Kurdish Peshmerga forces fighting the Islamic State (IS) in both Iraq and Syria have exhibited courage, determination, and a unique pro-American attitude in the Arabic speaking world. In Syria, however, the Kurdish forces combating the Islamic State bravely and successfully are being attacked by the Turkish army as ordered by President Erdogan. Human rights activist Dilovan Mirkhan told ARA News (November 13, 2016) that “The Turkish army stationed on the borderline with Syria, bombed residential buildings in the Mosako town in Afrin, adding that the bombardment led to massive destruction in the area.” Mirkhan reported that “Dead bodies of eight civilian victims were collected subsequent to the attack, and many others remained stranded under the rubble.”
It should be unacceptable for the incoming Trump administration to allow Turkey’s dictatorial president Erdogan to attack the very forces (the Kurds) who are liberating portions of Syria from the IS. Moreover, it is also high time for the U.N. and the U.S. to recognize the Kurdish people’s right to self-determination. The U.N. has held endless sessions in support of Palestinian rights and requests for statehood. The Kurds, numbering tens-of-millions, deserve much more from the international community. There are 22 Arab states but no Kurdish state. Given the critical role the Kurds are playing in liberating Iraq and Syria from the barbarism of the IS, the time has come to reward the Kurds with a state of their own.
Kurds have been oppressed by Saddam Hussein in Iraq and gassed in Halabja. Hafez Assad, the dictator of Syria expelled hundreds of thousands of Kurds from the Al-Hasakeh region, with similar numbers becoming stateless. The Islamic Republic of Iran has equally oppressed its largely Sunni-Muslim Kurds. It has denied political and cultural rights to its Kurdish citizens. Turkey, where the Kurds count for almost 20% of the population, is currently bombing the Kurds at the Kurdish-majority region of southeastern Turkey, and in Syria.
This reporter asked Sherkoh Abbas, President of the Kurdish National Assembly of Syria (KNA-S), to respond to the current situation in Syria.
Joseph Puder (JP): With Donald Trump becoming the new occupant of the White House, and Republicans controlling both houses of Congress, what would you like the new administration to do in Syria?
Sherkoh Abbas (SA): I hope to see the Trump administration abandon the outdated policy of maintaining the unjust legacy of the colonial Sykes-Picot agreement. Similarly, Trump should reverse the previous U.S. administration’s investment in cozying up to ruthless Middle East regimes at the expense of its existing allies. Instead, the new administration should support its natural allies such as the Kurds in the Middle East and the Amazigh people (Berbers) in North Africa.
Supporting an independent Kurdistan would help finish the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and reduce Iran’s influence in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria. Working with the Kurds would also sever the Shiite Crescent. Moreover, open support for the Kurds would check Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ambitious Neo-Ottoman Empire.
The U.S. under the Trump presidency, should provide full and direct support to the Kurds on all levels, including the delivery of arms, unlike the Obama administration. Arms to the Kurds should bypass Baghdad, and go directly to the Kurds.
During the primaries, Trump expressed support for the Kurds. We will call on him to do just that. The Kurds share the same values with the U.S. and they are eager to work with America.
JP: What do you expect from the Trump administration with regards to an independent Kurdish state in Syria?
SA: Syrian Kurds are currently fighting on behalf of humanity in their struggle with the Islamic State. As quid-pro-quo, the Kurds would like U.S. help in creating a federal system in Syria to start with, and ultimately supporting outright Kurdish independence in Syria. Israel, Russia, and some European nations are promoting a federal state for the failed states of Iraq and Syria.
JP: Are the leaders of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) ready for an independent Kurdish state in Syria?
SA: The YPG needs to distance itself from the Assad regime as well as the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and work with all the Kurds, including over 5,000 Syrian Peshmerga forces currently fighting to take Mosul. It must become inclusive instead of a dictatorial regime. The YPG does not enjoy the overwhelming support of the Syrian Kurds. The majority of Syrian Kurds want democracy and independence.
The YPG is vacillating between its work with the U.S., Russia, and the Assad regime. The YPG has to face the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and IS, as well as other terror groups. The Arab Gulf states, particularly Qatar, is supporting the FSA, which is ideologically close to the Muslim Brotherhood. Turkey, a NATO-member, is too close to the IS and al-Qaeda, and their agenda is to get rid of the Assad regime and the Kurds.
JP: What influence can you and the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria (KNA-S) exert on the powers that be in your home town of al-Qamishli and Kurdish Syria?
SA: Most of the Syrian Kurds are loyal to Kurdish tribal and civic leaders, and have strong alliances with Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The YPG opposes such relationships, and thus is not a consensus organization. The Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria (KNA-S) is aligned with tribal and civic leaders and the KRG in Iraq. We could deliver the “Kurdish street,” and additional soldiers to finish IS.
This year KNA-S has assembled a wide-ranging delegation of Syrian Kurds, including YPG officials, to come to Washington for talks with U.S. administration officials. Unfortunately, the State Department did not furnish visas to the delegates from Syria to enter the U.S. Hopefully, the Trump administration will invite the KNA-S to re-assemble the same delegation for talks in Washington.
JP: Given Erdogan’s dictatorial behavior toward the opposition in Turkey, and especially toward the Kurds in Southeastern Turkey, what would you advise the incoming President Donald Trump to do with regards to Erdogan and Turkey?
SA: Turkey ruled by Erdogan is a lost case, and it is not a friend of the U.S. Turkey’s intimate relationship with radical Islamic groups requires explanation. Erdogan’s regime has its eyes focused on Aleppo in Syria and Mosul in Iraq, ostensibly to prevent the formation of an independent and contiguous Kurdistan, comprised of Iraqi and Syrian Kurdistan.
The Trump administration should prevent the Turkish army forces from entering Syrian territory under the guise of fighting IS. The reality is that Turkey is only interested in fighting the Kurds, and preventing the creation of an independent Kurdish state, or an autonomous Kurdish region in northeastern Syria.