Kurds in northern Syria hold population census

Rojava is the name of the Kurdish region in northern Syria, which consists of three cantons, Jazira, Kobane and Afrin. (Map: Institute for the study of war)

DERIK (AFP) – Syrian Kurds, who have unilaterally proclaimed a federal region in the country’s northeast, on Monday started carrying out a population census aimed at paving the way for local elections.

Jihad Omar, a member of the committee overseeing the census, said the data collection would “prepare for council elections in the federal” region.

The census started in several towns in the northeastern province of Hassekeh, an AFP reporter said, with groups of two to four teachers visiting homes to fill out the questionnaires.

Kurdish authorities declared a public holiday and a curfew in those towns on the first day of the curfew, which was to continue during the week.

In March, as the Syrian conflict entered its sixth year, Kurdish-led parties declared a federal region in areas under their control along the Turkish border.

The Damascus government and the Syrian opposition do not recognise the region.

Kurds comprise about 15 percent of Syria’s population and Kurdish forces have been backed by Washington in fighting the Islamic State jihadist group.

In May, the Kurdish region named Rojava opened a representative office in Paris following others in Moscow, Berlin and Stockholm.

Syria’s conflict erupted in March 2011 with anti-government protests across the country, but has since evolved into a complex war for competing zones of control.

Syria’s Kurds largely declined to side with either regime or rebels, focusing instead on building a semi-autonomous region in Kurdish-majority areas.

The self-proclaimed “federal system” is intended to centralise governance in the three Kurdish cantons of Afrin, Kobane, and Jazire in north and northeast Syria.