Syria's Kurds protest exclusion from constitutional committee

Qamishli (Syria) (AFP) –


Hundreds of Kurds demonstrated in northeast Syria on Wednesday in protest at their minority community's "exclusion" from a United Nations-backed committee tasked with drafting a new constitution for the war-devastated country.

Carrying placards, demonstrators gathered in front of UN offices in the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli.

"It's our right to participate in the drafting of the constitution," read one sign.

The United Nations on September 23 announced the long-awaited formation of the committee to include 150 members, split evenly between Syria's government, the opposition and Syrian civil society.

Individual Kurdish representatives linked to the Syrian opposition or civil society groups are part of the constitutional committee.

But the Kurdish administration in northeast Syria that controls nearly 30 percent of the country has said its exclusion was "unjust".

Talaat Younes, a Kurdish administration official, stressed the need to include "all components of Syrian society".

Around him, men and women carried portraits of Kurdish fighters who had died battling the Islamic State group in Syria.

Syria's Kurds led the US-backed fight against IS in northern and eastern Syria, expelling the jihadist group from their last major redoubt in the country in March.

"Our military force has achieved significant success. We must have representatives on this committee," said Hashem Shawish, one of the protesters.

Long marginalised, Syria's Kurds have largely stayed out of Syria's eight-year civil war, instead setting up their own institutions in areas under their control.

They have been sidelined from UN-led peace talks as well as a parallel Russian-backed negotiation track, mainly due to objections by Turkey, which considers them to be terrorists.

The war in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since erupting in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.