Syrian Kurdish Plight Requires Independence

Once again the Kurds find themselves in a humanitarian crisis not of their own making.  The Syrian Kurds are caught between the Assad regime and its allied forces, (including the Kurdish PYD – Union Democratic Party, which is linked to the PKK), and the Syrian opposition, principally the Free Syrian Army and its radical Islamists affiliates (such as Jabhat al-Nusra, with close ties to Al-Qaeda).  Both are seeking to draw the Kurds, who are the largest ethnic minority in Syria, to their side. In the meantime, both groups are confiscating vital supplies destined for the beleaguered Syrian Kurdish region.

Northeastern Syria, centered on the provinces of Hasakeh and Qamishli, where the bulk of Syria’s Kurdish minority resides, had remained relatively calm during the early phases of the civil war. The violence between the regime of President Bashar Assad and the opposition has however spilled over to the northeast in recent months.

Muhammad, a Syrian Kurd who escaped across the border to Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government controlled area, reported to the German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle that Syrian insurgent (opposition forces) “attacked  my home and stole everything from my home and destroyed my shop.” In the past few weeks there have been repeated clashes between Syrian rebels and supporters of the PYD.

This drama of repeated betrayal of the Kurds by America in order to satisfy Arab (Sunni) and Turkish interests was described by Najmaldin Karim in the Washington Post (12/2/2006): “The Kurds attest to the ‘realist’ betrayal of Iraq in 1991. As Coalition Forces were breaking the back of Saddam’s army from the air, President George H.W. Bush’s public suggestion to Iraqis, ‘to take matters into their own hands and force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside,’ encouraged Kurdish and Shiite uprising against the Baathist regime. George H.W. Bush and (Secretary of State) Jim Baker provided no support and tens of thousands of Shi’a and Kurdish Iraqis were slaughtered in reprisal once the regime regrouped.” Najmaldin Karim added, “The last truly ‘realist’ administration in United States history only intervened after considerable public pressure following shocking CNN images of Kurdish refugees, and after Turkey resisted accepting thousands of refugees.”

Currently, the Kurdish community in northeastern Syria is facing another humanitarian disaster due to lack of food, medicine, and cooking and heating fuels. If aid to the region is not provided very soon, thousands of people will die due to starvation, illness, and cold temperatures.

According to Sherkoh Abbas, President of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria, with the onset of the civil war in Syria, the Assad dictatorial regime transferred out all food resources (grains) from the Kurdish region to Damascus and the Alawite region. Although the Kurdish region is the major producer of oil and grains, these resources were shipped out without the processed food or refined fuel returning to the region throughout this past year.

The Assad regime has sent minimal assistance to the Kurdish region and for that matter only to its loyalist, i.e. Arab settlers and the Kurdish PYD. The regime however, has lost control over the main routes leading to the Kurdish region. The Opposition groups led by salafists have taken over border crossings with the support of the Erdogan’s Turkish government. The net result has been that the eastern border (to Iraq) crossings have been closed by the Iraqi al-Maliki government with the encouragement of Iran and the Assad regime, while the northern crossings to Turkey are controlled by the opposition, and the Kurds are locked in without supplies.

The Obama administration must not repeat the follies of the George H.W. Bush administration, which called the Kurds to resist Saddam, and then left them defenseless. To add insult to injury, the Iraq Study Group (ISG), and its so-called “experts,” dismissed the notion of establishing three autonomous ethnic-religious regions in Iraq, a proposal promoted by Senator (now Vice President) Joe Biden, and president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, Leslie Gelb. The ISG, which was a ten-person bipartisan panel appointed on March 15, 2006, by the U.S. Congress, was charged with assessing the situation in Iraq and making policy recommendations.

Najmaldin Karim suggested that the ISG “shunned America’s closest allies in Iraq, the Kurds, out of ideological prejudice. It’s not just that the pro-American Kurds make it difficult to argue that Iraqis all hate Americans, thereby obliging troop withdrawals. The Kurds make ‘realists’ and Sunni Arab advocates nervous; the evidence of Kurdish suffering is irrefutable and it is hard for the United States to walk away from the victims of genocide.”

In Syria as in Iraq, the Kurds are America’s most trustworthy allies, and yet, they have been shunned by the Obama administration, which has instead given its support to the opposition Syrian National Council with its radical Islamist components. Obama has once again allied the U.S. with the Islamist Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the Sunni-Arab Gulf states of Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Sherkoh Abbas, in an interview with the Russian newspaper Pravda, was critical of the Obama administration attempts “to induce the Syrian Kurds to join and work with the main opposition body,” the Syrian National Council.  Abbas believes that creating a federal Syria where there would be separate autonomous regions for Sunni Arab Syrians, Kurds, Alawis, and Druze is essential. This, according to Abbas, would break the link between Syria and the Iran-led Shia crescent. “A federal Syria,” Abbas maintains “would avoid the possibility of a resurgent Muslim Brotherhood controlled Sunni-Islamist Syria as a new challenge to Israel and the West.”

Asked by this writer to assess the situation Syrian Kurds find themselves in at this juncture, Abbas responded thus: “Syrian Kurds are being forced to take sides, either with the ruthless dictatorial regime and its mafia proxies or on the other side, Syrian National Coalition lead by Jihadi Muslim brotherhood and Pan-Arab chauvinists supported by Turkey and Qatar; frankly, Kurds reject both of them and demand a Kurdish Federation.”

And how about support from the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq and Kurdish solidarity? Abbas pointed out that “KRG is supporting Turkey in its agenda of promoting KNC (Kurdish National Council) to accept minimal rights within the Syrian National Coalition, while on the other hand a group such as PYD is getting support from Assad, Iraq, and Iran to coerce the Syrian Kurds.”

Abbas is calling on the Obama administration and the international community to support an independent Kurdistan in Syria because the current regime and the Syrian Opposition are moving Syria toward total chaos, which will end up making Syria a failed state similar to Somalia and Lebanon.  Only an independent Kurdish state in Syria can provide fairness to 4 million Syrian Kurds.  “At a minimum,” says Abbas, “Kurds in Syria need a similar status to that of Iraqi Kurdistan.” He implores the U.S. and the international community to create the same no-fly zone in his native Syria that it had reluctantly established in Iraq.

The Syrian Kurdish plight can be best remedied by an independent Syrian Kurdish state. Short of that, federalism might work for a while, but it is unlikely to be accepted by the Sunni-Muslim Arab majority.  A state dominated by the Islamist opposition promises chaos and continued oppression of Kurds and other minorities.  In the meantime, the Syrian Kurds need immediate material relief from America and the international community.

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  • AdinaK

    Unlike the west's pet jihadis – the Palestinians – the real plight of the Kurdish is off the international community's radar. Alas, if they were more in sync with terror ways, and a danger to Israel, then surely they would be given their state –

    Adina Kutnicki, Israel –

  • Jerry Gordon

    Puder and Abbas have raised significant questions that many of us fear the Obama Administration will avoid addressing in Syria when the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist opposition begin a sectarian cleansing of Syrian ethnic and religious minorities under tghe guise if a unified sunni supremacist state. Perhaps because Vice President Biden has been in favor of Kurdish regional autonomy in the case of the Kurdish Regional government in Syria he might raise that option in internal discussions. In the instance of the KRG he took the advices of "rogue diplomat' former Amb. Peter Galbraith now a state Senator in Vermont. Perhaps it is time to hear from Amb. Galbraith on the compelling matter of Syrian Kurdish autonomy in the context of a federalized state. We understand that a map of a proposed Syrian Kurdish autonomous region has been drawn by YASA – an ex pat Kurdish group based in Germany. That should beget a conversation with the Obama Administration by acknowledged exponents of legitimate Kurdish and ethnic religious minosities; i.,e, the Assyrian minority Christians

  • Attila THe HUn

    If U.S thinks by insisting on phony Palestinians issue and paying homage to Erdoğan and The Saudis by ignoring the plight of 30 plus millions of Kurds, she will be able to keep The ME from exploding she is just kidding herself. I have news for The U.S and Jew hating Europe this is not the 1920's anymore. Sooner rather than latter In the era of diminishing U.S power and influence someone other than The U.S, EU or Russia will lend a hand to the Kurds. When it happens watch the disintegration of WWI Middle Eastern map. Is any wonder why Erdoğan is trying his best to convince Hussein O to do his dirty work, invading Syria.. Once Syria splits within its natural ethnic boundaries, we all should say goodby to Turkey's and Iraq's territorial integrity. I'll be surprise if Turkey will be able to celebrate its centennial (in 2023) in one piece

  • Drakken

    We westerners are throwing the Kurds to the curb in order to garner favor from the rest of the muslim savages. I have been advocating for years to give the Kurds military aid to declare independence from the rest of the savages. Let the Kurds be the pain in the azz to Iraq,Syria,Iran and Turkey for a change instead of them being a threat to us. Since we are not smart enough to figure this out, maybe the Russians will do it. The more you set these savages upon themselves, the less they turn their jihadist intentions on us. When the enevitable refugee crisis ensues, do not under any circumstance allow them into the West.

  • kurdo

    Sherkoh Abbas: I have said this many times: Israelis never killed or slaughtered Syrian people the way the current regime is doing. We have no issues with the Israelis. We want to solve our problems peacefully through dialogue and negotiations. Israelis, like Kurds, are targeted for elimination by the tyrannical regimes in the Middle East, so we are natural allies.

    We ask Israel to help the Syrian people—all the Syrian people—and to use its political influence in the world to support the revolution and promote democracy in the region. We need all the help we can get from every country willing to help us.

    Look, 400 Syrian men, women, and children were just slaughtered by the regime. Aside from the Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood, who wouldn’t want help from Israel? The Israelis don’t kill people arbitrarily or oppress anyone in Syria the way most Arab governments do.

    For fifty years Middle Eastern dictatorships turned Israel and the West into excuses to oppress people. We need to move beyond these failed dictatorial regimes and construct decentralized democratic systems where both minorities and majorities enjoy peace and freedom.

    • Drakken

      Are you sure it is not your jihadist allies that are slaughtering the other muslims? Hard to tell between worse and worser.

  • kurdo

    Sherkoh Abbas: The Free Syrian Army is made up of defectors from the regular Syrian army who grew up with the doctrine of the Arab Socialist Baath Party. It is also influenced in part by the Muslim Brotherhood. This means it is not established with principles ​​of democracy and freedom. It is therefore uninterested in helping the Kurds in Syria or in promoting our rights due to their values. The Free Syrian Army’s views on the Kurdish issue in Syria is no different from that of the regular army. In the future it will be another obstacle to freedom and democracy in the region.

    The United States can’t influence the Free Syrian Army without strenuous efforts in education which should focus on protecting the rights of ethnic and religious minorities in the country.

  • C.R.

    No the Kurdish situation does not require there own state–the world does not need another Islamic state!

    • US Muslim

      Do you know that Israel has been finding willing recruits for Mossad from amongst the Kurds for YEARS? An independent Kurdish state, like Azerbaijan, would be a natural ally of Israel. Both are Muslim countries and are a lot freer than their Arab neighbors and Iran politically.

  • Raymond in DC

    The Kurds have been pushing for recognition of their national rights since at least the aftermath of WW I, but despite claimed concern for national minorities, they've gotten the brush-off ever since. Today, the only "minority" on the public radar is the Palestinians, and that's been the case since the 1970s. And that's only because the Palestinians are aligned with Arabs, who have oil, and they're fighting the Jews.

    The Kurds do have oil, at least in Iraqi Kurdistan, but they're sitting on land controlled by Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. So few will lift a finger on their behalf for now, but demographics will change that. In another 25 years, if current trends continue, ethnic Kurds will outnumber ethnic Turks among Turkey's young. That will change everything.

  • logan

    Noone really understands why Turkey is still the most US-allied and protected country in the area.
    Turks numbering around 55 million people control an area of 780 thous. square kilometres whilst kurds of almost 18 million are entitled to no land at all in Anatolia. This is to add to another 15 million Kurds that reside in surrounding countries, Iraq, Iran, Syria etc.
    What is the case behind ignoring completely the rights of 35 million people ??
    Why is the US and Europe considering Kurds as terrorists, whilst Turks are the ones who since the beginning of 1900s have slaugthered more than 3 million ppl, including Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Kurds and other minorities in the area and are continuiing to do so??
    I don't think there is any other nation in this planet that has been so generously treated despite its past of endless crimes.

  • kurdo

    Sherkoh Abbas, a veteran Syrian Kurdish dissident, called on Israel this week to support the break-up of Syria into a series of federal structures based on the country"s various ethnicities.

  • Thomas Wells

    A major question is If the Syrian Kurds will still be alive next year; let alone, independent.

  • kurdo

    Sherkoh Abbas, a veteran Syrian Kurdish dissident, called on Israel this week to support the break-up of Syria into a series of federal structures based on the country"s various ethnicities.

  • mrakon

    To Shrokh Abbas. I've always been in favor of a Kurdish state, and voted for J. Biden in 2008, becuz
    he had the most common sense solution to Iraq, providing states to the different ethnic groups. It has
    been sheer lunacy to tie these different ethnic groups into a democratic goverment, when that goverment
    just vies against itself, along ethnic lines.

    The Kurds should, also,have a state, because they are secular, and peace loving.They will become an
    asset to the community of nations. Shrokh Abbas, just tell me what to do, and I will help you.
    But this is, also, to point out Obama's massive foreign policy failures in Syria, for he failed to provide
    weapons to democratically oriented Sunni's, and therefore, the jihadis got the weapons from foreign states. The United States would do well, in general, to identify well meaning groups and help them.
    Instead, by doing nothing, we have supported a massacre of the innocent Syria people.

  • Ahmet Arisan

    Muslims shiite or suni are asking Israel for help so they can cut jewish throat later on. Insane…

    • US Muslim

      You apparently know next to nothing about the Kurds. They's been spying for Israel for years! And willingly, too…

      • mrakon

        This is the first time I've ever heard of anybody Shiite, Sunni, or even Kurd asking for Israel's
        help. If they receive help from Israel, they can't talk about it. If Israel helps any Muslim group, they
        can't advertise it. But the idea that Israel will help any of these groups, and then get attacked latter
        by them is implausible. There will be a civil war in Syria for many years, and none of the groups
        there will have the strength to then attack Israel, because they will be too busy fighting each
        other. If you think about it, one can imagine mini states for Alawites, Sunnis, Kurds, and Jihadis.
        But even within these ethnic groups, there can be further break downs along ethnic lines, based
        on the military commanders holding power. Poor Syria…Nobody had this in mind..

  • kurdnas

    to mrakon can you send your email to .We are happy to your assist to the Kurds

  • Michael Sheroff

    Bravo. I remember how the Kurds and Shias got massacared in the 1st Iraq war,
    when George Bush told them to rebel against Hussein. If we want allies in Syria
    (or Iraq), we need to start with the Kurds: They are pro democracy, have liberal
    values, including a liberal Islam. They do not support terrorism. They are like
    Westerners, in a country that has gone mad.
    Any attempt to support a Federal Syria, or a Federal Iraq, will be misguided and
    reach a dead end. Autonomous regions should be developed for the real
    ethnic minorities in the area, because they can’t seem to get along on a federal
    level. Making a democracy out of countries, where the main issue is religion, is
    doomed to fail.
    Obama deserves a modicum of credit for not letting Kobane fall, albeit he did’
    it under a lot of pressure. My heart goes to Kurdistan,