Divided across the Middle East, the Kurds deserve a home after nearly 100 years of failed Western intervention.

Divided across the Middle East, the Kurds deserve a home after nearly 100 years of failed Western intervention.

Western governments have been extremely concerned about the rise of Daesh in the Middle East over the past two years. However, nearly every country – from France to the United States — has done little to physically defeat the terrorist group in the region, instead choosing to fund local ground troops and support air strikes. This method of dealing with Daesh is ineffective at best and dangerous at worst as the United States lacks both intelligence or support for a fully unified military in the region. Supporting the Kurds, an ethnic minority in Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Iraq, and their peshmerga fighting force nevertheless would provide the United States and the West a way of having a standing army in the region. Assisting the Kurds could provide both an indomitable fighting force against Daesh and a way for America, in the future, to bring down the Syrian regime. The Kurdish assistance however would come at a small cost: their independence which they have rightfully deserved for over 100 years.

The Kurds are an ethnic group in the Middle East that have existed since antiquity in the highlands of Turkey and Iran. However, after World War I and the creation of new nation-states in the Middle East in place of the Ottoman Empire, the Kurdish people have been divided mainly between Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. In these countries, specifically Turkey and Iraq, Kurds even make up nearly a quarter of the population by some estimates.

Saddam Hussein attacked the Kurds with poison gas

Over the last one-hundred years, the Kurds have faced insurmountable odds at the hands of the nations charged with protecting their cultural traditions. As they fought for their independence in 1988, Saddam Hussein attacked the Kurds with poison gas, causing the deaths of over one hundred and fifty thousand people during this campaign, the so-called War of Annihilation. Since then, the Kurdish people have been forbidden to give their child a Kurdish name (the letters Q, W, and X, found in the Kurdish alphabet but not in the Turkish alphabet, are prohibited in legal names) and banned from listening to Kurdish music (a law abolished in 1991, but not in practice by government officials). In a sense, the Turkish government has been pointedly trying to destroy the Kurdish culture.

Now, Kurdistan, an area defined as having a majority Kurdish population, is not only one of the largest non-nation states in the world but its population is also facing insuperable odds with the rise of Daesh. The Kurd’s historical land is head to head with land Daesh has claimed in past months but Kurdish fighters, known as the peshmerga, have gained ground in and around Aleppo and in November, took Sinjar; both major Daesh holds. The peshmerga throughout much of the conflict with Daesh have been the only potent ground force combating Daesh and their efforts have been accompanied by Russian airstrikes.

It is important to note however that the Kurdish people are not united through one single leader or even party. In Iraq, most live in the three provinces making up the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), a semi autonomous region since 2005. However, Kurds live across Iraq and most notably, some have made claims to the oil-rich Kirkuk region.

In Syria, Kurds inhabit three regions near the Turkish and Iraqi borders and have protected them from Daesh through self-rule since 2012 (the time of the Syrian Civil War). In both Iran and Turkey, the Kurds have little to no self-rule within the countries. This disunity within the regions has been blamed for the lack of declared independence by the Kurdish people. However, the Kurds lack of unification in the past may actually be a positive for the United States and other Western countries.

Washington is dependent upon the peshmerga’s success in the region

Washington is dependent upon the peshmerga’s success in the region in order to continue their current mode of fighting, with few troops in the Middle East and most action taking place in forms of economically funding local fighters and air strikes. However, while the peshmerga have the ability to work as an all-mighty force on the ground in Syria, their current goal is only to retake land they feel belongs to them; this region does not stretch far into Daesh territory. Currently, both Russia and United States are contending between each other who will be given the support of the Kurds, and their indomitable fighting force, and the key will be who can best facilitate a non-violent Kurdish independence.

By declaring support for Kurdish independence, the West, and particularly America, can further its stance against Bashar al-Assad and Russia, allied together to also defeat Daesh. With the promise of supporting Kurdish independence, the Kurds — while not portrayed positively within Syria, Turkey, and Iraq — would not only be able to help train the Shiite Iraqi army along with United States forces, but would also become the only semi-stable nation in the region.

The trouble in Syria has lasted for four years and is not likely to end any time soon but by allying themselves with the Kurds to ensure that Daesh is crushed, and subsequently the Syrian regime, the United States would also be able to have the first (virtual) boots on the ground in replacing the Syrian government with an alternative, less violent group. This alliance would have only a positive result for America which has been against both Daesh, Russia, and the Syrian regime from the start.

The Kurds have deserved independence for nearly 100 years now

When the Middle East was carved up after the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 dissolved the Ottoman Empire, the Kurds were forced to give up a Kurdish nation which was promised to them in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres. Too long have the Kurds been oppressed within their own homeland, their culture pointlessly destroyed, and assimilation forced down their throats. Now is the time for the Kurds to prove that they are capable of truly running their own nation, that each party has the ability to work together for a common Kurdish good.

The West has not trusted the Kurds to become their own nation in the past because they have feared violence and the Kurds have not done so because their revolutions have been overturned by relatively stable leaders — like what happened in the 1991 Kurdish uprisings in Iraq — but now their homeland is in tatters, divided between a terrorist organization and three separate countries, all untrusting of the Kurds.

The United States can facilitate this independence after the defeat of Daesh, tearing land away from Assad, the Syrian leader whom Western leaders may despise more than Daesh, and handing it to the Kurds who have, by then, proven their loyalty.

Yale Young Global Scholar, Hadley Copeland focuses on the North America, Middle East, and Europe.

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