Kurdistan, haven of religious freedom

kurdistan_people__2007_12_20_h0m58s56Not everybody in Iraq is a Sunni Arab or a Shiite Arab.  The country is full of other religious and ethnic groups, including Assyrian Christians who’ve been in Mesopotamia longer than the Arabs, and their hope of survival is the continued semi-independence of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Overall, I think the invasion of Iraq was a disaster, but one good thing to come out of it was freedom for the Kurds, a valiant people who’d been fighting for independence for generations, and without terrorism against civilians.

The Kurds are mostly Sunni Muslims, the same religion as the murderous I.S.I.S. militia, but their attitude toward freedom and tolerance is exactly the opposite.  And the Kurds are willing, able and armed to fight.

Military analyst Gary Brecher, who’s lived in Kurdistan, wrote:

The men and women of the [Kurdish] Pesh Merga—the Middle East’s only truly gender-neutral fighting force—are the only thing saving all the terrified, dwindling minority communities of Northern Iraq from the savagery—yeah, savagery; why lie?—of a new zombie generation of Wahhabized Arab/Sunni jihadis.  [snip]

Let me tell you, for a Sunni Kurd to say, “I have Shia friends, I have Christian friends” is about as brave and radical as it gets, short of suicide, in the Middle East. I never heard any of my Saudi students say anything remotely like it. Well, how could they?  By law, Shi’ism and Christianity are banned in the Kingdom.  So they didn’t have the opportunity, even if they’d had the mindset which they didn’t.

Something wonderful came out of the horrors of 20th century Iraq, among the Kurds of the Northern hills.  They became the only non-sectarian population in Iraq, and perhaps the only such group between Lebanon and India.

All the hill peoples, the few who’d survived Sunni pogroms, were kind to each other. When violence came into the hills, it came from the plains to the South.

All the vulnerable minorities in the Northern hills had been hit by waves of violence from the Sunni majority to the south: the few remaining Assyrian Christians who held out in little mountain towns like Zakho, a pitiful remnant of the genocides perpetrated against them by the Ottomans, and then by Sunni militias in the 1930s; the Turcoman, who are Sunni but Turkish-speaking—in other words, not Arab—and don’t you ever doubt that Arab chauvinism has a HUGE part in what passes for Sunni jihadism.

via The War Nerd:  PandoDaily.

Brecher’s article is a useful reminder that the kind of murderous fanaticism prevalent in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and jihadist fighters such as Al Qaeda and I.S.I.S. is not representative of all Muslims.


Double click to enlarge.

Brecher pointed out that it is not a coincidence that religious minorities take refuge in the hills.  Like the peoples of upland Southeast Asia, they find the hill country a place where government authority is less able to reach than on the plains.

I’ve compared the breakup of Iraq to the breakup of Yugoslavia.   It’s important to remember that Yugoslavia consisted not only of Croats and Serbs, but of other ethnic and religious groups, including the Bosniaks—Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina who, like the Kurds, had lived in peace with their neighbors for generations.

Serb and Croat militia partitioned Bosnia-Herzegonvina, while the European Union and the United States imposed an arms embargo that left the Bosniaks defenseless and then engaged in “humanitarian intervention” after the ethnic cleansing was complete.

I hope and believe the people of Kurdistan will not be abandoned to the same fate.


Click on The War Nerd: Like it or not, what’s happening in Iraq right now is part of a rational process for the full article by Gary Brecher for PandoDaily.  The whole thing is worth reading. Despite the headline, the meat of the article is Brecher’s account of the religious minorities that have taken refuge in Kurdistan.  Hat tip for the link to naked capitalism.

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3 Responses to “Kurdistan, haven of religious freedom”

  1. williambearcatBill Says:

    I despair that I will ever understand the divisions in the
    Middle East. I also despair that humankind can ever survive our murderous proclivities.


  2. tiffany267 Says:

    Very interesting – thanks for sharing.


  3. Holden Says:

    The Kurds have also proven to be savvy business men. They do a pretty good job of managing their oil reserves.


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