On March 17, 2016, the “federal democratic system of Rojava” (a Kurdish term for northern Syria) was proclaimed officially. Some 150 representatives of Kurdish, Arab, and Assyrian (largely Christian) groups met in the city of Rmellane in northeast Syria and voted in favor of the union of three “cantons” largely populated by Kurds--the cantons of Afrin, Kobani, and Jezireh.
The government as well as the Syrian National Coalition, a major opposition coalition present in the Syria negotiations (which have been going on in Geneva since the middle of March), both stated their refusal of a federalist system. They saw such a system as a first step to the breakup of Syria.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry said that “Any such announcement has no legal value and will not have any legal, political, social or economic impact as long as it does not reflect the will of the entire Syrian people.” There was no indication of how the “will of the entire Syrian people” was to be determined in the war-torn land.
While the Kurdish issues in Turkey have attracted international attention and the largely autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq is a major player in Iraqi politics, the Kurds in Syria have been less discussed.
Until now, the Kurds of Syria have not been as visible a factor as other ethnic or sectarian groups. As Michael Gunter, a specialist on the Kurdish world, writes: