Near 35 million Kurds live in mountainous region all over the borders of Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Armenia and Syria. These people represent the fourth-largest ethnic group on the territory of Middle East. However, they have never had a permanent nation state.
In the past decades, Kurds have been greatly influenced due to the whole scope of regional developments, struggling for the autonomy in Turkey, as well as playing significant roles in war conflicts on Syria and Iraq, where they have managed to resist the Islamic State jihadist group advance.
Deprived of the possibility to have a secure homeland at the end of the WWI, the Kurds are the minorities in the Syrian region, as well as in the other countries they live in – Iran, Turkey, Iraq. It is important to mention that in 1962, the government of Syria deprived almost 300 000 Kurds of their citizenship in order to Arabize the north-east part of the land.
When the uprising against the regime of Assad had started in 2011, the Kurds in Syria were playing the so-called waiting game. Nonetheless, they’ve managed to somehow carve out a certain region that is located within the territory from the north-east corner straight to the Turkish border. The territory served as an insurance against the possible return of humiliation of 1962.
The Kurds in Syria have managed to gain ground through providing useful to both Russian and the USA. With the air support that came from the United States, the Kurds successfully regained Kobani, the town that is located on the border, with ISIL. Acting as the spearhead on the ground for the United States of America, Kurds take responsibility for almost all losses on the territory that suffered greatly by ISIL. Now they’re on their way deeper into the west, near the town called Azaz. Trying to take the lands from the other rebel groups, the Kurds benefit from the support of Russian bombers.
When looking at the war activities of the Kurds, there’s an understandable question that pops up – how can these people be allied with the USA forces and the Russians at the same time? Being close to the heated bloodshed, how can they do that? The answer is quite simple – the battlefronts happen to be separate. While in the west they’re paired with the military forces of Russian Federation, in the east they’re collaborating with the United States.
Undoubtedly, there are certain limits to how far the Kurds can go in order to manipulate both fronts. The winning streak of the Kurds appears to be non-bankable at the moment and to some extent the Turkish government may move into Syria to bring back their advance. That’s when the Kurds will have to go away. Eventually, federalism won’t be the glue that will hold the land of Syria together, unless it’s the type similar to Russia, where the government exert the solid financial control of every region.
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- Popular Protest in North Africa and the Middle East (IX): Dallying with Reform in a Divided Jordan, Middle East Report N°118, 12 March 2012 (also available in Arabic)