The Kurdish people are facing an unprecedented challenge. Across a vast swathe of northern Syria and Iraq, the region’s Kurds are locked in a desperate and heroic struggle with the genocidal forces of the so-called Islamic State (IS). Fighting is raging across a huge front hundreds of kilometres wide, from Aleppo and Kobane in Syria to Mosul and Kirkuk in Iraq — and all points in between.
Syrian Arab Republic
We interviewed Ali Mustafa live from Egypt on January 24 — the Friday of the weekend marking the third anniversary of the popular uprising that captured the global imagination and put fear in the hearts of despots everywhere. Over a terrible connection and crackling phone line, Ali’s voice was difficult to make out as he described the scene: “The streets are empty, it’s almost eerie and ominous the way the streets are deserted.”
Salih Muslim is co-president of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Syria-based Kurdish party fighting for self-determination. The PYD is a sister party of the left-wing Turkish-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The party is the ruling force in the Kurdish areas of Syria and took over three enclaves with Kurdish majorities in 2012.
Threats of a new United States-led war in the Middle East abated, at least for now, on September 20 when Syria met a deadline set in a September 14 agreement between the US and Russia. As part of the deal, Syria submitted details of its chemical weapons to Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The US threatened military action against Syria after an August 21 sarin gas attack killed 355 people in the East Damascus suburb of Ghouta.
The proposal by Russia, accepted by the regilme of Bashar Al-Assad, for Syria’s chemical weapons to be turned over to an international authority (presumably the United Nations) for destruction, has temporarily put off Washington’s plans for war against Syria. Obama has postponed asking Congress to approve of his plans to attack Syria. This represents a political defeat for the war drive. Even if Washington scuttles the proposed agreement and goes ahead with war, it will do so with even less support at home and abroad than it had before the Russian proposal.
On my wall is the front page of the Daily Express of September 5, 1945, and the words: “I write this as a warning to the world.” So began Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett's report from Hiroshima. It was the scoop of the century. For his lone, perilous journey that defied the US occupation authorities, Burchett was pilloried, not least by his embedded colleagues. He warned that an act of premeditated mass murder on an epic scale had launched a new era of terror.
In response to a chemical weapons attack by unknown perpetrators on August 21, US President Barack Obama, in a “coalition of the willing” with the governments of Britain and France, has made escalating threats for a military attack on Syria. With the likelihood of Russia and China opposition in the UN Security Council, Obama has indicated that his coalition, calling itself the “international community”, may strike Syria unilaterally.
The Socialist Alliance released the statement below on August 28. * * * The Socialist Alliance condemns the threatened US-led Western military assault on Syria. We call on the Australian government to reject this latest imperial aggression, to extract itself from its military alliance with the US and end its involvement in all aggressive multinational military operations.
More than two years ago, the Syrian people, inspired by the Arab Spring, began a democratic revolution against the viciously authoritarian Bashir al-Assad regime, a revolution that we enthusiastically supported from its beginning and continue to support. For two long years now, we, like the rest of the world, have watched in horror as the Syrian government waged merciless war on its own people. Some of the revolutionaries argued that for strategic if not for pacifist reasons, the movement should have remained non-violent despite the mounting repression it faced.
For much of the past two years, Israel stood sphinx-like on the sidelines of Syria’s civil war. Did it want Bashar al-Assad’s regime toppled? Did it favour military intervention to help opposition forces? And what did it think of the increasing visibility of Islamist groups in Syria? It was difficult to guess.