As the US begins to withdraw troops from Kurdistan in northern Syria and the other Syrian areas, it sets the scene for abandoning its regional role entirely, especially when it comes to supporting peoples who aspire to attain their right to self-determination, on top of them the Kurds in northern Syria. They supported Washington within the international alliance to combat ISIS. After the US abandoned its role, what country will take its place?
The Kurds in Syria have become an example for the oppressed people in the world in general and the Middle East in particular, after all countries, including their major ally the US, abandoned them. This follows not long after the US refused to assist Kurdish forces that had taken control of Kirkuk, which led to the Iraqi recapture of that city.
The remarks of Trump were not only a message to the Kurds but also for all the oppressed peoples who desperately struggle only to preserve their long-threatened ethnic and identity and their right to self-determination. While it is impossible to comprehend the reason for this betrayal of steadfast allies, the message is clear, that oppressed and colonised peoples cannot rely on the US. Hence, the question here is: What is the country which could enhance its position among the peoples of the Middle East, if it were to support these peoples?
As Turkey is launching an offensive against the Kurds in Syria, it seems that major countries such as China, Russia, European countries and the US don’t have the will to defend them. More alarming still, could they be sending a message to the colonised and long-suffering peoples of the Middle East— primarily Ahwazis, Kurds, Balochis, Azeri Turks, Turkmen and Caspeans, who collectively make over 60 % of the population in Iran? To those who are raising their long-silenced voices to demand freedom and equal rights, the message appears to be that they cannot demand independence, secession or the right to self-determination regardless of the nature of the established government.
In politics, wars and conflicts have become less favourable options. For example, the US depended on Hollywood and its movies as a means to win the hearts of the people worldwide. You can still find millions of people who love the US without knowing the reason.
On the other side, Iran has occupied Arab countries, and is still meddling in other countries such as Bahrain not through occupation. Iran’s annexation of Ahwaz made the Ahwazis an arch-foe of Iran, and Ahwaz a stumbling block for Iran. As to Turkey, it gained support across the Islamic world through supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, its branch in Jordan, Nahda in Tunisia, and other countries.
Therefore, what is the country which will support the oppressed and occupied peoples such as the Kurds in Syria in the Middle East, thus winning the hearts and minds of the oppressed peoples?
There is no doubt that such a role is not an easy undertaking for many countries. For example, Russia does not interfere in such issues as it focuses mainly on securing its own interests, followed by apparently taking whatever position most angers the US, whatever the cost is. China is seeking to achieve its own aims and has never cared for the oppressed peoples or human rights. It is one of the biggest human rights violators, and does not pay more than the barest lip service even to the very existence of human rights.
The US has also steadily abandoned its role in the Middle East since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and now renounced its role in the Middle East in general since Trump came to the White House as US President.
Hence, will someone seize the opportunity and attempt to support the oppressed peoples who are suffering from ethnic oppression in the dysfunctional nation-state countries like Iran? Even indirectly, to make those peoples in the Middle East their allies as Iran did with Shiites in the Middle East? Turkey also gained support from the Muslim Brotherhood across the Islamic world. It seems there is a historic opportunity for some countries in the Middle East to enhance their strategic depth via supporting people who seek to attain their rights to self-determination.
For the long-persecuted people of Ahwaz, the abandonment of the Kurds is a horrific warning, which recalls the abandonment of Ahwaz by the British in the early 20th century.
Yet who will stand for the Kurds? Israel has condemned the Turkish invasion and offered humanitarian assistance, but has not demonstrated any ability to intervene militarily. The European Union and United Nations have issued nothing more than half-hearted protests at best.
To the Ahwazi people, the abandonment of the Kurds reflects a vacuum where the commitment of the global community is supposed to be. As the world stands idly by, the supposed statement that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world”, those lofty words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, mock us as empty rhetoric.
The people of Ahwaz are suffering from displacement, poverty, torture, imprisonment, discrimination, and indiscriminate executions without trial by Iran. Ahwazis face enormous challenges in bringing attention to their plight in a world constantly preoccupied with ‘more pressing concerns’. It is also difficult to focus on such advocacy while trying to survive in a region awash in systemic violence. It is a disgrace that countries like Turkey and Iran that established their nation-states around 100 years ago keep denying the national rights of the oppressed peoples – such as Kurds in Turkey or Ahwazis in Iran. At present, countries such as Turkey and Iran have united in building an alliance against the Kurds to put pressure on them to give up the right to self-determination. Iran and Turkey know well that, despite their best efforts, the use of violence against these oppressed peoples will only empower them further to fight fiercely for their freedom. Had these people intended to surrender beneath the yolk of oppression, they’d have done so long ago.
When asked for comment, Aaron Eitan Meyer first quoted an ancient saying of the Jewish people, “Be careful with the government, for they befriend a person only for their own needs. They appear to be friends when it is beneficial to them, but they do not stand by a person at the time of his distress.”
He continued to say that, “this is even more true when dealing with governments of other nations. The key is always to make it clear how those governments can benefit. I would argue that it takes little effort to see that supporting occupied and brutalised groups like the Kurds and Ahwazis would be hugely beneficial to the United States, to Israel, and to any other nation that cares to ask for my opinion.”
We responded that we still suffer from the Sykes-Picot agreement, and Meyer responded “much as the Kurds are absolutely right to be bitter at the US right now, so too are the Ahwazis right to be wary. Yet this is a time of change. Nearly all of the Middle East stands against Iran and its lackeys, the likes of Syria and Turkey. New alliances based on mutual interest can and must be forged, even if they will likely not bear fruit for decades.”
For now, the people of Ahwaz stand with the all colonised peoples, with whom we share similar ethnic oppression and frustrated hopes of freedom and security that are supposedly guaranteed us all by international ‘law’. And we ask, who will put meaning behind the empty promises of international law and stand with us all as genuine allies?
Rahim Hamid is an Ahwazi author, freelance journalist and human rights advocate based in the USA. You can follow him on his twitter account: https://twitter.com/samireza42 .
The opinions expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of the Dur Untash Studies Centre.