Statement prepared by Joseph Chuman, PhD, leader
Susan Lesh, President of Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County
Daniel M. Rosenblum, PhD, Social Action Chair of Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County
We are appalled by our government’s abandonment of the Kurds in northern Syria to depredations by Turkish forces. This is an extraordinary betrayal of an effective ally in the struggle against terrorist religious fanaticism and forsakes American commitment to human rights.
Kurds are the world’s largest stateless nationality. They have faced nationalist discrimination of varying degrees in each of the countries among which their territory is divided — Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran — since the end of the Ottoman Empire a century ago. In Turkey, in particular, their language and even reference to their existence as an ethnic group was made illegal, and they have suffered a long history of oppression, which has led to cycles of violent resistance by some Kurds and violent repression of Kurds in general by the Turkish government.
Kurds in Syria have formed the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces, which, in addition to resisting the Assad dictatorship, have been by far the most effective fighters against the ultra-terrorist Islamic State (ISIL), successfully routing ISIL from Syrian territory at the cost of thousands of their own lives, and earning United States military and other support for their efforts. Kurdish areas in Syria have also organized remarkably democratic local governments, including a level of gender equality that would be the envy of many supposedly more advanced societies.
If the U.S. government were sincere about supporting its allies against terrorism and upholding human rights, it would continue to support and protect the Syrian Democratic Forces. Instead, by unilaterally withdrawing without arranging for international protection, it has given a green light to the Turkish government to extend its repression of Kurds into Syria with mere paper objections. This is not only immoral, but also strategically counterproductive, as it may allow ISIL to regain strength and could force Syrian Kurds to abandon their nascent democratic forms and ally with the Assad regime.
We recognize that unilateral intervention in foreign conflicts is at best chancy and at worst can lead to support for dictatorships. We therefore call on our government to immediately take the lead in developing effective international protections for Syria’s Kurds against both Turkish and Syrian oppression. Abandoning oppressed peoples, especially when they have been staunch allies, will ultimately prove foolish and is always grossly immoral.