photo: Eddy van Wessel


Friday, September 27, 2013

Silence for Syria?

Will we be safe in Iraqi Kurdistan when the Americans decide to bomb Syria? an expat in Erbil recently asked in a local Facebook group. The other members of the closed group told him not to worry. Kurdistan has good security at its borders, was their message.

I have been amazed by the silence in Kurdistan after civilians in the Syrian capital Damascus were hit by a chemical attack. I would have thought that the images reminded many people in Iraqi Kurdistan of 1988, the attack on Halabja, and if not, of attacks on some of the Anfal villages. If so, it has not shown.

In Europe people are following the news about Syria all the time. Political parties and activists have demanded action from their governments. The discussion has raged on what kind of a reaction is needed after chemical weapons were used against civilians.

For us in Europe, the horrors of World War I are our guide. After 1918 the West decided that never again chemical weapons should be used on the battle field, nor against civilians. That is why Westerners reacted so strongly to the attack in Damascus. Never again, we said. That means also: not in Syria in 2013, and certainly not against civilians.

In the eighties, at first the world turned a blind eye on the Iraqi chemical attacks as part of the Iran-Iraq war and of the Anfal operation against the Kurds. Only when the images of Halabja hit the TV screens, did the world protest.

Now images have hit the screens again and the world has been protesting, but the Kurds in Iraq were hardly present. All I am aware of is a demonstration in Halabja, and then everybody returned to the more important issue of the upcoming elections.

 In any election campaign in the West, candidates would make the use of nerve gas against civilians a subject for debate, to show their opinion and to propose action. But even in the election campaign in Kurdistan, Syria hardly played a role. Except for perhaps the refugee crisis, but that is local politics, as it is an internal problem to be solved where to house them.

Is it because the Syrians in Damascus are Arabic? Or because they might have had connections with the Syrian Baath party? Because somehow I know that my Kurdish friends would have been more emotional if the gas had been used against their brothers in Syrian Kurdistan…

I wondered where my Kurdish friends were, as it seemed to be the time to speak out. Exactly because they have been there. “It happened to us. This should not happen to anyone. Stop it, whoever did it. World, make them stop!”

This blog was published in Kurdish in the daily newspaper Kurdistani Nwe

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