Havrin Khalaf

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.

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