Havrin Khalaf: A Light Has Gone Out But The Tasks of Reconciliation Remain.
By René Wadlow.
On October 12, 2019, Havrin Khalaf; the Co-Secretary-General of the Future Syria Party; was shot to death at a roadblock by the Turkish-backed militia; Ahrar al-Shargiya. The Future of Syria Party had been formed in March 2018 in Raqqa; with its aim of a
“democratic, pluralistic, and decentralized Syria.”
The Party was active in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria — an area often referred to by the Kurds as Rojava. The area is highly diverse in both population groups and religions. Thus; the Future Syria Party wanted to build bridges of understanding among Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, and other ethnic groups; as well as among Muslims, Christians and Yezidis. The hope was that this bridge-building effort would become a model for all of Syria.
The Future Syria Party.
Even before the fighting began in Syria in 2011; the Syrian society was divided along ethnic and religious lines. The fighting, the displacement of people, the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS); has increased ethnic and religious divisions. In many cases; trust among groups has been broken; and even minimal cooperation through economic links has been broken. Rebuilding cooperation; a chief aim of the Future Syria Party; will be difficult. The move of Turkish forces and their Syrian allies into northeast Syria; will make cooperation across ethnic and religious divides even more difficult.
However; Havrin Khalaf was a symbol of this reconciliation effort. She was also a symbol of the quest for equality between women and men. As a Kurdish woman; she had an Arab man as Co-Secretary-General of the Party. As an educated woman – she received a degree from the University of Aleppo in 2009 – she was particularly active for the empowerment of women. She often served as spokesperson for visiting diplomats, journalists, and aid workers. As a highly visible person; her killing was deliberate. The driver of the Party car she was in was also killed at the same time.
The Safe Zone.
Therefore; there is a real danger; that such killings increase as Turkish troops advance; and control an ever-larger part; of what the Turks have ironically called “the safe zone.” Earlier Turkish occupation of the Efrin area; has led to the displacement of people, looting, hostage-taking and torture. We can also fear that areas in northeast Syria newly under the control of the Syrian Government; will not be free from revenge killings; and politically-motivated violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.
With the death of Havrin Khalaf at the age of 34; a light has gone out. The tasks of reconciliation remain. New voices are needed. We outside of Syria must see; how best we can facilitate this vital role of bridge-building.
Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.