Killing the Kurds

A Ghastly History of Genocide

The Kurds are a very ancient people with an incredible heritage and culture. They are from the Persian side of the Middle Eastern ethnic tree, not the Arabian side, but the Kurds became a distinct group in their own right. Millennia ago, they were native to a mountainous region of Western Asia known as Kurdistan, which spanned what is now southeastern Turkey, northwestern Iran, northern Iraq, and northern Syria. Unfortunately, over time, they were forced out of their homeland by various different invaders, and they have been trying to reestablish themselves ever since.

As a result of this, the religion of the Kurds has changed a great deal throughout history, going from animism all the way to monotheism. This has resulted in what is now a primarily Muslim population. Nowadays, a majority of Kurds practice Sunni Islam, although significant numbers do practice Shia Islam or Alevism. Along with this, there are many Christian Kurds. After all, there were Kurds at the Pentecost. Plus, there are Kurdish adherents of Yarsanism and Yazidism. There are even still a few hundred Zoroastrian Kurds left in the world. Again though, there are currently millions of Muslim Kurds. This was all the result of a widespread conversion that began centuries ago.

In line with this, the emergence of Islamic scholars, or Sheikhs, as national leaders among the Kurds was the result of the elimination of hereditary semi-autonomous Kurdish principalities in the Ottoman Empire, especially following the centralization policies of the early 19th century. In particular, Sheikh Ubeydullah was one of several religious leaders who were there to fill the void and re-establish a sense of order. Despite previous revolts by Kurdish leaders to reassert control over their former principalities, Sheikh Ubeydullah is regarded as the first nationalist Kurdish leader whose cause was to establish an ethnic Kurdish state.

Thus, the first modern Kurdish nationalist movement emerged in 1880 with an uprising led by Sheikh Ubeydullah, who demanded political autonomy for the Kurds as well as the recognition of a Kurdistan state without interference from Turkish or Persian authorities. However, the uprising against the Ottoman Empire and Qajar Persia was suppressed. Then, Ubeydullah, along with other notable figures, were exiled to Istanbul. Thereby, establishing a strong Kurdish presence in Turkey as time went on.

Later, Gertrude Bell became the mother of modern Iraq. As such, she had a phenomenal impact on the reconfiguration of the Middle East after World War I. This was primarily because she was friends with Winston Churchill and Lawrence of Arabia. So, after the Ottoman Empire had been removed, the three of them decided to found a new country. As such, they became the first people to use the Kurds in the northern part of Iraq as a buffer against Turkey. Thus, beginning the Kurdish genocide that still rages on today.

After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the victorious Western allies made a provision for a Kurdish state in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres. President Wilson promised the Kurds a homeland, but they never got one. The promise was nullified three years later when the Treaty of Lausanne set the boundaries of modern Turkey and made no such provision. Instead, Gertrude Bell mentored King Faisal, who became the European-backed ruler of Iraq. This set the stage for decades of turmoil in the Middle East, particularly regarding the Kurds. Finally, in 1979, Saddam Hussein became the President of Iraq, bringing everything to full fruition.

In 1988, he decided to use chemical weapons in Halabja. Saddam Hussein ordered his airforce to drop mustard gas, sarin gas, tabun gas, and other forms of gas on the Iraqi Kurds. Innocent people died horribly. Their organs liquefied, their bodies began to contort in unthinkable ways, breaking bones in the process. Within a couple of hours time, 5,000 Kurds had died tragically and 10,000 more were horribly disfigured and damaged, many of them also dying in the weeks that followed. As if that wasn’t terrible enough on its own, the Anfal genocide killed between 50,000 and 182,000 Kurds in total. It was committed during the Al-Anfal campaign led by Ali Hassan al-Majid against Kurdistan in northern Iraq during the final stages of the Iran–Iraq War, from 1986 to 1989.

Time and time again the Kurds have had to form resistance, and this was one of those times. This is where the Peshmerga, or “those who face death”, come into the picture. In fact, the Peshmerga actually predates Iraq, having begun as a tribal border guard under Ottoman rule. Since then they have become an elite fighting force in their own right. The Peshmerga are now the official military of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Since the Iraqi Army is forbidden to enter that territory, the Peshmerga, along with its security subsidiaries, are responsible for protecting the Kurdistan Region. They are also quite essential to gaining peace in the Middle East.

As part of this, the women in the Peshmerga are the most feared by ISIS. This is because the radicalized terrorists believe that if they are killed by a woman, they will not go to Paradise. Thus, many of these famous female fighters have Twitter accounts, with a huge following in the West. Regardless, together with their male comrades, the Peshmerga fight for freedom, and not just their own. In 2003, the Peshmerga played a key role in the mission to capture the ruthless dictator Saddam Hussein. Then, in 2004, they captured a key al Qaeda member named Hassan Ghul. He revealed the identity of Bin Laden’s messenger, which eventually led to Operation Neptune Spear, resulting in Osama’s death.

Along with this, there are a number of women and men becoming Kurdish politicians now. The most prominent example of this is Madam Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman. She is the current representative of the Kurdish Regional Government. Rahman was made the KRG’s representative in the UK, before moving to Washington, DC in 2015 to act as the KRG representative to the US. Basically, she spends her time telling the US government how we need to stand up with the Kurds against ISIS, and how we need to prepare for an independent Kurdistan.

Unfortunately, the words of Madam Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman often fall on deaf ears. Currently, the Trump administration is fully in favor of a Kurdish genocide and is willing to do what it can to aid in the atrocity. So, after Trump withdrew the US troops who were protecting Kurdish areas in northern Syria, Turkey invaded the region on October 9th. Since then, the Kurds have had to align themselves with the Syrian government, and as a consequence of this, a number of former ISIS fighters who were being held by the Kurds have now escaped. This is very alarming and quite troubling to say the least. Sadly, this kind of destabilization will continue unless the Kurds get a sovereign state.

At the moment there are about 35 million Kurds living in the world, yet they have no country of their own. Instead, significant Kurdish diaspora communities have developed in the cities of western Turkey, particularly in Istanbul. Similarly, a Kurdish diaspora has developed in western Europe, particularly in Germany. There are also exclaves of Kurds in central Anatolia and Khorasan. This is why they need their own country, and Kurdish nationalists are seeking to create an independent nation-state consisting of some or all of the areas with a Kurdish majority. At the very least, they request and require more autonomy within the existing boundaries.

Ultimately, the nation of Kurdistan should encompass the northwestern Zagros and the eastern Taurus mountain ranges. This is the territory corresponding to Kurdish irredentist assertions. That is to say, Greater Kurdistan is a roughly defined geo-cultural region in which the Kurds form a prominent majority population. That is the area where Kurdish traditional ethnicity has been historically based. In contrast, Northern Kurdistan is now Turkish, Southern Kurdistan is Iraqi, Eastern Kurdistan is Iranian, and Western Kurdistan is Syrian. It’s just not right. The world is a really big place and we can make room for a few more countries. The bottom line is that the indigenous people of the world desperately need at least part of their land back, to do with as they see fit. After all, without sovereignty, they will never have dignity.

An Eclectic Autodidact Polymath Essayist

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