Arab-Kurd unrest turns deadly in Syria’s Manbij
BEIRUT – Kurdish forces have shot dead six Arab protesters in the northern Syrian region of Manbij, a war monitor said Wednesday.
The violence broke out at a demonstration over military conscription and against a backdrop of growing anger at a deepening economic crisis which the area’s Kurdish leadership is struggling to contain.
The latest unrest comes weeks after similar riots gripped other parts of the autonomous zone that Kurdish forces have carved out in north-eastern Syria since civil war broke out in 2011.
In the Arab-majority region of Manbij, which was captured by Kurdish forces five years ago, “six protesters have been killed in the past 48 hours from live rounds fired by internal security forces”, known as the Asayish, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Demonstrators initially took to the street to demand an end to forced military conscription.
But the protests swelled after one of their members was shot dead on Monday.
Protesters blocked roads and attacked an Asayish checkpoint outside Manbij on Tuesday, the Observatory said, prompting security forces to respond with live fire.
The Manbij Military Council, a governing body linked to the Kurdish administration, blamed the violence on “criminal cells receiving their orders from external and domestic forces”, a likely reference to the Syrian government and Turkey.
It accused the instigators of using the issue of military conscription, which has been in place for seven years, as a pretext to spark strife.
Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman said that after reaching 18, young men were required to perform around one year of military service.
Representatives of the Asayish and the Kurdish administration held talks with Arab tribal leaders on Wednesday in an attempt to restore calm, the Observatory said.
They agreed to stop military conscription in Manbij and surrounding areas until further study and discussion, according to a joint statement released after the meeting.
Last month, two people died in clashes that broke out in parts of north-eastern Syria over a decision by the Kurdish administration to raise fuel prices.
Authorities reversed the price hike in response to the unrest.
“The Autonomous Administration of Northeast Syria (AANES) is in economic collapse,” Nicholas Heras of the Newlines Institute think-tank warned on Twitter.
“It’ll give Turkey and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and allies opportunities to pick the AANES apart. It will accelerate unrest. Many Manbijs on the horizon.”