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PKK Shadow Government Runs Kurdish ‘Rojava’ In Syria’s Northeast

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PKK Shadow Government Runs Kurdish 'Rojava' In Syria's Northeast

Amir Karimi: PJAK coordination member becomes history teacher in Kobani (Images gathered through google and facebook)

Written by Hedwig Kuijpers exclusively for SouthFront

The much-praised ‘Rojava’ project in North-East Syria has ridden most of its popularity in the West through their fight against ISIS and their ideology ‘Democratic Confederalism’, that promotes a form of grassroots governing by local people on the ground, structured from neighborhood ‘communes’, to ‘city councils’, all the way up to ‘cantons’. This system of popularly elected administrative councils, allowing local communities to exercise autonomous control over their assets, while linking to other communities via a network of confederal councils has seemed refreshing to many that follow developments in the Middle East.

And it would indeed be an interesting development, if the region wasn’t governed by a shadow power structure with ultimate decision-making authority behind and beyond the local governing entities mentioned above. This shadow power structure consists of PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) cadres that ‘lurk in the shadows’ and undermine the authority of those local governing entities, overruling decisions that do not meet their goals. Now, most people know the Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) commander-in-chief Mazloum Abdi as a high-ranking PKK member. The same goes for Ilham Ehmed of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC). Yet many do not comprehend the amount of PKK members that work throughout all bodies of the administration.

A great example of this shadow power structure is the presence of senior PKK members (and its sister organization PJAK) in North-East Syria. On the images above you can see Amir Karimi, a former PJAK coordination member – now history teacher at the university of Kobani – from Mahabad, Iran. Amir Karimi was active as a PJAK leader for years, and has ran the group both from Qandil and Sweden. In Qandil, Amir went by the nom de guerre of ‘Mezdek’.

It has been half a decade since he moved to Kobani, where he was involved in the establishment of the University of Kobani, that he runs behind the scenes, and where he teaches ‘History of Kurdistan’ under his latest nickname ‘Malek’.

‘Rojava’ as a PKK project with PKK architects

What many supporters of the ‘Rojava’ project conveniently seem to forget – is how it actually started out. Its foundations were laid in 2002, as the umbrella organization Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) was founded by the PKK to take their armed struggle to countries with a Kurdish minority beyond Turkey, the PKK’s main target throughout the last four decades. A KCK branch was set up in Syria, led by Nureddin Sofi and dubbed “KCK-Rojava”. The Democratic Union Party (PYD) was founded in 2003 as a direct result of this plan. The same thing happened for Iran. “KCK-Rojhilat” was founded, followed by the political wing Kodar and the armed wing PJAK (Party for Free Life Kurdistan) , which Amir Karimi helped to establish.

When in 2011 the Syrian conflict started, the People’s prptection units (YPG)  was founded as the PYD’s armed wing. During the first phase of the YPG mass mobilization, the militia’s majority consisted of trained PKK fighters that entered Syria through smuggling routes. For a long time, Turkish national Sabri Ok – “the PKK commissar” – remained responsible for the project ‘Rojava’. He left Syria in 2020, as the US pressed for the PKK leadership to leave the country.

“As long as the YPG remains tied to the PKK through its ‘party cadres’, and as long as the latter remains in violent conflict with the Turkish state, fighting in northern Syria is unlikely to end,” a Crisis Group report said. “Today, the group seems cognisant of its inherent vulnerabilities and more inclined to propose arrangements that could stabilize the area.”

A statement by Mazloum Abdi – himself a long-time senior PKK member originating from Syria – read: “Today, we have over two hundred thousand Syrians enrolled in our civil and military institutions, and there is no real need for regional Kurdish support [non-Syrian PKK members]. We have not committed to a timeline for their full withdrawal but the process has already started and will continue.”

And indeed, over the last months, social media accounts of many non-Syrian SDF fighters have disappeared, showing a decrease in non-Syrian military cadres (or simply new policies concerning social media) in an attempt to both please the US and diminish Turkey’s excuses for a new invasion on SDF-held territory.

How deeply embedded is this ‘shadow government’?

Yet, this decrease in non-Syrian military cadres is quite a deceitful phenomenon, as the activities of PKK cadres in North-East Syria go much further than just military activities, after all the group has been governing the area for nearly seven years.

To split its activities in PKK terminology, the group uses ‘the legal field’ (legal alani) and ‘the illegal field’ (illegal alani). The ‘illegal field’ consists of armed activities, the ‘legal field’ consists of organizational activities, often exercised among civilians. And some research on open sources shows that the number of PKK cadres working in the ‘legal field’ has not decreased at all.

PKK Shadow Government Runs Kurdish 'Rojava' In Syria's Northeast

Naseh Yousefi: PJAK member that was arrested and served 5 years in Iran, returned to Qandil after, and currently runs a department of the Ronahi TV studio in Qamishlo (Images gathered through google and facebook)

An example of how deeply the ‘shadow power structure’ in North-East Syria really is, is seen by taking a closer look at the project’s main propaganda structure, Ronahi TV, one of several TV channels run by the organization, meant for the audience in North-East Syria. It broadcasts the organization’s news and ideology 24/7 and is largely run by senior PKK members.

One of those senior members is Naseh Yousefi, better known by his nom de guerre ‘Ayhan’, from Mariwan, Iran. Yousefi was arrested in 2007 by Iranian authorities in the mountains of Iranian Kurdistan, and served five years for armed activities and PJAK membership. He rejoined the organization after he was released in 2014. Between 2014 and 2017 we can see him interviewing several high-ranking PKK leaders in the Qandil mountains for Sterk TV. After 2017, he was appointed to lead the graphics and montage department of Ronahi TV in Qamishlo. He posts selfies on his facebook account almost weekly.

Yousefi is joined in this mission by Emir Ehmedi, an Iranian-Kurdish news anchor. Like Yousefi, Ehmedi was a PJAK member before being appointed to work at the Ronahi TV studio in Qamishlo.

PKK Shadow Government Runs Kurdish 'Rojava' In Syria's Northeast

Emir Ehmedi (Images gathered through google and facebook)

Another interesting person popping up on social media in Qamishlo is Kaveh Saqzi, from the Kurdish town Saqqez, Iran. Kaveh is currently leading the city’s ‘Martyrs committee’, a committee that provides financial aid to martyrs’ families and provides fighters killed in action with a proper funeral. Yet, if one looks further, one can see that multiple families in Iran have tried to legally persecute Kaveh Saqzi for involvement in the recruitment of minors for PJAK.

PKK Shadow Government Runs Kurdish 'Rojava' In Syria's Northeast

Kaveh Saqzi (Images gathered through google and facebook)

These four Iranian Kurds currently active in North-East Syria form just a tip of the iceberg. Anyone that cares enough to make an effort can find other Iranian, Iraqi and Turkish PKK members that are still active in Rojava. Yet the four profiles I provide, illustrate the ‘shadow power structure’ that has ultimate decision-making authority in North-East Syria. As in fact, senior PKK members are stationed in every town the SDF holds, where they undermine decision-making by the locals that have been elected to do so as they wish, in order protect the PKK’s goals on the ground. Not only are they active militarily, as often shown before, they are deeply entrenched in Rojava’s societal bodies.


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Potato Man

Didn’t see that coming….so what’s the news?
Yes, PKK & YPG very much control Northern Syria, seeing their terrorist leaders “take government” position wasn’t out of blue. SDF came out of Wahhabi-Zion book, if you see a “group” that very much work with US… that just a reskin of terrorist group “Freedom Fighters”.

If moronic Kurds think they can be the dog of US and help US to make a “big” base in Syria…they have it coming for them and I watch them died just like how Saddam killed them. Morons that can’t learn need to be wipe-out.

Jens Holm

Its not like that at all. Kurds by SDF were the second choise for USA to reduce or remove Assads, when ISIS came out of hand.

Those SDFs mainly by Kurds has their own agenda and had it long time before this. Any history book says so. For at start You should read at least one or make a fact checkup by Internet. comment image

johnny rotten

No good deed ever goes unpunished, Syria should have remembered when it welcomed the Kurds who fled from Saddam and Turkish repression, perhaps now they will understand.

Jens Holm

Trades like that makes no sense. They came because they were forced hard to. Not only 1.000s was killed by Saddam. it was many many 10.000s.

I would go anywhere else then there. It goes for Turkey as well. I agin will remind You that the main reasons forthose problems are the kurds – as many others not askedd – was divided into having 4 masters far away. By that it should be a right to move around, if there are good reasons.

Im sure those million Kurds do understand more about it then You.

Fog of War

” Not only 1.000s was killed by Saddam. ”
Now we see why however. The Turds are a traitorous back stabbing bunch.

Jens Holm

The many killings by Saddams are well descriebed and need no dissektion.

And Yes, Turks and Iranian ones are or where there as well.

Aaron Aarons

If the PKK is helping the United Snakes impose its will on Syria and other countries, that is a very serious problem. But is that what’s going on? (And I don’t care if it is being done “democratically” or not!)


These terrorist kurds will be defeated sooner or later. They are dependent upon Western and Israeli support. On borrowed time and we all know it. Always susceptible to manipulation as a guerilla group. Their days are numbered.

Jens Holm

Sober but highly biased article.

The top top has the job to keep their intesions in line by a control structure to CHANGE for local independency inside. Its a frame or a program. You can only make changes by using the written formular and inside it.

Its a democratic marxist structure. By that there is no possible build in crap by Assad, Muslim or Christian old and outdates systems. All of those are reduced to private matters, but also has to be kept inside the structure.

The structure is named “Marxisme” – socalled democratic marxisme.

So those in the top, which is not secret has a hard center and decide the adaptions and limits. A good example is, that buying Young vomen as for sales has to be more symbolic and the vomen active has to confirm that. Actually Islam says about same thing BUT in the Region here, its too often not kept.

Another non thing for the area is that all are equal, which says women and men each count for one person and are their own person. Here its also a right vomen with or without children can live with no make control or even are forced to marry. They can go free in the streets and support themself(and their children) by normal work like the men.

They are much less worse then the Ayatollahs in that top top system according to, what I name as Democratic Socialisme.

The top top structure also has its limits, which are very much related to the conditions given by Assads. If there was an agreement with Assad those Counties would be more well defined for only local matters.


The local counties are all living in those counties based on voting in % and into a local parlament. All by that will be represented with at least one voice and two ears.

Thats a revolusion in Syria, but a very normal structure in my country as well as many parts of west and the rest of the world. Sure its democratic socialisme, but I compare with a private owned very selective Syria runned by the Baathist and Assad driven as a simplified feudal one string structure, where changes only are possible from the center.

Its tempting to add those in Damaskus are top top in corruption and top top in minus in devellopments. Syria for decades has only develloped after their needs.

So the local tax should be invented for local matters as well as the lucky oil and gas money should be shared fx in % after population in the SDF counties. The SDF – Kurds dont demand things should cover all the rest of the Syrians, which also are being cheated and robbed by their fat Masters in Damaskus keeping their svimmingpools more ckean then the rest of the artificial state Syria.

Its true there is a military representative by PYD/YPG/PKK whatever in each parlament. Thats for military matters. It seemes ignored in the article, that the SDF area is under attack and by that an effective defence is needed too.

Finally I will add, that the Counties Tabqa, Raqqa and the DEZ-SDF decide their own faith by voting. By that they can join, they can be in the middle or even join Assads BUT they can not join FSA or ISIS.

Thats the short version. I wil remind the many hostiles to this, that they deny them normal human right and think and act as bad versions of John Waine in those matters killing the woroing ones for wrong reasons.

This is about the condition for the poorest and most unimployed in the whole Syria which is stricktly denied by military force to improve their life conditions even its a low as it can be.

Its exact the same reasons so many has joined the jihadists, which mainly are now urbanized towners with zero to none jobs and no visible choise for improvements. They only know Assads are against any changes and certainly not in a more religios way. By that they have the same good reasosns as the SDFs to be allowed and have rights for trying anything else.

The SDFs as well as the Johadists hasnt invented anything. Assads are the ones, which has invented that Feudal private owned no go system by replacing old Feudalisme with a new but only structured for Emirate, Sultan, Oblast, Vilayet seize.

Here the YPG version is the local Syrian version, because thats realisme being less then 2 mio which don ran away when ISIS grew.

I see those people included the top top as very responsible persons in the same level as in my country. They also are the only ones having devellopplans for the future.

Thats my own version

Pave Way IV

Agree on bias – Hedwig goes a little overboard with PKKs overt influence. I would also argue that it’s less significant than it seems (but for a different reason than yours). And we debated this many times, Jens, but I think you once again go just as overboard on PKK’s flavor of Democratic Marxism being superior to the dying Baathist and post-colonial clan oligarchy of Syria and their historic distrust of Kurds. If that was the only other option in the universe for Syrian Kurds and they made a conscious choice among alternatives, then I would agree. My opinion is that it’s simply an alternative power structure to fill the vacuum in NE Syria, and one tolerated (and exploited) by the U.S. because it serves our interests. Your argument for Marxist Democracy would be great in an academic setting, but you keep ignoring how we (the U.S.) corrupt and generally fuck up whatever we touch.

My mistrust in PKK’s influence is not in their overt presence in Kurdish politics, but a rather insidious, and for lack of a better word, ‘co-ownership’ of Kurdish intelligence and ‘special’ single-party state police enforcers. And all this alongside one of their supposedly ideological enemies: the U.S. and our CIA. My bias comes from the pattern of U.S. business-as-usual regime change: take over the intelligence services, but throw the day-to-day government back to the little people.

Why isn’t PKKs’ Marxism a mortal enemy of the U.S. like all communist ideologies? Because the U.S. Deep State doesn’t care how people decide who to elect, where to put road signs or how much tax to charge for cigarettes. My country only cares about influence and exploitation through state secrets and privilege – which may require an occasional bone saw or a false flag involving a lot of dead kids. You see, it’s all for the greater good… somehow. They never really explain that part, just ‘better than Ghaddafi – Saddam – Assad’.

Note that a prolonged PKK-influenced Kurdish insurrection is just fine with the U.S. in Syria. But if they tried that in West Virginia against the U.S. government, they would be hunted down like prey and slaughtered (after a brief vacation at GITMO).

Jens Holm

Thanks for reading. I see many more or less muslim countries having mainly communist parties even they have declined after the USSR collapse has shown them less support and the bad side of Marxisme as well.

But for many muslims it seemes easy to understand and do. That can be compared with islam.

By that I say it fits it. You often has a small ideological braintrust and if they can Mrxbrothers better then the text and be flexible, I think many can buy it, if its sold in mild way.

They by that can make results and in the less advanced parts of countries make modern structures for improved production come through.

Here I see the solutions for Turkey, Syria and Iraq as very different from each other.

Turkey has an advanced strong centralized structure partly taken from the Frech model. Their problems are they now being 80 millions need to let influence go, because those many complicated things cant be done by center. It would make devastating bureaucrasy and even more corruption.

So its very much not only about Kurds as minority. We see Erdogans even using all legal and almost legal tricks hardly gets 50 of the votes and the 3 biggest cities has too little influence to be runned by good plans and common sense.

Its easy to understand. If the Goverment not even can supoport all corners, they should local parts be given more freedom BUT also responsability.

Here Kemals unfortunatly also support the “kurdish” attitude of 1923. Even the PKK dont represent Kurds but moderate Kurds did at the election and got 7 mio votes its ignored by teh Erdos and the Kemals.

Its also ignored that those moderate Kurds as well as the Kurds dont care half a camel aboujt how its done how they got local influence and fx education on the main language for about 1 of 4 citicens of the country.

West has told Turks that in many versions and parlament is about parle and agree. Here Erdogan even has blamed the danish Goverment, that it dont control the press. UN has told them. EU has told they were not possible as members, because we have same rules or almost for all members. Its fine to play American Icehokey and sometimes play European Icehokey almost only changing the corners. But You cant play football in the same arena and with the same equipment. If You try to, You are barking mad.

The difference to Syria is quite different. Even in the Kurdish domiated corners they only are 40%. So they – according to my knowledge – recocnize they wont be as You assume. They wont be and behave as Erdogan does with his 49% or Assad does with his hard declined majority. Therefor the PKK solution is the YPG version, which also is local influence for local matters, is limited into less things but soime harder.

Those actually are semilar Ours in USA as well as Denmark. Fewer has to work in it in more advanced units growing more and better crops and animals. By that the low income pr animal or bread can be much better and there is enough for export – distribution – by at least some of the unimployed.

Here education and making new jobs is a must. they do have plans for making more cotton things again. It makes sense to me. They are very blow paid there and some mashines might give hopes against other kinds of clothe.

As many others they also wish for develloped tourisme, whcih parts of Syria actually had. I found them at the internet several years ago. there was timetables for local airplnes, trains ride and hotels with shower, balcony or not:)

Im no Chritians anymore, if I ever was. But my roots by Jewism, Christianity and Islam are where the Arameans once was rulers having libraries too. Even Muhammed seems to have been there for more then grapes and daded for christmas.

So I dont care much about what USA or parts of USA think or not. Kurds were second choise.

But I do feel the bad guys has to be removed orkept in correct seize.

I dont think You get the main things for the Kurds. They anytime prefare the whole Syria as well as Iraq in most things would be mcuh more like West Virginia. The PKKs as well as the YPGs has learned Ôchelan is an ancient Ikon and no realisme.



Putin´s failure.

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