In 1982, the Syrian government carried out mass murder against it's own citizens, killing over 20,000 people in the Syrian city of Hama. Since 1976, Syria has occupied its neighbor to the west, Lebanon, viciously suppressing any sparks of freedom. Now Syria has carried out a new massacre, murdering almost 100 Kurds and arresting thousands. Israel should speak out loudly about these Syrian atrocities, and support the Kurdish minority against Syrian Arab violence.
It all started as riots between Arabs and Kurds at a soccer game in Qamishli - in the northern Kurdish region of Syria or what Kurds call Western Kurdistan - but quickly spread to several northern cities. Pro-Assad, Baath Party loyalists responded by murdering Kurds in several towns. It's been reported that Syrian security services conducted mass arrests. Kurdish sources claim that some 2000 people have been detained in Damascus and Aleppo, and that in Damascus, almost every male Kurd over the age of 16 has been arrested.
The Kurds in Syria, Iran and in Turkey are severely repressed. In Turkey, even their identity as Kurds is still denied; they are called Mountain Turks. In Syria, they are denied most civil and political rights. About 2 million Kurds live in Syria. But the seething anger that exploded in Qamishli is generated most, by the fact that almost 200,000 Kurds are denied citizenship outright. They cannot vote, own property, go to state schools or get government jobs. Kurds in Iran live under similar repressive conditions. With the rise of an autonomous region in a post-Saddam federated Iraq, the question of Kurdish rights in other parts of the region looms large.
As the discussion of "democratization" of the Middle East continues, an important point that must be made time and time again, is the importance in building structures that liberate the minorities of the region from oppression. Non-Arab and Non-Muslim minorities live throughout North Africa and the Middle East. Contrary to the propaganda that the region is Arab/Muslim, these minorities are remnants of the indigenous peoples, before the great Arab imperialist wars of the 7th century, and "Islamicization process" that followed. Non-Arab Muslims like the Kurds in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran; the Berbers - known as Amazighes - in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya, have all resisted "Arabization" for over 1,000 years. Non-Muslims like the Assyrian Christians in Iraq - who argue that they are not Arabs - the Copts in Egypt, Christian Lebanese - many who claim not to be Arab but Phoenician - the Christians in Sudan, and other Christians throughout the region, have been persecuted minorities, since the rise of Islam. Others like the Druze and Jews have also been persecuted by Arab/Muslim regimes throughout history. And we can now see, from the recent Sunni terror attacks on Shiites in Iraq - and Bin Laden's recent statements that Shiites are heretics - that even some Muslims - Shiites and other non-Sunnis - are persecuted minorities in parts of the Middle East.
Only Israel, the Jewish State, has fully liberated itself - in the political sense - from this Arab/Muslim oppression, although it still suffers from physical violence against her people. Israel should take the lead - in it's foreign policy - to support "democratization" and "regime change" throughout the region. Israel shouldn't wait until countries of the region "reform," but should pro-actively support the legitimate aspirations of the oppressed minorities of North Africa and the Middle East, and build alliances with them.
Kurds were brutally suppressed by Saddam's Baathist regime through his "Arabization" program, expelling Kurds from their traditional areas and replacing them with Arab settlers. It's no secret that close relations existed between Israel and the Kurds throughout most of the sixties and into the seventies, until the collapse of the Kurdish revolt in Iraq, in 1975. Reflective of this, and that Moledet Party founder and former leader Rechavam Ze'evi was involved in Israeli-Kurdish relations, the 1996 Moledet Party Platform, Chapter 9: Foreign Policy, paragraph 17, states "Israel will act against the oppression of peoples like the Kurds..." Ze'evi - as a military officer - had been to Kurdistan and Iraqi Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani had even been to Israel. With this in mind, Israel should actively revive the former policy of support for the Kurdish people.
The idea of reviving this relationship hasn't been missed by Kurds themselves, as Kawa Bradosti wrote - in Kurdish Media - back in Sept. 2003, "...the potential is there for Israel and the Kurds to have a much closer relationship especially when considering the often hostile attitude of the neighboring countries in the region both to Israel and to the Kurds. It would be good common sense for the two nations to support each other and to forge an alliance together."
Some might ask about Israel's relationship with Turkey, and how will active support for the Kurds, be seen in Ankara - since Turkey also oppresses upwards of 15 million Kurds. I believe that Israel's relationship with Turkey is mature enough to weather the storm. I don't see Turkey throwing tantrums at the US for its role in Iraq, helping the Kurds there. Turkey, I believe in the long run, will come to see the benefits of a re-structured Middle East, where the threat of Islamic radicalism and terror - also directed at Turkey - is greatly reduced.
Turkey also has its problems with Syria. If the Kurds, Israelis, and Turks (along with a democratic Iraq?), could come together, Syria - the bad boy of the neighborhood - could be put in her place for good.
For a while now, I've written about Syria's oppression of the Lebanese (see my article, "Lebanon's Real Economic Woes Are Syrian Induced"). I've written about Syria's help for the former Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq (see my article, "Syria, UN resolution 520, and the Security Council"). I've written about how Syria has pushed drugs, supported terror, and needs to be forced back to its "natural" size and influence in the region (see my articles, "Free Lebanon Now" and "Israel, Don't Hit Hizbollah, Hit Syria!"). And in a recent article, I've called on the Israeli government to say ("It's time for Syria to get out of Lebanon"). Now we need to turn a magnifying glass onto their behavior towards their Kurdish minority.
In the past I've written a survey article, "Democracy in the Middle East," about the oppression of minorities in the region. Now I'm calling on the Israeli government to make a policy decision to actively support the Kurds and other minority groups, to build a non-Arab and non-Muslim regional alliance for change.
Till now, I haven't mentioned the so-called "Palestinians," and I won't beyond saying, that they are part of the problem, not part of the solution. Aren't they an oppressed minority? No, as Arabs, they are part of the greater Arab Nation who since the 7th century has conquered, oppressed, and occupied everyone else in the Middle East and North Africa. As radical Muslims, everyone can see that Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the other terror groups are continuing down the same path as Bin Laden. In fact, recently Hamas "spiritual leader" Sheikh Yassin, has begun speaking about the "Global Jihad" in Bin Laden and al-Qaeda type terms. Hezbollah has also been working in the "Palestinian" administered territories for a while already, as evidenced by Israel's recent capture of a Hezbollah cell in Gaza. So, they are part of the regional oppression network, not the future liberty and freedom alliance that Israel should work to build with other minorities in the area.
Israel's Foreign Policy toward Syria should be built on the demands that it leave Lebanon unconditionally, end it's support for Hezbollah and "Palestinian" terror groups, dismantle it's Weapons of Mass Destruction, and keep it's hands off the Kurds. Israel's greater regional policy should be based on supporting the rights of minorities in the area. Only that way, based on democratization, liberation from oppressive regimes, and encouraging freedom, will the Middle East and North Africa be transformed into a region worthy its millennia old history.
A pre-Arab and pre-Muslim history I might add!
Ariel Natan Pasko is an independent analyst & consultant. He has a Master's Degree in International Relations & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites, in newspapers, and can be read at: www.geocities.com/ariel_natan_pasko
(c) 2004/5764 Pasko