Syrian Kurds putting on a fashion show of traditional clothing.
Ask the average American on the street “Who are the Kurds?” and most likely you will receive a blank stare, a “Who?” and finally an “I have no idea.” A small number will respond correctly that they are an ethnic group somewhere in the middle-east; others will respond “Aren’t they a terrorist group?” Or, “Doesn’t that have something to do with yogurt?”
You get the picture. Few Americans give a rat’s ass about the Kurds – our most important ally in Syria who suffered 11,000 dead in carrying a fierce fight to ISIS, dislodging its hold on the territorial “Caliphate.”
So what did we do this week? We abandoned them to the Turks. I guess Trump and Erdogan had a phone conversation.
Senator Lindsay Graham, a Trump water carrier, called it a “stain on America’s honor.”
Graham phoned into “Fox & Friends,” which Trump is known to watch regularly, to express his displeasure at the “impulsive decision by the president,” calling it “short-sighted and irresponsible.” He said the move has “undone all the gains we’ve made” and “thrown the region into further chaos.”
“This to me is just unnerving to its core,” Graham said.
The U.S.-backed Kurds under the Syrian Democratic Forces said their American allies “did not fulfill their obligations” as U.S. troops began to withdraw from their positions ahead of the expected Turkish military operation.
A bit of history is in order here. I love history. It reveals so much.
The Kurds are an Iranian ethnic group native to Western Asia. Geographically, this mostly mountainous area, known as Kurdistan includes southeastern Turkey, northwestern Iran, northern Iraq, and northern Syria. There are also exclaves of Kurds in central Anatolia. Additionally, there are significant Kurdish diaspora communities in the cities of western Turkey, in particular Istanbul, while a Kurdish diaspora has developed in Western Europe, primarily in Germany.
The majority of Kurds are Sunni Islam, significant numbers practice Shia Islam while the remainder are adherents of Yazidism, Zoroastrianism and Christianity. The Kurds are considered the most religiusly diverse population in Western Asia.
Numerically, the Kurds are estimated to number between 40 and 45 million. And the Kurds have wanted to rule themselves for centuries.
If 3 million Palestinians deserve a country what about 45 million Kurds?
After World War One and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the victorious Western allies made provision for a Kurdish state in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres. However, that promise was nullified three years later, when the Treaty of Lausanne. settling the Greek-Turkish War in Anatolia, set the boundaries of modern Turkey and made no such provision, leaving Kurds with minority status in their respective countries.
Kurds form regional majorities in all four of these countries, viz. in Turkish Kurdistan, Iraqi Kurdistan, Iranian Kurdistan and Syrian Kurdistan. The Kurds are the fourth largest ethnic group in West Asia after the Arabs, Persians, and Turks.
And out of a position of being a minority spread over four countries came a nationalist movement for independence. The Turks have argued that the Kurds are not “stateless” but have “thrived” in Turkey for centuries and it is only recently that troubles began with Kurd “terrorists.”
Several large scale Kurdish revolts in 1925, 1930 and 1938 were suppressed by the Turkish government and more than one million Kurds were forcibly relocated between 1925 and 1938. The use of Kurdish language, dress, folklore, and names were banned and the Kurdish-inhabited areas remained under martial law until 1946. The Ararat revolt, which reached its apex in 1930, was only suppressed after a massive military campaign including destruction of many villages and their populations.
The words “Kurds”, “Kurdistan”, or “Kurdish” were officially banned by the Turkish government. Following the military coup of 1980, the Kurdish language was officially prohibited in public and private life. Many people who spoke, published, or sang in Kurdish were arrested and imprisoned. The Kurds are still not allowed to get a primary education in their mother tongue and they don’t have a right to self-determination, even though Turkey has signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. There is continuing and ongoing discrimination against and “otherization” of Kurds in society.
So you can see, the Kurds in Turkey are just thriving and are not “stateless.” Erdogan lies as well as Trump – its why they get along so well. Since the 1970s, the European Court of Human Rights has condemned Turkey for the thousands of human rights abuses. The judgments are related to executions of Kurdish civilians, torturing, forced displacements. systematic destruction of villages, arbitrary arrests. murdered and disappeared Kurdish journalists.
Leyla Zana, the first Kurdish female MP, caused an uproar in Turkish Parliament after adding the following sentence in Kurdish to her parliamentary oath during the swearing-in ceremony in 1994: “I take this oath for the brotherhood of the Turkish and Kurdish peoples.”
In March 1994, the Turkish Parliament voted to lift the immunity of Zana and five other Kurdish members:. Zana, and three others were sentenced to 15 years in jail by the Supreme Court. In October 1995. Zana was awarded the Sakharov Prize for human rights by the European Parliament. She was released in 2004 only amid warnings from European institutions that the continued imprisonment of the four Kurdish MPs would affect Turkey’s bid to join the European Union.
In Iraq, there was an autonomous Kurdistan under the Monarchy; Saddam took care of that. There was oil to be had.
The government of Iran has never employed the same level of brutality against its own Kurds like Turkey or Iraq, but it has always been implacably opposed to any suggestion of Kurdish separatism.
Kurds account for 9% of Syria’s population, a total of around 1.6 million people. This makes them the largest ethnic minority in the country. They are mostly concentrated in the northeast and the north, but there are also significant Kurdish populations in Aleppo and Damascus. Of course, in Assad’s Syria no political parties are allowed for any group, Kurdish or otherwise.
Techniques used to suppress the ethnic identity of Kurds in Syria include various bans on the use of the Kurdish language, refusal to register children with Kurdish names, the replacement of Kurdish place names with new names in Arabic, the prohibition of businesses that do not have Arabic names, the prohibition of Kurdish private schools, and the prohibition of books and other materials written in Kurdish. Some 300,000 Kurds have been denied Syrian citizenship in violation of international law.
Syrian Kurdish women on the battlefield against ISIS
As a result of Syrian civil war, since July 2012, Kurds were able to take control of large parts of Syrian Kurdistan; a Kurdish-dominated coalition led by the Democratic Union Party as well as some other Kurdish, Arab, Syriac-Assyrian and Turkmen groups have sought to establish a new constitution for the de facto autonomous region,
This led to the establishment of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS) in 2016. The supporters of the DFNS argue that the events constitute a social revolution with a prominent role played by women both on the battlefield and within the newly formed political system, as well as the implementation of democratic con-federalism, a form of libertarian socialism that emphasizes decentralization, gender equality and the need for local governance through semi-direct democracy.
Meanwhile,the Kurdish armed forces mounted fierce attacks against ISIS strongholds and now hold more than 10,000 ISIS prisoners in camps. The de-facto Syrian Kurdistan has probably been the most peaceful, well run region of the nation.
The mere presence of some 150 U.S. advisors have kept Assad and the Russian military from directly attacking the region and bringing it back into the fold. But it is the Turks, viewing with alarm the establishment of a Syrian Kurdistan on its border with its own Kurdish population who have revealed their intentions to put a stop to it.
Turkey’s President Erdogan considers the Kurdish forces in Syria to be terrorists allied with Kurdish insurgents within his own country and has long threatened a military incursion into the area.
So this week Erdogan and Trump have a phone conversation; Erdogan asks and Trump agrees tp move about 30 U.S. troops out of a specific region. By nightfall our soldiers are abandoning observation posts. The Kurds scream betrayal; everyone knows a Turkish attack is coming.
But of course Trump never gave the Turks the OK to attack the Syrian Kurds. “I was just moving our soldiers out of harms way.”
Tweeted the President “As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the economy of Turkey (I’ve done it before!).”
Yes. He tweeted that.
He did not mention an attack on the Syrian Kurds as one of the items he would consider off-limits. Further he expects the Turks to take care of those ISIS prisoners (who will be breaking out in droves once an attack commences.)
So here we face the spectacle of a NATO ally, whom we are under treaty to defend if attacked, attacking our staunchest ally in the war against ISIS. We opposed Assad. The Kurds opposed Assad. We opposed ISIS, The Kurds opposed ISIS. We didn’t want to use tens of thousands of troops on the battlefield; The Kurds took up arms and sacrificed more than 11,000 of their young men and women, relying on us to “do the right thing” in supporting their move to independence.
We turned them over with a phone call and a tweet.
Next time maybe we should call the Saudi’s for help; oh wait – they financed ISIS while our Presidents held the hands of Kings and Crown Princes.
Besides the Saudis couldn’t fight their way our of a paper bag – which is the reason they don’t dare face down the Iranians over the oil field missile attacks.