The Debate on Federalism in Syria

Final Declaration of the Rojava-Northern Syria Democratic Federal System Constituent Assembly

Assad Says Most Kurds Want A  Centralised Not A Federal Syria
Assad Says Most Kurds Want Centralised Not Federal Syria


In an interview with Sputnik International, Syrian President Bashar Assad has said that he believes most Kurds in the country want to live under a centralised state.

Responding to the recent Constituent Conference held on 17 March in Hasakah, where Kurds and other ethnic groups declared their intention for a Rojava-Northern Syria Federal System, Assad said:

“The issue of federalization is linked to the constitution, a constitution needs people’s consent, however there is an understanding that a certain change is needed with regard to the Kurds’ federation. Most of the Kurds want to live within a unified Syria, within the framework of centralized power in the political sense, and not federal.”

Assad also emphasised that,

“we must not confuse Kurds who want a federal regime with all of Kurds. It is possible that there are people — not Kurds, there are few of them in the general scale — who are also striving for this, but the idea is that this proposition has not been put forward by the Syrian society. I do not think that this proposition, in case of it being brought up for a vote, would be approved by the Syrian people.”

Stressing that they

“as a state would agree to everything the people agree to”

Assad said,

“From the geographical perspective, Syria is a very small country for federalization to exist in it. It is perhaps smaller than most of Russia’s republics. From the sociological perspective, a federation requires that components of the society are present that may not be able to get along with each other. This has not happened in the history of Syria, but it’s the main principle. I do not think that Syria is ready for federalization, there are no natural factors for it to be possible.”

The Constituent Conference for the Rojava-Northern Syria Federal Democratic System was attended by more than 200 delegates from the three cantons of Rojava, representing more than a million people.

Below are excerpts of questions asked by the Kurdish community in response to President Assad’s statements regarding “federalism” in this week’s interview with Ria Novosti and Sputnik.

President al-Assad’s Interview with Ria Novosti and Sputnik March 29, 2016

If Assad believes minorities in Syria are not eligible to form a federal system, one can easily argue that the Alawite minority should not have been able to rule over a central state for more than 50 years.

Assad does not approve the federal state declared by the Kurds in Syria by making the argument that Syria is a little country and Kurds are the minority within it. However, what about Belgium and Switzerland? They are not even half the size of Syria, but have adapted a federal system as their governing system.

The issue is not the type of system in Syria, but Assad’s reluctancy to acknowledge the status and the rights of the Kurds in the country.

Mehmet Yuksel

Syria is bigger than Switzerland, Belgium and the United Arab Emirates together, and these all are prosperous and stable federations.

We in Rojava [Syrian Kurdistan, de facto autonomous region, made up of three cantons] continue to insist on federalization within the Rojava canton.

Rodi Osman