New Series Announcement: What We Forgot To Remember

image007
“Crucified Armenians in the area around Der-ez-Zor. Some women were rescued by the fact that – as in the picture – Arab Bedouins took them down from the crosses again.”

Warning: I’m about to talk about genocide. A lot.

Picture explanation: During the Armenian Genocide, the men were first separated from the women – husbands, fathers, sons and brothers were cut apart from wives, mothers, daughters and sisters. Then, the men were marched into the desert without food and water and were shot; the women were raped and tortured, then crucified in order to terrorize any Christians that remained.

Luckily, there were also nomadic Arab Bedouins who ranged throughout the region. These Arabs were strongly opposed to the Turks and their genocidally fanatical nationalist project, despite their shared Islamic faith. Even after being saved by the Arabs, many of these women likely would have died due to external and internal injuries coupled with prolonged starvation and exposure.

100 years ago today, in 1917, the Ottoman Turks, who had previously began to see their ethnic and religious minorities as an existential threat, were in the midst of a horrifically cynical and malevolent campaign of extermination. Targets of the campaign were the key ‘problem’ groups: the Assyrians, the Pontic/Anatolian Greeks, and of course, the Armenians.

100 years on, this campaign – which has often been referred to as the ‘world’s first genocide’ has received a disturbing lack of recognition. Turkey and Turkish politicians alternate between denial and glorification of the genocide, and many other countries simply do not officially recognize or teach it as historical fact.

Yet this problem of insufficient recognition does not end there. While most now know of the extermination campaign against the Armenians, the extermination of Assyrians and Greeks is barely acknowledged at all. What may surprise you yet further is the fact that the plight of those forgotten after being massacred 100 years ago in 1917 is not rare, but the norm.

The truth is that genocide is not some historical anomaly that only happened once or twice. It happens all the time. Throughout history, the systematic mass murder of human beings for color, creed, language or tribe has been terribly common, yet many of these barely receive any recognition at all. The restless dead lie in shallow mass graves all over the world, begging to be heard, pleading for their story to be told.

Every Sunday this month, I will be making a post about a historical genocide that is unrecognized or forgotten. The goal of this serialized project is to put forward a forgotten historical atrocity for thoughtful discussion and consideration, so that we can extract something meaningful from the horrors of the past, and perhaps also try to improve the future.

The first post will be later today. I hope you join in the discussion.

Film Analysis: Enemy (2013)

enemy_jake_gyllenhaal_chalkboard-crop-promovar-mediumlarge
Adam (history professor) about to teach us one of life’s most crucial lessons

Enemy is one of the most stunning films I’ve seen this year. Its genius is composite and gestaltic; it lies in the mind-blowing script of Gullón, the paradisal and dystopic direction of Villeneuve, and the compelling yet disturbing acting by Gyllenhaal.

While the film has received near universal acclaim, the plot and its incomprehensibility to many viewers has presented an interpretative problem that has spawned many analyses online. While not intending to sound solipsistic, Enemy truly spoke to me in a way few other films did, and as such, I understand it somewhat differently from the majority of these reviews. Here is my own analysis of the film.

Adam/Mary – History professor and his girlfriend. Anthony/Helen – actor and his wife.

Villeneuve tells us that the film is about dictatorship, and this is true. Beginning at the very start of the film we hear a lecture about dictatorships – a subject which history professor Adam (Gyllenhaal) happens to specialize in.

What dictatorships or totalitarian systems do – and hereafter I want to use the latter – is that they subjugate people. Totalitarian systems oppress people, but they also suppress awareness of this subjugation; they do this in a number of ways. Adam tells his students that in Ancient Rome, the government sponsored bread and circuses for the people in order to reduce dissent. Yet bread and circuses are at their core a type of entertainment. Modern governments do this in different ways, we are told – yet the focus on ‘entertainment’ will be relevant later on.

enemy_day17-0034-final
Adam and Anthony meet in a hotel

From hereon, we’ll be jumping around a bit in our analysis, but I’ll break the news to you first: Adam and Anthony are one and the same. Bear with me for a little while longer. When Adam and Anthony meet in the hotel, Anthony explains the presence of a scar on his stomach, asking Adam if he has one too. Adam recoils in fear and horror, and flees the hotel. How do we understand this?

There is no scar on Adam’s stomach, because that scar happened when Adam/Anthony (hereafter “AA” to refer to both) was in a car crash which resulted in Mary’s death. Mary was the girlfriend of AA, or at least his mistress, while he was already with Helen. The scene where AA gets his scar, and Mary is killed in a car crash, is marked by a spiderweb on the windshield of the car. Spiders live inside webs.

Return to spiders. The spiders in this film are not some loose analogy for dictatorships or other systems of the political kind. But they do represent a totalitarian system. They are avatars of memory, and the totalitarian control that traumatic memories of the past have over people’s minds.

At the very start of the film – and remember that it isn’t in chronological order, so this is actually the ending scene – AA is in a club [entertainment] and a beautiful attractive waitress crushes a spider. AA is crushing the pain of his own memories, by seeking entertainment. This liberates him from the totalitarian control they exert over him. What memories, you ask?

The answer is given earlier on, when Adam has a dream of walking down a hallway, passing by a woman who is at once also a spider. He wakes up, and sees a woman whose hair matches the spider pattern. This is another factual memory – it is one of the other girls that Anthony cheated on his wife with. Anthony has a serious problem with commitment and infidelity, and is repeatedly unfaithful – not just to his partner.

enemy
The spider – forever the avatar of the oppressive memories of the past – swaggers over Adam/Anthony’s hometown of Toronto

What about the giant spider walking over the entire city? This is explained by the poster for the film, which shows that exact spider in the city right over Anthony (we know it’s him by the jacket) but also inside his head. This is key. The spider (the gargantuan weight of his traumatic memories) is above him, but it is also inside him; its influences on his life are pervasive and absolute like some totalitarian dictator – but this is also an integral part of his very being. His experiences are in his head to stay.

At the very end in the movie, Adam has taken the place of Anthony. He goes into the bedroom to see Helen, and is greeted by a giant spider. Why? Because his memories are coming back to haunt him. So what exactly does this mean?

The entire film is a story of Anthony being confronted by his past. Adam is a representative of this, and the fact that he is a teacher of HISTORY attests to the fact. Adam represents a past Anthony that was unfaithful to Helen. But Adam was so meek and quiet – he even allowed Anthony to fuck his wife. How can we say that he was a representation of Anthony’s unfaithfulness?

The answer is simple; Adam is an unmanly coward, and unfaithfulness is a form of cowardice, or a lack of living up to one’s responsibilities as a man. This is attested to when Anthony is in the car with Mary who he has just tried to fuck – just before they crash, he says to her ‘You think I’m not a man?’ She DOES think he’s not a man – because he is unfaithful, something she has just discovered, precipitating their dramatic exit from the hotel. Thus Adam’s weakness/ unmanliness facilitates Anthony’s unfaithfulness – Adam does not stop Anthony from fucking his girlfriend, because he represents Anthony’s own past weakness (and thus, his weak masculinity).

That scene where Anthony is having sex with Mary, who then freaks out when she sees the wedding ring [marks?] on his finger? This was real. Mary did not realize that Anthony was married. The freakout did indeed happen. The crash did indeed happen. And Mary died, and Anthony was injured as a result – giving us the scar from earlier.

enemy_windshield-crop-promovar-mediumlarge
The windshield after AA’s car crash forms a delicate spiderweb – all is connected

Why is Anthony an actor? Because he is acting out the horrors of the past in his head. The nightmares are all his. The spider at the end looks as if it is about to consume Adam, after he assumes the role of Anthony and walks into the bedroom. It is his memories of sinfulness, and the weight of his guilt, which seems about to consume him.

Adam IS Anthony, so Adam allowing Anthony to fuck his girlfriend represents AA’s weak, sensitive, humanistic side failing to exert control over his brash, Dionysian side. This failure resulted in the death of Mary and nearly also the destruction of his marriage. This haunts him to this very day.

Simplified, it looks something like this:

  • AA are/is one person
  • The spiders are his memories and the weight of his guilt
  • They constitute a totalitarian system which holds him down and oppresses him, and dictates to him his actions; they force him to continuously remember the past
  • Adam, a history professor (the past) represents the past AA – he is weak and generally a shitty person. He allows himself to cheat on his own wife, because he is weak/unmanly/a coward.
  • Adam’s weakness leads to the death of Mary, his girlfriend and mistress. It gives him a scar, which stays with him.
  • AA suppresses this memory by entertainment, such as by attending clubs where the spider (his past) is crushed. But it keeps coming back to haunt him.
  • The spider is a totalitarian system above him (in terms of his control) but inside him (as it is constituted by his memories).
  • The film ends with AA having gone through all of the memories of this traumatic past. A gargantuan spider shows us how AA is confronted by his memories, and thus his own guilt and shame, when he goes into his wife’s bedroom.
  • As viewers, we are not told whether AA’s suppression of his past, his memories, and his guilt is successful or not. We do not know whether he stays with Helen, or what her transformation into his guilty conscience might entail (perhaps accusing him of another affair).
  • That is Enemy, and it is undoubtedly Villeneuve’s most impressive masterpiece to date.

When actions are determined, consequences must be too

スクリーンショット 2017-03-22 19.43.49.png

This is one of the most horrific views I’ve ever seen advocated by tenured staff at a Western university, ever. Let me explain why.

Let’s think about this logic for a moment. What this is effectively saying is that, since the decision as to whether or not you will eat the dessert is out of your control (statement) therefore you are absolved of responsibility for it, and should not feel bad (conclusion).

The statement is certainly true, and in a far broader sense you might realize. We live in a deterministic world where our actions only ever take place in the context of the total sum of all that preceded it, and the impact that these generated. An example of this is that you might be physiologically inclined towards sweet things, but lack the neurological hardware necessary to abstain – simplifying, we might say that your ‘impulse’ module is set to high and your ‘restraint’ module is set to low. It’s difficult to dispute the scientific fact that individuals in circumstances like these with a neurological setup that predisposes them to certain actions may have little to no control over their impulses.

But how about the conclusion. Should this really absolve you from responsibility? If we say that you aren’t responsible for your actions because your ‘brain has already decided for you’ then what about in the case of rape? It’s not uncommon to hear, in courtrooms, defendants talk about ‘not being able to control themselves’. The Iraqi refugee who raped a 12-year old boy in an Austrian swimming pool last year defended his actions as the inescapable consequence of a ‘sexual emergency’.

Murder is another case we might examine. The circumstances typically resulting in physical conflict trigger a ‘fight-or-flight’ response in us, activating our endocrine systems and pumping our bodies full of adrenaline and other chemicals that cloud judgment and promote physical action. In such a circumstance, it’s also possible to say that your brain made the decision for you, precluding free will.

Now ask yourself – what difference does it make if some (or even all) murders and rapes do lie outside of the realm of our control? Are we going to start judging rapists in courts of law on the basis of their proclivity to hypersexuality, refusing to jail any rapists if indeed we see that their brains ‘already decided for them’. Murder, too? The grounds would be little different from the logic deployed in this advertisement, in either case.

What am I getting at here? The conclusion you’re seeing above is horrifically wrong and terribly dangerous. A deterministic worldview is an accurate one, but this does not – and cannot – preclude holding individuals responsible for their actions. The consequences if we don’t – a world in which murderers, thieves, rapists, and worse are able to stalk the streets with impunity – are far too high to accept.

Even though our actions may sometimes lie just outside of our control, that doesn’t mean that the consequences shouldn’t. When we lack agency to act, this agency must not be manipulated to avoid punishment. When actions are determined, consequences must be too.

Let’s Talk About Antisemitism

copy_of_anti_semitic_2_xlarge

Those of you who know me know that I take prejudice, bigotry, and violent manifestations of it very seriously. That means all kinds of prejudice designed to dehumanize or demean the person; anti-Muslim bigotry, anti-Kurd bigotry, racism (whatever direction it may take) as well as antisemitism and anti-gay bigotry, among others.

One of the purposes this blog serves is as an outlet for that. Looking through my past posts, you will find references made to the horrors of white supremacy and anti-black racism, as well as to some of the anti-white racism that I myself have experienced in my own life. There isn’t enough time to discuss every story or every case, but balance is important, and I try to keep that balance.

linda-s-daily-living-skills-finding-a-balance-between-remediation-and-a9kq8v-clipart

Antisemitism presents a problem, because it’s one of the more difficult ones to address. While for many Jews who have been victimized by this form of bigotry this may be a bitter pill to swallow, the unfortunate truth is that antisemitism is sometimes invoked illegitimately. Similarly to anti-Muslim bigotry, there is often a conflation of the religious ideas and the people who adhere to them, so you can wrongfully be called a bigot for criticizing a faith while respecting the people who practice it. The Israel/Palestine issue complicates this further; despite being a strong supporter of Israel, I have been called an antisemite for suggesting that the US should cut its funding for Israeli defense systems.

Amongst these wrongful invocations of antisemitism, the issue is further problematized by the occasional false flags. This year, two Jewish students at Northwestern University defaced a church by spray-painting swastikas and the word ‘Trump’ – the intention being to make it look like the work of far-right groups such as the KKK.

jewish-students-swastika-trump.jpg
The two students who defaced a church and attempted to blame it on Trump supporters

Of course, that doesn’t mean that we as a society don’t recognize the problem of antisemitism. But even when we do recognize it, this recognition is often confined to the growing Muslim communities of the West, from which we tend to acknowledge the emergence of strong and deep-rooted antisemitic sentiments. The idea that antisemitism is a ‘Muslim problem’ is increasingly common, and while acknowledging the prevalence of Islamic antisemitism is important to hasten our arrival at a solution, it sometimes makes us lose sight of the wider context.

It was less than 100 years ago that a number of white Christian Europeans, themselves emerging from the most enlightened and advanced civilization that the world had yet seen at that point, made the decision to annihilate the Jewish people. Of course, the Jews were not the only group designated for destruction in the Holocaust – but we must acknowledge the specific way in which they were systematically targeted and murdered, using the most advanced technology available. Some of the survivors of the genocide still live today. We are not so separated from the past.

yN7eKq_web.jpg

At my university, I have come to know a number of Jews whom I have the privilege of considering close friends. They are just as diverse – racially, politically, intellectually – as any other group. Some do not even adhere to the Jewish faith at all. Nothing would distinguish them from any other Cambridge student – even religious practice – but for a heritage held in common between them.

One evening several weeks ago, some of these friends were out drinking; I had been offered an invitation, but I declined. On that occasion, after entering the Graduate Union building, they were set upon by a mob of – mostly white, non-Muslim – students. These students physically and verbally intimidated my Jewish friends, mocking them for their kippahs (a symbol of observance amongst religious Jews) and even went so far as to briefly choke one with his own scarf. Worse still – the college that the offenders belonged to failed to appropriately discipline the students in question, instead engaging in a bizarre cover-up of the events, which it claims were ‘dealt with’ behind closed doors.

The reason – the sole reason – that this attack happened was because of the Jewishness of the victims. That is a problem. The fact that the university has not acknowledged that is also a problem.

Antisemitism is not a thing of the past. Real, ugly antisemitism from native Christian Europeans is as prevalent today as it has always been. When authorities in question refuse to acknowledge that – as in this case – the psychological harm to the victims as a consequence of having their victimhood denied can be even more severe.

With the emergence of Richard Spencer’s Alt-Right movement, it’s important to remember that antisemitism isn’t a thing of the past, nor is it undergoing some temporary resurgence. It’s a problem that we have, that we have to deal with, that never really went away.

shlomo-large_trans++piVx42joSuAkZ0bE9ijUnGH28ZiNHzwg9svuZLxrn1U.jpg
Shlomo Roiter, one of the victims of the attack and a close friend of mine, spoke to journalists about his experience

The Bizarre Hatred within the Radical Left

The shocking election of Donald Trump as US President has been said by many to confirm our worst nightmares about the state of America – a country in which bigotry and hatred is said to lie just under the surface.

And indeed it has – just not quite in the way we thought.

Since the election results were announced, confirming Trump as the victor in what turned out to be almost a landslide outcome as he cinched 306 electoral college votes to Hillary Clinton’s 232, the reaction of the American left has been fairly vitriolic.
pic-1While we’re all familiar by now with the rhetoric of anti-white slurs and unfounded accusations of sexism and homophobia amongst others, this recent wave of mass discontent amongst leftists has brought into question how ‘feminist’ they really are.

While Trump supporters have been the target of baseless accusations and calls for violence for some time, the recent inclusion of rape in this list is an unexpected innovation even more vile.

pic-2

One Clinton supporter (a woman) stated that she wanted “every female Trump supporter and every relative of them” to be raped, adding that she anticipated the day where she would be able to “rub my pain and every other woman’s pain in your fucking face”.

Another Hillary voter enlisted a number of sick and twisted punishments to be enacted against Republicans, of which rape was one. He says, “Wives and daughters or should I say your c*nts as you republicans like to call them should be brutally raped first.”
pic-3

The inclusion of “your c*nts as you republicans like to call them” suggests that the user was affronted by the indubitably unacceptable and hideous manner in which some notable Republicans – including President Elect Donald Trump – have spoken about women in the past. The irony of him then wishing rape upon tens of millions of innocent American women would perhaps be amusing, were it not so sickening.

The calls for rape by Democrats and Clinton supporters in the wake of the electoral result were not even confined to cyberspace. During the demonstrations and riots which have been taking place over the past few days, one protestor found the time to stand outside the Trump Tower with a sign calling for people to “rape Melania”.
pic-4

While the election of Barack Obama in 2008 admittedly also saw some protests and distasteful racial rhetoric against the new president, demonstrations in which protestors called for the incoming First Lady to be raped are an entirely new addition to the political scene.

Many aspects of this election cycle have been deemed ‘unconventional’, and traditional dynamics of the left and the right seem to have been turned on their head. Not only has President Elect Trump been the first Republican ever his position to hoist the LGBT flag, but some radical leftists, many of them staunch feminists, have in fact actively called for mass rape against women on the other side of the political spectrum.

Whether advocating for mass rape is to become a new pillar of the American left, or is to be taken merely as a symptom of the mass mental breakdown of disaffected Hillary supporters, is something that will hopefully become clear in the near future.

“If I were president, you’d be in jail”

%e3%82%b9%e3%82%af%e3%83%aa%e3%83%bc%e3%83%b3%e3%82%b7%e3%83%a7%e3%83%83%e3%83%88-2016-10-11-13-39-10

Unfortunately, though perhaps unsurprisingly, many seem to be reacting with shock to Donald Trump’s declaration that Hillary would “be in jail” were he elected. Many of these reactions come from Buzzfeed, AJ+, or Vox readership – but there are some serious voices scattered amongst them. What they have in common is a genuine failure to understand why it is that many of us harbor serious concerns about a Clinton presidency.

The phrase ‘email scandal’ may sound relatively innocuous. Many of you are likely tired of hearing all the fuss about Hillary’s emails – “what’s the big deal about a private server?” you might ask. While it may sound uninteresting, the email scandal is actual incredibly important.

Federal employees are obligated to leave full records of all actions made in their official capacity. This is the law. To not do so is unambiguously a crime. Yet Hillary Clinton broke this law by sending back and forth emails as secretary of state to an unknown number of unknown recipients – remember, this is illegal – and then deleted them to hide evidence of her wrongdoing, erasing over 30,000 emails (that we know of). This is also illegal.

When she was questioned about this before congress, she lied under oath. This is perjury. This is also illegal. The explicit statues that she broke can be viewed here.

A ‘crime’ is defined as “an illegal act for which someone can be punished by the government”. In fact, many have been sent to jail in the past for the exact same illegal acts that Hillary Clinton committed.

These are only the crimes that we know of; those she wasn’t able to conceal. But significantly, she committed these crimes while holding federal office. If people in the federal government are breaking federal laws yet not being punished for them, this is strong evidence for corruption.

Corruption is another good one to talk about – because Hillary Clinton (and the foundation she runs) is also hopelessly corrupt. We could talk about the billions of dollars her foundation received WHILE she was secretary of state, from individuals and countries she was dealing with in a professional capacity – Saudi Arabia is one. Or perhaps we might discuss the recent transcripts released by WikiLeaks of her private speech to Goldman Sachs, where she stated she needed a private position as well as a public position on policy – just to reassure the banks that whatever happened, they still owned her.

Finally we could talk about her awful record as secretary of state, and there is no better example of this than Libya.Libya was a country doing relatively well until the Arab Spring with among the highest living standards and average incomes in the Arab world. Upon the outbreak of revolts, Hillary Clinton pushed for airstrikes in that country, the results of which are clear for all to see. There may now be over a million refugees from Libya, around a sixth of the total population, and the country itself is in ruins (it was important enough for HRC to bomb it, but not to rebuild it). Islamic State and Al-Qaeda cells rule Libya now.

tumblr_inline_obox7uztdo1tvnxwa_500

Yet Hillary Clinton still celebrated the death of Gaddafi even as Libya was burning with the now infamous statement “we came, we saw, he died!”. Another scandal in Libya was Benghazi, when our ambassador in the city made dozens of additional requests for security, all of which Hillary Clinton ignored. Chris Stevens was killed along with many other Americans when the terrorist attack he feared eventually took place.

In this presidential election we are left with two candidates. Both are utterly unsuitable for the office, albeit in very different ways. But the shills who cry “Hillary did nothing wrong!” should be argued down at every opportunity. Whether we support her or otherwise, we cannot afford to ignore the deeply troubling record of future president Hillary Clinton.

Why We Must Not Turn Away ​From The Kurds

The Kurds of Northern Syria have suffered immensely throughout history. Indigenous to the region, they have never been granted any significant level of autonomy or self-rule. During the entire existence of the Syrian Arab Republic, they held the uncoveted status of most marginalized group, according to Minority Rights International, and were also subject to appalling levels of arbitrary detention, state-sanctioned torture, and illegal appropriation of private assets.

kurds.jpg

This was worst under the height of pan-Arabism during the regime of Hafez al-Assad. A report by Chatham House details the severity of the situation; the Kurdish language was banned in public, and its use, as well as Kurdish music and publications, were all strictly illegal. However, little changed even after Assad inherited the throne in 2000, much to the detriment of the Kurdish minority.

This makes the recent resurgence of the Kurds within the context of the same Syria that clamped down on any expression of Kurdish identity so very incredible. The autonomous region of Rojava came into existence in 2013 as regional Kurdish militias formed after the Syrian Arab Army rapidly evacuated vast swathes of territory in the face of roving bands of Islamist terrorists as well as larger organisations like the FSA, JaN, and ISIS. The Kurdish militias coalesced into a single statelike structure around the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and took over governmental and military infrastructure left behind when the Assadists evacuated.

Rojava had little time to rejoice in its nominal independence from Syria, as it was immediately attacked from all directions. Attacks from terrorist groups within Syria continued, and the people of Rojava found their resolve tested at the long and bloody Battle for Kobanî. The unlikely victory gained by the military wing of the Rojavan government, the YPG, came at the cost of many civilian lives taken by indiscriminate car-bombs and shelling by ISIS forces. Despite the losses, the defeat of ISIS underscored the resolve of the Rojavan Kurds to the world and showed that they would not relinquish their long-desired independence so easily.

Since then, though, it seems as though the situation has gotten only worse. Despite the fact that Salih Muslim Muhammad, head of the PYD, has repeatedly declared that the Rojavan government will not seek independence from Syria, and will instead seek to maintain their status as an autonomous region similar to Iraqi Kurdistan, the Syrian government has effectively cut ties with the region and refuses to grant it military, economic, or any other substantive form of aid. This is despite Muslim’s repeated overtures to the Syrian government and declarations of support against the Islamist groups that wage terroristic war against both entities.

From its northern frontier with Turkey, Rojava is under constant attack. The Turkish government has stated its flat-out unwillingness to accept any sort of autonomous Kurdish state within Syria, independent or not, and have carried out regular bombing attacks against civilian targets in order to weaken the resolve of the Kurdish people. These attacks intensified early this year, ahead of the official invasion force, which entered Syrian Kurdistan in August.

Thus, the fledgling regional government in Rojava found itself fighting a war on three fronts; against ISIS, against Turkey, and at times even against the Syrian Government. Despite repeated attempts at a meaningful peace revolution, this state of outright hostilities has seen little change in recent years. While the US has engaged in sporadic airdrops to assist Rojava in the past two years, its assistance (and promises of assistance) has been noncommittal and indecisive. Russia, on the other hand, has proven a much more effective ally, allowing for the YPG to call airstrikes on locations it pinpoints, giving it some much needed air superiority in the fight against ISIS and other terrorist groups.

Yet, any support given by Russia – in other words, any substantial support at all – has been consistently undermined by the West at every turn. Former British foreign secretary Philip Hammond stated earlier this year that he was “disturbed” by reports of Russian assistance to Kurdish forces in northern Syria, shortly before the British joined the Americans in calling the Russians to ‘get out of’ Syria. Yet they provide no alternative, effectively condemning Rojava to extinction at the hands of Turkey and ISIS.

The performance of the United States has been particularly disturbing. Upon the attempted breakaway of Kosovo in the Balkans, the US sent in its air force to drop an astonishing amount of bombs on Serbia in order to guarantee the independence of the fledgling state. Ensuring the human rights of the Kosovar people and preventing genocide were among the reasons used to legitimise this campaign. Given this, American actions in Syria are difficult to rationalize. They are inconsistent not only with its previous decisions when facing similar circumstances, but also with the idea of America as a nation seeking to uphold international order, prevent genocide and crimes against humanity, and ensure peace in the world.

The United States and Britain have chosen to view Rojava and indeed the Kurdish people not as any other nation or folk deserving of basic freedoms, human rights, and entitled to a minimum standard of dignity, but instead as pawns in a twisted kind of Great Game still being played by Washington politicians against Putin’s Russia. As pawns, the Kurds are to be used when expedient and discarded when they become an inconvenience. And given the muted US response to the Turkish invasion of Rojava last month, it appears to be the case that the ‘inconvenience’ is mounting.

Increasingly, the voices from Western politicians, think tanks and so-called ‘policy analysts’ appear to be mounting. Condemnation of Rojavan institutions by Westerners who hold Rojava to an impossible standard is ever harsher. They critique the autonomous region for not being fully democratic, despite the fact that it is engaged in a war with genocidal opponents whose goal is not only the destruction of the state but also of the Kurdish people as a whole. They would demand that the government cease its conscription, ignoring the existentialist conflict the military wing of the PYD finds itself in, and all the while offering absolutely nothing in the way of an alternative.

Of course, some criticism of Rojava’s government and armed forces is legitimate. There is some evidence to suggest that conscription of those under 18 has happened on occasion, despite the practice being clearly illegal under Rojavan law. There are also grounds to criticise the state structure of the government and the total dominance of the PYD at the expense of other parties.

But these critics are overreaching in their conclusions. They suggest that since problems such as these exist, the West should abandon Syrian Kurds to the wolves.

To do so would be disastrous. Not only would it strengthen the Islamic State, the position of the totalitarian Assad government, but also an increasingly Islamist and autocratic Turkey. It would represent a grievous betrayal of previous promises of support made to the Kurds, and would thus cause the US to suffer a massive blow to its international prestige. But, more importantly, it would constitute a betrayal of the principles we hold so dear; those of universal human rights, international law, and the principle of self-determination as described in the UN charter.

Abandoning the Kurds will gain us nothing and strengthen our enemies. We must support them against our mutual foes as the only rock of stability in the otherwise turbulent Middle East.

-Will TG Miller

This article was initially published by Conatus News, and can be viewed at their website: http://www.conatusnews.com/why-we-must-not-turn-away-from-the-kurds.html