By Manish Rai:
The Kurds as we know, thanks to the Sykes-Picot order which drafted the modern-day map of the Middle-East after World War I, are the largest stateless people in the world, spread between four nations in the region— Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, along with a wider Kurdish diaspora spread mostly across Europe. Kurds have long dreamed of having their own homeland “Kurdistan” and for this they sacrificed a lot and collaborated with many regional and world powers. But Kurds always got a betrayal from almost all the powers with whom they partnered. Recently Turkish armour and soldiers rolled into northern Syria with American tacit support, to push back Kurdish gains. Kurds saw it perhaps prematurely, as a replay of a century of betrayal by world powers going back to the end of World War I, when they were promised, then denied, their own state in the post war settlement. The Kurdish national motto, “The Kurds Have No Friends,” is proving to be particularly apt in the current scenario. Especially the Syrian Kurds, who have been the most effective US ally in the war against ISIS in Syria, now see themselves as possible victims of international betrayal.
If we see the history of Kurds, it’s full of deception by others to them. At the end of the First World War when the Ottoman Empire collapsed, the Treaty of Sevres recognized the Kurds right to their own state and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson pledged to support its creation within two years. But it never happened and then at the end of the Second World War, Kurds in northern Iran briefly set up their own state, called the Mahabad Republic, which offered them a brief taste of freedom. But the government in Tehran soon crushed this experiment, with the backing of the U.S. and Britain. Qadhi Muhammad the republic’s elected president, was publicly hanged along with several other Kurdish leaders. Kurds were betrayed again in the early months of 1991 just following the end of the first Gulf war, when Saddam vented his bloody revenge against them, much the same as he did in March 1988, when 6,000 Kurdish civilians were killed in a gas attack in Halabja. They are being betrayed again now in the Syrian conflict. In the Syrian arena Kurds are now on the receiving end from everywhere. They are being attacked by Turkey, Syrian opposition backed by Turkey and Gulf States, ISIS and the Assad government.
Syria’s Kurds have been among the bravest and most effective force in the war against Islamic State. Moreover the Kurds are the most pro-American people in the entire Middle East. They’re more pro-American than the Israelis. It is a hard fact that that the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG is the only military force in Syria to have carried out a humanitarian operation, rescuing thousands of sick and dying Yazidis in the Sinjar region from further massacres and other outrages, including the kidnapping of young girls, by IS terrorists in the winter of 2014. But despite all this Kurds are now abandoned by the world powers to fight on their own against all odds in Syria’s complicated battlefield. Once it was evident that Kurds may be on the verge of achieving their century-old quest for independence in a Middle East undergoing the convulsions of Syria’s civil war, Iraq’s destabilization, and conflict with the self-proclaimed Islamic State. But now Kurds are finding it very hard to safeguard the gains that they have made as they are left alone by the forces which once used them for their own interest.
There is no doubt that the Kurds’ military capabilities and successes have strengthened their role on the international stage. Enhanced cooperation and recognition, however, have not yet translated into political backing but remain at a military level. The reluctance of Western governments, such as the United States and United Kingdom to embrace Kurdish advances toward independence or greater autonomy raise further questions of how these governments will act once ISIS is defeated and Kurdish military support no longer needed. In essence, the Kurds are the victims of an ugly, ruthless pincer movement, facing assault from every directions. But to some extent Kurds themselves are also responsible for this kind of treatment to them. Weak leadership and antagonisms between competing factions, often deliberately exacerbated by outside intervention, have greatly weakened the Kurds’ fight for freedom over the past several decades. The Kurdish people will need to rely on their own struggle, not Washington’s or Moscow’s false promises, in order to win their liberation. The Kurds should also convince the international community that, as they are religiously diverse moderates who prioritize their ethno-linguistic identity over religion, a Kurdish state would help to balance out the radical Mideast forces in both the Shiite and Sunni camps. For that Kurds have to run a very effective extensive propaganda campaign internationally.
Manish Rai is a columnist covering the Middle-East and Af-Pak regions and Editor of the geo-political news agency Views Around. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org