The Kurds of Rojava (Syria) & the Political Paradox of Western Democracies

Dr. Amir Sharifi – President of the Kurdish American Education Society-Los Angeles

In the Western mainstream press and media, we have rarely come across reports of the unfolding religious violence against Kurds in Northern Syria (in Kurdish Rojava, Western Kurdistan in Kurdish) over the past weeks. It is now a known fact that al-Qaeda affiliated armed bands have opened a new front to reemerge and resurge in the Middle East. According  to  Kurdish media and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) the Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant( ISIL) , armed bands, have been laying siege and clashing with Kurdish Popular Protection Units ( YPG) and civilians, killing, kidnapping, looting, imprisoning, and torturing civilians and combatants.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on July 31, 2013 reported   “Fighters of Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) have seized control of Tall Aren village in Aleppo province and are laying siege to another village nearby, Tall Hassel…they have taken hostage around 200 civilians from the inhabitants of the two villages.” These brutalities are traceable to January 2013 when Jihadists using heavy weaponry, attacked Sere Kaniye, (Ras al-Ain in Arabic), killing many and taking a great many hostages. Since July 18, 2013, their war of terror has intensified, leaving a new trail of pillaging, destructions, and deaths. 

 There is undeniable evidence that  groups such as the Ahfad al Rasoul Brigade, a Free Syrian Army unit, are being militarily supported and funded by Qatar. The Syrian National Coalition and the Free Syrian Army by not condemning these brutal attacks have  shown their complicity in these crimes. Jobhat al Nusra is said to have been receiving military and logistic support from Turkey. Although Saleh Muslim, the co-chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) was officially invited to Turkey for negotiations over the Turkish role and vested interest in the Syrian conflict, Turkey is yet to show a change in orientation and policy in its relation with Kurds in Syria. Turkey is also yet to exert influence on the Syrian National Coalition to recognize Kurdish representation and redirect the fight against the Syrian regime. Exacerbated by the spiraling   crisis in Syria, beset by armed bands of Islamist Jihadists, and surrounded by an economic blockade, Kurds will find it difficult to sustain themselves unless they receive humanitarian aid and moral support in their resistance against the al-Qaeda linked forces and religious fanatics.

In light of these savage attacks, one cannot but wonder why the U.S, European Union, and the U.N are reticent about this bitter and frightening reality. Aren’t Kurdish human rights being violated by the most insidious and notorious forces in history? How is it that Kurds are left alone to fight cannibals who adhere to no moral imperatives except their own blind and outmoded dogmas and nihilistic culture against peace, security, and democracy? Syrian Kurds and other ethnic and religious communities are right to ask why no one is saying anything or doing anything to condemn and stop the ritualized violence of these groups. For the Western democracies al Qaeda has served as a rallying point for reassertion of democratic values and ideals. …Then one cannot but ask why no voices of protest have been raised in the West against these brutalities and the Kurdish appeal for denunciation of the terrorist acts and help from the international community have been largely ignored. The reluctance or failure of the Western democracies to take a stance against the tyranny and regional and global threat of these groups reflects a glaring paradox in Western liberal democracies.

The West on the other hand, has so far followed Turkey, ironically in the choice between the so called fictitious and false dichotomy between regional security and the Islamist orthodoxy, they have selected the former. Kurds do not expect the West or their neighbors to bring them human rights. They understand what these rights are and have been preparing the ground for the creation of a civil and democratic society despite all the odds and flaws in their social and nationalist movement for change. They only hope that the world community of human rights would understand their plight and aspirations.

            In the end, the  specter of  ethnic cleansing and sectarian violence is threatening tens of thousands of Kurds and other minorities, with  catastrophic repercussions beyond the borders of Syria as the tragedy of Iraq has shown with painful clarity. It is troublesome that the spread of religious violence by the Islamists is receiving little or no attention from the world community, European Union, the United Nations, or even religious figures and foundations that are ordinarily quick to condemn any terrorist attacks by such groups.  Rather than lending support to and accommodating ultra conservative religious forces that are ideologically aligned with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the Western democracies could follow a more balanced approach  in helping the process of genuine democratization in Syria by calling for the recognition and inclusion of the legitimate demands of religious, ethnic, and linguistic minorities in the post Assad Syria. . The Islamist crusade against Kurds whom they deem as heretics is  a serious threat to democracy and enlightenment everywhere. It is both a moral imperative and a political necessity for the West to stand for and stand up for human and civil rights of Kurds who are in the process of building and experiencing a nascent secular democracy away from Bashar al Assad’s autocratic rule and the insidious ideology of terrorism of religious zealots and fanatics.