February 27, 2016


The myth of the plucky Kurdish warrior : Our favourite allies in Iraq and Syria have problems and divisions of their own (Paul Wood, 27 February 2016, The Spectator))

The Kurds have pushed Isis back, taking territory they hope will one day form the borders of an independent state. The Arabs who live there are seen as a threat to that ambition. A report from Amnesty International last month is a reminder to western governments that in supporting the Kurds they are intervening to help one side in a civil war. Amnesty accuses Kurdish forces of 'destroying entire villages' in areas captured from Isis in northern Iraq, something it says may amount to war crimes. 'When the Peshmerga retook the village the houses were standing,' one Arab resident tells Amnesty's researchers. 'Later they bulldozed the village. There is nothing left.' There are dramatic satellite pictures: one before-and-after image of a village shows 95 per cent of the buildings razed.

The report details such destruction in the countryside around Jalawla, where our frightening brush with Isis took place. A Kurdish general there told me the town and its villages were 90 per cent Arab because Saddam had colonised the place in the 1970s. And most of the Arabs sympathised with Daesh (Isis), he said. He was probably right on both counts. But that makes it no less of a crime that, as one recent visitor to the region told me, houses are daubed with graffiti saying 'Kurds only -- Arabs out.'

The Kurdish representative in Washington, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, is acutely aware that the West went to war twice, in Bosnia and in Kosovo, over 'ethnic cleansing'. Brought up in the UK, she was a journalist on the Observer in London at the time. She tells me that where damage has been done, 'in all cases, either the village has been destroyed by Daesh or by airstrikes.' She also says that many Arabs chose to leave voluntarily 'because frankly they know they shouldn't have been there in the first place'.

Posted by at February 27, 2016 8:18 AM