Recognizing the Struggles of Syrian Kurdish Journalists

By Hisham Arafat

Lack of International Recognition Hampers Reporting Effort

In the autonomous Kurdish region of Syria, known as Rojava, a pressing dilemma has been brewing for the past decade. Over 500 Syrian Kurdish journalists, dedicated to reporting the truth amidst the chaos of the Syrian conflict, find themselves grappling with a significant obstacle – the lack of international recognition for their press credentials.

Since the outbreak of the conflict in 2011, Rojava has emerged as an autonomous area with its own governing institutions. Among these institutions is the Union of Free Media (known in Kurdish as Yekitiya Ragihandina Azad, YRA), which serves as a syndicate for Syrian Kurdish journalists. However, despite their tireless efforts to provide accurate and unbiased reporting, the press cards issued by the YRA are not acknowledged internationally, leaving these journalists in a state of uncertainty and disadvantage.

The only foundations in Syria authorized to issue press cards are the state-run Syrian Ministry of Media and its affiliated Syndicate of Syrian Journalists. Unfortunately, they do not extend these credentials to Kurdish journalists. This exclusionary policy has far-reaching consequences, limiting the opportunities for Kurdish reporters to have their work recognized globally and hindering their access to essential resources and training.

Statistics indicate the severity of the situation. According to a recent survey by the Syrian Kurdish Syndicate of Journalists (YRA), Syrian Kurdish journalists face numerous challenges due to the lack of international recognition. Out of the 500 journalists in Rojava, dozens reported difficulties in obtaining visas for international travel in the past five years, while majority expressed frustration over their limited access to global conferences and training programs. These statistics highlight the tangible barriers faced by Syrian Kurdish journalists in their pursuit of professional growth and the ability to share their stories on a broader scale.

The consequences of this situation extend far beyond mere paperwork. The absence of internationally recognized press credentials hampers Syrian Kurdish journalists’ ability to attend global conferences, obtain visas for international travel, and access essential training and resources. As a result, their voices, which should be heard loud and clear, remain largely unheard in the international media landscape.

The Union of Free Media (YRA), one of the first foundation established by the Syrian Kurdish Autonomous Administration in 2012, has become a vital institution for Kurdish journalists in Rojava. It provides a platform for them to showcase their work and share their stories. However, without the crucial endorsement of their press IDs on the international stage, these journalists face significant barriers to their work and professional development.

It is time for the international community to step up and recognize the press credentials issued by the YRA. By doing so, doors will open for Syrian Kurdish journalists, allowing their voices to resonate on the global stage. International recognition would not only validate the tireless efforts of these journalists but also provide them with the opportunities and resources they desperately need to continue their vital work.

Recognition of the YRA’s press credentials is not only a matter of fairness but also an acknowledgment of the critical role that Syrian Kurdish journalists play in promoting transparency and shedding light on the realities faced by their communities. By embracing their work, the international community would send a powerful message that press freedom and the right to report the truth should know no boundaries.

The time for action is now. Governments, international organizations, and media advocacy groups must rally together to address this issue and ensure that Syrian Kurdish journalists are afforded the recognition they deserve.

By recognizing and empowering Syrian Kurdish journalists, we can uphold the principles of a free and independent press and stand in solidarity with those who risk their lives to bring us the stories that need to be told. It is through their voices that we gain a deeper understanding of the world and foster a more compassionate and informed global community.



  • Hisham Arafat

    Hisham Arafat is a Syrian Kurdish journalist who has conducted comprehensive coverage of the conflict in the Kurdish regions of Syria and Iraq since 2011. He has worked extensively as a reporter, correspondent, and producer, collaborating with news agencies and media outlets such as The Independent, The Telegraph, BBC, Channel 4, TNM, Kurdistan24, North Press, and others.

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