November 1, 2019
Reactions of the Washington Kurdish Community
Earlier this month President Trump ordered the withdrawal of American troops from the border region in Syria, leaving Kurdish refugees vulnerable to attacks from Turkish forces.
Considered one of the world’s largest stateless nations, the Kurdish people are spread across Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Iran and Armenia. After the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, Western powers redrew the region’s borders — and the Kurds ended up without a homeland.
Since 2014, Kurdish militias have fought alongside American troops to reclaim ISIS-captured territory, suffering thousands of casualties. But now, with the focus of the remaining American forces turned to protecting oil fields in northeastern Syria, Kurdish leaders say they feel abandoned by the U.S. government.
We asked people in the local Kurdish community how they feel about the American withdrawal:
“‘No friends but the mountains’ is a Kurdish proverb that is expressed to signify their feeling of betrayal, abandonment and loneliness due to their history as a stateless ethnic minority in the Middle East without faithful allies.
The decision has negative impact on our daily routine, emotions, and relations. We know what is going to happen to the Kurds in northern Syria, and witnessing all those atrocities, seeing the Kurdish homes, villages, towns are being bombed by the Turkish state, and civilians are being killed by the Turkish army and its militias, simply make our life unbearable. I have received many calls and emails from friends and relatives from Turkey asking me whether America will do something or not, because everyone knows that the only the USA can stop Turkey.”
— Omer Pacal
“I find this situation sickening and upsetting. I’m an American citizen, and a Kurd born in Turkey. I raise my children here – the United States gives me a sense of belonging and it embraces me. But we should have done more to prevent attacks on the Kurds by Turkey because we fought alongside each other. The Kurdish people are our allies and friends, and this is not a value I want to teach my kids.”
“The Kurds not only defeated ISIS on behalf of the world, and sacrificed more than 11,000 fighters to do it, but they were also left responsible for tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners with no help or guidance from the outside world. And even in the midst of being targeted and slaughtered by Turkey, the Kurds continued their commitment to the U.S. by helping locate al-Baghdadi, which as U.S. officials put, ‘the Kurds role in Baghdadi was essential, more so than all other countries combined.’
We have a duty to honor our commitment to the Kurds who saved the world from ISIS. We owe them more than gratitude. We owe them the same protection they have afforded us. Does that mean we have to keep U.S. troops in northern Syria, indefinitely? Of course not. But what we can do, and should have done, is ensure a policy is in place that prohibits Turkey from slaughtering our U.S. allies upon withdrawal. And we must send a very clear unequivocal message to Turkey: You will be held accountable for any and all atrocities in northern Syria. No ifs or buts about it. ”
— Samira Ghaderi
“I feel a sense of numbness, betrayal, hurt, déjà vu and pain. Kurdish-American relations have a 100 year history. The Nixon administration urged the Kurds to fight in Baghdad. In 1991, President Bush urged the people of Iraq to rise up against Saddam [Hussein]. So it’s a long history and we feel like we are used and thrown away like a disposable diaper. It feels awful.”
— Kani Xulam
“What is happening to Syria’s Kurds because of the Turkish invasion and the extremist Syrian opposition militias is a disaster, all because of Trump’s betrayal of Kurdish allies. The Kurds do not deserve this from America, after the defeat of ISIS. It is a painful Kurdish tragedy. The Kurds in western Kurdistan (Rojava) deserve political support and international protection from the United States and NATO to achieve federal autonomy as their future protection from the Assad regime, Iran, Turkey, radical Islamist groups and the Syrian opposition.”
— John Saleh