Wider Chaos Feared as Syrian Rebels and Kurds Clash
In plain view of the patrons at an outdoor cafe here in this border town, the convoy of gun trucks waving the flag of the Syrian rebels whizzed through the Syrian village of Ras al-Ain. They had not come to fight their primary enemy, the soldiers of Bashar al-Assad’s government. They had rushed in to battle the ethnic Kurds.
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The confrontation spoke not only to the violence that has enveloped Syria, but also to what awaits if the government falls. The fear — already materializing in these hills — is that Syria’s ethnic groups will take up arms against one another in a bloody, post-Assad contest for power.
The Kurdish militias in northern Syria had hoped to stay out of the civil war raging in Syria. They were focused on preparing to secure an autonomous enclave for themselves within Syria should the rebels succeed in toppling the government. But slowly, inexorably, they have been dragged into the fighting and now have one goal in mind, their autonomy, which also means the balkanization of the state.
“We want to have a Kurdish nation,” said Divly Fadal Ali, 18, who fled the fighting and was recently staying in a local community center here for Kurdish refugees. “We want our own schools, our own hospitals. We want the government to admit our existence. We want recognition of our Kurdish identity.”
These skirmishes between Kurds and Arabs take on a darker meaning for Syria as the rebels appear each day to gain momentum, and the government appears less and less able to restore control. The rebels have taken over military bases, laid siege to Damascus and forced the shutdown of the airport.