Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

Christian Armeno-Assyrian military for defense of Syria

Posted by Fredsvenn on January 13, 2015

 

National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change

The National Coordination Committee for the Forces of Democratic Change, or National Coordination Body for Democratic Change (NCC or NCB) is a Syrian bloc chaired by Hassan Abdel Azim consisting of 13 left-wing political parties and “independent political and youth activists”. It has been defined by Reuters as the internal opposition’s main umbrella group.

The NCC initially had several Kurdish political parties as members, but all except for the Democratic Union Party (PYD) left in October 2011 to join the Kurdish National Council. Some opposition activists have accused the NCC of being a “front organization” for Bashar al-Assad’s government and some of its members of being ex-government insiders.

Relations with other Syrian political opposition groups are generally poor. The Syrian Revolution General Commission, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria or the Supreme Council of the Syrian Revolution oppose the NCC calls to dialogue with the Syrian government.

In September 2012, the Syrian National Council (SNC) reaffirmed that despite broadening its membership, it would not join with “currents close to [the] NCC”.

Despite recognizing the Free Syrian Army on 23 September 2012, the FSA has dismissed the NCC as an extension of the government, stating that “this opposition is just the other face of the same coin”.

In March 2012, the Coordination Committee was described by the New York Times as the “most moderate” member of the Syrian opposition. Prior to September 2012, its members did not call for the dismantlement of the Syrian government or the removal of Bashar al-Assad as president, apart from their 18 March 2012 demonstration in Damascus when some of them chanted, “The people want the fall of the regime”.

The Coordination Committee, unlike the Syrian National Council, believed that the solution was to keep the current Syrian government, and hoped to resolve the current crisis through dialogue, in order to achieve “a safe and peaceful transition from a state of despotism to democracy”.

Despite since changing its stance of the continuation of the Assad government in some kind of transitional capacity, the NCC has held onto its policy of opposing all foreign intervention, but has previously suggested the group would find the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria acceptable.

On 23 September 2012, the NCC held a rare meeting in Damascus, and for the first time recognized the Free Syrian Army, and for what the Washington Post described as the first time that the NCC formally called for the “overthrowing [of] the regime with all its symbols”. The Preparatory Committee issued an eight point statement which called for:

  • Toppling the government.
  • A rejection of sectarianism.
  • “Adopting non-violent resistance as the strategy to accomplish the goals of the revolution”.
  • “Extract[ing]” the Syrian Army “from the clutches of the regime”.
  • Holding the government accountable for its actions.
  • The protection of civilians and the upholding of international law.
  • Resolving the status of Kurds within a democratic framework.
  • The “undivided” cohesion of the Syrian nation.

After the pro-Assad Syrian Social Nationalist Party had withdrewn from the Popular Front for Change and Liberation, the NCC on 10 August 2014 signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the remaining Popular Front, calling for ″comprehensive grassroots change, which means the transition from the current authoritarian regime to a democratic pluralistic system within a democratic civil State based on the principle of equal citizenship to all Syrians regardless of their ethnic, religious and sectarian identities.″

Christian Armeno-Assyrian military for defense of Syria

Syriac Union Party (Syria)

Qamishli

Democratic Union Party (Syria)

People’s Protection Units

Sutoro

Sootoro

Asayish

Syriac Union Party in Syria is an Assyrian/Syriac political party in Syria that tries to represent the interests of the Syriac communities in Syria. Established on 1 October 2005, since the start of the Syrian Civil War, it has positioned itself on the side of the opposition forces to the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

In 15 August 2012, members of Syriac Union Party stormed the Syrian embassy in Stockholm in protest of the Syrian government. A dozen of its members were later detained by Swedish police. The Syriac Union Party (SUP) has set up the Sutoro militia to protect the Assyrian/Syriacs.

The Sutoro units in al-Qahtaniyah and al-Malikiyah, are fully under SUP control and co-operate more closely with the Kurdish militias, while the Qamishli branch is seen as being controlled by agents of the Syrian government. Sutoro has an unspoken alliance with the Kurdish YPG.

The Syriac Protection Office, commonly known as the Sootoro or Qamishli Sootoro is Syrian government-aligned Christian militia of the Assyrian-Syriac and Armenian communities in the town of Qamishli, a city in north eastern Syria on the border with Turkey, adjoining the Turkish city of Nusaybin, and close to Iraq. It is part of the Al-Hasakah Governorate, and is the administrative capital of the Qamishli District within the governorate.

The Syriac Union Party has been subject to continued repression by the Assad government during the civil war, despite being part of the nonviolent and officially-tolerated domestic opposition National Coordination Body.

On 6 June 2013, government forces raided the Qamishli home of SUP Executive Committee member Rubel Gabriel Bahho, arresting and subsequently imprisoning him.

On 12 August 2013, security forces apprehended SUP vice-president Sait Malki Cosar—the father of Sutoro leader Johann Cosar—as he disembarked at Qamishli Airport following a visit to Switzerland, where he holds dual citizenship.

After being detained in Qamishli for several days, Cosar was transferred to a prison near Damascus and contact with him was lost. Neither party official is known to have been formally charged or tried in court, and neither has been released or heard from since their imprisonment. Their fates remain unknown as of February 2014.

The Syriac Security Office, commonly known as the Sutoro or the Sutoro Police is a Syriac (Assyrian) Christian militia in the Al-Hasakah Governorate. It is the armed wing of the Syriac Union Party (SUP). The Sutoro collaborate closely with Kurdish groups.

The Sutoro Police should not be confused with the Qamishli Sootoro which has the same name in the Syriac language, but uses the English translation “Syriac Protection Office” and the transliteration “Sootoro”. This organization in the town of Qamishli is a government-aligned Syriac and Armenian Christian militia.

The Sutoro Police considers the Qamishli Sootoro to be a breakaway group from the Syriac Union Party, while the Qamishli Sootoro claims to have always been a separate group. Sutoro units were first organized in city of al-Qahtaniyah (Qabre Hewore), and soon thereafter in al-Malikiyah (Dayrik).

The Syriac Union Party maintains warm and friendly relations with its Kurdish neighbours, and was one of numerous organisations to join the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in establishing a formal administration for self-governance in three areas of northern Syria often informally called West Kurdistan or Rojava. Following this policy, the Sutoro has sought to align itself with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from an early juncture.

Although the Kurds were initially suspicious when it started organising and wanted its members to either disarm or join Kurdish formations, the Sutoro was soon accepted and welcomed by Kurdish forces.

It currently operates alongside the Kurdish Asayish police force, manning joint checkpoints and patrolling neighbourhoods together, while its paramilitary counterpart, the Syriac Military Council (MFS), formally joined the ranks of the YPG in January 2014.

Judi Michael, a Qamishli-based Syriac Christian activist, was working for the Syriac Union Party (SUP), a political party made up of ethnic Syriac Christians who stand in opposition to the Syrian regime.

Michael had been imprisoned and tortured by regime intelligence agencies in 2012, but joined the Qamishli wing of the SUP’s militia, known as the Sutoro, a few months after he was released.

Unlike the Sutoro branches in the nearby towns of al-Qahtaniyah and al-Malikiyah, power over the Qamishli branch was not fully in the hands of the SUP. Instead, this branch was ruled by a “peace committee” that also included other Syriac Christian organizations, some of which were friendly to the regime.

The Qamishli branch had its own logotype and even its own spelling of the name in Latin script: “Sootoro” instead of “Sutoro.” As the Sootoro developed more and more into a regime militia, Michael left the organization.

While the Christian Wusta neighborhood in Qamishli previously had one militia with ambivalent political loyalties, it now has two separate militias with clear and opposing loyalties: Sutoro and Sootoro.

In February 2013, the Qamishli branch of the Sutoro began open operations in the Christian neighbourhood of Wusta, which is located near the city centre and has an Assyrian/Syriac majority with a significant Armenian minority.

Though it was initially organised by the Syriac Union Party (just like the branches in Qahtaniyah and Malikiyah), the Qamishli militia was subsequently brought under the control of a so-called “peace committee” composed of several Christian organisations from the city.

The SUP soon lost virtually all influence on this group, which became seen by many SUP members as being controlled by agents of the Syrian government.

In late 2013, the split between this branch and the rest of the Sutoro became clear. Now transliterating its name as “Sootoro” (alternately referring to itself as the “Syriac Protection Office”), the militia in Qamishli adopted an entirely different logo and started openly asserting a separate identity.

In November, the media office of the Qamishli Sootoro stated that it operated exclusively in the city of Qamishli and had not formed branches anywhere else, furthermore accusing militias outside the city of having appropriated their name; by December, the group was explicitly disavowing any connection to the SUP in their press releases.

Though it continues to officially claim neutrality, the Qamishli Sootoro has become effectively a pro-government militia. Members of the group are frequently shown next to government flags and portraits of Bashar al-Assad in visual media, and flags bearing its distinct logo have been seen at pro-Assad rallies in the government-controlled sector of the city.

The two organizations try to coordinate their activities, calling each other to see that they do not both respond to the same incidents—but only in order to stay out of each other’s way and avoid problems.

The older group, known as the Sootoro, is now fully part of the regime’s security apparatus, which also includes the militia of the Arab Tey tribe in the nearby Haret Tey neighborhood.

The newer Syriac Christian militia branch, the Sutoro, is commanded by none other than Michael himself. “The Sootoro had some SUP members,” says Michael. “They left in order to establish a new branch of the Sutoro instead, because they wanted to be part of the autonomy project.”

By the “autonomy project,” Michael means the Jazeera Canton, a local government that was recently set up by the Democratic Union Party, or PYD. The PYD is a Kurdish organization affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a guerrilla group fighting the Turkish government.

Since the Syrian regime withdrew many of its troops in 2012, the PYD and their allies have gained control over large swaths of northern Syria.

The PYD-backed Jazeera Canton government now runs most of Qamishli city. To prop it up, the PYD has helped create a Kurdish-dominated police force, known as the Asayish. The Sutoro serves as its Syriac Christian counterpart.

By contrast, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime troops and intelligence agencies are now very weak in Qamishli. They generally stay within their own isolated enclaves, whose borders are marked off by checkpoints, but they have occasionally ventured into the city to carry out arrests.

“We are not afraid to confront the regime if they arrest anyone from our people,” says Michael. “If the SUP tells us to attack them, we will attack.”

Slightly contradicting himself, Michael then states that the Sutoro is independent from the SUP. He also says, “I do not belong to the SUP, but we in the Sutoro have similar ideas to them.” Similar things are often said by members of organizations affiliated with the PYD.

Regardless of whether or not Michael and his comrades are currently card-holding members of the SUP, the borders are extremely fluid between the Syriac Christian organizations.

However, a clearer structure may be taking shape. Among the Kurds, the PYD serves as the dominant political party within its Jazeera Canton government.

The Asayish is the autonomy’s police force, while the PYD-backed militia, known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG), functions as a military wing. Similarly, the pro-PYD Syriac Christians now have the SUP, the Sutoro, and a military body known as the Syriac Military Council, which is allied to the YPG.

While chaos rages on in the rest of Syria, a large portion of the Syriac Christian community in the northeast seems to have cast its lot with the PYD movement and is now slowly being integrated into an emerging Kurdish-run autonomous region.

Qamishli is one of the last places in northeast where government forces, having been pushed out of most of Hasakah Governorate by either rebel groups or the Kurdish-autonomist forces of the YPG, still maintain some presence.

The Kurds control most of Qamishli, while loyalist forces remain in a few majority-Arab districts in the south, parts of the city centre, the border crossing to Turkey, Qamishli Airport, and an army base on the southern outskirts.

The assertion of loyalist control over the Qamishli militia has been identified as a potential effort by the government to strengthen its position in the city by expanding and solidifying its shrunken territorial holdings.

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