Kurdish and Arab militias waged a bitter battle for three months in the northern city of Ras Al Ayn, in Hassakeh province. Now, they’ve reached a truce that has managed to last into a third week, marking an early success for a nascent group of peacekeepers led by famed Christian dissident Michel Kilo.
Syria’s northern towns and villages, with their complex ethnic and religious divisions, are a tinderbox for internecine fighting. They contain fault lines between ethnic groups, Kurds and Arabs, and among competing forces within each group — battle lines that could trigger a disintegration of the Syrian state. Ras Al Ayn is a microcosm of them, arguably the most complex town in the region.
The months of fighting in Ras Al Ayn killed nearly 300 people. It took a diverse group of men and women, Kurds and Arabs, Alawites, Sunnis, Christians, tribal leaders and urbanites to broker Feb. 17’s tenuous peace.
“We tried to have all sects represented,” said Ata Kaml Ata, a member of the Committee for the Protection of the Civil Peace and Revolution, a new group formed by Kilo. In a sign of the anti-partisanship for which Kilo strives, Ata, a Sunni from Homs and a member of the Syrian Democratic Party, said the committee was formed through consensus. Its members were chosen specifically because they weren’t biased to the parties embroiled in the conflict.
Abdul Bari Uthman, another member and the head of the Kurdish Syrian Revolutionary Movement in Qamishli, told Syria Deeply that the “committee was a national initiative for mediation by Syrians with no ties to the National Coalition,” the main opposition umbrella group led by Moaz al Khatib. In other words, this was an independent effort.