PYD leader expects Raqqa to join federal system in northern Syria

Arab tribes from Raqqa and its countryside, including Tabqah announce their support for SDF and the operation against Islamic State group, March 2017.

Salih Muslim, the co-chair of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), expects Raqqa to join the autonomous region (Rojava) in Syria’s north once it is freed from the Islamic State group, according to a report by Reuters published on Monday.

“It would be up to the people of Raqqa to decide their future once the city is freed from Islamic State, but I think the city will join the ‘democratic federal’ system,” Muslim said in the telephone interview, and added; “we expect (this) because our project is for all Syria … and Raqqa can be part of it, our only concern is that the people of Raqqa are the ones who take the decision on everything.”

Syrian Democratic Council co-chair Ilham Ehmed had already told Reuters on Friday that preparations for a local council that will run the city once it is liberated from ISIS are almost complete. “Local authorities would expand the council after Raqqa’s capture, as happened in Manbij,” said the leader of the political wing of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the US-backed alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters that is closing in on the city.

Kurdish official Awas Ali, from Raqqa province, said the city council will include local tribal sheikhs and people currently living in the city who will be identified when it is safe to do so, according to the same report.

Ali added that he is one of two Kurds in a 10-person committee setting up the Raqqa council, and that invitations to join the council had been sent to around 100 notable figures from Raqqa. The council will consist mainly of Arabs, in line with Raqqa’s demography, but will also include Kurds and other ethnic groups.

The “democratic federal” system aims to build on three autonomous areas set up by the main Kurdish groups in the north. The blueprint for the new system of government was approved by the Rojava constituent assembly in December.

Turkey is deeply alarmed by the political project taking shape in the region and views the PYD as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group that has waged an armed struggle against Ankara for almost four decades for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey’s southeast.