On Sunday, October 13th, 300-400 people gathered in downtown Seattle’s Westlake Plaza in a show of solidarity for the region of Kurdistan in only the most recent development of events in the shell-shocked region of north-eastern Syria. The rally was organized on Facebook by Rojava & Kurdish Solidarity Seattle and Demand Utopia – Seattle. Following President Trump’s recent removal of U.S. military troops from the Syrian-side of its border with Turkey, Turkish military forces and Turkish-backed paramilitaries have begun bombing small towns on the Syrian side of the border and conducting deadly incursions into the Kurdish territories.
For years, Kurdish military groups (broadly referred to as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF) have led the fight against ISIS in the Middle-East, uprooting their strongholds and liberating cities like Raqqa and Kobani in the traditionally Kurdish region. Kurdish militia forces have been on the frontlines against ISIS, as well as struggling to create and maintain autonomy for Kurdistan, a region split by the Syrian-Turkish border. After World War I, Kurdistan was promised their own country when the victorious Western powers were carving up eastern-Europe, instead they were ignored and Kurdish people were split up by the Syrian-Turkey border. Kurdish people have resisted attempts of cultural erasure by both Syrian and Turkish governments ever since. When the U.S. military stepped up to aid the Kurdish militia units in their fight against ISIS, they were in practice also creating a shield for a targeted ethnic population in an already de-stabilized region. President Trump’s decision to remove U.S. troops from the area has erased that buffer. As Turkey began military attacks on the Kurdish region, bombs fell on civilian neighborhoods and people have been dragged out of their cars and routinely raped and murdered because of their Kurdish ethnicity. The attacks have allowed over 700 ISIS prisoners to escape custody. When pressed about this possibility due to removing U.S. troops, President Trump responded “Well, they’re going to be escaping to Europe. That’s where they want to go; they want to go back to their homes, but Europe didn’t want them from us.”
This was the backdrop as hundreds of people crowded together at Westlake Plaza at the corner of 4th avenue & Pine St. People from all walks of life waved flags, chanting support for Rojava, the autonomously held Kurdish region of North-Eastern Syria, and condemned President Trump and Turkey’s President, Tayyip Erdoğan. Adults and children alike waved countless flags with Rojava’s green, yellow and red colors. Police with bikes stationed themselves nearby, following the crowd closely when it marched to the office of Turkish Commerce nearby and back to Westlake. The gathering remained peaceful throughout the afternoon.
In the crowd a woman named Sheelan held a sign that read “Stand For Rojava”.
When asked to comment on the situation in Kurdistan and why she was there that day she said, “Shame on Trump! We’ve been the ultimate allies to the U.S. and they have given us the ultimate betrayal.” Referencing the fight against ISIS, she added, “Against ISIS and also in World War II, Kurdistan has been an ally to the U.S.” Last week, President Trump claimed that Kurdistan had had no role in aiding the Allies during World War II. The Kurdish Peshmerga provided safety for U.S. troops in the fight against ISIS, and they have betrayed us by leaving.” Peshmerga, meaning “those who face death,” are the military forces in Kurdish Iraq.
“Write to your senators and elected officials! Tell them to right their wrongs!” Sheelan urged. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Lindsey Graham announced Monday that they are working on bipartisan bills and sanctions against Turkey’s attacks on the Kurdish region. At the time of this writing, journalists have begun fleeing the Kurdish areas of North-Eastern Syria, as Syrian state-military forces (separate from the S.D.F.) advance to meet Turkey’s attack head-on.