From Syria to the U.S. – We are Being Manipulated

In Syria, on the border of Turkey, thousands of Kurdish men, women and children are camped, waiting to see what will happen to their home city of Kobani. Another 200,000 people have fled into Turkey. In Kobani, Kurdish forces are battling street to street with forces of ISIS, the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Until now, the Turkish government has shut its borders, making sure supplies don’t reach the Kurdish fighters. The United States waited until last week to provide support to the Kurds against advancing ISIS forces. To the politicians in Washington and elsewhere, Kurdish lives, like Iraqi lives and American lives, are just part of an equation. We are manipulated. Our lives are only worth anything when they fit into the bigger picture.
Most people have never heard of the Kurds before. Kurdish people are the largest ethnic group in the world who have been denied a state of their own. There are 30 million Kurdish people split four ways, living in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.
The Kurds have fought for decades for a state of their own, or at least cultural independence and some control over their lives. The governments of Iran, Turkey, Iraq, and Syria have all carried out an intense repression of the Kurds.  Tens of thousands of Kurdish people were killed. For example, during the 1980s, Saddam Hussein carried out a war against the Kurdish people in the North of Iraq. Some 200,000 Kurdish civilians were killed, their bodies dumped into mass graves. Similarly, in the last decades Turkey has carried out a war against the Kurds, killing 30,000. These governments fear that if this small population is granted control over its own life, it will inspire other people in the region to ask for the same thing. As many other times in history, a minority group is made into a scapegoat to send a message to the rest of society – don’t stand up for your rights or this could happen to you.
In the last decade, the situation for the Kurds has changed. The wars in Iraq and Syria have made it impossible for these states to dominate the Kurdish population in the same way. In the Kurdish region of Syria and Iraq, the population has begun to take control. Kurdish language and culture has flourished where it was once banned.
The Turkish government is horrified by this growth of an independent Kurdish region.  There are 14 million Kurdish people who live in Turkey. Many of them are workers, and many of the poorest people in Turkish society sympathize with the Kurds. Demonstrations of Kurdish people and their allies against the Turkish government have erupted in the last weeks. More than 30 people have been killed and 360 wounded in these demonstrations, and Turkish planes have bombed Kurdish towns in the South of Turkey.
It’s no secret that the U.S. supports Turkey. The U.S. relies on Turkey as an economic and military ally in the Middle East. There are two major U.S. military bases in Turkey. For decades the U.S. has looked the other way while the Kurdish people are oppressed. The U.S. government has placed the Kurdish nationalist movement and its organizations on its list of so-called “terrorist groups”. This is of course the same list that once included Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress during the time when the U.S. was allied with white supremacist South Africa.
This explains why the U.S. and Turkey have waited for ISIS to eliminate the Kurdish fighters. The borders were sealed, no supplies or weapons were allowed through. The U.S. military did not drop food or water, and it purposefully missed ISIS targets in its attacks. The U.S. was waiting for the Kurds of Kobani to die. As Secretary of State John Kerry said, “Kobani is not central to our strategy”.
But the Kurds are defending their homes and  fighting for their lives. And they are winning. Finally, this week, the U.S. and Turkey began letting supplies through. They prefer to take credit for victory in Kobani, rather than let the Kurds show that ordinary people can fight for themselves.
No matter which language they speak, when government officials pretend to care about people’s lives, they are just calculating the costs and benefits. It’s the same story whether we’re talking about people in Syria, Iraq, Turkey or the U.S. They are manipulating us and the people of the Middle East. It’s up to us to see through their lies, to stop being manipulated, and to stand up for ourselves.