Why are so few Westerners standing with, or fighting with, the Kurds?
One of the most curious things in politics right now is that everyone is concerned about the spread of the Islamic State yet they seem incapable of offering meaningful support to the one group of people who have managed to stymie that spread: the Kurds.
This oddness is summed up beautifully — or horrendously — in the current G20 gathering in Turkey to discuss how to keep IS militants out of Europe in the wake of the barbarism in Paris. Cameron, Merkel, Obama: various world leaders have gathered in Antalya to denounce the assaults in Paris as an ‘attack on the civilised world’ and to promise ‘global efforts’ to smash IS. And they’re doing this while posing for photos alongside Turkish president and G20 host Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has okayed airstrikes against the Kurdish forces in Syria and northern Iraq that have shown more commitment to defeating IS than all those leaders put together. Our leaders talk war on IS, while green-lighting war on the most implacable enemies of IS.
The dearth of any true solidarity with the Kurds is striking. Of all the wicked things happening in the world today, the terrorising of the Kurds is up there with the worst, yet there’s little anger, barely any protest.
They’re getting it from all sides. Both from the militaries of NATO allies and from the bombs of unhinged IS militants. As of July, the Turkish airforce has beenstriking the positions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, and has also attacked the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria. Just last month, Turkey twice bombed YPG forces in Syria, accusing them of getting too close to the Turkish border as part of their anti-IS training exercises. The YPG, backed by PKK, have done more than any other group to harry and weaken IS. Turkish tanks have shelled Kurdish positions across the border with Syria, injuring both YPG fighters and civilians. On the homefront, the Turkish authorities areseverely clamping down on any media outlet that expresses support for Kurdish forces: newspapers and TV channels have been taken over and journalists have been arrested.
When Kurds aren’t being attacked by Turkey, they’re being targeted by IS. From the bombing of a gathering of young Kurdish and Turkish humanists and socialists inSuruc in southern Turkey in July, which killed 30, to the slaughter of 97 people on a pro-Kurdish rally in Ankara in October, the Kurds and their sympathisers have become prime targets of these death cultists. Erdogan has condemned the IS terror attacks inside Turkey, yet many suspect Turkish officialdom has green-lighted, or at the very least turned a blind eye, to some of this barbarism. Certainly these foul attacks complement the anti-Kurdish terror and clampdowns of the Turkish authorities themselves, and seem to have been a key factor in Erdogan’s unexpected victory in the recent national elections.