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At a country villa surrounded by silvery olive groves, speakers, including a 20-
year veteran member of the Syrian parliament, lined up this summer to celebrate
the life and death of Arif Musa Ghubari.
Ghubari, a 24-year-old Syrian
Kurd, went to southeastern Turkey to fight against the government as a guerrilla
in the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which Turkey, the EU and the US
consider a terrorist organization.
He was killed there and his body had
just been returned to his native village of Jilbul in northern Syria’s Afrin
Rather than an occasion for mourning, the funeral carried a
spirit of defiant celebration. Nearly a thousand people thronged under a sea of tricolor green, red and yellow
flags used by the PKK and PYD, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, the Syrian
syndicate of the PKK. The insignias of dozens of local Kurdish popular groups
waved in the afternoon sun, and posters of PKK founder Abdullah Öcalan,
currently serving a life sentence in a Turkish prison, loomed over the crowd.
Dozens of young men and women, their heads wrapped guerrilla-style in Kurdish
tricolor keffiyehs that left only their eyes visible, formed a ring to keep the
crowd back from the speakers.
Afrin, a city of 80,000, along with its 360
surrounding villages, is now in the hands of the PYD. Kurdish flags fly high
over nearly every building and Kurdish soldiers man the
Afrin’s PYD head “Commander Hassan” – many Kurdish
paramilitaries use noms de guerre – lounged against a pillow in the Ghubari
family’s sitting room and wondered which side of Syria’s civil conflict would
act on behalf of the Kurds. “I lost faith in the Syrian system a long time ago,”
Hassan said, “but relations with the FSA [the rebel Free Syrian Army] are not
very good either.”
Indeed, a large poster of Syrian President Bashar
Assad on Afrin’s City Hall suggests the region has yet to throw its lot in with the rebels, who remove and deface
the once ubiquitous images.For more in-depth reporting and insight from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World subscribe to The Jerusalem Report