Trump’s announcement of his plan to withdraw US troops from Syria has struck terror into the hearts of the Kurdish people of Northern Syria. It is genocide they fear– not from ISIS but from Turkey. The Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (Rojava) is a staple of democracy in the Middle East. It is however to Turkey, as America was to Great Britain in 1774. Moreover, the people of Rojava were our allies in the fight against ISIS, and it is our moral responsibility to help protect them now. True, the relationship between the Kurdish independence movement and the United States is a complicated one, but the Syrian Civil War has de facto and resolutely proclaimed that the people of Rojava are in fact our allies.
I personally am not shy on this issue, I fully support the Kurdish people’s struggle for independence, their aspirations of a real and working stateless democracy of the common people in the Middle East, and their commitment to ecology, social justice, feminism, and libertarian socialism. As a socialist and a supporter of the ideas of Murray Bookchin, this shouldn’t surprise anyone. Every honest socialist ought to support Rojava, but in my opinion it is not only the leftists that should support Rojava, but everyone.
Anyone who cares at all about democracy, human freedom, and the future of human civilization ought to support Rojava. It is my firm belief that the Greek democracies of antiquity are to our modern civilization, as Rojava is to the world of tomorrow. It is not only leftists but liberals and conservatives, and even right-wing libertarians who ought to support Rojava. Yes Rojava is a left wing, democratic confederalist experiment, but even centrist news outlets admit that it’s the only real hope for democracy in the Middle East. In the midst of a bloody civil war it has emerged in impossible conditions as bastion of democracy, freedom and equality surrounded by unfreedom and despotism. The heroism and selflessness of the YPG and YPJ in their fight against ISIS is known throughout the world, and the last thing the United States, a nation that sees itself as a “defender of democracy”, a nation that invades sovereign nations on the basis of “defending democracy”, ought to do is leave democracy for the slaughter.
Trump has decided, seemingly on a whim, to withdraw all US forces from Syria. Under normal circumstances I would applaud this act, and before pondering the implications for Rojava, I initially did– bringing US troops home from the Middle East is long overdue– but these are not ordinary circumstances. Conservative TV pundits seem to be more concerned with exposing the hypocrisy of once “anti-war” liberals in their “horror” over Trump’s decision of withdraw from Syria than with the actual potential consequences of these events. Liberal TV pundits seem more concerned with Russia and the imperial interests of the United States than with the actual consequences of these events. The Kurdish people are friends of the people of the United States. The US government and the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria have until now been on mostly good terms and proven allies in the fight against ISIS. Moreover, the United States has a responsibility to protect and defend it’s allies, the Kurdish people and the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, who valiantly fought on the ground against ISIS. There can be no excuse for the moral cowardice involved if the United States refuses to come to the aid of its Kurdish allies.
No people, no matter how well natured, could ever forgive the United States, if after using the Kurdish people for its own ends as cannon fodder, left them to die in the wake of an aggressive Turkish invasion that recent history tells us would amount to genocide. Is that what the Kurdish people are to the United States? Cannon fodder? Or are they allies and heroes in the fight against ISIS? The actions of the United States in the next few weeks will tell us one way or another. To the American people they are heroes and allies, will the government act in accordance with the will of the people who are informed on these events? Will it stand idly by amid genocidal Turkish aggression against an innocent people who demand nothing than their rights? Against a people who demanded no more than what George Washington demanded from Great Britain at the dawn of this nation?
In closing I will leave the reader with a Press Release titled “Urgent Statement From The Emergency Committee For Rojava” titled “Don’t Let Rojava Become Another Yemen”, and I plea as they do, that every US citizen contact their local representative on this issue, and furthermore I ask that you be prepared to protest if urgent action is not taken:
With reports of the Trump administration planning to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, along with disturbing new documentation released today about Turkey’s war crimes in Afrin, we are writing to alert our elected representatives and the public to the dire consequences should Turkey attack Rojava (the Kurdish majority region in northeastern Syria) east of the Euphrates, as it has promised. Turkey appears poised to attack whether or not American troops are stationed there. On Dec. 12, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a speech saying a Turkish offensive is imminent. The Pentagon command responded that such a “unilateral action” would be “unacceptable,” but the US has warned Turkey similarly in the past with no real consequences. Turkey has already been signaling its intentions by sniping at civilians across the border and bombing Kurdish areas in Iraq including the Makhmour refugee camp and Mount Shingal, home to the Yazidis.
A year ago, without any provocation, Turkey crossed the border into Syria to invade and occupy Afrin, driving out its Kurdish citizens, looting and confiscating their property, taking hostages, and repopulating the area with jihadis and Arabs from other parts of Syria in a demographic change that amounts to ethnic cleansing. The U.S. ignored Kurdish appeals for help despite the coalition’s reliance on Rojava and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to defeat ISIS. Now the Trump Administration says it will withdraw troops from Syria.
We call on Congress and the American people to make sure this betrayal is not repeated and that Rojava’s extraordinary but fragile democracy is not endangered. It is critical that the U.S. take this stand because:
Rojava is the only democratically-run part of Syria based on secular, feminist, and ecological principles.
Its values oppose both fundamentalism and dictatorship.
Its pluralism and federalist vision of the future of Syria are a model for the entire region, as is the Kurds’ integration of other ethnicities and women into positions of power throughout society.
The SDF have consistently proven to be the only reliable US ally in the war against ISIS. Now that they have almost finished the job, and taken immense losses, it is essential that we honor our moral obligation to the people who fought ISIS by helping them realize a peaceful co-existence with all regional powers.
Rather than deserting Rojava, the U.S. must commit to giving the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (the official name of Rojava), economic and political as well as military assistance, and should put all possible pressure on Turkey to reopen peace negotiations with its own Kurds. As Aliza Marcus said recently in the New York Times, “The only way to build an alternative to the chaos and repressive dictatorship in the rest of Syria is through recognition of the Kurdish-led administration and active political engagement.”
The U.S. has faltered in Syria too many times in the past. It can prevent a bloodbath and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, if it demands Erdogan stand down. It can press Turkey to reopen peace negotiations with its own Kurdish population, stopping the endless cycle of violence. We urge the Trump Administration and Congress to act to defend Rojava before it is too late.