Leftist Secularism Faces Uncertain Future in Kurdish Rojava

By Amberin Zaman

Amberin Zaman is a Public Policy Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars where she is working on Kurdish issues. She is also a columnist for the independent Turkish online news portal Diken as well as for Al Monitor, a Washington DC based online news outlet covering the Middle East. She was previously the Turkey Correspondent for The Economist.

Syria’s Kurds – led by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military arm the YPG – have received much attention for their role as the cornerstone of U.S.-allied local forces fighting ISIS. However, as their battlefield successes continue, the PYD is building a miniature independent state in northern Syria called Rojava, which is built on the radical socialist, feminist, environmentalist ideology of the imprisoned leader of the PKK in Turkey, Abdullah Ocalan. The Cipher Brief’s Fritz Lodge spoke with Turkish journalist and columnist for Al Monitor, Amberin Zaman, about the threat this poses to Turkey and asked what the future of Northern Syria will be once the battle against ISIS is finished.

The Cipher Brief: Most coverage of the Kurds in Syria focuses on the military element of the YPG’s role in the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition, but there is also a political element in which the PYD is working to create a rather unique governing system in the Kurdish-controlled region of northern Syria, commonly known as Rojava. What is the makeup of this emerging statelet and what kind of political systems do you see developing there?

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