President Bashar Assad's grip on Syria's northeastern Kurdish region is slipping following a wave of protests in late July. Local leaders claim to control over half of their territory, including the border posts with Iraq's Kurdish Autonomous Region.
Syria was carved out of the Ottoman Empire less than a century ago by the Sykes-Picot agreement, or Asia Minor Agreement. The sensitive triangle bordering Turkey, Syria and Iraq is an oil-rich area which Damascus may have lost forever.
Numbering over two million, the Kurds of Syria are often referred to as the "forgotten Kurds." Over the past decades they have been the victims of an Arabization policy that included deportation, Arab settlements in Kurdish areas, prohibition of the Kurdish language and the denial of Syrian citizenship.
Civilians are in control of several locations in northeast Syria. "We are all volunteers on 12-hour shifts. Believe it or not, I haven't fired a single bullet since the revolution started more than a year ago," a guard in Derik village told DW.
Unlike in war-torn Damascus or Aleppo - Syria's two main cities - the atmosphere in many Kurdish locations in Syria's north east has nothing to do with violence and dereliction. However, Turkey's role in the short term will be crucial as the prospect of a "Syrian Kurdistan" along its border presents the threat of a second front in the ongoing conflict.
Kurdish language schools are popping up in almost every location under Kurdish control. Enthusiastic students of almost all ages learn to read and write in their native tongue, banned for decades under the Assads' rule.
Syrian Kurdish women have been subjected to discrimination by the regime for the last decades, but also by a traditional and conservative family environment. Several Kurdish woman rights activists are taking steps toward sex equality in Syria's Kurdish region.
Syrian flags, pictures and portraits of all kinds of the Assads are still visible on government buildings, even in allegedly "liberated" towns. DW was told that government soldiers and staff were "afraid to leave their barracks."
There have been allegations that the PYD (Democratic Union Party) - the dominant Kurdish party in Syria - has reached an agreement with Assad, but the party has always denied this and says it is against international intervention (which for them means Turkish intervention) and the Turkish- backed Free Syrian Army. "We don't kiss the hand of our butcher," PYD leader Saleh Muslim told DW.
The current stalemate between the Kurds and Damascus doesn't satisfy everybody. According to the Kurdistan Regional Government, approximately 7,000 Syrians have fled to the Kurdistan Region since the uprising began 17 months ago. Dumiz refugee camp is one of two taking in new arrivals on a daily basis.
President Bashar Assad is struggling to maintain a grip on Syria\'s northeastern Kurdish region where local leaders are claiming control over half of their territory.