Salih Muslim

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Salih Muslim
صالح مسلم
Saleh Muslim.jpg
Salih Muslim in December 2012
Chairman of the Democratic Union Party (PYD)
In office
Serving with Asya Abdullah (since 2012)
Succeeded byShahoz Hassan alongside Aysha Hisso[1]
Personal details
Born1951 (age 68–69)[2]
Kobanî, Aleppo Governorate, Syria
Political partyDemocratic Union Party (PYD) (2003–present)
Other political
Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria (1998–2003)
Spouse(s)Ayşe Efendi
ChildrenFive (one deceased)
Alma materIstanbul Technical University (1977)
OccupationChemical engineer

Salih Muslim Muhammad (Kurmanji Kurdish: Salih Muslim Mihemed‎, Arabic: صالح مسلم محمد‎, romanizedṢāliḥ Muslim Muḥammad) is the former co-chairman of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the main party of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria. As the deputy coordinator of the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change, he was also the most prominent Kurdish representative during the Syrian Civil War.[3]

Political career[edit]

Early political activities[edit]

Muslim first became involved with the Kurdish movement during the 1970s when he was studying engineering at Istanbul Technical University after becoming influenced by Mustafa Barzani's ongoing fight against the Iraqi government, the failure of which spurred him into becoming more active.

In 1998, he joined the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria (KDP-S), the Syrian branch of the Iraqi Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP).[4] He left the KDP-S in 2003 after becoming disillusioned by the party's failure to accomplish its objectives.[5]

2013 VOA report about the PYD, including an interview with Salih Muslim

Democratic Union Party (PYD)[edit]

In 2003, Muslim joined the newly formed Democratic Union Party (PYD), becoming a member of its executive council, and was elected as party head in 2010.[5] After he and his wife Ayşe Efendi were imprisoned in Syria, he fled to a Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) camp in Iraq in 2010. He returned to Qamishli in March 2011, following the beginning of the Syrian Civil War.[4]

Under Muslim's chairmanship, the PYD became the leading political party and actor in the emergence of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria. In July 2013, during the Kurdish-Turkish peace process, he was invited to Istanbul to negotiate with the Turkish government about the future of Syria,[6] returning on three more occasions for talks between then and October 2014.[7]

TEV-DEM foreign relations[edit]

In September 2017, the 7th congress of the PYD was held in Northern Syria, where two new co-chairs were elected.[8] Muslim since works as the foreign relations official of the Movement for a Democratic Society (TEV-DEM) coalition of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria.[9]

In this capacity, Muslim has stressed the message that "the Kurdish problem in Turkey and the Kurdish problem in Syria are two separate issues and will be resolved separately. To solve our problem in Syria, we have to sit down and talk with our fellow Syrians, with Arabs, Turkmens and others. Not with Turkey."[10]

Personal life[edit]

Muslim, a citizen of Syria, was born in a Syrian village close to Kobani in 1951. After an education in Syria, he studied at the Chemical Engineering faculty of Istanbul Technical University from 1970 until graduating in 1977. After a brief stint in London, he worked in Saudi Arabia between 1978 and 1990, and opened an engineering office in 1993 in Aleppo.[11]

On 9 October 2013, Salih Muslim's son Shervan, a fighter in the People's Protection Units (YPG), was killed west of Tell Abyad during clashes with al-Qaeda's al-Nusra Front. He was buried in the family's hometown of Kobanê in a public funeral which thousands of people attended.[12]

According to Muslim himself, he has permission to reside in Finland.[13]

Salih Muslim, co-chairman of the PYD, with Ulla Jelpke at Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in Berlin

Relations with foreign countries[edit]


Muslim is a familiar face in European capitals where he is hosted by senior officials.[10] He is a frequent guest and speaker at European political institutions and events,[11][14][15][16] inter alia in September 2016 invited to address the European Parliament.[17]

Addressing thousands during the Newroz celebration in Frankfurt, Germany, on 18 March 2017, Muslim said that "there is a huge resistance despite all the attacks. Nobody should doubt that the success and victory will be ours." Muslim criticised Germany for banning Kurdish symbols, saying that "Germany should have banned the flags of Turkey and terrorist groups instead of our flags and symbols because we are fighting in the Middle East not for ourselves alone, we are fighting ISIS and terrorism for all humanity. Our resistance is for Europe, for the West and for all humanity."[18]


Between 2012 and 2015, Muslim was Ankara’s top interlocutor within the PYD's Syrian Kurdish movement, which was inspired by former Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan.[10] During an interview with BBC News reporter Orla Guerin in August 2012, Muslim denied any "operational links" to the PKK.[19] Turkey has received Salih Muslim for talks in 2013[20] and in 2014,[21] even entertaining the idea of opening a Rojava representation office in Ankara "if it's suitable with Ankara's policies."[22] However, following June 2015 AKP electoral loss in Turkey, largely due to the raise of Kurdish HDP party, the Solution process (2013-2015) collapsed in July 2015, drastically changing the course of AKP relations to the Kurdish issue. According to the pro-administration Daily Sabah, “As a reconciliation process with the PKK was ongoing between 2012 and 2015, Ankara tried to persuade the PYD to drop its hostile attitude toward Turkey, open cooperation channels and to end its affiliations with the Bashar Assad regime. As the PKK unilaterally resumed armed attacks in July 2015, the PYD and its armed wing, the People's Protection Units (YPG), provided the PKK with militants, explosives, arms and ammunition. Simultaneous armed revolts broke out in almost all towns and cities bordering Syria; whereas terrorists trained in northern Syria staged suicide attacks in Turkish cities.”[23] The Turkish government allegedly sought to assassinate Muslim.[24] In late 2016, Turkey issued an arrest warrant for Salih Muslim[11] in a move considered putting Ankara on a collision course with its Western allies.[25] On 14 February 2018, two days after Muslim was placed on the "most wanted terrorists" list by the Turkish Interior Ministry and had a bounty of 4 million Turkish lira (about $1.5US millions at the time) placed on his head, he held a press conference at the seat of European Union institutions in Brussels.[26] He was briefly detained at Turkey’s request on 25 February 2018 in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic,[27] but was released 2 days later, drawing angry protests from Turkey.[28] On 17 March 2018, the Czech authorities dismissed Turkey's request.[29]

In a February 2018 interview, Muslim said that "when I look back, I conclude that Turkey was never sincere about wanting to make peace with the Kurds. Had Turkey reached out to the Kurds, worked with the Kurds, it would have become the most powerful country in the Middle East."[10]


  1. ^ "New co-chairs elected for PYD in the 7th Congress". Firat News Agency. 28 September 2017. Retrieved 2017-10-09.
  2. ^ Germany, - Berlin. "Interview: Salih Muslim Muhammad, chairman of the PYD: »Turkey's henchmen in Syrian Kurdistan are responsible for the unrest here«".
  3. ^ "More Kurdish Cities Liberated As Syrian Army Withdraws from Area". Rudaw. 20 July 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-25.
  4. ^ a b "Saleh Muslim Mohammed". Carnegie Middle East Center. Retrieved 2012-07-26.
  5. ^ a b Gunter, Michael M.; Yavuz, M. Hakan (2020). "The October 2019 Turkish Incursion into Kurdish Syria: Its Background & Broader Implications". Middle East Policy. 27 (1): 86–101. doi:10.1111/mepo.12476. ISSN 1475-4967.
  6. ^ "PYD leader arrives in Turkey for two-day talks: Report - Turkey News". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 2020-08-15.
  7. ^ "ZEIT ONLINE | Lesen Sie mit Werbung oder im PUR-Abo. Sie haben die Wahl". Retrieved 2020-08-15.
  8. ^ "Syrian Kurdish PYD elects new co-chairs in Rojava". Kurdistan 24. 30 September 2017. Retrieved 2017-10-09.
  9. ^ "Saleh Muslim released". ANF. 2018-02-27.
  10. ^ a b c d "Salih Muslim: Syria's Kurdish problems will be solved by Syrians, not Turkey". Al Monitor. 27 February 2018.
  11. ^ a b c "Why Turkey issued arrest warrant for this Kurdish leader". Al-Monitor. 27 November 2016.
  12. ^ "Thousands bid farewell to Sherzan Muslim". Firat News. 11 October 2013. Archived from the original on 22 October 2013. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
  13. ^ "Czech court orders release of Syrian Kurd leader despite Turkish extradition call". Reuters. 27 February 2018. Retrieved 11 December 2019. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |1= (help)
  14. ^ "Syrian Kurdish PYD, Turkey's HDP leaders attend 'Ocalan conference' in Athens". eKurd. 17 February 2016.
  15. ^ "After Belonging. New World Embassy: Rojava". Oslo Architecture Triennale 2016s. Retrieved 2016-11-25.
  16. ^ "Saleh Moslem speaks at a panel in Scotland". ANF. 15 December 2016.
  17. ^ "PYD leader to European Parliament: Turkey still supporting ISIS". ARA News. 3 September 2016.
  18. ^ "PYD's Muslim at Newroz rally in Frankfurt: Victory will be ours". ANF. 18 March 2017.
  19. ^ "Crisis in Syria boosts Kurdish hopes". BBC World News.
  20. ^ "PYD leader arrives in Turkey for two-day talks: Report". Hurriyet Daily News. 25 July 2013.
  21. ^ "Syrian Kurdish leader holds secret talks in Turkey: reports". Yahoo. 5 October 2014.
  22. ^ "Salih Muslim's trip to Turkey and Incirlik Base". Yeni Safak. 7 July 2015. Archived from the original on 22 November 2016.
  23. ^ sabah, daily (July 24, 2019). "Interpol removes top PKK-affiliated figure from its red notice list". Daily Sabah.
  24. ^ "Turkey plots to assassinate Rojava administrators". ANF. 28 November 2016.
  25. ^ "Turkey Increases Pressure on Syrian Kurds". Voice of America. 23 November 2016.
  26. ^ "Red-listed former PYD co-leader Salih Muslim to hold presser in Brussels". Hurryiet Daily News. 13 February 2018.
  27. ^ "A Shameful case". Yekta Uzunoglu. Retrieved 2018-07-05.
  28. ^ "Czechs release Syrian Kurdish leader, won't extradite to Turkey". Al Monitor. 27 February 2018.
  29. ^ "Czech's drop Salih Müslim extradition case". Ahval News. 18 March 2018.

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