How the Kurds became a key player in Syria’s war

Kurds are carving out their own state called Rojava. This is Rojava, a region in
northern Syria that runs along the border of Turkey. It’s home to over a million Kurds, one of the largest ethnic groups in the Middle
East. Until a few years ago this was a rural and forgotten corner of Syria,
where the Kurds were denied legal status by the Syrian government. But today, Rojava’s a self governed region with a powerful militia that led the fight
against ISIS. And it’s where the Middle East’s youngest democracy is taking shape.
Surrounded by Assad’s totalitarian regime, the militant Islamic State, and a
hostile neighbor, Turkey, this is an unlikely place for a democratic
revolution. But it was actually the Syrian war that made Rojava
a possibility in the first place. In 2011, protests against dictator Bashar
Al-Assad erupted in Syria, The uprising turned into open rebellions, after he sent
his army to crack down on the opposition. With battles on multiple fronts and
forces stretched thin, he had to make a choice. By July 2012 Assad pulled most of
his army out of the traditional Kurdish territories in northern Syria to defend
these major cities in the West. The move created a void, but not for long. An existing Kurdish political party called the Democratic Union Party stepped up to
defend and govern the region they called Rojava. They organized it into these three small self-governed states. They set up a democratic system of local governments and claimed they would to protect the
rights of all citizens, including the multiple ethnic groups within the region. They also promoted gender equality across all public institutions, including
their military. An all-woman military group called the YPJ took shape and
fought alongside the Kurdish militia, called the YPG. But just as Rojava started taking shape, it came under attack. The jihadist militia known as ISIS… Terrorist group ISIS gaining ground… In Syria and Iraq
right now… In 2014, the Islamic State swept through Syria. In Rojava they drove all the way to Kobanî on the Kurdish border and laid siege to the
city. Trapped inside were thousands of civilians and Kurdish militia fighters. As ISIS threatened to take the city, small pockets of Kurdish fighters held
their ground until reinforcements arrived. The US provided air support
for the Kurds and together they retook Kobanî, marking a major moment for Rojava. The Kurdish fighters proved to be one of the most effective forces in Syria,
leading to continued US air support and eventually weapons. The victory also gave
Syrian Kurds, who were denied statehood for decades, an opportunity to strengthen
and expand their territory. With Assad still fighting in the West, the Kurds
decided to take on ISIS. The Kurds are the most effective fighting force
against the Islamic State… Kurdish fighters in Syria have made significant
gains… Killing thousands of fighters and clawing back territory… Kurdish-led force launched an offensive today in Syria… Pushing ISIS further and further
back… Out of their territory in the northeastern city of Hasaka… We are now within sight of the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa. As Kurdish fighters started liberating
these cities, they incorporated their populations into Rojava. With the addition of multiethnic populations, Rojava was renamed the Democratic
Federation of Northern Syria, to reflect the makeup of the region. And Kurdish fighters merged with non-Kurdish militias to form the Syrian Democratic
Forces, also known as the SDF. Western media hailed the moment as the birth of a
young democracy in the Middle East. And the Kurds promoted their democratic
model as a solution for a post-war Syria. But reports also claim that the Kurds
displaced non-Kurdish populations and committed human rights abuses. In the broader region not everyone supported the Kurdish project. On one hand the Syrian government denied its existence and on the other Turkey grew
worried as Rojava expanded. See, Turkey claims the Kurds in Rojava are a front
for the PKK, a Kurdish militant group that’s been at war with them since the
1980s and is labeled a terrorist group by the US and the EU. So to keep Rojava from becoming a safe haven for the Kurds, Turkey sent ground troops into Syria
here in August 2016, to fight both ISIS and the SDF, eventually cutting off Afrin from the rest of the Federation. But the Kurdish offensive continued and in
late 2017 it led to the fall of ISIS in its capital of Raqqa. The victory marked a
big win for the Kurds, but it also opened up a major threat. In early 2018 Turkey
went back into Afrin and launched Operation Olive Branch, a full ground
offensive against the Syrian Kurds, here. With ISIS gone, Rojava’s partnerships
had weakened. In the absence of a common enemy, the American motivation for
backing the Kurdish fighters has declined, especially when they’re up
against Turkey – a NATO ally that the US relies on. Now, it’s unclear how far
turkey will go to keep Syrian Kurds in check, but without US support their
forces are under-equipped and undermanned, against Turkey’s massive
military. In this new phase of the Syrian War, Rojava has become a vulnerable
target. And the Kurdish dream that was created by the start of the war is
threatened by its end.

Comments 100

  • Welcome to another episode of Vox Atlas! We’re using maps to explore today’s most complex geopolitical, foreign policy, and conflict stories. The videos can be found in this playlist: And please send me story suggestions in the comments!


  • I remember somebody said that Kurds is more in a show and dont know how to fight.

  • Simple fact of the matter is , Syria, iraq and turkey dont want a none muslim country on there door steps , thats simply it . End of .

  • Too bad they got backstabbed by the us AGAIN!

  • Turkey must be the next Serbia

  • Who is here after Trump's betrayal?

  • If they had no ties with PKK then why all of them are using posters of Abdullah Öcalan who is the founder of PKK and that ignited those guerrilla attacks in the mountains against Turkey for about 30 years ago?

  • Love and support Kurdish people from Greece🇬🇷We have so much in common❤

  • Well you guys might be far away to know about it, i dont blame you for it. Just lettingyou know that they are not a "country", they are terrorists. Dont misunderstand me please, i dont like the current goverment in Turkey and i voted against it. The Turkish movement in Syria is nothing more than protecting our borders. And you guys dont have the right to say otherwise because US can protect its borders thousand of kms away.

  • knock Turkey from NATO, then let's see them attack

  • I think …ending time's of all worlds

  • Jesus we need to go back one last time

  • but like Now

  • Democratic😂😂😂😂That’s rich!

  • the pkk/ypg/is Terrorist are creating democrasy,……………hahaaaa!

  • Actually it's pretty understandable why the Turks don't want a functioning Kurdish state on their border. Imagine a terrorist group state on the American border.

  • Wrong place for kurdistan !! Kurdistan is iran and north east Iraq

  • kurds and democracy 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

  • Erdogan ❤❤❤❤❤❤

  • Is Turkey support ISIS or something? From my point of view, this is the romance of three kingdom but happen in middle east. Kurd, Syria, and Turkey who will win i wonder? oh wait if this the romance of three kingdom who is sima yi in this story?

    America left chat…

  • Us created isis
    Then supported ypg
    Wants to tear down Turkey
    Which will never happen 🙂 There will be no new country there.

  • Polish Brigade all over again.

  • What are we even doing over there?

  • You are using Kurdish people like a pens to divide te Syria. Give them Money and gun and say go go goo…Where is democracy?

  • honestly, sounds like the kurds were the bad guys

  • The United States should stand and defend the kurds.

  • Free kurdistan from Saudi Arabia ✌🏿✌🏿✌🏿✌🏿✌🏿✌🏿✌🏿✌🏿✌🏿✌🏿✌🏿✌🏿✌🏿

  • Did Not work! Can't just decide to take a portion of a sovereign country.

  • What a joke to come back to this video after a year…

  • USA lost his credibility in Syria.

  • i am convinced there is no end of problems of this world . . the only solution is coexistence but this is not achievable

  • Obama created isis and trained them

  • Well sumarised n presented.

  • If they are suriyen kurds why they don’t accept their Syrien brothers in Turkey backt to Syria?

  • Plz help Kurds

  • First great news as soon as the Turk comes howl America spend money on otherwise for the ypg should rather invest for Turkey Turkey had long since everything under control

  • I have been saying this for a while now the Kurds have always been used by America to divide Middle eastern countries.
    The Kurds should learn to live peacefully with their neighbors in any country but no, they always want a state out of 4 big countries whenever they see American troops.

  • America shouldn't be saving country's for there own proplemd

  • The thing is if your for the Kurds then your against the Turks an alee. The same as if your for the Hatfield's Your against the McCoy's .

  • The problem is Kurds are trying to establish a democracy (!) while they are a small minority in Syria. If you see their inhabitant areas on the map you understand what I mean. Also their only supporters are around 3,000-7,000 miles away from the region. So it is quite funny to think that they are trying to do something good. No other states want a Kurdish region or whatever but only they want. However, legalization of establishing a state does not solely depends on that "we want to have a statee"!

  • If you want Kurds to have their own country, why dont you give them some lands in Texas or Baveria?

  • War in Eufrat river. Muslim vs muslim, Dajjal is watching and eat Popcorn.

  • its a pity america has abandoned them..and turkey is commiting genocide

  • 🇹🇷

  • Save Rojava

  • Good insight in the current tensions in the area .

  • So YPG fights with ISIS and america gives guns them and supports by airstrikes.What about other requierments (food,fuel,manpower etc.) They take this from civilian kurds and forcing them to leave their homes and making them imigrants.Recruiting youth to fight their war.ISIS is %95 cleared now as Donald Trump says.What about after are they gonna drop their all guns and rule they people by laws or they gonna do one thing that they know being a Terrorist.

  • Fantastically done predictions!

  • Oh sweethearts, if only the Kurds had oil, Uncle Sam would have come to the rescue.

  • I am from India i am with kurds people .

  • Western world is soo crual , specially Muslim world.

  • All a Big game to prepare Greater Israel. The kurds nobody care of. The Turkish want allow a Terrorist State, doesnt Matter Who gives the weapons.

  • They changed the title of the video.

  • I can't believe how complex this area has become. Thankyou "Vox" for sorting all the involved groups. All the best from Canada!!! 🇨🇦

  • The Kurdish people are Syrians and Trukey has no business In Syria .
    The Kurdish Liberated Syria With the Help of The United States of America.

    The Kurdish have every Right to Have Their Land In Syria Especially after they liberated Syria from Terrorist With The Help Of America .

    Now Trukey President Erdogan Wants to Take Over Syria A Country That Doesn't Belong To Trukey .
    After what Trukey has done, I believe; Trukey will NO Longer be part of NATO Alliances Anymore.

    NATO Alliances Countries Can't Not Support Terrorists Countries and Trukey has proven themselves to be Part of Terrorisum and Continue To Terrorize Murdering Thousands of Innocent Kurdish Civilian's Families with Young Children and Babies.

    So how can NATO Alliances Ever Support Trukey President Erdogan , After Telling him to Stop, Giving Him Numerous Warnings To Back Off.? Trukey's President Erdogan has Made Terrorists Action's and Warring Against The Kurds, Who Haven't Done Anything To Provoke Trukey's President Erdogan .?

    Even After Many Warnings To Trukey's President Erdogan By NATO Alliances , Trukey Is Still Continuous Attacking The Kurds .

    Trukey's President Erdogan said" Turkey Is Cutting off Their Own Umbilical Cord Sounds like Turkey is Cut It's off It's Alliances To NATO In Order To Continue To Attack the Kurds Full Scale.

  • God bless kurds

  • Thanks to Trump, all this sacrifice are undone!

  • 🇹🇷🇹🇷🇹🇷

  • Well done video

  • Rojava is no more.

  • Turkey is an islamist state and a jihadi sympathiser. Turkey wants to replace the secularism of Kurds with the Sharia law of the Ottomans.

  • Never trust USA 🇺🇸

  • Kurds are our brother but pkk/ypg not

  • Yediği kaba yapan, yapılmışı bozan bir millet olan kurds 2000 yıldır bir ülke kuramama sebebiniaraştırsınlar önce. Türkler onları Saddamın, Esadın katliamlarından kurtardı. Halepçeyi unuttular. Bekaa vadisinde Apo dükkan açtığında Esedin babası koruyordu onu. Şimdi her ikiside bu yaptıklarını ödüyorlar.

  • Brave kurds defeated ISIS and than betrayed by US

    Supporting a democratic Rojava from India

  • Now Trump betrayed them

  • Kurds can enter now under protection of Russia as well, and both Kurds and Syrians now pressure Russia to attack Turkey as well as creating Anti-Turkish triangle. I don't understand why they don't do that, even U.S. seems to accept it for Turkish violation.

  • Shame on American and Israhell israeel India rss?

  • Shame on colonial britishers?

  • Is isis created by Israhell?

  • الحلم الكردي مستحيل التحقق..
    لم يتحقق حتى في دولة ضعيفة ممزقة طائفيا عدا ان يتحقق في دول قوية كإيران او تركيا ..لن تسمح تركيا ابدا لذالك وقد دخلت سوريا بعض الطرف الايراني والروسي أرى أن عليهم نزع السلاح والمشاركة الفعالة في بناء أوطانهم القانونية بالحدود المعروفة ..
    اعتمادهم على فرنسا لا فائدة له..
    أمريكا لا تهتم لهم بإر نفط نفط أهم بالنسبة لها..
    روسيا لن تسمح لتعدد قوميات القوقاز..
    رأي مغربي محب لهم البلاد الاسلام

  • Khurds great warrior's saving their face god bless u

  • Come back to this vedio and sigh…

  • Well, you forgot to mention that Assad forces withdrew from the areas on the north east after making a deal with the YPG. So basically they made a deal with the devil and betrayed the rest of Syrians who started the Revolution.
    But you say that the Syrian government withdrew from all these areas just like that because they want to focus on other areas. Of course you would, because the other important detail doesn't serve your view.

  • Kurds are not key player in Syria but one of the many players. It's not Kurds but the Syrian Arab Army, the official government forces, have played major role in defeating ISIS. Neither the US nor the Kurds defeated ISIS but a combined forces of SAA, Hezbollah, Iran and Russians have done that job. Go to Syria before you make a report on Syria.

  • Picture it like this: There's a civil war going on in Mexico. And one of the groups gaining ground is a terrorist organization and let's call it Rise of Mexico – ROM (ISIS in Syrian case). ROM is exploiting power vacuum in Mexico and targeting civilians all around the world. And to defeat them, we rely on another group called Islam Brotherhood – IB (PYD/YPG in Syrian case). But IB uses banners of Bin Laden and Zarqawi and has clear links with Al Qaeda. (PYD/YPG uses banners of Abdullah Ocalan, and they are clearly linked to PKK, internationally acknowledged as a terrorist organization). Here's the question then: Wouldn't the USA naturally step in against IB? Nobody would glorify IB as 'victorious Muslims' as being done now for PYD/YPG as 'magnificient Kurds'. Here's the lesson all should learn. PYD/YPG is a terrorist organization just like PKK, using a different name will not change this fact. They have same goals with similar methods. And they cannot be simply called 'Kurds'. Kurds cannot be linked to terrorist organizations, they are civilians having no links with terror. And Turkey is not waging a war against Kurds. This is a fully rightful military operation against a terrorist organization which the US would definitely do the same against IB in hypothetical case above. Defeating a terrorist organization by the hand of another cannot and will not justify terrorism.

  • turkey has the right to defend itself

  • us troops leave kurds alone
    turkey: Its free real estate.

  • Vox we need an Update

  • Wow I didn’t even know about the Kurds having a democratic state …. sad that we left them to fight 2 fronts … smh

  • They forgetting that they launch terror attacks in turkey for years and still do. This so called militia is the same cancer like Isis this is far from a democracy

  • Well maybe progressive and liberals will go fight for the Kurds

  • Wow! This video should be updated now that Turkey is about to commit another genocide.

  • Why doesn't the UN declare Rojava as a nation like they did Israel?

  • You should update your maps 🤣

  • Why didn't the U.S. military, defy Trumps orders and stay. at least then the Kurds would have a chance.

  • We support kurds, Turkey tumchya aai cha bhosda….

  • All women military? That doesn't seem right?

  • 3:30 this feels staged the whole war

  • There’s sooo much context that vox left out in this analysis

  • Thank you Vox for explaining a very complicated issue in 5 minutes. Something the news can’t do

  • Biji Rojava ❤ Biji Kurdistan✌🏻

  • Kurds deserve to have their own country recognised globally

  • GOD bless YPG&YPJ 😘✌

  • they help the World get rid of the IS.
    The typical USA leaves its allies.

    Nice one!

  • Is syria already devided like iraq ????
    Hä???? Kurds have 2 countries now ????
    Is turkey the next ???

  • Who sell the kurds all this weapons etc…..?

  • No place for Usa and israel in syria

  • Turkey under Erdogan is the new Iraq under Saddam. A good riddance is needed here.

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