SOHR exclusive | “Tyrannical centralisation has destroyed Syria, while decentralisation is needed to promote democracy and countering marginalisation,” says Ilham Ahmed
The “Autonomous Administration in North and East Syria” (AANES) has been adherent to the importance of reaching a decentralisation regime in order to counter the so-called “tyrannical centralisation” which has driven Syria to destruction. Despite all efforts exerted to abort the AANES’ project, it insists on gaining regional and international recognition in order to reach its objectives.
In an exclusive SOHR interview, the co-president of the Executive Council of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, Ilham Ahmed stressed the important to intensify negotiations and meetings among Syrians in order to reach solutions for the Syrian crisis, affirming that Syria suffers from an identity crisis for over one hundred years, and this needs enacting a “Syrian social contract.”
Q: What is your comment on reports circulating about attacks targeting you, especially at this time? And who do you think is behind such reports?
A: All reports circulating about targeting me are completely untrue. I am fine. These are provocative and desperate attempts by parties opposing stability and political settlement.
Q: You have been to Stockholm, attending the Consultative Meeting III which was also attended by national figures and parties. How was this tour and how useful was it for the Syrian crisis?
A: As you know, the Consultative Meeting III was held on May 14 and 15 in Stockholm where we discussed all thorny and complex issues which we are concerned with as Syrians, including reaching an imminent political settlement, enacting a “Syrian social contract,” the notion of the national collective Syrian identity and the need to reach a decentralisation regime in Syria.
It is important to intensify dialogues among Syrians about these crucial issues, as Syria, for example, suffers from an identity crisis for over one hundred years. In addition, it is important to discuss the daily tragedies and violations in Syria with the aim of reaching solutions. We also addressed issues affecting Syria for over one hundred years.
Q: Will these consultations succeed and come up with a platform for the democratic figures?
A: We aim to regroup and reunite all democratic figures and parties and form a comprehensive coalition. I am optimistic about these efforts, and I think we are on the right track.
Q: You, at SDC, focus in all meetings on the importance of the decentralisation, why are you clinging to this concept? And may it be the best solution for Syria in the future?
A: All modern and democratic regimes around the world are decentralised ones. Decentralisation is the best way for increasing the share of participation of societies in administrating their affairs. In other words, decentralisation allows participation in power at larger scales.
Regarding the Syrian crisis, we find that the tyrannical centralisation has driven the country to the current tragic situation at all level, including the economic, political, administrative, social and cultural situations.
Accordingly, decentralisation is the entry point to break the deadlock and it grantees the unity of all Syrian territory, especially with current efforts which aim to tear apart Syrian society and attempts of social, geographic, cultural and political polarization. Decentralisation is administratively needed for addressing exclusion and marginalisation which several areas have been suffering from under the centralised rule of the Syrian regime. In my opinion, decentralisation is a democratic need addressing the cases of inequality and lack of participation in administrating the country’s affairs.
Q: Turkey is publicly carrying on with its plan of demographic change. It has already transported and evacuated residents from Al-Zabadani and Ghouta areas to the occupied canton of Afrin, how do you see these developments which are portrayed under reconstruction and attempts aiming to reach stability, although they are conclusive evidence of Turkey’s intention to change the demography of the region on the border strip?
A: The practices of Turkey and its mercenaries in Afrin are irrefutable ethnic cleansing and blatant demographic change. See the daily reports on violations committed in that region, including killings, displacement, rape, destruction and felling of trees. These are unprecedented barbaric reprehensible practices.
The case of Afrin and all occupied areas are a case of all Syrians. The top priorities for us are to stop demographic change in Syrian territory, put an end to occupation and secure appropriate environment for the return of refugees to their areas.
Q: Do you, at SDC, rule out a secret agreement between the occupying power, Turkey, and Damascus designed to resume demographic change in areas controlled by Turkey and its proxy factions?
A: We do not know if there is an agreement between Damascus and Ankara. If there is such agreement, then it of course harms Syrian people and badly impacts the unity of Syrian geography and tears its society apart.
Q: Why is the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) clinging to rule SDC out of the consultations of the constitutional committee?
A: I do not know. You should ask the Coalition! The constitutional committee has achieved no developments so far. Let us be clear, this committee does not represent all segments of Syrian society. No solutions can be reached without representing the society of north and east Syria.
Q: What is your stance towards Erdogan’s efforts to settle one million Syrian refugees in north Syria region? Do not these efforts threaten the Kurdish identity?
A: Turkey’s policies in Syria have exacerbated the Syrian crisis and obstructed every initiative aimed at reaching political settlement. These policies harm the interests of Syrians and effective powers. The Turkish project of settling one million Syrian citizens in north Syrian region is clear ethnic cleansing. Changing the demography of this region will lead to ethnic tension and hatred in the long term. Turkey wants to incite sectarian strife among Syrians.
Every Syrian refugee has to return voluntarily to his/her village or town.