Who Are the Kurds?

syria

 

Based on BBC News, 10/9/19 “Who Are the Kurds.”

  • After WWI the Western allies made a provision for a Kurdish state.
  • Treaty of Lausanne set the boundaries of modern Turkey and made no provision for a Kurdish state.  This left Kurds in a minority status in their respective countries.
  • Any time the Kurds tried in the subsequent 80 years to establish their own state, the movement was quashed.
  • The jihadist group Islamic State (IS) targeted three Kursish enclaves that bordered territory under its control in northern Syria.  It launched attacks that until 2014 were repelled by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) – the armed wing of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).
  • June 2014. IS advanced into northern Iraq and drew that country’s Kurds into the conflict.  The government of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region sent its Peshmerga forces into areas abandoned by the Iraq army.
  • August 2014. Jihadists launched a surprise offensive.  The Peshmerga withdrew from several areas.  In Sinjar, where the IS took over, militants killed or captured thousands of Yazidis.
  • A US-led multinational coalition launched air strikes in northers Iraq and sent military advisers to help the Peshmerga. The YPG and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which had fought for Kurdish autonomy in turkey for three decades, came to their aid.
  • September 2014. IS launched an assault on northern Syrian Kursish town of Kobane.  Tens of thousands of people had to flee across the nearby Turkish border.  Turkey refused to respond by attacking IS positions or allow Turkish Kurds to cross to defend the city.
  • January 2015. After a battle that left at least 1,600 dead, Kurdish forces regained Kobane.
  • The Kurds along with local Arab militias under the banner of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and helped by US-led coalition air trikes, weapons and advisers, drove IS out of territory innorth-eastern Syria and established control over large tretch of the border with Turkey.
  • October 2017. SDF fighters captured IS capital of Raqqa and destroyed the IS last major foothold in Syria.
  • March 2019. The last pocket of territory held by IS, around the village of Baghouz – fell.
  • There were thousands of suspected IS militants captured and tens of thousands of displaced women and children associated with these IS fighters.
  • Most of the home countries of these fighters refused to accept them back.
  • Turkey claims to want to set up a “safe zone.” This would be a stretch of land 20-miles deep inside north-eastern Syria.
  • They plan to settle 2 million Syrian refugees there.
  • The Kurds in Turkey constitute 20% of the population.
  • After uprisings in the 1920s and 1930s many Kurds were resettled, “Kurdish names and costumes were banned, the use of the Kurdish language was restricted, and even the existence of a Kurdish ethnic identity was denied, with people designated “Mountain Turks”.
  • “In 1978, Abdullah Ocalan established the PKK, which called for an independent state within Turkey. Six years later, the group began an armed struggle. Since then, more than 40,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.”
  • “In the 1990s the PKK rolled back on its demand for independence, calling instead for greater cultural and political autonomy, but continued to fight. In 2013, a ceasefire was agreed after secret talks were held.
  • The ceasefire collapsed in July 2015, after a suicide bombing blamed on IS killed 33 young activists in the mainly Kurdish town of Suruc, near the Syrian border. The PKK accused the authorities of complicity and attacked Turkish soldiers and police. The Turkish government subsequently launched what it called a “synchronised war on terror” against the PKK and IS.
  • Since then, several thousand people – including hundreds of civilians – have been killed in clashes in south-eastern Turkey.”
  • “Turkey has maintained a military presence in northern Syria since August 2016, when it sent troops and tanks over the border to support a Syrian rebel offensive against IS. Those forces captured the key border town of Jarablus, preventing the YPG-led SDF from seizing the territory itself and linking up with the Kurdish enclave of Afrin to the west.
  • In 2018, Turkish troops and allied Syrian rebels launched an operation to expel YPG fighters from Afrin. Dozens of civilians were killed and tens of thousands displaced.
  • Turkey’s government says the YPG and the PYD are extensions of the PKK, share its goal of secession through armed struggle, and are terrorist organisations that must be eliminated.
  • Kurds make up between 7% and 10% of Syria’s population. Before the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in 2011 most lived in the cities of Damascus and Aleppo, and in three, non-contiguous areas around Kobane, Afrin, and the north-eastern city of Qamishli
  • Syria’s Kurds have long been suppressed and denied basic rights. Some 300,000 have been denied citizenship since the 1960s, and Kurdish land has been confiscated and redistributed to Arabs in an attempt to “Arabize” Kurdish regions.
  • “In January 2014, Kurdish parties – including the dominant Democratic Union Party (PYD) – declared the creation of “autonomous administrations” in the three “cantons” of Afrin, Kobane and Jazira
  • In March 2016, they announced the establishment of a “federal system” that included mainly Arab and Turkmen areas captured from IS.
  • The declaration was rejected by the Syrian government, the Syrian opposition, Turkey and the US.”

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