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World Association of International Studies

Post Kurdish Crisis: A First-Hand Analysis
Created by John Eipper on 10/13/19 9:25 AM

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Kurdish Crisis: A First-Hand Analysis (Tamara Zuniga-Brown, USA, 10/13/19 9:25 am)

The outright withdrawal of US support to the Syrian Kurds this past week adds another tragic betrayal to the long and painful history of the Kurds. In my opinion, their abandonment began with the failure of the Allied powers to uphold Sykes-Picot and honor the Kurds' sacrifices.

Every time the Kurds are abandoned and become collateral damage, Christians and other religious ethnic minorities (Yazidis) get caught in the crossfire and take even heavier losses. It is an extremely fragile house of cards that affects all of us in some way.

I have great respect for the Kurds, as did our great Nevadan Mike O'Callaghan (and family friend) and my friend Bob Gibbs--who checked in on me many times while I was in country. I miss them, too. I must say, I am particularly impressed with the remarkable Kurdish Women's Defense Units and the newly established first All-female Riot Police Unit in Dohuk https://newsx.tv/2019/10/01/first-all-female-riot-police-unit-trains-in-dohuk-iraq/

Both the Kurds and the Christians feel abandoned by the US yet again. The aftermath of the 2017 Kurdish Referendum 2017 is the most recent example. But, we cannot forget the millions who fled to the mountains of Iran and Turkey in the aftermath of the Gulf War 1991, or the long Anfal campaign that led to the chemical gassing of the entire village of Halabja (March 1988).

I've checked in with my Christian friends and they tell me all is quiet in Ankawa, the Christian section of Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, where I lived. My colleagues closer to the border with Turkey and Syria tell me it is the usual normal chaos for now. I'm also told there are many more checkpoints, but they are carrying on with their daily routines. As you can imagine, uncertainty is a way of life there.

Pecking order and politics exists everywhere, but in areas of extreme interest and visibility such as Iraq and Syria, they are exponentially magnified. I can tell you that from more than one conversation with people of all kinds of backgrounds while I was there, lack of unity among the Kurds themselves was cited as one of the main reasons behind why it is so difficult for anyone else to stand behind them.

My experience in Iraqi Kurdistan living in Christian neighborhoods reflects the intense and historical complexity of the situation. Due to a long and tragic history, Christians understandable feel quite ambivalent about the Kurds. Deeply grateful as they are to the Kurds for sheltering them, they live as second-class citizens in Kurdish-controlled regions, and when IS rampaged through their villages in Nineveh, the Kurdish militias and Iraqi army left them initially to fend for themselves--unarmed. Since then, Kurdish Peshmerga have lived up to their fierce reputation, but Christians nevertheless took protective action and formed militias.

When I first arrived in September 2016, Christians enthusiastically supported Trump and were overjoyed when he was elected. They believed they finally had a champion. However, this year, their opinions were quite the opposite; especially with the death of Jimmy Aldaoud, an Iraqi Christian deported from Detroit, Michigan. Jimmy had never been to Iraq, didn't speak the language, and died from a diabetic shock on the streets of Baghdad this past August. There are 1,400 more Iraqi Christians waiting in the deportation process.

I don't think I am alone in calling for immediate decisive and positive action to aid the Kurds now. No matter how many words of condemnation keep pouring out against Turkey, they are doing what they promised to do. I'm not so sure if the same can be said about promises made to Kurdish allies--or to Christians.

Considering a longer trajectory, I think it will be interesting to see how the extremely large diaspora of Syrian and Iraqi Kurds and Christians take it from here. Hyperconnected younger generations are growing up bilingual and bicultural in their host countries. While I was in country, I had many interesting conversations with young people from the US visiting family, and with others who now live there and are assisting in one capacity or another. They were elucidating.

FYI: Ethnic enclaves of Christians in the US are located in San Diego and Detroit. All are as hyperconnected to their friends and families in Iraq as they are to ethnic enclaves of families and friends in Australia, Denmark, and Canada. From what I know, the Kurds are predominantly in Tennessee and the Yazidis in Lincoln, Nebraska. Kurds have strong historical ties to Germany.

For my fellow WAISers interested in Kurdish perspectives and reporting as it all unfolds, watch or listen to Rudaw and Kurdistan 24.

Godspeed to humanity!

JE comments:  We have Iraqi Christians all around us in the Detroit metro area--including my friend Rosemary at the local CVS.  I'd be intrigued to learn how the Yazidis ended up in Lincoln.

Tamara, many thanks for your report/appeal.  Please keep us updated as events unfold.  The big question for now is whether the Syrian Kurds will reach out to the (for now) lesser evil:  Assad and his brutal regime.  "Reaching out" means one thing:  total submission.  To be sure, Assad can't put up much of a fight against the Turks.

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