In every Western mainstream media article on ‘what must be done’ about Daesh, one of the usual answers is to give as much support to ‘the Kurds’ as possible, essentially so they will fight our battles for us (I write ‘the Kurds’ in quotation marks as this the media refers to them as a unified people, rather than consisting of various factions). This is also a frequent sentiment in the comments sections of said articles. The implication of this being that Kurds are superior to Arabs and are more reliable partners. An example of this would be The Telegraph’s article ‘Britain must give the Kurds the tools to lead Iraq out of this mess’. Author John McTernan states:
A few years ago, in a dusty backstreet in Irbil – capital of the Kurdish region of Iraq – I had the privilege to visit an Assyrian church. There have been few more sombre moments in my life than hearing first-hand about the persecution of Iraq’s Christian minority. And even fewer more moving and uplifting than being told that the Kurdish government gave a welcome and a haven to Christians because they believed it was the right thing to do – that such values of tolerance and plurality were part of the reason they had fought hard themselves for autonomy and democracy.
Britain must give the Kurds the tools to lead Iraq out of this mess
While Iraqi Kurdistan is recognised as more tolerant of religious minorities than elsewhere in the country, it is propaganda to claim that all Iraqi Arabs are prejudiced towards Christians and those of other religions. There are plenty of examples of inter-faith bonding and mutual respect in both Iraq and Syria (excluding ISIS and other takfiri groups of course). Obviously what the MSM aren’t saying is that ISIS is completely a construct of foreign powers, and that in this great game to remap the Middle East, the Kurds are being promoted as the ‘good guys’, while Shia Iraqis are demonised – mainly due to the relationship between Shia Islam and our favourite bogeyman Iran. The Western invasion of Iraq led to a mass-exodus of Christians, mainly to Syria, and now they are being driven out of that country as well. However while McTernan says: ‘What is it about the Kurds? Why can they bring wisdom and maturity to political decision-making?’, they still, culturally, have much more in common with their Arab counterparts than what would be considered ‘British values’.
Arab Shia militia member Abu Azrael attending a church service
As part of my undergraduate dissertation on Joss Whedon’s The Cabin in the Woods, I discussed Whedon’s reaction to the stoning of an Iraqi teenager. On the Whedonesque posting board he wrote:
May 20 2007
Let’s Watch A Girl Get Beaten To Death.
This is not my blog, but I don’t have a blog, or a space, and I’d like to be heard for a bit.
Last month seventeen year old Dua Khalil was pulled into a crowd of young men, some of them (the instigators) family, who then kicked and stoned her to death. This is an example of the breath-taking oxymoron “honor killing”, in which a family member (almost always female) is murdered for some religious or ethical transgression. Dua Khalil, who was of the Yazidi faith, had been seen in the company of a Sunni Muslim, and possibly suspected of having married him or converted. That she was torturously murdered for this is not, in fact, a particularly uncommon story. But now you can watch the action up close on CNN. Because as the girl was on the ground trying to get up, her face nothing but red, the few in the group of more than twenty men who were not busy kicking her and hurling stones at her were filming the event with their camera-phones.
There were security officers standing outside the area doing nothing, but the footage of the murder was taken – by more than one phone – from the front row. Which means whoever shot it did so not to record the horror of the event, but to commemorate it. To share it. Because it was cool.
I make reference to this because we in the West tend to associate stonings with Arabs, Muslims and Sharia law – many Kurds are Muslim, however Khalil was Yazidi – however the practice is more cultural than religious . Dua Khalil was murdered in 2007, but these so-called ‘honor killings’ are still rife in Kurdistan. Johanna Higgs writes:
In Kurdistan, the UN estimates that the number of honor killings might be as high as 50 each month, and that most of the deaths go unreported. One reason that they continue to be a leading cause of death for women may be the increasingly oppressed position of women in Iraqi society. An Iraqi Kurdish writer, Berivan Dosky, wrote in The Guardian that conditions for women in post-war Iraq are a disaster, including in Kurdistan. Dreams of equality and peace that emerged among women after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime (and complicated by the United States’ invasion) have diminished, as many women still bear the burden of their families’ honor.
In Kurdistan and Beyond, Honor Killings Remind Women they are Worthless
This contrasts wildly with the image we are given in the West, of a Kurdish egalitarian oasis, surrounded by savage Arabs (similar to the depiction we are presented with of Israel). It is important to note however that the Kurds are not one homogeneous group – Iraqi Kurds are not the same as Syrian, Iranian and Turkish Kurds, and within each country there are multiple factions that don’t all get along with one another. Therefore while Kurdish women in Syria may be more equal to their male counterparts, there is huge gender inequality in Iraq.
Gender rights for all Iraqi women regressed by decades as a result of the US-led invasion. To read a first-hand account of a young (Arab) woman living through the occupation, visit Baghdad Burning (start from the bottom of the page and read upwards). The author’s story of no longer being able to leave the house without a male relative and her head uncovered, plus losing her job due to her gender, is heartbreaking.
To return to the Kurds: female genital mutilation is also widespread. Wikipedia states:
Human Rights Watch reported that female genital cutting is practiced mainly by Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan, reportedly 60% percent of Kurdish women population have undergone this procedure, although the KRG claimed that the figures are exaggerated. Girls and women receive conflicting and inaccurate messages from public officials on its consequences. The Kurdistan parliament in 2008 passed a draft law outlawing the practice, but the ministerial decree necessary to implement it, expected in February 2009, was cancelled. As reported to the Centre for Islamic Pluralism by the non-governmental organization Stop FGM in Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, on 25 November, officially admitted the wide prevalence in the territory of female genital mutilation (FGM). Recognition by the KRG of the frequency of this custom among Kurds came during a conference program commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. On 27 November 2010, the Kurdish government officially admitted to violence against women in Kurdistan and began taking serious measures. 21 June 2011 The Family Violence Bill was approved by the Kurdistan Parliament, it includes several provisions criminalizing the practice.
Human rights in Iraqi Kurdistan
Additionally, it is not just females that suffer oppression from cruel laws and practices. In a current ongoing case, a young man – Yousef Muhammad Ali – is on trial for criticising Islam. The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) write:
Yousef Muhammad Ali who spent many years studying Islam and Sharia law made a presentation in school on the Big Bang Theory. Islamists in his class instigated a fatwa against him. Also he faced threats when he criticised Islam on Facebook. Upon receiving a number of death threats, he contacted the police and filed a grievance against a perpetrator. His case was sent to a public tribunal in Darbandikhan, which rather than address the threats to Yousef Muhammad Ali’s life, had him arrested. He was then transferred to Sulaymaniyah jail. On 15th December 2014, his sentence was renewed until the 22nd December 2014. After campaigning by rights activists and journalists in Kurdistan and abroad he was released on bail on 17 December 2014. His hearing date is on 13 July 2015.
CEMB are asking the public to support Yousef by writing to the Kurdish authorities; addresses can be found here: Yousef Muhammad Ali faces trial on 13 July for criticising Islam.
* His trial date has since been moved to the 14th of September. To read a letter from Yousef discussing his situation, please visit: Yousef Muhammad Ali trial date set for 14 September.
Yousef’s case is the kind of story we would expect to hear in relation to Saudi Arabia, but in reality the Western public know little about the Kurds that we profess so much support for. The above examples are by no means an attempt to bash the Kurds, but only serve to highlight that they are hardly the Westernised partners they’re made out to be.
It seems like every time you hear a British or American politician on TV giving their opinion on defeating ISIS, their answer is sending more weapons to the Kurds. In reality, to the US, both the YPG and the Peshmerga are nothing more than their proxy force on the ground enabling the carving up of Syria and Iraq. It is evident that serious airstrikes against Daesh only take place to aid Kurdish forces, such as in Kobani, Tal Abyad and Erbil. No doubt the Americans will create a Kurdistan homeland for their allies against ISIS, but only because doing so is a step towards remaking the Middle East on behalf of Israel and for easier control of oil reserves, rather than a genuine desire to help their long-oppressed pawns.
A ‘hypothetical future’ Iraq and Syria, as conjured up by the State Dept. funded Radio Free Europe
The Kurds must also be warned that accepting aid from America/NATO comes at a price, therefore they will likely have to give up some form of their sovereignty in return for independence. Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, is essentially an American outpost in Iraq. An oil town, it is home to an American consulate, and is filled with thousands of American workers and five star hotels, while the local population’s own basic services are in dire need of upgrading. The first American airstrikes against ISIS last year were to defend Erbil, and as Steve Coll wrote back then:
In Erbil, in the weeks to come, American pilots will defend from the air a capital whose growing independence and wealth has loosened Iraq’s seams, even while, in Baghdad, American diplomats will persist quixotically in an effort to stitch that same country together to confront ISIS.
Obama’s defense of Erbil is effectively the defense of an undeclared Kurdish oil state whose sources of geopolitical appeal—as a long-term, non-Russian supplier of oil and gas to Europe, for example—are best not spoken of in polite or naïve company.
Oil and Erbil
Murder of Du’a Khalil Aswad
Iraq And Syria: Past, Present, And (Hypothetical) Future Maps