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Continued: Syrian army bombs strategic rebel town in north for third day, killing at least 5

  • Article by: BARBARA SURK , Associated Press
  • Last update: July 20, 2013 - 12:35 PM

"Is it possible for an area twice the size of Lebanon to remain for the next 10 years without an interim administration and without special constitutions for the Kurds?" Khalil asked in remarks broadcast Saturday. "We need a process that makes us administer the region in a better way."

Last year, as the fighting intensified in the northern province of Aleppo, Assad's forces were stretched thin and pulled back from mainly Kurdish towns and villages near the Turkish border, ceding control to armed Kurdish fighters.

Since then, Syria's Kurdish minority carved out a once unthinkable degree of independence in their areas, creating their own police forces, issuing their own license plates and exuberantly going public with their language and culture.

Kurds, the largest ethnic minority in Syria, make up more than 10 percent of the country's 23 million people and have seen their loyalties split in the conflict between pro- and anti-Assad groups. The minority is centered in the poor northeastern regions of Hassakeh and Qamishli, wedged in between the borders of Turkey and Iraq. Damascus and Aleppo also have several predominantly Kurdish neighborhoods.

More than 93,000 people have been killed since the Syria crisis started in March 2011, according to the United Nations, as largely peaceful protests against Assad's rule. It escalated into a civil war after opposition supporters took up arms to fight a brutal government crackdown on dissent.

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Associated Press writers Maamoun Youssef in Cairo and Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed to this report.

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