When arriving in a new country whilst traveling alone, the most vulnerable moment is always between the airport and the hostel: you have all your gear, you don’t know the transportation system, and you don’t know the language. On the bus ride to Istanbul, Turkey from the airport, I was comforted to find another English speaker, a local, sitting next to me.
I struck up a conversation on the state of Turkey and Islam. He had some colourful things to say about the Salafis, among other topics pertinent to the Middle East… it wasn’t long before I found out my new friend is Kurdish.
My friend Hasan
I learned from Hasan that Kurds are a stateless ethnic group that have huge populations in Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey. He analogized the relationship between the Turkish government and the Kurds as older and younger brothers; where the older one slaps around his brother, giving him no voice.
Since that encounter, I have observed that Hasan’s characterization is accurate. But, in the downfall of ISIS, I observed something else: The Kurds are fighters.
The Fall of ISIS
ISIS is a terror group that rose to power and quickly conquered large areas of Iraq and Syria. In 2014, when they attacked Mosul (the third largest city in Iraq), they were outnumbered 15 to 1. The ISIS fighters drove out the Iraqi forces in 7 days.
In 2016, when retaking the city, it was fearless Kurdish troops who surrounded Mosul, cutting off supplies and escape. They gave the coalition of US and Iraqi troops the backing they needed to retake the city.
The Kurdish fighters call themselves the Peshmerga, or “Those who face death” (so badass). Something powerful about Kurdish culture is that they welcome female fighters among their ranks, including battalions of all-female fighters.
ISIS regularly executed, burned, or crucified their prisoners. Please take a second to ponder: If a female soldier was captured by ISIS, what do you think would happen to her?
The wars in Iraq and Syria are complicated. In the middle east, it’s always a war of multiple fronts, multiple parties. But I can say with certainty that the Kurds are good guys, boldly fighting against extremism and for more democracy and women’s rights.
A Brief History
The Kurds have their own language closer to Persian than the Turkish and Arabic spoken by their parent countries. Kurds also have their own brand of Islam apart from the Shia and Sunni. I BRIEFLY summarize when saying that they got screwed out of statehood by the west after World War I and we continued to betray them throughout history, ie. fighting dictators like Saddam without American support.
Yes, over the years Kurds were responsible for several terrorist attacks in Turkey (against mainly police, non-civilian targets), but there have not been recent attacks. Turkey is merely afraid of the prospect that if Kurds get independence/autonomy in Syria, they may push for the same in Turkey.
Turkey’s war of aggression
The fact is, the attack by Turkey on Kurds in Syria is not one of self defense. The Kurds got this land from beating back ISIS, and they pose no imminent threat as the Turkish government claims.
Maintaining 1000 US troops in Syria costs Americans almost nothing, but when those troops suddenly left by Trump’s confounding order, it led to this sudden invasion by Turkish forces on Kurdish cities in northern Syria.
This is not us. We don’t ask a friend to help us and then leave them in the dust to die. Trump’s advisors passionately advocated for the Kurds, they knew what would happen if we pulled our troops back… indeed their predictions were correct. The body count of Kurdish fighters and civilians is mounting and there are hundreds of thousands displaced.
As an American voter I stand with the Kurds and will do everything I can to support them. I am asking anyone reading this to do the same. The decision to betray and abandon does not represent what Americans stand for.
The Betrayal of the Faithful
For my readers who classify themselves as believers I have four words for you from the Gospel of Matthew: “Blessed are the Peacemakers”. Trump needs Christian support badly and will bow and wilt before your unified desire, you wield so much power!
Your silence on this matter is literally killing people as we speak. Your indifference demonstrates that war vs peace is a political issue to you, not a central calling of Jesus. How can you turn a blind eye to this and still be “called the Children of God”? (Matt 5:9)
Dear clergy, your silence disgusts me.
Point of Action
If you want to do something, write to your representative.
What Happens to the Kurds?
A few days after arriving in Turkey Hasan invited me to a gathering at his home with friends and family. We drank an unhealthy amount of Raki and I got to listen to him and his mates sing songs in Kurdish, a language that was outlawed in Turkey just a few decades ago.
Since then I’ve had the pleasure of meeting up with him again in Europe and exchanging messages with him about what’s happening now in Syria. He says that a former leader from ISIS is in charge of the Turkish invasion force, and that protests by Kurds in Turkey are met with violence by a functional police state. He feels helpless in doing anything about his brothers and sisters dying in Syria.
My heart hurts when I think of these young Kurdish women who are now lifting up their weapons once again, but this time to fight Turkish forces; when both the Kurds and Turkey are our allies! With one unified voice we can end this pointless bloodshed. Join me.