As I sit here comfortably in my apartment, my heart is aching for the Kurds. And as you sit wherever you are reading this, I want you to know they are being viciously attacked by Turkish forces.
The Kurds are an ethnic group of 30-45 million people that have lived in the area referred to as “Kurdistan" for thousands of years. They are now separated by arbitrary borders we drew, split up amongst four different countries — Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. They have been brutally persecuted within all four of those states. In fact, one of the worst chemical weapons attacks on civilians in human history was against Kurdish civilians. Look up the "Anfal Genocide." Google "Halabja." Look at the pictures.
Western allied forces actually promised the Kurds their own state as far back as 1920. Now here we are a century later, betraying them again.
With Trump’s abrupt decision to pull out of Syria, we have given the green light to Turkey to begin a military offensive against Kurdish forces.
There are multiple human rights concerns in the story of the Kurds, beyond the continual denial of the right to self-determination. Turkey is not showing any sign of mercy for civilians in this latest onslaught. In between my patients at clinic today, I would read updates from the U.N. refugee agency on how 60,000 Kurdish civilians are already fleeing the area. Aid agencies are warning that up to 450,000 people in the area are at risk.
These are the people who were on the ground fighting ISIS, sacrificing over ten thousand soldiers of their own. Now we are abandoning them to fend for themselves. Our allies. And if you care about women’s rights, one could argue they treat their women far better than many others in the region. Of note, it is estimated that one-third to one-fourth of Kurdish fighters against ISIS in Kurdistan were some incredibly brave and inspiring women.
Maybe one day the Kurds will finally have their own state. I think they have certainly earned it. In the meantime, we should not hold our breath as we watch the world let them down over and over again.
Nickey Jafari is a resident physician in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Minnesota.
This letter to the editor has been lightly edited for style and clarity.