Eight killed in protests against Kurdish-led forces in Syria's Manbij

Worst unrest in the mainly Arab city since it was captured five years ago by the Syrian Democratic Forces

US forces are co-ordinating with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces to combat residual ISIS extremists and deterring pro-Iranian militia. AFP
US forces are co-ordinating with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces to combat residual ISIS extremists and deterring pro-Iranian militia. AFP

At least eight people were killed and several injured on Tuesday when US-backed and Kurdish-led forces fired live rounds to break up Arab tribal protests against their rule in the Syrian city of Manbij, according to security and medical sources and residents.

The protests took a violent turn when hundreds of demonstrators marched near checkpoints around the city, a day after a civilian was killed in protests demanding the end of Kurdish minority rule over a mainly Arab tribal population.

The unrest was the bloodiest to sweep the mainly Arab city since it was captured five years ago by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed militia force led by the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, after they drove out ISIS.

Resentment against SDF rule has grown in eastern Syria among the predominately Arab population, residents and tribal elders said.

Many object to compulsory conscription of young men and discrimination in the allocation of leadership positions.

The fate of thousands imprisoned in SDF jails is a major bone of contention, according to residents and tribal figures.

SDF officials imposed a curfew on the city and strengthened checkpoints on major routes after many shopkeepers heeded a call for a general strike.

There were also attempts to mediate with local tribal leaders to calm the unrest that the SDF blamed on the YPG's erstwhile enemy Turkey, and agents of the Syrian government, claiming that infiltrators had stirred discontent.

The Kurdish-led SDF denies that its local administration discriminates against Arabs and says their policies seek to redress years of injustice by Syria's Arab nationalist Baath rulers whom they say had for decades denied them equal citizenship rights as Syrians.

About 30 kilometres from the Turkish border, Manbij occupies a critical spot in the map of the Syrian conflict, near the junction of three blocks of territory that form spheres of Syrian, Turkish and US influence.

Manbij's capture by the mainly Kurdish forces with help from the US coalition angered neighbouring Turkey, which views the influence wielded by the YPG in northern Syria as a national security threat.

Ankara criticised Washington for not adhering to a road map agreed on between them in June 2018 for the withdrawal of Kurdish militants from Manbij, and to jointly secure the city.

Updated: June 2, 2021 03:08 PM

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