous Federation of Northern Syria". Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  20. ^ . Bas-Haber http://www.nerinaazad.com/news/kurdistan/rojava/hediye-yusuf-menbic-alinirsa-federasyona-baglanacak=Hediye. Missing or empty |title= (help)[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ "Syria war: ISIL given '48 hours' to leave Manbij". Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  22. ^ "Syria: Clashes in Manbij after ISIL refuses rebel offer". Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  23. ^ Al-awsat, Asharq (4 August 2016). "Manbij Military Council Now Controls 80% of the City - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT". Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  24. ^ Al-awsat, Asharq (6 August 2016). "Observatory: ISIS 'Almost Completely' Ousted from Syria's Manbij - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT". Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  25. ^ "Manbij Liberated After ISIS Flees City". ABC News. 15 August 2016. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  26. ^ http://rudaw.net/english/middleeast/syria/140820162