FANS of the iconic 'Peanuts' cartoon strip will recall how time after
time, Lucy persuades the hapless Charlie Brown to kick the football she is
steadying with a finger.
Charlie Brown asks for an assurance, he receives a promise that she won't pull
the ball away this time. He then comes running in, and of course, Lucy pulls
the ball away at the last instant, leaving Charlie sprawling on his back. It
never changes, and yet he never loses his innocence, just as Lucy never loses
her mean streak.
is what has been happening to the Kurds over hundreds of years. According to an
old Kurdish saying, the mountains are the Kurds' only friends. Although they
are the world's largest ethnic group without a state, they have been used and
abused time and again by cynical regional countries, as well as by global
there are anywhere between 20 million and 40m Kurds, depending on whose figures
you trust. At 15m, they constitute around 18 per cent of the Turkish
population. There are also about 8m in Iran; 2m in Syria, and 5m in Iraq.
Sadly, they have been unable to unite and present a joint front.
decades, it was a crime to broadcast in Kurdish in Turkey, or use other
expressions of identity like singing or publishing works written in Kurdish.
This pushed the Kurds into demanding greater autonomy, and when the Turkish
state responded with violence, the conflict escalated into a full-blown civil
war. Spearheading this fight was the PKK, or the Kurdish Workers' Party, a
secular, left-wing group that espoused independence.
his credit, Erdogan, the Turkish president, lifted the ban on many of the
draconian bans on the display of Kurdish identity. Schools can now teach in
Kurdish, and Kurds can take part in elections. However, this thaw ended when
terrorist attacks in Turkey took scores of lives. Although the PKK denied
responsibility, Erdogan unleashed a fierce anti-Kurd campaign in south-eastern
Turkey that has levelled entire city blocks and killed thousands.
YPG, or Peoples' Protection Units, is a Syrian group close to the PKK's ideology.
Women have fought shoulder to shoulder with men in the war against the militant
Islamic State (IS) group, and have won the admiration of many around the world
for their courage and skill.
the Americans, the YPG were a godsend, as no other regional force was willing
to take on the bloodthirsty jihadists of the IS. Writing a cheque in Riyadh is
one thing; risking life and limb in the desert quite another. In any case, the
fighting capabilities of the Saudi army have been thoroughly exposed in the war
against the Houthis in Yemen.
did the Americans wish to send more troops to Syria and risk vote-losing
casualties. But with American air and artillery support, the YPG defeated the
IS in a series of bloody battles. Trump could thus declare victory, and pull
out the small number of troops who served as a trip-wire to prevent Turkish
attacks on the Kurds. But after they had served American interests, Trump has
abruptly stabbed his Kurdish allies in the back, continuing a long and
the last century, America has betrayed the Kurds exactly eight times, so
Trump's latest (and ninth) act of treachery should not surprise us, or the
Kurds. When the Ottoman Empire collapsed after its defeat in the First World
War, Kurds who had lived for centuries under Istanbul's yoke thought their time
had come. But despite earlier promises, they were betrayed by the Americans,
and denied statehood under the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 that redrew regional
maps to reflect the carve-up of the Ottoman Empire.
the Second World War, the Americans armed the Kurds to bleed the government of
Abdul Karim Kassem. However, when the (initially) pro-West Saddam Hussein
staged a coup, arms to the Kurds were abruptly halted. The next chapter in
betrayal came when the Iraqi Kurds were armed by Nixon against Saddam at the
behest of the Shah of Iran, but were abandoned to the tender mercies of the
murderous Iraqi dictator following the revolution in Iran.
he was asked to explain this act of treachery, Kissinger cynically replied: "One should not confuse covert acts with missionary work." When Saddam used
poison gas to massacre thousands of Kurds, an American reporter handed in a
story about the incident, his editor asked: "Who will care?"
the elder Bush halted the American advance during the first Gulf War, he
encouraged Iraqis to fight Saddam. But when the Shias in the south and the
Kurds in the north did rise up, they were butchered by the dictator without the
Americans lifting a finger to help.
The litany of betrayal goes on,
but the desperate Kurds continue to believe that one day, the Americans will
deliver on their promises. Dream on.