The Kurds

Katie Abegglen, staff

As of  October 2019, American troops began to withdraw from Syrian, Hungarian and Kurdish territory and completely back out of the region’s conflict. By withdrawing, they give Turkey and their allies open access to Kurdish territory and invasions have ensued. The Kurdish strife towards a nation-state has lasted a century and continues to wage on. 

But who are the Kurds? 

Why do they matter to American politics? 

Why don’t they have their own nation-state? 

Here are three key things you need to know about the Kurds and the conflict they are involved in.

  •  The idea of a new nation, a place for the displaced, has been a guiding light in Kurdish actions for over a hundred years. After World War I and the Fall of the Ottoman Empire, many new nations were established, including the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Known then as the Ottoman Empire, this once powerful nation dissolved and became enveloped into the U.S.S.R. Approximately 69 years later, the U.S.S.R. fell and many countries took their land and people back. Among others, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan emerged in Eastern Europe as new nations. All of these nations were developed for the ethnicity that inhabited the region. Left without a nation were the Kurds. They make up the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East but they have never obtained a permanent nation state. 
  • Today, Between 25 and 35 million Kurds inhabit a mountainous region straddling the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia. Sporadic conflicts have taken place since the fall of the Soviet Union involving the Kurds and their effort to obtain a nation-state. This nation-state, often referred to as Kurdistan, is still non-existent. The reason the Kurds have been headlining the news in the past seven years is not because they have made strides towards Kurdistan but because they have been wrapped into entirely different conflicts. The jihadist group Islamic State (ISIS) made strides to gain land, and targeted three Kurdish enclaves that bordered territory in northern Syria. ISIS began to launch attacks until 2014 when The People’s Protection Units (Y.P.G.), or the armed wing of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party, were able to hold them back. Soon after, ISIS responded by bombing several towns inhabited by many minorities and many innocents. It was then that the United States got involved. After long denying requests to become involved in Syria’s wars, the U.S. military launched several airstrikes against ISIS, helping the Kurds reobtain their territory. From this point on, the United States became allies to the Kurds.
  • One must wonder why was ISIS interested in the Kurds’ land to begin with. Ever since the first Kurdish military actions, the Kurds have been taking large territories throughout Syria, Iran, Iraq, Armenia and largely Turkey. The current conflict involving the Kurds is a new war against Turkey. Turkey has begun launching attacks against the Kurds and the land that they took from Turkey in the past. America was now stuck in between their alliance to Turkey and to the Kurds. In an attempt to solve the issue, American troops persuaded the Kurds to withdraw from the parts of territory that Turkey had attacked. This compromise was ultimately ineffective.