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How the Kurds became a key player in Syria's war

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It’s an unlikely place for a democratic revolution.

The headline for this video has been updated. The previous version was: How Syria’s Kurds are trying to create a democracy.

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Since the start of the Syrian civil war, Kurdish people in the North have carved out an autonomous region of their own — Rojava — by fighting the Islamic State. Their militias, which form the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), have emerged as the most effective fighters against ISIS and won them a close partnership with the US.

The ruling Kurdish Party, the PYD, has set up a democratic federation made of local governments. Their constitution claims to accept people of all ethnicities and religions and treat them as equals. One of its central tenets is equality of men and women. In fact, the all-female Women’s Protection Unit (YPJ) militia fights alongside the SDF, and they’re known to be especially good soldiers.

But the more territory the Kurds take from ISIS, the more worried Turkey gets.

Turkey has been at war with another closely linked Kurdish group, the PKK, for decades. In 2018, Turkey invaded the Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin, putting the country in direct conflict with the Kurds of Rojava.

To truly understand the international conflicts and trends shaping our world you need a big-picture view. Video journalist Sam Ellis uses maps to tell these stories and chart their effects on foreign policy.

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