Photo: EPA
Turkish shelling in Kurdish controlled region
Photo: EPA
Ben-Dror Yemini

The Kurds are being massacred and the world is silent

Opinion: The American military presence in Syria was supposed to counter Turkish President Erdogan's expansionist aspirations, but Donald Trump's decision to abandon the Kurdish people leaves them in grave danger

The Kurds weren't in Normandy on D-Day, as U.S. President Donald Trump argued when explaining why he had abandoned them, but neither was Israel.



In those days there was no Kurdish state, and there still isn't. There wasn't even an autonomy with a military force – but now there is.


Turkish army shelling in the Kurdish-controlled region of northern Syria (Photo: EPA)
Turkish army shelling in the Kurdish-controlled region of northern Syria (Photo: EPA)


During the six years of fighting between the Kurds and Islamist factions in Syria, especially the Islamic State, the Americans assisted the Kurds with intelligence and air strikes.


The Americans hardly put any boots on the ground, and if so, they mainly served as consultants, far away from the battlefront and the casualty count is in accordance: American casualties stand at six soldiers and two civilians.


The Kurds carried most of the burden - they fought on the ground and suffered 11,000 casualties. Much more than all American casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.


The Kurds did the dirty work for themselves, but also for the free world. They established an autonomy called Rojava, which officially calls itself the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (NES).


Given the powers operating in the area, this autonomy is - or was should we say, a bit peculiar. It was characterized mainly by the principles of religious freedom, equality for women, direct democracy, and possibly even anti-capitalism.


The latter principle did not interfere with cooperation with the United States. Given these principles, if Trump's move is not a betrayal - then it's unclear to me what a betrayal is.


In any case, during the past year there have been only 1,000 American soldiers on Syrian soil.


American forces leaving the Syrian city of Tal Baydar (Photo: AFP)
American forces leaving the Syrian city of Tal Baydar (Photo: AFP)


They weren't supposed to fight. Their presence in the region was supposed to restrain Turkish President Erdogan's expansionist aspirations, but Trump has decided to abandon the Kurds.


The Kurds have a grim history. Under the Syrian Mandate, which was implemented in 1921, the country was divided into six different entities, each under a separate banner.


Two of them were Sunni (Damascus and Aleppo), one Druze (Jabal Druze State), one Alawite (the Alawite State in the Latakia region), Alexandretta (which the Turks annexed and renamed Iskenderun) and Lebanon (which became independent) – but the Kurds were left out in the cold.


The situation of the Kurds worsened under Syrian rule. They have suffered decades of systematic and institutional discrimination as part of the attempts to Arabize the region.


The use of the Kurdish language was banned, 120,000 Kurds were stripped off their citizenship, local authorities seized massive swathes of Kurdish land and handed it over to Arab hands and much more.


The autonomy that emerged in northern Syria could have been partial compensation for an historical injustice.


The demand for Kurdish independence also occasionally arises in Israel. There are those who compare them to the Palestinians but this comparison is ludicrous.


Kurdish civilians evacuating amid Turkish invasion in northern Syria (Photo: AFP)
Kurdish civilians evacuating amid Turkish invasion in northern Syria (Photo: AFP)


The Kurds of Rojava are not asking for independence, they are not demanding the dissolution of Syria and they declare that they want to live under the Syrian flag.


The Palestinians, unlike the Kurds, have repeatedly been offered proposals for independence and the establishment of a separate state but they declined time and time again.


The Kurds never received such an offer, but it did not stop the Palestinians from becoming the world's darling and that also didn't stop some idiots whose connection with reality was always a bit wonky from depicting Israel as a carbon-copy of Turkey. 


Have the Kurds ever threatened to eradicate Syria, Iraq or Turkey? Have they ever launched rockets at population centers? Are their educational systems laden with jihadist racist propaganda?


The invasion is intended, among other things, to create a "safe zone" in which Turkey could settle Syrian refugees who fled due to the civil war raging in the country, but in the meantime, it also creates a new wave of hundreds of thousands of refugees. Where exactly will they run to?


We live in a world where atrocities against Muslims are firmly condemned – they were slaughtered in Darfur, they faced ethnic cleansing and massacres in Myanmar, they are locked up in re-education camps in China – these were always condemned with the support of the Arab and Muslim world.


But now when it is the Kurds, again the Kurds, who are facing a new wave of war crimes, the world keeps silent.


פרסום ראשון: 10.15.19, 23:51
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