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Sutoro ܡܟܬܒܐ ܕܣܘܬܪܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ
File:Logo of the Sutoro Syriac Police.jpg
Active 2012-present
Country Syria
Allegiance Syriac Union Party (Syria)
Type Light infantry (militia)
Role Security and policing
Size 1000+ (June 2013)[1]
Nickname(s) Sutoro
Engagements Syrian civil war
Head trainer Johan Cosar[1]

The Sutoro (or Sotoro) (Syriac language: ܡܟܬܒܐ ܕܣܘܬܪܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ, Arabic language: سوتورو‎) is a Christian Syriac (Assyrian) militia in the Al-Hasakah Governorate. It is the security wing of the Syriac Union Party (SUP).[2] Sutoro units were first organised in city of al-Qahtaniyah (Qabre Hewore), and soon thereafter in al-Malikiyah (Dayrik) and Qamishli (Qameshlo/Beth Zalin).[3] While the branches in Qahtaniyah and Malikiyah are under full SUP control and collaborate closely with Kurdish groups,[4] the Qamishli branch has totally broken away from the SUP and is now closely aligned with the Syrian government.

Cooperation with Kurds

The Syriac Union Party maintains warm and friendly relations with its Kurdish neighbours, and was one of numerous organisations to joined the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in establishing a formal administration for self-governance in three areas of northern Syria often informally called West Kurdistan or Rojava. Following this policy, the Sutoro has sought to align itself with the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) from an early juncture.[5] Although the Kurds were initially suspicious when it started organising and wanted its members to either disarm or join Kurdish formations, the Sutoro was soon accepted and welcomed by Kurdish forces. It currently operates alongside the Kurdish Asayish police force, manning joint checkpoints and patrolling neighbourhoods together, while its paramilitary counterpart, the Syriac Military Council (MFS), formally joined the ranks of the YPG in January 2014.[6]

Qamishli "Sootoro"

In February 2013, the Qamishli branch of the Sutoro began open operations in the Christian neighbourhood of Wusta, which is located near the city centre and has an Assyrian/Syriac majority with a significant Armenian minority.Though it was initially organised by the Syriac Union Party (just like the branches in Qahtaniyah and Malikiyah), the Qamishli militia was subsequently brought under the control of a so-called "peace committee" composed of several Christian organisations from the city.[4] The SUP soon lost virtually all influence on this group,[6] which became seen by many SUP members as being controlled by agents of the Syrian government.[4]

In late 2013, the split between this branch and the rest of the Sutoro became clear. Now transliterating its name as "Sootoro" (alternately referring to itself as the "Syriac Protection Office"), the militia in Qamishli adopted an entirely different logo and started openly asserting a separate identity. In November, the media office of the Qamishli Sootoro stated that it operated exclusively in the city of Qamishli and had not formed branches anywhere else, furthermore accusing militias outside the city of having appropriated their name; by December, the group was explicitly disavowing any connection to the SUP in their press releases. Though it continues to officially claim neutrality, the Qamishli Sootoro has become effectively a pro-government militia. Members of the group are frequently shown next to government flags and portraits of Bashar al-Assad in visual media, and flags bearing its distinct logo have been seen at pro-Assad rallies in the government-controlled sector of the city.[3]

Qamishli is one of the last places in northeast where government forces, having been pushed out of most of Hasakah Governorate by either rebel groups or the Kurdish-autonomist forces of the YPG, still maintain some presence. The Kurds control most of Qamishli, while loyalist forces remain in a few majority-Arab districts in the south, parts of the city centre, the border crossing to Turkey, Qamishli Airport, and an army base on the southern outskirts. The assertion of loyalist control over the Qamishli militia has been identified as a potential effort by the government to strengthen its position in the city by expanding and solidifying its shrunken territorial holdings.[4]

See also

External links


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