The Kurdish PYD and the Syrian Civil War

Authored by: Eva Savelsberg

Routledge Handbook on the Kurds

Print publication date:  August  2018
Online publication date:  August  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138646643
eBook ISBN: 9781315627427
Adobe ISBN:


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In this chapter, I will argue that the Democratic Union Party (PYD) is thus far (June 2017) one of the few winners of the Syrian Civil War. Until the beginning of the protests in 2011, the PYD was not only the party with the most sympathizers in Syrian prisons, its members were also, as a rule, sentenced to longer prison terms than the members of other Kurdish parties and were systematically subjected to torture. Since then, however, the balance of power has shifted in favor of this party, which is currently ruling the predominantly Kurdish regions and beyond. The PYD or rather its military wing, the People’s Defense Forces (YPG), is not only armed by the United States but has, at the same time, good relations with Russia. Staffan de Mistura, the special United Nations (UN) envoy tasked with seeking peace in Syria, would like to have the PYD at the negotiation table in Geneva; and the relationship with the Assad regime is that of a more or less “hidden” cooperation. In this chapter, I will analyze why the PYD is so successful—and how sustainable this development will be.

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