Derik, Syria – Celebratory gunfire rang out in the streets after the last of President Bashar al-Assad’s soldiers and police left this predominantly Kurdish city in Syria’s northeast.
A truck blasted Kurdish music from its stereo. People climbed atop the vehicle and delivered speeches in Kurdish language, a practice forbidden for decades in the region.
A few hundred people gathered at “President’s Square” in the city’s centre, where music roared and dozens of women danced in circles holding hands.
Since the beginning of the uprising in March 2011 in Syria, the regime’s forces have loosened their tight grip on Kurdish areas. Last July – overstretched because of the ongoing conflict – part of al-Assad’s forces started to retreat from some enclaves in the region.
Kurdish political parties and People’s Defence Units (YPG) started filling the power vacuum. Over the past two weeks, residents and YPG fighters expelled the remaining regime’s men from several mostly Kurdish towns – gaining autonomy most had never known in their lives.
In almost every case, this happened without violence.