• From Qamishli to Qamishlo: A Trip to Rojava’s New Capital - The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

    I had not been to Qamishli for twenty years. As a Ph.D. student at the French Institute for the Near East, I went with two friends in the late 1990s to explore northeast Syria. This journey led us to Raqqa, Deir al-Zour, Hasaka, and Qamishli. Since 1997 I have returned to other Syrian cities on several occasions but did not have the opportunity to go to Rojava. Twenty years ago, I stayed in the venerable Semiramis Hotel. This luxurious Art Deco hotel was built in the 1950s, the ‘’Golden Age’’ of Jazira when Qamishli was the economic center of this rich grain and cotton producing area. The Semiramis welcomed the tradesmen, textile merchants, and millers of Aleppo who came to buy crops, and the restaurant hosted the high society of Qamishli who came to taste French wines and eat filet mignon. The city was mainly Christian, the rural exodus having not yet engulfed Qamishli. The Armenian and Syriac populations had fled Turkey for France after the First World War, and the French installed them in this almost empty region in order to limit the land claims of Mustafa Kemal in northern Syria. The Christians made the desert bloom using the land that was granted to them by the authorities.