"The whole region is under control but be careful in the city centre," says a Kurdish militiaman at the eastern gate of Qamishli, 600 km northeast of capital Damascus, confirming rumours about breaches in Syria’s relatively stable northeast.
Kurdish fighters have emerged as a powerful player in the Syrian war thanks to the Yekîneyên Parastina Gel (YPG - “People's Protection Units”), a seemingly well-organised armed group which has so far proved capable of defending the territory it claims in northern Syria.
After fleeing the war three months ago, Gulnaz is headed back for Syria to bury her brother within the 24 hours Islam stipulates. But it is far from easy to take the coffin across the Syrian-Iraqi border.
Turkey’s new democratisation reform package may mark a step forward for civil rights, but it does not go far enough to ease social tension and feelings of mistrust that are afflicting the country, analysts say.
People run back home at dusk, just when the shooting intensifies. To Sha Mehmed the experience is familiar. He was 11 when he left his native Afghan village to settle in this small Turkish town on the border with Syria.
"The soul needs to reincarnate a thousand times before becoming one with god," says Rajab Assy Karim from Ali Saray, 190 kilometres north of Baghdad. Iraq is full of "shortcuts" to the ultimate, and several seem to pass through this tiny desert village.
"The Islamists’ announcement that god supported the killing of Kurds in Syria made us react," recalls Farouk Aziz Khadir. This 60-year-old Iraqi Kurd is ready to take up arms to defend his kin in the neighbouring war-torn country. And there are many more like him.
A ban on political and even social gatherings, a bar on Kurdish language and culture; uprooting people, forced disappearances and a ‘caste’ of hundreds of thousands of local Kurds deprived of citizenship... life for Kurds in pre-war Syria was probably as dire as it is today for their kin in Iran.
Luis Shabi nostalgically recalls his nine years of novitiate in Rome and a "fantastic road trip through Europe" before returning to Iraq in 1969. "Those were the good times," sighs the Chaldean Archbishop of Baghdad from a bunker in the heart of the Iraqi capital.
Zeki Gorbuz, a Turkish asylum seeker in Greece, who was arrested on Feb. 12, remains detained today due to an international warrant that was transmitted by Turkish authorities to Greece just one day before his asylum interview. Turkish media were quick to report the arrest, describing Gorbuz as a radical leftist and regional leader of the Marxist Leninist Communist Party (MLCP), which has been designated as a terrorist organisation by the Turkish government.
At seven o’clock in the morning on Mar. 1, Kurdish militias took over the only operational oil refinery in Syria, located about 800 kilometres northwest of Damascus.
It was only seven in the morning when Mohamed Abdi spread out a rug a few metres away from an artillery crater, up in the Qandil mountains of northern Iraq. This Iraqi Kurd from Suleimaniyah, 260 kilometres northeast of Baghdad, was ready to celebrate the Newroz – the Kurdish and Persian New Year – along with his family.
Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed Kurdish rebel leader, has issued a long-awaited ceasefire declaration that would be a major step towards ending a 30-year conflict that has cost around 40,000 lives in Turkey.
Kurdish rebels in Turkey have released eight hostages after their jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan called for a prisoner exchange.
There was a sigh of relief in Ankara as Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), on Sunday put an end to the 68-day hunger strike of 682 Kurdish prisoners and nine members of the Turkish Parliament.
"Of course I want to defect but I cannot give up my salary. How could I possibly feed my 11 children?" The war is putting every Syrian on the brink, including this policeman on the side of President Bashar Al Assad.
The smuggler wants 200 dollars but Jewan negotiates him down to 100. That’s still a lot for this 26-year-old Syrian Kurd, but he can hardly wait to cross the border to Syria from Iraq. It’s been three years since he last saw his family.
In a display of muscle-flexing, Turkish tanks this week carried out military exercises on the Syrian border, just a few kilometres away from towns that Syrian Kurds had seized from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces.