The Abandonment of the Kurdish People: This Isn’t About Politics

The views below are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the stances of the Center for Genocide Research and Education.

This isn’t about politics anymore. Regardless of your stance on fiscal policy, foreign policy, or trade disputes, the fact of the matter remains the same: the President of the United States giving Turkish President Recep Erdogan the green light to push into Kurdish-held territory in Syria enables a genocide of the Kurdish people. The US president did so with full knowledge of what Turkey intended and despite the risk of further destabilizing the region and offering the Islamic State a chance at resurgence.

Erdogan’s message has long paralleled the narratives of Turkish nationalists. Indeed, much of his domestic support relies on rhetoric targeting perceived terrorist threats to Turkey, namely the Kurdish people. He plays on false narratives that depict Kurds as terrorists whose very existence threatens the existence of Turkey and who must be eliminated both domestically and abroad. Such rhetoric towards an ethnic group in any other instance would set off alarms that those making such statements intend to commit genocide.

Speaking on the operation, designated Operation Spring of Peace, Erdogan tweeted, “[W]e will eliminate the threat of terrorism towards our country… We will protect the territorial integrity of Syria, and free the people of the region from the clutches of terror.” That message alone outlines his intent to eliminate the Kurdish forces which he refers to as targets of the operation in a number of tweets. All signs, including the shelling and airstrikes on civilian areas and tweets from Erdogan, show a willingness and intention of the Turkish government to eliminate the Kurdish people.

As the situation has developed, US President Donald Trump forsook the Kurdish people – who were staunch US allies in the war against the Islamic State – by saying that the Kurds did not support the Allied invasion of Europe during World War II. In washing his hands of the Kurds, Trump is effectively resigning them to their fate against Turkey. Taking to Twitter, Trump has justified pulling US support for Kurdish forces as removing the US from another endless war despite deploying troops to the Middle East in defense of Saudi Arabia just last month.

The removal of US troops that supported Kurdish forces is not to prevent the US from being involved in another war. It is, plain and simple, the abandonment of a once-firm US ally that Donald Trump has decided is less useful to him than the nationalistic Recep Erdogan. Even worse, it is the United States giving the go-ahead to another nation to commit acts that will likely amount to genocide against a historically persecuted group.

Marcus Steiner is the Research Director for the Center for Genocide Research and Education and the Program Coordinator at the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center. His research specializations include Comparative Genocide and Geographic Information Systems. He holds a Master of Arts in History with a Global focus from Arizona State University.