Sochi, Russia (AINA) -- Antonetta Ardish, an Assyrian woman from Hasakah, Syria represented the Assyrian and Armenian people of the city and spoke on behalf various organizations at the Syrian Peace Conference in Sochi.
Ardish stressed the demand for unity of the country and denounced the current situation of a second administrative structure created by the Kurdish PYD in northern Syria, which parallels the Syrian government institutions. The effect is that there are two city councils (governement and YPD) that recruit -- even by force - young people to the military, two tax systems, and two security organizations for the region. This puts undue pressure on the people living in the region.
In an interview with Le Vif/L'Express in Belgium, the Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church highlighted the same problem, saying "a number of Christians who live in the north-east of the country, which is under the rule of Kurds, are also in a difficult situation because of the unilateral management of these regions by the local powers. These Christian communities are also under pressure concerning military service and school education. For example, Kurds try to impose their school programs in our private schools (AINA 2016-05-24)." The Patriarch also said "we believe in a unified Syria with both a strong government and a strong army to protect us all. Kurds are a small minority in the north-east of the country. Even in Qamishly and Hasakah, two big cities in the region, they only constitute a minority: merely 30% of the population. This is why we do not believe there is a future for a federal state in Syria."
Related: Assyrian Bishop: We Denounce Kurdish Curricula and Abuses
Related: New Kurdish Curricula in Northern Syria Reveal Ideological, Linguistic Fault Lines
The following is a translation of Antonette Ardish's speech from Arabic:
Good evening. Firstly, I salute Syria, the friendly Russian people and its government. We are glad that the Syrian parties are gathered here. We are representatives of the city of Al-Hasakah and speak on behalf of the Assyrians and Armenians as well as their churches, political parties and organizations. We are supporting Syria's territorial integrity, its independent sovereignty and decision-making.
We are the original people of Syria, who gave the country its name, wrote with the first alphabet, were among those that created its civilization and culture have accepted the task to rebuild our beloved country.
We believe that the communities that make up the society have gone through a process to solve their problems, in unity, peaceful dialogue and in harmony, with the interests of the country in mind. Within the framework of unity, we insist on national unity, tolerance and social peace.
We see them as a guarantee of stability, peace, and security against potential future dangers. Let us speak in the language of the people of Cezire [the Al-Hasakah governorate]: We, the Syrians from Cezire, want Syrian Arab Republic rule over the entire territory of Syria. We are tired of the two-headed administration. We want only one government which all the community components agree on. Thank you.
The Russia-hosted Syrian peace conference ended on Tuesday with a plan to draft a new constitution as part of efforts to end the nearly seven-year civil war. The conference participants agreed to form a constitutional committee that will be based in Geneva.
UN Envoy De Mistura said the Sochi conference statement clearly handed back control of the constitution committee to the UN, both in terms of its composition, selection criteria, mandate and terms of reference.