The KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) High Representative to the UK, Bayan Sami Rahman, told an audience in London last night that, following their recent successes in Zumar and Shingal, Kurdish peshmarga forces need more material support from the West. “We are not getting the tanks and helicopters we need to inflict a strategic defeat on ISIS”, she said.
Bayan said the KRG also needs more equipment and training to deal with the many explosive devices that ISIS is leaving behind as booby traps, causing significant peshmarga casualites.
She said the West must support all Kurdish forces fighting ISIS, including the YPG in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan): “It is crucial the international community supports Kurds wherever we are fighting ISIS. We have the will to fight and defend our land, our freedom and democracy”.
Speaking about the refugee crisis in Iraq, Bayan explained that the Kurdistan Region’s 5 million population is now hosting an extra 1.5 million people – refugees from Syria and internally displaced people (IDPs) – and that this is putting tremendous pressure on local services. She criticised the UN for being too bureaucratic and wasteful with “survey after survey” and called on the Iraqi government to shoulder its responsibility, saying Iraqi prime minister Abadi hasn’t been to visit a single refugee camp. “Where is he?” she asked. “Are these not his people? If they are not, are they not human beings?”
She called on the global Kurdish community to assist through donations and political lobbying. She said now is a good time to put pressure on British politicians, with the 2015 general election looming.
Asked about KRG President Barzani’s commitment to hold a referendum on independence, Bayan said this was still being discussed by a Kurdistan Regional parliamentary commission and that the referendum will be held. “I can see the ‘I’ for independence floating above the head of every Kurd in this audience”, she said. ”We will be an independent state, whether the world likes it or not, but we will achieve it intelligently”.
Bayan was addressing a packed debate on ‘Why International Support is Crucial’, organised by the SOAS Kurdish Society at the University of London. Another speaker was Dr Alan Semo, UK Representative of the PYD (Democratic Union Party), who argued that the West has a duty to help Kurds because it has helped to create ISIS.
“Regional and Western powers intervened in the pro-democracy uprising in Syria, turning it into a sectarian and proxy war”, he said. The PYD had “wisely assessed the situation and decided not to be part of a proxy war”. Instead Syrian Kurds, together with all the other ethnic groups in their areas, had set up their own administrations. “The people have organised themselves, making a clear stand that is inspiring and progressive for freedom and democracy and gender equality”, he said.
International powers had ignored and excluded the Rojava movement and concentrated on backing the Free Syria Army (FSA) against Assad, even though Kurds warned them that most of what they sent to the FSA ended up in the hands of al Nusra (an affillate of al Qaeda) and, more recently, ISIS.
His message to Western and regional powers was: “You have supported and empowered these people and you have to take them out”.
However, Alan also said that, with material support, Kurds can fight their own battles, alongside local allies. He praised the increased cooperation between the KRG’s peshmarga – which recently sent 150 troops to Kobani – and Rojava’s YPG. “We are working together now on the ground. We are not relying on any Western help. We are going to rely on ourselves”, he said.