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Syrian Kurds protest 'unjust' exclusion from constitutional committee

Demonstrators slam the blocking of their representatives from UN-backed drive to determine future of country
Syrian Kurds demonstrate in front of the United Nations headquarters in the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli in northeast Syria (AFP)

Syrian Kurds on Wednesday gathered to protest their "unjust" exclusion from a UN-backed committee tasked with drafting a new constitution in war-torn Syria.

Hundreds demonstrated in front of United Nations offices in the northern Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli, with protesters carrying placards criticising the move, which Syrian Kurds have blamed on Turkey.

"It's our right to participate in the drafting of the constitution," read one sign.

According to the pro-Kurdish Firat News Agency, another protest took place near the town of Kobane.

The United Nations on 23 September announced the long-awaited formation of the committee to include 150 members, split evenly between Syria's government, the opposition and Syrian civil society.

Individual Kurdish representatives linked to the Syrian opposition or civil society groups are part of the constitutional committee.

But the Kurdish administration in northeast Syria that controls nearly 30 percent of the country has said its exclusion was "unjust".

Talaat Younes, a Kurdish administration official, stressed the need to include "all components of Syrian society". 

Around him, men and women carried portraits of Kurdish fighters who had died battling the Islamic State group in Syria.

'We must have representatives'

Syria's Kurds, affiliated with the People's Protection Units (YPG) and their allies, led the fight against IS in northern and eastern Syria, expelling the militant group from their last major redoubt in the country in March.

The YPG has been backed by the US as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a group composed of a range of Kurds and non-Kurds but largely dominated by the YPG.

"Our military force has achieved significant success. We must have representatives on this committee," Hashem Shawish, one of the protesters, was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

Long marginalised, Syria's Kurds have largely stayed out of Syria's eight-year civil war, instead setting up their own institutions in areas under their control.

However, the YPG is regarded by Turkey as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), who have waged a guerilla war against the Turkish state since 1984.

Bassam Ishak, a US representative of the SDF's political wing, on Twitter accused Turkey of vetoing their presence at the committee talks.

"Turkey trying to repeat the 100 year old Lozan agreement and rob minorities their rights in Syria not only in Turkey," he said, referring to the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne which saw the creation of the modern Turkish republic, but which Kurds say led to the denial of their social and cultural rights.