AFP/File | Kurds made up around 15 percent of Syrias pre-war
population and were long oppressed by the central government
Residents of Kurdish-majority areas of
northern Syria began voting Friday in the regions first local
elections, as part of a push to cement a semi-autonomous regional
Fridays vote is the first stage in a three-part election to
select representatives at the district, municipal and regional
The vote has been dismissed by Syrias central government as a
joke, but for Kurds it represents a step towards a long-sought
Kurds made up around 15 percent of Syrias pre-war population and
were long oppressed by the central government.
But they largely stayed out of the uprising that erupted in
March 2011, instead quietly building local control in
Kurdish-majority areas after the withdrawal of most government
In March 2016, they declared three semi-autonomous regions in
the areas under their control, where voting began Friday for
representatives at the neighbourhood or commune level.
Elections for executive councils for towns and larger areas are
planned for November 3.
Then, on January 19, a final phase will elect legislative
councils for each of the three regions, as well as a single joint
At a polling station in Qamishli, in the northwestern province
of Hasakeh, men and women, young and old, waited to vote, some
eagerly brandishing their light blue voting cards.
They pressed their fingers into ink to fingerprint the cards,
and then voted behind a curtain before placing their ballots in
envelopes and into transparent boxes.
At the end of the process, an official coated a fingertip on
each voter with blue ink to mark them as having voted.
A portrait of Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of Turkeys outlawed
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) who is jailed in Turkey, hung in the
voting room in one polling station.
Voter Mohamed Khalil said the election was the realisation of a
dream for Syrias Kurds.
Before, we were foreigners deprived of the right to run in
elections and vote, the man told AFP, his grey hair and moustache
We didnt know the meaning of freedom, and we didnt have any
rights. Today, and for...