Why The Kurds Still Don’t Have a Country

By John Broich, Associate Professor, Case Western Reserve University. Originally published at The Conversation

Since U.S. troops left their region, roughly 180,000 Kurds of northeastern Syria have been displaced, and over 200 have been killed.

Those Kurds, soldiers who’d battled the Islamic State and families, had hoped to secure a future Kurdistan state in areas now targeted by Turkish warplanes and patrolled by Russian mercenaries.

This is only the latest reversal for the Kurds, a group of around 40 million who identify with a regional homeland and common historical background, but are now divided between four countries. Despite their many attempts, there’ve never won and kept a Kurdish nation.

A 1992 map of Kurdish inhabited areas, made by the CIA. Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection at The University of Texas at Austin

Drawing Borders after WWI

The most decisive reversal came at the end of the first World War. That’s when the Allies, victors over Germany and the Ottoman Empire, divided their geographical spoils of war.

In a series of conferences in a succession of European palaces, Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Georges Clemenceau of France, Woodrow Wilson and dozens of other leaders conspired, harangued and horse-traded from 1919 to 1921. Under clouds of cigar smoke, between servings of foie gras and champagne, they redrew a large swath of the globe’s map.

Besides doling out spoils to themselves, such as far-flung German imperial holdings, their aims were to replace the Austro-Hungarian Empire, punish Germany in Europe and – the biggest task – fill the vacuum left by the demise of the sprawling Ottoman Empire, which before the war covered territory from the edge of Bulgaria to Yemen.

Their guiding principle for redrawing the map, at least in most cases, was the reigning concept of race nationalism, what’s often called today ethno-nationalism.

Simply put, the Allies’ delegates assumed that nation states should be composed as much as possible by single “races,” single ethnic and linguistic populations. So, they defined, in some ways created, new races – like, for example, Hungarians or Austrians – and drew borders around them.

Who Should Receive an Ethno-State?

What to do in the big, central zone of the defeated Ottoman Empire, stretching between the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf?

Should there be one big, Greater Arabia or Arab federation, as some British officials promised their Arab allies who revolted against the Ottomans? Should there be many little nations, with borders around Christian Arabs, Muslim Arabs, Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds? (Following their race-nation instinct, the British did support what they called a new “National Home for the Jewish people” in former Ottoman Palestine.)

That, too, is what President Woodrow Wilson’s call for self-determination dictated. Wilson himself was explicit in calling for a new, broadly encompassing Kurdistan.

Contemporary image showing Wilson’s Kurdistan shaded in solid green. Ara Papian/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA

They took for granted that Kurds were a race and that Kurdistan was a place. In fact, it was already depicted in pre-WWI atlases. The problem of drawing its borders fell, British Parliamentarians told themselves, to them in immediate postwar years. And it’s what some powerful people in British officialdom assumed would happen.

Not only did it fit British race thinking to create Kurdistan – to be heavily staffed by British “advisers”like the other new states, of course – but they believed the Kurds truculent and independent, unlikely to accede to domination by a neighbor.

They would “never accept an Arab ruler,” in the words of one British Colonial Office official, if they were embedded in an Arab nation.

A Missed Opportunity

But the Allies and the League of Nations never created Kurdistan. Why not?

British imperial self-interest in this case overruled ethnonational thinking. By the terms of the Sykes-Picot agreement, the secret French and British understanding of roughly who would get what after the war, the French claimed dominance of the northern Levant, what’s today Lebanon and Syria.

The British wanted a big geographical bloc in the region to match that of the French, to act as a counterweight. They formalized this by inventing a large country soon dubbed “Iraq.”

The line dividing Sykes-Picot’s French sphere and British sphere already cut straight through Kurdish areas. That partition was part of the reason why the British could not simply carve out a new, large Kurdistan (that they’d dominate like Iraq).

The map, according to the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Mahmoud Abu Rumieleh, Webmaster/Wikimedia, CC BY

For another, British colonial officials, like the famous writer-turned-colonial administrator Gertrude Bell, wanted a Kurdish population retained in the new Iraq as a counterbalance to its large Shiite population, which was deemed seditious.

This represented classic British imperial thinking long employed in places like India: divide and conquer. The Kurds might not be particularly docile or loyal to the British, but they could be counted on not to unite with the Arabs or Assyrians, either, and throw off British meddling.

The British, too, suspected there were large oilfields under the important Kurdish capital of Mosul. Better to keep the Mosul region securely within Iraq, some leaders judged.

That colonial-era behavior had a recent analog, when President Donald Trump said that the Kurds could be allowed to remain near oilfields in far eastern Syria to protect them against the Islamic State. They’re still useful, it seems, for maintaining order above oil.

The Roots of the Trouble with Turkey

The Allies’ last, half-hearted attempt to create at least a small Kurdistan took place during yet another conference of the Allies in the Paris suburb of Sèvres in 1920.

Planned for eastern Anatolia, or Asia Minor, squeezed into borders to which the Kurds objected as too little, this Kurdistan came to naught. The new, revolutionary nationalists in Turkey wanted their own race-nation of Turks. And they did not want Anatolia chopped up for the sake of Kurds or Armenians. They’d simply have to become Turks, too, or face the consequences.

From 1920, the new Turkish Army occupied what was to become the little Kurdistan, and the Allies had no will to challenge them. The last hope that WWI’s victors would create even a fractional Kurdistan disappeared without fanfare.

But the Kurds didn’t stop – have never stopped – resisting. When the British lumped them into their invented country of Iraq, the Kurds naturally revolted in 1919. When a delegation of British colonial authorities arrived to parley with the Kurdish leader, Sheikh Mahmoud Barzinji, the man calmly quoted Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points, with its call for the “autonomous development” of the peoples formerly dominated by the Ottoman Empire. The British responded with two brigades.

Now, as then, it seems world powers support Kurd’s self-determination only until it’s no longer expedient.

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47 comments

  1. Tomonthebeach

    Another, complementary, take on this issue – same timeline – is that BP and Standard Oil wanted to extract regional resources. Both the UK and US realized how vital oil was becoming to winning wars. The best way to ensure success was to enable centuries-old tribal and religious sect squabbles to preoccupy the regional governments. Thus, each country got a sector of one or more badboys inside their borders to provide ongoing “extraction distraction.” Landless, the Kurds seemed to be in a position to keep the Turks out of the oil biz and Iran and Iraq needing trade with the west for guns and bullets.

    It is curious why these borders withstood WW-II.

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  2. ElvishT

    The real reason for a lack of a Kurdistan is that when the opportunity came, there wasn’t a leader with a character of a founding father – the vision (big picture), ambition (Not for the kind-hearted), and most importantly the ruthlessness (conviction). Saladin could have declared himself an emperor, and established a Kurdistan dynasty. Alas, his decision not to has sealed the fate of the Kurdish people. This is why leadership matters and makes the biggest difference in the fortune of men (or both sexes).

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  3. Ignacio

    The whole region is a wasp nest of territorial claims and old-style nationalism plus a terrifying history of violence. The practical, tough difficult, way to go for Kurds would be to ask for increasing autonomy in each of the four countries but however you try to organize the region there always will be some minority/majority that turns “forgotten” and with legitimate claims so there is not a solution from the point of view of nation making. We should forget Sykes-Picot agreement which is more than 100 years old and doesn’t bring us the memory of any sensible thing and think forward. Disarming the region –including Israel– should be the starting point for any sensible peace plan. Looks utopical.

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  4. The Rev Kev

    Looking at a map showing the Vilayets – the Ottoman Empire Administrative Districts – seems to indicate that the British and the French decided to recreate the map with a clean break. The British and the French may have designed this map with “ethno-nationalism” in mind when they cut up that territory but that would have been because they offered the best chance of stability. Such states do not need excessive garrisons and military campaigns to keep them under the leash. Some minorities would always lose out and unless you want to have a coupla score mini-states like Germany used to be once upon a time, larger states are more stable. Here is a map showing those Vilayets-

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Administrative_divisions_of_the_Ottoman_Empire#/media/File:Ottoman_Empire_(1900).png

    The 1992 map showing the Kurdish areas shows that they have a very bad hand. They have no access to the sea and their people overlap the countries Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey. From what I am given to understand, they are not just one people but have verged their own ways. If this is the case, the best that they can have is a high order of independence in the countries that they live in. In fact, they should be very active in the political life of their respective countries in order to protect their position.
    In the ISIS wars, the Kurds in Iraq took advantage to cut off some the territory from Iraq for themselves but when ISIS was defeated, the Iraqis dropped the hammer on them and took back their territory. Same in Syria, The Kurds there under US guidance have occupied Syrian Arab land due to the oil there and take it for themselves. Well, for the Americans that is, but they do get a cut of the profits of the illegally shipped oil. Sooner or later they will pay for this and it will not be good and nobody will stand by them.
    It would have not escaped the notice of the Turks and the Iranians at this opportunistic behaviour of the Kurds and they will be hostile to any Kurdish entity that tries for independence. In any case, long term you cannot have a self-declared state that has no access to the outside world via a port and is surrounded on all sides but countries hostile to its existence. It cannot last.

    Reply
    1. NotReallyHere

      Excellent points, Kev.
      Often unmentioned in these histories is that the plan for Anatolia at the end of WW1 was to give the west to Greece, the east to a newly independent Kurdistan and a small part of the interior to the Turks. Istanbul was to be an “international zone” administered by the great powers (Britain and France). The idea was for Greece (a British dependency), Britain and France to control all access to the sea for these people’s.

      But it failed. Ataturk escaped from prison in Istanbul and reconquered Anatolia militarily. The west failed to impose their plan because to do so they would have to rearm and invade. Naturally, given the time and the costs of WW1, they backed off. And capitulated to “facts on the ground” in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne.

      So today, Turkey is a military force in the region and about 20% of it population is Kurdish. It’s geography includes Istanbul and the ports on the west coast of Anatolia so Turkey has the military capacity and the geographic position to strangle economically any nascent Kurdish State. And they don’t want an independent Kurdish state.

      Turkey’s nightmare is Balkanization. If Kurdistan were created again in Syria or Iraq, it would not be long before Turkey’s 15m Kurds would want a piece of it and since Turkeys Kurdish population is larger than the combined Kurdish population of both Syria and Iraq, it is totally unacceptable to Turkey that it would risk losing 20% of its population and one third of its land mass.

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    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      The geography of the proposed Kurdistan is insane anyway. It’s a huge reason that’s off the beaten path and too cut up to function together. Before they can even argue, they’ll have to argue about where to even meet, and unlike other nation states, they would be doing it under the pressure of foreign states to function like they do without functional unifying leadership.

      The rates of language and religious diversity are insanely high. There aren’t functioning states with that kind of diversity. The US has a secular religion people are converted to, but even that required a fair amount of heavy lifting.

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      1. NotReallyHere

        That’s what is so fascinating about the region. One disagreement on your comment “there aren’t functioning states with that kind of diversity” is wrong. Turkey has that level of diversity and is a functioning state, although state practice here is often distasteful to us on the west.

        One Turkish guy once explained why the Turkish language is so important. Turkey can’t operate as a unified nation state on the basis of religion or ethnicity or even territorial self sufficiency.

        Islam is splintered into Sunni, Alevi and some Shi’a (the Kurds I believe), Christian has Greek Orthodox and some Russian Orthodox.

        Ethnically it’s is an incredibly diverse place. European Muslims in the North West and Istanbul, Greek on the west coast, Turk and Kurd in the center and east.

        Which why Ataturk was so adamant to de-emphasize religion and ethnicity in favor of a common language (Turkish) and even that language was changed to use Latin script. And this de-emphasis was done by force when necessary. That’s why the Kurdish language is seen as so threatening.

        The question the Turks face today is – if they can’t use a strong military and centralized education system to enforce its one language policies, what will the unifying element of the country be in future?

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        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Attaturk was a bonafide national hero. And Constantinople is going to run a huge region by virtue of being Istanbul or vice versa. Throwing his weight behind Ankara was a master move too.

          Much of Anatolia isn’t off the beaten path, and running the parts they do run out of Ankara isn’t terribly difficult.

          With the Turks, they already have the language, so it becomes a moot point. The ones who don’t are in a situation where they use it or lose out too much. I don’t speak the native languages of any of my great grandparents (A little passable French if I were get lost I could indicate I was lost.). Here I am capable of conversing with Protestants, but I couldn’t speak to any of my Catholic forebears. Once a critical mass of the young people speak a language, its the language.

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          1. juliania

            I will add that it isn’t necessary for other languages besides the national language to be discouraged or ruled illicit by the state. It’s not so long ago that having a general ‘commercial language’ different from the local dialect was an easy match, in fact it was part of general education to be proficient or at least acquainted with both. That’s why the Bible has several languages, and currently various native tribes in the US still use their own language and New Mexico is one state where Spanish is still very strong. I was taught French, Latin, Greek and German in my educational years. I can’t say I was proficient in any of those but they did strengthen my hold on English, which has elements of each incorporated into it.

            There is value in diversity. Losing a language is like losing a species – shouldn’t happen!

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          2. NotReallyHere

            Replying to both interesting comments. The point I was making is that Turkey doesn’t have a “naturally” defined territory like, for instance France, Great Britain, even Spain. It’s rivers feed into others in Iraq and Syria and it has no meaningful indigenous energy sources. It’s isnt a self sufficient territory geographically.

            Ethnically it isn’t homogenous either. An area within Anatolia where the Turksish cluster is largest defines “Turkey” but there are also clusters of Turkmen in Syria, Northern Iraq, the Caucasus etc. in all of Turkey ethnic Turks are only about 30% of the population.

            Religion cant be a unifying factor. And it’s system of government has been ad hoc since independence, subject to a lot of coup’s.

            So back in the 1920’s they decided on a common language and a common education system. And they have remained paranoid about any rise in ethnic pride, religious sectarianism, regional languages or regional autonomy ever since.

            America has the flag it’s system of government and it’s promise of leaving you to “pursue happiness” . Most European countries have their territory and an ethnocentric history to instill pride and loyalty. Turkey can’t have any of that so they chose a common language instead. It was all they had. And it’s a rigid, fragile system. Other countries are more relaxed about language because there are either many other unifying forces or because language isn’t the unifier.

            The problem today is how can Turkey move away from this tightly controlled national model because it has to. They are experimenting with allowing a moderate form of Islam as the dominant system under the guise of freedom of religion (they also allowed the Orthodox Patriarch to return to Istanbul). Their system of government has changed to a half baked US style federal system for now. It may evolve further in future. Who knows.

            Either way the country fascinates me for these reasons.

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    1. Synoia

      Kurdistan would control the Kirkuk oil fields, and possibly the Syrian ones as well.

      This was not allowed by Britain when the Ottoman boundaries were re-drawn.

      As you correctly point out, BP, then called Anglo-Iranian oil I believe, was part of the policy. I believe Gulbenkian (Mr. Five percent?) also had significant influence.

      I’m having to pull this from my memories of childhood, as all these were common topics among my parents when I was about 5 – 7 years old.

      These long forgotten memories were stirred up by the Invasion of Iraq after 9/11. Memories from overheard adult discussions, where I recall some content, but had no understanding of the issues.

      Reply
  5. Noel Nospamington

    There are numerous people worldwide who like the Kurds also do not have their own country. Examples include indigenous people in the Americas (North, Central, South, and Caribbean) plus Australia, Catalonians, Basque, Tibetans, Uyghurs, etc.

    As previously stated the world cannot go through any more division in order to give each and every group their own country, especially since this often leads to violence, repression, descrimination, ethnic cleansing, etc.

    What is really needed for all countries to respect human rights, and provide protection of minority rights including religion, language, and culture, and also protection against discrimination.

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  6. Olivier

    In the case of the Kurds it is facile to blame empires. If the Kurds want an ethno-state then first they have to start acting like a single tribe instead of fighting each other fratricidally along tribal or sub-tribal lines, something they have a long history of. Until they do why would anyone take their fantasies of a state seriously? It would not be viable anyway.

    And yes the same dynamic obtains all over Africa: just look at the basket case that is South Sudan, in civil war right after gaining independence.

    The right of people to dispose of themselves should not be absolute: it should be forfeited if it can be determined that the new state will be a source of trouble and instability, possibly becoming a failed state.

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    1. Pookah Harvey

      The problem with these arguments about “the Kurds” wanting a Kudish state is ,at least in Syria, that is not what they wish to achieve. The people of Rojava want secular, multicultural, autonomous communities.That is the reason Noam Chomsky and David Graeber , not exactly war hawks, want US troops to stay in the region.

      A recent story in the Israeli Harretz is titled :”In the Heart of Syria’s Darkness, a Democratic, Egalitarian and Feminist Society Emerges “. The subtitle is “Four million people, thousands of communes, a non-hierarchical social structure and a cooperative economy. Why is no one talking about Rojava?”

      A CNN 2016 story “Rojava: A safe haven in the middle of Syria’s brutal war” by independent journalist Rahila Gupta has the prescient quote “When ISIS has been driven from Syria, as will undoubtedly happen, there is a real danger that the U.S. will turn on the people of Rojava because their anti-capitalist ideology is almost more of a threat than the religious fundamentalism of ISIS.”

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      1. Harold

        If all people were organized in “secular, multicultural, autonomous communities,” there would be no need for ethno-nation states such as Kurdistan (or Rojava), no?

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        1. Pookah Harvey

          Rojava is the name for an area that has a government of secular, multicultural, autonomous communities. This has been working with the protection of having US armed forces present. If you want to have peace in the middle east this area would provide an example that could be far reaching. Turkey doesn’t agree (or possibly does and fears).

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          1. integer

            As I understand it, the Syrian government has been open to negotiations with the Syrian Kurds, and has signaled a willingness to negotiate a degree of Kurdish autonomy and draft it into a new Syrian constitution. If Kurdish leadership had chosen this path the Syrian Kurds would have won, via negotiation, some degree of autonomy and would have been able to count on the SAA and Russia for protection from Turkey.

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      2. psv

        With respect to Chomsky and Graeber, an autonomous community that would need to depend on the presence of the US military would not be much of an autonomous community.

        The Kurdish leadership should also have been aware that given history, the US would be unlikely to be a long-term ally.

        Regarding the Haaretz article, and without taking a stance on the its content, it’s in Israel’s interest to have weak, divided neighbors. Their support for the Kurds can be seen in this light, as well as being an opportunity for them to maintain military posts much closer to Iran than now is feasible.

        As others have mentioned, the Kurds have not shown great ability to work together, as seen in the feuding in Iraqi Kurdistan between the Barzani and Talabani factions that led to the failure of the independence drive there.

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        1. Pookah Harvey

          Iraqi Kurdistan is not what we are talking about. Rojava is an experiment for the most democratic, autonomous regime in the Middle East. Can it stand up against Turkey or Assad by itself, of course not.

          “I think that part of the reason [why people don’t talk more about Rojava] is that we no longer believe revolutionary utopian movements are possible,” American anthropologist David Graeber, told Haaretz recently.

          “We’ve become so cynical that a lot of people just don’t believe it. You get a lot of people on the left whose politics are: ‘Whatever the Americans do, we’re against it.’ I call it the loser left – they basically don’t even imagine that they could win. And, frankly, a lot of liberals, in my experience, really don’t like the idea of [direct] democracy; they might not admit it, but they’re inherently suspicious of ordinary people’s ability to govern themselves.”

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          1. psv

            Yes, I realize you were speaking specifically about Rojava. The Iraq comment was more addressed at the inability for the Kurds in the region shown in the map above to unite.

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      3. The Rev Kev

        I’m sure that if the European countries had pushed their way into the American Civil war back in the 1860s so that the South could have carved itself away from the Union with the help of European military help, Noam Chomsky and David Graeber both would have righteously agreed with that decision. Scratch an political activist, find a militarist neocon.

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        1. Martin

          I think you need to modulate the response with reference to ideological predispositions. Given NC and DG’s ‘previous’s’, it seems startlingly unlikely that they would, however retroactively reincarnated, have agreed with a successful Confederate breakaway. You see, their general and consistent responses to world events seems to err distinctly on side of self-determination, defined of course variously, but definitely contra all forms of subordination, especially slavery.

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      4. Plenue

        Chomsky and Graeber are both shockingly naive on this issue. Both in over-idealizing the Kurd’s weird anarchist cult, and in supporting the US staying there. The US doesn’t remotely care about the Kurds or their leftist project, and any proto-Kurdish state that is so dependent on foreign soldiers providing it with a shield is clearly not in a sustainable position.

        My sympathy for the Kurds ends once they start laying claim to places and resources they have no connection to. The southern Syrian oil and gas fields east of the Euphrates are in regions with 100% Arab populations. The Kurds occupying and exploiting those resources is pillage, pure and simple. Providing income for a Kurdish state means depriving Syria of money it needs to rebuild.

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  7. rd

    The solution is still to develop alternative energy sources and electric cars and trucks. That would relegate oil to a minor economic role. The economic and security benefits would be massive, without even bringing air pollution and climate change into the discussion.

    1. Russia’s economy is fueled by oil & gas. Reducing its importance and price would reduce Russia’s world influence at a time that they are in demographic decline as well.
    2. It would eliminate a major flash point with China while China is also going into demographic decline.
    3. Other than the Suez Canal, the Middle East would largely slip into irrelevance, similar to pre-1900. funding for international terrorist organizations would dry up. With no oil to secure, there would be little reason to be constantly sending million-man armies there or bomb villages.

    The current policies of increasing reliance on oil while extricating the US from the Middle East conflicts are doomed to failure.

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  8. Tobin Paz

    The Kurdish leadership has not been a good actor in Syria. Even pro-imperialist Amnesty International has called them out:

    Syria: US ally’s razing of villages amounts to war crimes

    A fact-finding mission to northern Syria has uncovered a wave of forced displacement and home demolitions amounting to war crimes carried out by the Autonomous Administration led by the Syrian Kurdish political party Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat (PYD) controlling the area, said Amnesty International in a report published today. The Autonomous Administration is a key ally, on the ground, of the US-led coalition fighting against the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) in Syria.

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    1. Aumua

      Wow I didn’t know that Noam Chomsky had left his stable life and gone to Syria to fight with the YPG. He’s more impressive than I thought.

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      1. aaronc

        Chomsky on his life at what was then a source of immense excitement in almost all leftist circies, an Israeli kibbutz in 1953:

        I came close to returning there to live, as my wife very much wanted to do at the time. I had nothing particularly attractive here. I didn’t expect to be able to have an academic career, and was not particularly interested in one. There was no major drive to stay. On the other hand, I did have a lot of interest in the kibbutz and I liked it very much when I was there. But there were things I didn’t like, too. In particular, the ideological conformity was appalling. I don’t know if I could have survived long in that environment because I was very strongly opposed to the Leninist ideology, as well as the general conformism, and uneasy — less so than I should have been — about the the exclusiveness and the racist institutional setting.

        What I did not then face honestly was the fairly obvious fact that these are Jewish institutions and are so because of legal and administrative structures and practice. So, for example, I doubt if there’s an Arab in any kibbutz, and there hardly could be, because of the land laws and the role the institution plays in the Israeli system. In fact, even the Oriental Jews, some of whom were marginally at the kibbutz or in the immigrant town nearby, were treated rather shabbily, with a good deal of contempt and fear. I also visited some Arab villages, and learned some unpleasant things, which I’ve never seen in print, about the military administration to which Arab citizens were subjected.

        https://chomsky.info/reader01

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    2. Pookah Harvey

      ‘Another “hyperintense adolescent fantasy”.’ You mean like having a Social Democrat as President. Yeah, we should just give up on that one.
      Will Rojava succeed? Probably not, but we will never know if they aren’t given any support.

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      1. Tobin Paz

        They don’t need anymore support:

        U.S. Coalition Cleansing Raqqa Of Arabs To Expand Kurdish “Autonomous Region”

        As U.S.-backed forces storm the Syrian city of Raqqa in their fight against Daesh (ISIS), a silent cleansing is taking place targeting the city’s Arabs. The U.S.’ Kurdish allies are set to benefit from this cleansing, as it will allow them to annex the city after the battle against Daesh winds down.

        A History Of Violence – The Myth Of The Moderate Kurdish Rebel

        The Kurds of the Middle East, though embraced by much of the West as idealistic freedom fighters, have committed a range of human rights abuses, mainly targeting non-Muslim minorities. Their dark history of violence includes kidnapping, enslavement, and genocide.

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          1. Tobin Paz

            The Assyrians and Armenians are not a minority:

            Assyrians, Armenians in Syria Protest Kurdish Confiscation of Property

            Sixteen Assyrian and Armenian organizations have issued a statement protesting Kurdish expropriation of private property in the Hasaka province of Syria. The statement accuses the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian wing of the Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), of human rights violations, expropriation of private property, illegal military conscription and interference in church school curricula.

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          1. Tobin Paz

            What conclusion, that the YPG/SDF is allied with an invading foreign power violating international law?

            U.S.-Led Coalition Accused Of ‘Potential War Crimes’ In Push To Reclaim Raqqa

            The strikes “appear either disproportionate or indiscriminate or both and as such unlawful and potential war crimes,” the group added later. In other words, the group said, too often the “war of annihilation” U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis promised to wage against ISIS instead annihilated the civilians.

            Syria charges Washington with war crimes in siege of Raqqa

            The city has been targeted relentlessly by both US warplanes and artillery, and missiles supplied by the Pentagon to the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, the American proxy force dominated by the YPG Syrian Kurdish militia.

            Syria: Kurdish Forces Violating Child Soldier Ban

            The Kurdish armed group that controls territory in northern Syria, despite some progress, is still not meeting its commitment to demobilize child soldiers and to stop using boys and girls under 18 in combat, Human Rights Watch said today.

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            1. Aumua

              It’s clear that your opinion of the Kurds is pretty low, Tobin. And far be it from me to say that they’re perfect or anything, and it’s annoying that they allied themselves with the U.S. in this situation. But any port in a storm, you know what I’m saying? These are people who are hard pressed, and oppressed for a long time. They’re out there in the literal thick of it, on the ground, trying to build SOMEthing interesting, through direct action! Something at least partially based on notions of equality, democracy and/or anarchy/socialism. Whether it’s a half baked, pie-in-the-sky whatever… so what? Some of their fighters are younger than 18? I mean hey. You know.

              It’s possible to be anti-U.S. imperialism, and also anti-Assad, Edrogan and/or Putin you know. Seems to be a stretch for a lot of people, but I say if you’re any kind of leftist then hey, solidarity is not a four letter word, and you should say it more often

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      2. sb4

        Anyone contemplating “support” for their favorite rebels from thousands of miles away should read Jean Bricmont first:

        Of course, anyone is free to claim that human rights should henceforth be entrusted to the good will of the U.S. government, its bombers, its missile launchers and its drones. But it is important to realize that that is the concrete meaning of all those appeals for “solidarity” and “support” to rebel or secessionist movements involved in armed struggles. Those movements have no need of slogans shouted during “demonstrations of solidarity” in Brussels or in Paris, and that is not what they are asking for. They want to get heavy weapons and see their enemies bombed.

        https://www.voltairenet.org/article176896.html

        https://www.amazon.com/Humanitarian-Imperialism-Using-Human-Rights/dp/1583671471

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  9. Susan the Other

    Oil skews the “nationalism” of a 2020 Kurdistan. If a multi-parti conference can agree on Kurdish rights they might well get a new Kurdistan right in the very center of all the strife (actually from whence they came). If the Kurds want to even be there. They are “hardened” mercenaries by long reputation – perhaps more like die-hard libertarians (ME style). If the Kurds can serve the purpose of containing the Middle East, preventing guerrilla destruction, etc. then they will be backed by us, (the West) I would think. We need a police station there. Exactly there. Interesting. Theirs is a sovereignty without a place. And it just so happens that’s where we are all finding ourselves these days. I think it is a failure of language.

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  10. FKorning

    The mountainous terrain is what allowed the Kurds to maintain their culture despite various empires swallowing the region and shrinking back into irrelevance. That terrain also makes it rich in the one resource priced higher than oil in the levant: water. The Kurds deserve a homeland, but it will be tough hanging on to it with all the vultures closing in.

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