|YPG female fighter attends to young refugee|
On the other hand, Syrian Kurds have been fighting jihadists, including the IS, for over a year. They have mounted this resistance to extremist forces despite Barzani’s refusal to support them, even if only by lifting the economic embargo on Syrian Kurdistan. It was the Syrian Kurds who came to the rescue of the Yezidis trapped on Mount Sinjar. Amidst growing international intrigue and acclaim for the Peshmerga of Iraqi Kurdistan, the role of the Democratic Union Party’s (PYD) People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has been seriously overlooked.
To recap: on August 3, Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) forces deserted their positions in and around Sinjar leaving hundreds of thousands of Yezidis and other minorities at the mercy of the Islamic State (IS). Because the KDP forces did not inform the civilians of their so-called “withdrawal,” and because it all happened without any actual fight, people of Sinjar woke up that morning to find themselves under the black flag of the Islamic State.
The IS, which sees the genocide of Yezidis as a religious duty, has since captured hundreds of Yezidi girls and women and forced them into sex slavery. At the same time, those Yezidis who had a chance to flee to Mount Sinjar were reportedly misled by false reports from KDP media that Peshmerga had freed Sinjar, leading to some refugees descending the mountain only to find IS militants waiting to slaughter them.
In the following days the KDP peshmerga not only failed retake Sinjar as they promised, but more towns fell into the IS’s hands. As the IS continued to draw closer to the southern edge of Erbil and panic spread among people in the Iraqi Kurdish capital, thousands of KDP security personnel allegedly stopped reporting to their posts, and KRG calls for American military intervention began in earnest.
By August 8, as the world’s attention turned to the US decision to re-engage militarily in Iraq and Barzani’s Peshmerga continued deserting their positions, Syrian Kurdish women and men fighters of the YPG, along with their PKK comrades, had already spread out from Rabiya to Sinjar region as well as to the town of Makhmur to defend the areas vacated by KDP forces. There are even reports that they had sent forces as far south as Kirkuk to stop the offensive of the IS.
|Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) Syrian Kurdistan|
Besides the economic embargo on Syrian Kurds by KDP along with Turkey and IS forces, the KDP also dug a trench along the very border that has always symbolized occupation and injustice for Kurds to reinforce the embargo on Rojava. Nonetheless, the YPG and PKK have put aside all their political disputes with Barzani at this time of crisis in Iraqi Kurdistan. Kurds from western (Rojava) and northern (Bakur) Kurdistan have been fighting the IS on the borders of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq that were supposed to be secured by Barzani’s KDP. Moreover, had they not intervened so strongly to fight the IS, perhaps even American intervention would not have been able to save Erbil.
The lessons to be learned from this act of solidarity do not end with effective methods of fighting jihadists - although with the YPG’s extensive experience on that front, advice of that nature should also be solicited by all sides. Iraqi Kurdistan can and should also learn from Syrian Kurdistan how to embrace more inclusive policies in all aspects of governing, including the structure and functioning of the armed forces.
|2 YPG fighters northern Syria|
Finally, in the likely event that the IS will soon withdraw more forces into Syria under the pressure of the American bombardment of its forces in Iraq, Syrian Kurds will continue to pay a heavy price for the inability of other political actors to put a stop to this Arab-Sunni creation. Indeed, following the Iraqi Army’s abandonment of their posts and advanced American weapons in Mosul on June 9, and in the town of Tikrit just two days later, the IS promptly brought their captured weapons to Syria where they have since been waging attacks on Syrian Kurds with even greater ferocity.
In this context, not only Iraqi Kurds, but the international community as a whole, should remember Rojava’s sacrifices in the ongoing crisis in Iraq. Rojava has earned the right for the solidarity and support of the international community through its resistance to the forces of darkness.
|ISIS seizing Christian women in northern Iraq|