The only friend of the Kurd is the Mountain

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With the end of World War I and the fall of the Ottoman Empire the secular-nationalistic ethnic group known as Kurds living within in the Arab region believed they would receive their own autonomous Kurdish state. Even though the ethnic group’s population densely inhabits a large section of the northern Arab region a Kurdish state was not created. The British government, who created the present day borders of the Middle East divided the Arab region in such a way that it split the Kurdish population between four states, Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran.  The division of the Kurdish population among these four states has caused a variety of devastating conflicts between each state and their Kurdish population.

Below is a brief synopsis I gathered from listening to the National Public Radio’s discussion on the varying conflicts, violence, and oppression the Kurdish people have faced by the states they must call home, the discussion is titled “Understanding the Kurds’ Different Roles in Different Conflicts”…

Iran, has been infamously known to arrest and jail any civilian involved in Kurdish organization or organizations.

 

Turkey has had a thirty-year ongoing conflict with the Kurdish people, especially the Kurdish organizations PKK (based in Turkey) and YPG (based in Syria). These two militant organizations are known to take up arms in pursuit for Kurdish autonomy and are labeled as terrorist groups by Turkey. The Turk-Kurd conflict has resulted in approximately 40,000 dead.

Iraq, under Sadam Hussain’s regime has used chemical weapons on Iraqi Kurds killing thousands in an attempt to exterminate Iraq’s Kurdish population. The Kurdish population joined forces with the United States and fought against Sadam resulting in a Kurdish semi-autonomous region within Iraq’s border.

Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad and his father, the former president Hafez al-Assad, will not grant their secular ethnicity Syrian citizenship. Assad recently granted citizenship to Kurds only in an attempt to persuade the Kurdish population to support his regime during Syria’s ongoing civil war.

 

Besides the Kurdish population’s conflicts with the four states where they reside, Kurds are presently fighting against the threatening, unestablished, Sunni state, known as the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, IS, etc.) who is exponentially gaining control of cities in Syria and Iraq. The Islamic State, just for clarity, is trying to establish an Islamic Sunni-based caliphate in Syria and Iraq. The self-claimed state has origins in the Ottoman Empire and post-WWI diplomacy and has established long-term institutions in their captured territory. The Islamic State’s violent caliphate has uprooted over a 100,000 and caused Iraqi and Syrian Kurds to flee across borders just within the past month.

 

The Kurdish, as it seems, live in a world with no allies, and as famously said, “have no friends but the mountains.” Recently the truth of this statement is becoming less and less apparent as the Islamic State gains more and more control of Syria and Iraq. One friend the Kurdish population has gained has been the United States. Which is more of a fair-weathered friend  to the Kurdish population than a staunch ally…

The information below was gathered from yet another National Public Radio discussion titled “Why does the US like Iraqi Kurds but Not Syria’s?”

The United States, not until recently, has had a somewhat arbitrary relationship with the Kurdish people. The US’ relationship with the Kurdish people has historically depended on if the US supports the government in which the Kurds are ruled under. Turkey, the United States ally, does not support their Kurds and has proclaimed Turkish Kurd organizations, such as the PKK and Syria’s YPG, as terrorist organizations. The US has also declared the PKK as a terrorist organization and has not declared Syria’s YPG has terrorist but keeps a close eye on them. On the other hand, the United States supports and has given military aid and training to Iraqi Kurds, who have fought for Kurdish autonomy just as the PKK and the YPG has.

 

The Kurds’ battle against the Islamic State’s insurrection in Iraq and Syria has caused Turkey and the United States to alter their positions on the Kurdish people. However, the two states’ have only recently altered their positions with changes made in the past month.

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Turkey, who was blocking Iraqi Kurdish militants from crossing their border in order to give aid to Syrian Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State. Turkey just in the past couple weeks granted them access to cross. Turkey, who is also in strong opposition to the Islamic State’s presence did not give the Iraqi Kurds access to cross the border because of their conflict with Syria’s YPG.

The United States has been giving aid to Iraqi Kurdish forces but not until last week giving aid to the Syrian Kurdish forces due to Turkey’s position on Syria’s YPG, even though the Syrian Kurds had been in desperate need of the aid in order to fight off the Islamic State’s presence in Kobani.

 

Through the relationships the Kurdish have with other actors has not been historically nor presently supportive or productive. The exponentially increasing territorial gains the Islamic State has encountered in the recent months is a direct consequence of the international system’s treatment, aid, and representation of their Kurdish population. The international system has been in a frenzy over the Islamic States’ increasing territorial expansion but the only actor fighting back has been Kurdistan. Due to the international system deeming the majority of Kurds affected by the Islamic State as terrorist organizations has disallowed the Kurdish militants from receiving aid which has allowed the Islamic State to expand and create a stronghold in the region. The international system and it’s actors have also inconsiderately divided the Kurdish nation which has caused the Kurdish militants to join forces and fight off the Islamic State with more potency. The international system has turned a blind eye to the Kurdish population and as a consequence the Kurdish people and the international system and it’s actors must fight against an insurrection of devastating effects which could have been avoided to a significant extent.

As a side note, the terrorist question I posed in my previous blog is brought to question once more in this blog featuring the Kurd’s multitude of conflict relationships. Maybe terrorism is simply an arbitrary label and lacks a true meaning. This thought is very upsetting to me and could cause the innocent and the just to be penalized due to the meaningless label that is terrorism.

 

-Natalie

 

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