Original article by Wladimir van Wilgenburg, Kurdistan 24.

A partnership was signed this summer between Berlin’s Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg and the mixed Kurdish-Christian town of Derik in the northeast of Syria (Photo: social media)

Rojîn Çeto, the co-mayor of Derik, a Kurdish-Christian town in northeastern Syria, told Kurdistan 24 that his office is working on several ecological projects after a recent partnership was announced this summer with Berlin’s Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg municipality. 

“Our main projects are ecological and we will work on these projects in the coming days and weeks. There were many discussions about improving social services with the water and legal department,” Çeto explained of the ‘sister-city’ partnership.

“We also talked about the challenges that the municipalities are facing. We in Derik are working on implementing the articles of this joint agreement in our work. That is all I can say for now but we will be working on several ecological projects, including planting trees.”

Ibrahim Murad, the representative of the self-administration of North and East Syria in Germany, told Kurdistan 24 the partnership would “lead to an exchange of knowledge and experience on many different fields including, but not limited to, health, education, urban administration, and peaceful coexistence.”

It would additionally “help promote cultural values of our region and German cities.”

The initial steps to create a partnership date back to 2017, when the association Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg – Dêrik e.V. was created.

Due to a small annual budget from the district for the organization’s work, the first delegation from Berlin visited Derik in October 2018.

On Feb. 27, 2019, the District Parliament of Berlin Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, in a joint motion by the Left Party, the Greens and the Social Democratic Party (SPD), supported the idea to create a partnership with Derik.

This summer, the official agreement was signed.

Elke Dangeleit, a member of district parliament in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg (Left Party), told Kurdistan 24, with all projects in Derik to be financed by the association through donations and subsidies.

The first project was a donation campaign for a sewing workshop for Yezidi (Ezidi) women of the refugee camp Newroz.

“With the donations, 9 sewing machines could be bought, which are already on site,” Dangeleit added.

While most Ezidi refugees fled Iraq to the Kurdistan Region, a new wave of displaced Ezidis came from Afrin after Turkey attacked the area in January 2018.

“Now, a house for the sewing workshop is missing. This is one of the next projects for which we have to see from where we can get the money.”

Another project in the field of ecology has been running since the spring with the help of funds from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The goal is to support the partial greening of an almost dry riverbed in Derik and the creation of neighbourhood gardens.

“We agree with the efforts of the self-governing authority to contribute to climate protection through reforestation, greening and the creation of vegetable gardens on the one hand and to contribute to food security for the inhabitants on the other,” Dangeleit affirmed.

There are other projects such as the purchase of a day-care bus to bring the children from the various districts to kindergarten classes in cooperation with a local women’s foundation.

“There are many other ideas, but what we can realize depends on whether we receive funding and sufficient donations to cover the association’s own contribution, and what we can do in terms of strength because our work is completely voluntary,” the German official concluded.