Abandonment of Kurds by the US:
- White House announced that, “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria”.
- U.S. forces “will no longer be in the immediate area.”
- The Trump administration granted Turkish President Erdogan tacit permission to attack Kurdish forces in Syria — forces that have been vital U.S. allies in the fight against Islamic State.
- Kurds in northeastern Syria issued a "general mobilization" call along the border with Turkey.
- It comes as Ankara prepares for an invasion of the area in the latest major escalation in the war-ravaged country.
Who are the Kurds?
- Between 25 and 35 million Kurds inhabit a mountainous region straddling the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia.
- They make up the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East, but they have never obtained a permanent nation state.
- The Kurds are one of the indigenous peoples of the Mesopotamian plains and the highlands in what are now south-eastern Turkey, north-eastern Syria, northern Iraq, north-western Iran and south-western Armenia.
- They form a distinctive community, united through race, culture and language, even though they have no standard dialect.
- They also adhere to a number of different religions and creeds, although the majority are Sunni Muslims.
- In the early 20th Century, many Kurds began to consider the creation of a homeland - generally referred to as "Kurdistan".
- After the First World War the victorious Western allies made provision for a Kurdish state in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres.
- Such hopes were dashed three years later, however, when the Treaty of Lausanne, which set the boundaries of modern Turkey, made no provision for a Kurdish state and left Kurds with minority status in their respective countries.
- Over the next 80 years, any move by Kurds to set up an independent state was brutally quashed.
Why Turkey sees Kurds as a threat?
- There is deep-seated hostility between the Turkish state and the country's Kurds, who constitute 15% to 20% of the population.
- Kurds received harsh treatment at the hands of the Turkish authorities for generations.
- In response to uprisings in the 1920s and 1930s, many Kurds were resettled, Kurdish names and costumes were banned, the use of the Kurdish language was restricted, and even the existence of a Kurdish ethnic identity was denied, with people designated "Mountain Turks".
- In 1978, Abdullah Ocalan established the PKK, which called for an independent state within Turkey. Six years later, the group began an armed struggle.
- Since then, more than 40,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced
- In the 1990s the PKK rolled back on its demand for independence, calling instead for greater cultural and political autonomy, but continued to fight. In 2013, a ceasefire was agreed after secret talks were held.
- The ceasefire collapsed in July 2015, after a suicide bombing blamed on IS killed 33 young activists in the mainly Kurdish town of Suruc, near the Syrian border.
- The PKK accused the authorities of complicity and attacked Turkish soldiers and police.
- The Turkish government subsequently launched what it called a "synchronised war on terror" against the PKK and IS.
- Since then, several thousand people - including hundreds of civilians - have been killed in clashes in south-eastern Turkey.
- Turkey has maintained a military presence in northern Syria since August 2016, when it sent troops and tanks over the border to support a Syrian rebel offensive against IS.
- Those forces captured the key border town of Jarablus, preventing the YPG-led SDF from seizing the territory itself and linking up with the Kurdish enclave of Afrin to the west.
- In 2018, Turkish troops and allied Syrian rebels launched an operation to expel YPG fighters from Afrin. Dozens of civilians were killed and tens of thousands displaced.
- Turkey's government says the YPG and the PYD are extensions of the PKK, share its goal of secession through armed struggle, and are terrorist organisations that must be eliminated.
Source: BBC, Guardian