Although the United States government has stated that it is looking into reports of Kurdish ethnic cleansing campaigns in Syria, there is every chance that this could all soon be swept under the rug. After all, America’s Kurdish allies in Iraq have repeatedly committed crimes against their Arab and Turkmen neighbours, and nothing has ever happened. Last winter, Kurdish Peshmerga and Asayish forces refused to allow Arabs displaced in the fighting against the forces of the Islamic State (IS) from returning to their homes, whilst at the same time allowing Kurds to resettle in those areas. This was reported in several areas, particularly Makhmur in northern Iraq.
While the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), who hold sway over large areas of northern Iraq, have denied any ethnic cleansing in Makhmur and other areas, they have yet to provide any evidence to the contrary. Last May at the Al Jazeera 9th Annual Forum, I personally challenged Hemin Hawrami, head of foreign relations for Massoud Barzani’s Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) about this issue, and he said that it would be a simple matter of arranging a visit to the areas in question to prove that the KDP’s story was true. My attempts to have this arranged have gone unanswered for almost half a year, and even international news agencies have not found anything positive to report regarding the state of Iraqi Arab residents displaced by Kurdish militias.
So what are the root causes behind these Kurdish ethnic cleansing campaigns? Simply put, it is racism, and not merely the more academically sterile phrase of “ethnic conflict”. Even Arabs who are lucky enough to have escaped from the sectarian bloodbaths in other parts of Iraq to KRG controlled regions complain of outright racism. Muhammad (not his real name), an Arab from Mosul now living in Erbil, told me that he is frequently harassed by Kurdish security forces, particularly officers of the Asayish. “They threaten me with arrest and call me Arab terrorist scum coming to ruin ‘their’ Kurdistan”, Muhammad told me, adding, “Isn’t Erbil a part of Iraq? Am I not Iraqi? Several of my aunts and uncles married Kurds, so my cousins are Kurds…but the politicians see me as a demographic threat”.
Muhammad’s view that Kurdish politicians see Arabs as a demographic threat certainly rings true, otherwise there would be no reason to ethnically cleanse entire areas and communities of Arabs and Turkmens in Syria and Iraq. Of course, these racist sentiments are intentionally peddled by the political class in order to distract the Kurdish populace from threats to their own freedom, such as Barzani refusing to leave his office as President of the KRG. Kurdish journalists and TV stations have been shut down by KRG forces loyal to Barzani, opposition politicians barred from entering Erbil, and yet there is nary a whisper of condemnation from the international community. It is politically inconvenient for Western powers to pressure their Kurdish allies into curtailing their violence against other Kurds, let alone the region’s majority population, the Arabs, or other minorities, such as Turkmens, because it contradicts their narrative of a squeaky clean oppressed minority.
The Kurds are no longer the oppressed in Syria, Iraq or Turkey (although, again, the international silence on Kurdish rights in Iran is deafening and quite telling). Indeed, the Kurds are now power holders and power players. Kurdish political factions in Syria, Iraq and beyond now feel that the “boot is on the other foot”, and are proceeding to enact a decades long yearning for bloody vengeance. For some reason, they are exacting retribution on those who did nothing to them, whilst hinting at making deals with their murderers such as the Assad regime in Syria. Moreover, one has to question the veracity of claims that the likes of Barzani are true leaders of the Kurdish people. After all, he fought side by side with Saddam Hussein against Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, himself backed by Iran. Now that Saddam is gone, both Iraqi Kurdish factions have been making a song and dance about his atrocities against the Kurds, and framing it within a wider anti-Arab discourse.
If there was ever any need for further proof of the danger of nationalism and how it is used to manipulate the masses into supporting the murder of other human beings, it is the misplaced vengeance of the Kurds against non-Kurds as they ignore the despots who have been murdering them for decades.
View the article here