Fri Sep 8, 2017 06:43AM
Members of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) hold a position in the northern Syrian province of Raqqah on September 4, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Members of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) hold a position in the northern Syrian province of Raqqah on September 4, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Reports say US-backed Kurdish militants, who control parts of the northern Syrian province of Raqqah, intend to introduce Kurdish lessons in schools in the Arab-majority areas there, stirring both emotions and tensions in the ethnically-rich region.

The so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, a Washington-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab militants, has ousted the outfit from parts of Raqqah Province, including areas within the provincial capital of the same name.

Now, it has emerged that within the SDF-captured parts of the province, the Kurds have assumed the upper hand in the decision-making processes, Reuters reported.

They have swayed local administrative bodies in those areas, though the centers are supposed to represent all ethnicities, reports said on Friday, citing local sources.

Reuters said one SDF official had even “floated the immediate introduction of Kurdish lessons in Raqqah schools, an idea that makes local officials bristle.”

Interviews with SDF officials and local authorities indicate “resentment over Kurdish power is brewing over education plans,” according to the report.

“We wouldn’t object to Kurdish teaching. But if it’s imposed on schools then there will be problems,” said teacher Ahmad al-Ahmad. Ali Shanna, one education official, reacted to the prospect by saying, “The Kurd knows the Kurdish language, why does he need to learn it?”

Sporadic protests have also erupted across the province, with the public saying Arab children should not be forced to learn Kurdish.

Mostafa Bali, an SDF official, said, however, “There are many Kurds who would like to see Arabic teaching banned in Kurdish areas.”

Leila Mostafa, the Kurdish co-president of the Raqqah Civil Council also said, “We won’t let Turkey or anyone else interfere in our internal affairs. We decide what we’ll teach or not teach,”

Ankara has been wary of the advance of the Kurdish forces close to its borders. It accuses the forces of connection with the Kurdish separatists it has been fighting for decades, and has deployed troops to northern Syria to drive them back.