Asia Ramazan Antar, a fearless 19-year-old Kurdish woman fighter was killed in Syria fighting ISIS. Many brave Kurdish fighters, men and women, are being killed these days in the slaughter fields of Syria and Iraq, being the victims of Assad's army, the Turkish army, ISIS, Russian airstrikes, but also Western, chiefly American, betrayal. So, why any mention of Asia? What makes her such a special person, whose death is widely reported? Is it because she won the nickname of "the Kurdish Angelina Jolie," due to her physical resemblance to the Hollywood superstar? Well, what a question... can anyone think of any reason, other than that, for the posthumous fame of the young brave Kurdish youngster? The truth is, that there are many reasons why she and her fellow martyrs deserve much bigger publicity than what they get.
Some demographic and historic context is necessary here; the Kurds are the largest single ethnic group in the Middle East NOT to have their independence. Numbering over 30 million people, carved between the countries of Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Syria, they have an obvious geopolitical problem. The Kurds say, that they "have no better friend than the mountains," but this was relevant in the past, when the mountains provided a natural shelter to the persecuted ethnic and religious minorities of the Middle East. Not anymore in the 21st Century, and so during most of the previous century. Their legitimate claim for independent nationhood was already recognized in the 14 points of President Woodrow Wilson, but since then, their political history is one of continuous fighting to realize their rights, coupled with on-going history of being a pawn in a big game of regional and super-powers, a game which leaves them always in the sidelines, bleeding, bitter, but never abandoning their hope to have independence. They were betrayed with the establishment of Iraq in 1920 by Britain as a Sunni-Arab dominated state. They were betrayed in 1946, a year after the Kurdish Republic of Mahabad was established in Iran's Kurdistan. They were betrayed in 1975, when the Shah of Iran and the CIA assistance to their revolt against Saddam Hussein regime was abruptly terminated when the Shah and Saddam signed the Shat Al Arab Agreement, which was five years later violated by Saddam with his invasion of Iran. They were betrayed again in the early months of 1991, following the end of the Gulf war, when Saddam vented his bloody revenge against them, much the same as he did in March 1988, when 6,000 Kurdish civilians were killed in a gas attack in Halabja. They are being betrayed again these days, when the so-called Turkish anti-ISIS attack in Northern Syria, is aimed, in the first place, against the Kurds in this part of former Syria, due to the Turkish desire to establish Cordon Sanitaire, a security zone to separate between the Kurds of Syria and Turkey. The Turks enjoy American support, and here is where the problem is.
For many months we were bombarded with the almost universally accepted mantra used by Americans of both sides of the political spectrum "help the Kurds, they are our natural allies, they are brave, they have the boots on the ground which we do not want to have in the fight against ISIS." The last we heard these words was in the Town Hall forum just the other day. So they said. In Arabic it is called Kalam Fadi[empty words], but in the moment of truth, the Kurds were told bluntly by Secretary Kerry to abide by the Turkish demand not to cross the Euphrates. The Kurds do not like it, why will they? They are reacting, but not much is being reported about that. Few days ago Kurdish leaders started a hunger strike in Turkey, their brothers fight in Syria, and the head of the Kurdish region in Iraq, Masud Barazani, considers the option of declaring referendum leading to complete separation from Iraq and independence. All these developments are not necessarily connected, as the Kurds have a long history of internal struggles, but they are clearly indicating, that the Kurdish situation in the Middle East is a ticking bomb waiting to explode.
Here is what can be done to detonate this potential bomb and bring justice to a persecuted nation.
Turkey should stop the attacks on Kurds in Northern Syria, and get into serious talks with the Kurds about improving the situation in South East Turkey. This is as much a Turkish interest, as it is a Kurdish one. ISIS is on its way to a defeat, but a defeat to many millions of freedom-hungry Kurds is another matter altogether.The Kurds of Iraq and Syria should be allowed to hold free, democratic referendums and if the results will be a vote for complete independence, then so be it. Iran should stop its repression of 6 million Kurds, and the Kurdish issue should become part of the agenda in any discussion about violation of human rights in the Islamic Republic. The U.S. should be helpful in attaining all these goals. The Kurds should not be treated only as the brave allies to be thrown to the battle against ISIS, but also as the political allies, whose national demands should be part of any fundamental solution to the problems of Iraq and Syria.
Will all this, or even part of it, happen in the near future? Not really, and if that is the case, even the death of ''the Kurdish Angelina Jolie'' will not lead to any salvation to the real Kurds. They will continue to fight, and continue to be betrayed.