Kurdish National Council

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Kurdish National Council
Encûmena Niştimanî ya Kurdî li Sûriyê
Arabic name المجلس الوطني الكوردي
Leader Ibrahim Biro
Founded 26 October 2011 (4 years, 8 months ago)
Headquarters Al-Qamishli
Paramilitary wing Rojava Peshmerga[2]
Ideology Kurdish nationalism[3][4]
Pro-Kurdish autonomy[3]
Political position Centre
National affiliation Kurdish Supreme Committee
National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces[6]
International affiliation Kurdistan Democratic Party[3]
People's Council
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Party flag
Flag of Kurdistan.svg
Coat of Arms of Rojava.png
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The Kurdish National Council (KNC, Kurdish: Encûmena Niştimanî ya Kurdî li Sûriyê‎, ENKS; Arabic: المجلس الوطني الكوردي‎‎ Al-Majlis Al-Watani Al-Kurdi) in Syria is a Kurdish political organization involved in the Syrian Civil War.[7][8]

The Kurdish National Council was founded in Hawler on 26 October 2011, under the sponsorship of Kurdish Regional Government President Massoud Barzani, following the earlier creation of the Syrian National Council. The organisation was originally composed of 11 Syrian Kurdish parties, however by May 2012 this had grown to 15.[3]

Several KNC parties have also on occasion come into conflict with another Kurdish group, the Democratic Union Party, or PYD.[9] In order to reduce tensions, Massoud Barzani mediated between the two groups in July 2012 at a diplomatic meeting in Hawler. As a result, the PYD joined with the Kurdish National Council to form the Kurdish Supreme Committee along with a popular defence force to defend Syrian Kurdistan.[10] Under the agreement, cities that fall under the control of Syrian Kurdish forces will be ruled jointly by the PYD and the KNC until an election can be held. Despite the agreement before the groups, there remain allegations from the Kurdish Union Party that the PYD has forced buildings run by the KNC, which fly the Kurdish flag, to replace it with the provisional Rojava flag, which is used by the PYD. The PYD has apparently been able to do this due in part to the fact that it ensures, at times forcibly, that no other groups maintain any significant armed wing like the YPG.[clarification needed]

While the KNC has more international support than the PYD[11] and a strong supporter basis among Syrian Kurdish refugees,[12] it has much less popular support in Rojava itself.[11]


Although the KNC has joined the Syrian National Coalition, there are key differences between the KNC and the SNC over their approach to the issue of decentralization, with the KNC pressing for Kurdish autonomy, whereas the SNC has rejected anything more than administrative decentralization.[3] The issue of federalism and autonomy is also a point of contention for KNC and PYD, even though both parties have very similar aims. As such, the KNC condemned the PYD's declaration of a federation in northern Syria as an attempt to break up Syria without previous "debate and democratic participation". The KNC further stated that "it strictly opposes any attempt to impose federalism on the Syrian people without a preceding discussion". These statements have raised confusion among observers, with Carl Drott, a sociology researcher at the University of Oxford, commenting that "It is hard to know what the KNC actually wants. There is a fundamental contradiction between the Kurdish nationalist ideology of the KNC and the political project of its Syrian allies. Sometimes it seems that the only consistent policy of the KNC is to oppose anything that the PYD does."[4] It should be noted, however, that Syrian Kurdish refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan, who mostly support the KNC, are also critical of the federalism declaration. Many of them fear that further tensions in Syria would arise as result of the declaration, while they simply wish for an end of hostilities.[12] Despite these divisions about how to implement Kurdish autonomy, the KNC still generally supports federalism.[3] This was shown when Syrian opposition leader Michel Kilo outright condemned any attempt of Kurds to establish federalism in Syria, negatively comparing them to Israel. The KNC reacted to the statement by supporting the PYD in accusing Kilo of racism and acting to please Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Turkey. Nevertheless, the KNC also argued that the Kurds still had friends among the Syrian National Coalition, thereby reiterating their general support for the Syrian opposition.[13]

Paramilitary wing - Rojava Peshmerga[edit]

Partially in response to the military power of the PYD, the KNC formed its own paramilitary wing, the Rojava Peshmerga. They were mostly recruited from Syrian Army deserters and Syrian Kurdish refugees in northern Iraq.[14][15] Trained by Iraqi Peshmerga and Zeravani under Major General Bahjat Taymas, the milita has a claimed strength of 3,000 fighters by June 2016. Their primary purpose is to defend Kurdish areas, and to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[2]

Due to the tensions between PYD and KNC, the Rojava Peshmerga have so far seen little action in Syria. In course of the Siege of Kobanî, the KNC offered to send 200 fighters to support the city's defenses, but was rejected by the PYD as the latter wanted all Kurdish units to fight as part of the YPG and YPJ.[16] The YPG even hindered the KNC's Peshmerga who had been trained in Iraqi Kurdistan from entering Rojava at all.[1] Since the formation of the Syrian Democratic Forces, YPG officials have declared, however, that KNC fighters are generally welcome to join the alliance. Despite discussions about possibly joining, the KNC has so far rejected military cooperation with pro-PYD forces. Ibrahim Biro stated as reasons for this that "they [the SDF] have a good relation with the Syrian regime, that’s why we cannot join them." Despite their tensions with the PYD, however, the KNC has also rejected inquires of Syrian opposition groups to send the Rojava Peshmerga to Azaz to defend the city against both ISIL as well as YPG during the Northern Aleppo offensive. Bahjat Taymas declared that the Rojava Peshmerga "don’t want to fight Kurds, only ISIS."[2]

Currently, the Rojava Peshmerga are mostly fighting ISIL in Iraq.[2][15]

List of constituent parties[edit]

Name Leader
Kurdish Democratic Equality Party in Syria Ni'mat Dawud
Kurdish Democratic Patriotic Party in Syria Tahir Sa'dun Sifuk
Kurdish Democratic Party in Syria (el-Partî) chair: vacant
Kurdish Reform Movement Feysel Yusuf
Kurdish Democratic Union Party in Syria (Democratic Yekîtî) Kamiran Haj Abdu
Kurdish Democratic Left Party in Syria Shalal Gado
Kurdistan Left Party - Syria Mahmud Mala
Kurdish Union Party in Syria (Yekîtî) Ibrahim Biro
Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria Si'ud Mala
The Kurdish Future Movement in Syria Siamend Hajo
The Kurdish Future Movement in Syria Narin Matini
The Syrian Yazidi Council

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Gunes, Lowe (2015), p. 5.
  2. ^ a b c d "Rojava’s Peshmerga forces refuse to join Azaz battle to avoid confrontation with fellow Kurdish troops". ARA News. 14 June 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "The Kurdish National Council in Syria". Carnegie Middle East Center. Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  4. ^ a b c "Kurdish National Council in Syria condemns federalism declaration by Kurdish rival". ARA News. 19 March 2016. 
  5. ^ "Syrian Kurds divided on relations with Iraqi Kurds". ARA News. 24 May 2016. 
  6. ^ "PYD Leader Skeptical of Kurdish Agreement With Syrian Opposition". Rudaw.net. 9 March 2013. Retrieved 20 January 2014. 
  7. ^ "'Last chance' to avoid civil war in Syria: Annan". Agence France-Presse. 2012-05-09. Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  8. ^ "Political Groups to Run Liberated Kurdish Cities in Syria Through Joint Committee". Rudaw. 2012-07-20. Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  9. ^ "Syrian Kurdish moves ring alarm bells in Turkey". Reuters. Retrieved 2012-07-25. 
  10. ^ "Barzani Unites Syrian Kurds Against Assad". Al-Monitor. Retrieved 2012-07-25. 
  11. ^ a b Gunes, Lowe (2015), p. 13.
  12. ^ a b "Syrian Kurdish refugees divided over federalism decl". ARA News. 23 March 2016. 
  13. ^ "Syrian Kurdish parties reject opposition leader’s comments that Kurds want a second Israel". ARA News. 26 June 2016. 
  14. ^ "KNC leader: If Int’l efforts fail, Rojava Kurds must unite for their own region". Rudaw. 4 March 2016. Retrieved 14 June 2016. 
  15. ^ a b Vager Saadullah (14 October 2015). "Politics Keep Syrian Kurdish Troops From Fighting in Their Homeland. Never mind Islamic State—one faction rejects another’s fighters". Retrieved 14 June 2016. 
  16. ^ Rewan Othman (19 November 2014). "YPG refuses help from KNC in Kobane". The New Arab. Retrieved 14 June 2016.