Introduction & Overview
The Syriac Union Party (ܓܒܐ ܕܚܘܝܕܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ - SUP) is an Assyrian/Syriac political organisation and political party which represents the Assyrian population of Syria. The SUP's political position is generally described as being left-wing, notably through the ideological movement also known as Dawronoye (Drott, 2015). Dawronoye is a secular, leftist, national liberation movement which is characterised by its progressive ideals and socialist themes. Since the start of the Syrian civil war, it has aligned itself with the socialist and federalist forces present in Rojava as they have similar aims to the Syriac Union Party. Founded on the 1st of October 2005, the SUP has been heavily repressed by the Assad-led Syrian government and multiple members have been kidnapped and allegedly tortured by government security forces (Illarietti, 2014).
History & Foundations
The party was created in order to represent the interests of the Assyrian population in Syria in October of 2005. The SUP set up the Syriac Military Council (ܡܘܬܒܐ ܦܘܠܚܝܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ - MFS) in January of 2013, which has the stated goal of standing up for the national rights of and to protect Assyrians in Syria (Khalel and Vickery, 2015). The SUP has also set up the Sutoro police force in an attempt to protect the wider Assyrian communities which are present within their settlements in Northeastern Syria. This police force has been integrated within the general Asayish police forces of the Jazira Region (Drott, 2013). Since its inception, the SUP has been heavily persecuted by the Assad government. Several members of the group have been arrested and imprisoned, including SUP Vice-president Said Malki Cosar who was detained in Qamishli after a visit from Switzerland. Following these events, he has not been tried in court and contact with him has been lost (Suroye News, 2014). His family was presented with a death certificate which states that he died of a cardiac arrest in Damascus, although the validity of this declaration is being disputed, for they have not been presented with his body (European Syriac Union, 2013).
Objectives & Ideology
The party has several stated objectives and ideological positions, including protecting and advancing the interests of Assyrian/Syriac people, the aforementioned Dawronoye ideological movement, and also Syrian federalism. The SUP's goal of advancing Assyrian/Syriac interests comes from the fact that they have been historically discriminated against in Syrian politics and in the wider Syrian Society. In essence, the involvement of the SUP in the Rojavan political system is an attempt to gain access to a previously shut off political sphere. Through their involvement with the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian Democratic Council (which is the SDF's political wing) in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), they have been able to advance their interests and they currently hold 3 of the 43 seats available within the Democratic Council (Syrian Democratic Council).
Dawronoye is another ideological position which the SUP has adopted. It is a secular, leftist, national liberation movement which is widely popular amongst the Assyrian people. The roots of this ideology can be traced back to the late 1980s (Drott, 2015), although its more recent materialisation is controversial due to its ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD). The SUP has been criticised for aiding the PYD and its military forces in the Rojava area by essentially backing up the ethnocentric policies which Rojavan politics is centred on, as well as allowing themselves to effectively be utilised as propaganda pieces to show the ‘ethnically-inclusive’ nature of Rojavan/Kurdish politics (Joseph and Isaac, 2018).
Military & Political Abilities
Due to its status as a political party, the Syriac Union Party has little to no military capabilities and instead has been peaceful in its operations. The SUP, however, has set up the Syriac Military Council (MFS) -- an Assyrian/Syriac military organisation which is a part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Estimated to have a membership of over 2000 fighters, they have suffered few casualties in the fight against the Islamic State and other enemy combatant groups, especially due to their high level of training which they received from the YPG and also former Swiss officer Johan Cosar (Hackensberger, 2015). Cosar was arrested and has been found guilty of undermining Switzerland's neutrality and security by joining a foreign army and was given a three month suspended sentence and a fine (Foulkes, 2019). The MFS operates primarily in areas which are heavily populated by the Assyrian people, such as the Al-Hasakah Governorate, and has taken part in numerous operations, including the Battle of Baghuz Fawqani and the Manbij offensive, both of which aimed to cut off the Islamic State from its external supply lines in Turkey (de Jong, 2016).
Approach to Resistance
The SUP is not a violent organisation and is aimed rather at establishing a legitimate political presence within the AANES and by extension, Syrian politics as a whole. Although it has established the Syriac Military Council and the Sutoro police force in order to assist the SDF and the YPG in their military operations, the SUP is not capable of military operations due to its inception as a political party. However and as seen by their presence on Facebook (seen here), the SUP regularly hosts discussion panels, expert debates, and other social events. This is the main way through which the SUP raises awareness on its political struggle.
International Relations & Potential Alliances
The SUP has international links due to an extensive diaspora network established during the founding of the Dawronoye ideology in the late 1980s. Evidence of this includes the protest by members of the SUP in Sweden in 2012 in which they stormed the Syrian embassy and were subsequently arrested after calling for democracy in Syria (Malcolm, 2012). The SUP has also met with and held talks with members of the Assyrian Democratic Party in Syria regarding how important it is that close cooperation between members of the AANES occurs, especially in regards to the Assyrian/Syriac people (Syriac Union Party, 2023). The SUP has extensive national (Syrian) links and alliances to the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and by extension its armed wing (the YPG) due to its close military cooperation through the Syriac Military Council's membership of the SDF. The group also has connective links to the PYD, as it is a member of the Syrian Democratic Council which is a constituent party of the AANES (Al Jazeera, 2015).
Works Cited (MLA-style)
Al Jazeera. “Kurdish-Arab Coalition in Syria Forms Political Wing.” America.aljazeera.com, 11 Dec. 2015, america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/12/11/kurdish-arab-coalition-in-syria-forms-political-wing.html.
de Jong, Johannes. “Brave Local Christians Fighting ISIS Need Guns and Bullets.” The Stream, 26 June 2016, stream.org/brave-local-christians-fighting-isis-need-guns-bullets/.
Drott, Carl. “Qamishli’s Cold War.” Web.archive.org, 18 Nov. 2013, web.archive.org/web/20171010110533/www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=62667.
---. “The Revolutionaries of Bethnahrin.” Warscapes, 25 May 2015, www.warscapes.com/reportage/revolutionaries-bethnahrin.
European Syriac Union. “The Voice of the Syriacs.” Www.bing.com, Oct. 2013, p. 3, www.bing.com/ck/a?!&&p=2e5902115f730c31JmltdHM9MTY4MjM4MDgwMCZpZ3VpZD0yNDgyYzQ4OC00ZTRjLTY0ZGEtMWI4My1kNjUzNGZmNzY1NmUmaW5zaWQ9NTE3Mw&ptn=3&hsh=3&fclid=2482c488-4e4c-64da-1b83-d6534ff7656e&psq=%22Syriac+Leader+Arrested+by+Assad-Regime%22+(PDF).+ESU+Newsletter%3a+The+Voice+of+the+Syriacs.+&u=a1aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZXVyb3BlYW4tc3lyaWFjLXVuaW9uLm9yZy9uZXdzbGV0dGVyLmh0bWw_ZmlsZT1maWxlcy9lc3VfZmlsZXMvbmV3c2xldHRlci9FU1UtTmV3c2xldHRlci0yOS5wZGY&ntb=1.
Foulkes, Imogen. “Former Swiss Officer Johan Cosar Sentenced for Fighting IS.” BBC News, 21 Feb. 2019, www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-47319581.
Hackensberger, Alfred. “Syrien: Christen Lassen Sich von IS Nicht Vertreiben - WELT.” DIE WELT, 14 Mar. 2015, www.welt.de/politik/ausland/article138396610/Die-Barbaren-wollen-uns-alle-unterwerfen.html.
Illarietti, Davide. “Ticinese Rapito, Spunta Un Certificato Di Morte ‘per Arresto Cardiaco.’” Ticinonline, 26 Jan. 2014, www.tio.ch/ticino/cronaca/775156/ticinese-rapito-spunta-un-certificato-di-morte-per-arresto-cardiaco.
Khalel, Sheren, and Matthew Vickery. “Syria’s Christians Fight Back.” Foreign Policy, 24 Feb. 2015, foreignpolicy.com/2015/02/24/syrias-christians-fight-back-assyrian-militias/.
Malcolm. “Syrian Embassy Protest Sees Several Detained in Sweden | IceNews - Daily News.” ICENEWS, 15 Aug. 2012, www.icenews.is/2012/08/15/syrian-embassy-protest-sees-several-detained-in-sweden/.
Suroye News. “Suryoye Einheitspartei – Syriac Union Party – Syrien | Suryoye News.” Web.archive.org, 6 Feb. 2014, web.archive.org/web/20140219082417/suryoyenews.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/suryoye-einheitspartei-syriac-union-party-syrien/.
Syriac Union Party. “الصفحة الرسمية لحزب الأتحاد السرياني.” Www.facebook.com, 18 Apr. 2023, www.facebook.com/people/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B5%D9%81%D8%AD%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B1%D8%B3%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%84%D8%AD%D8%B2%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%A7%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%8A/100064405762753/.
Syrian Democratic Council. “Home.” The Syrian Democratic Council, m-syria-d.com/en/.