The term “Kurdish” refers to the Turkoman region of Central Asia. It consists of twenty-two autonomous provinces that form a vast area in the foothills of the Caspian Sea. A large proportion of the population lives in the areas of Sinjar and Shengal in northern Syria, in close proximity to Mount Kerman and Ermenegol. The remaining population lives in the diverse areas of the four provinces of autonomous regions in northern Iraq. Although there is little political unity among the various groups in the region, there are many areas where there is widespread ethnic Arab feeling and a strong sense of belonging to an all-together and tolerant nation.
There is no precise demographic or political definition for the term “Kurd”, but the main areas where its members live include Syria, Iraq, Iran, and the areas of northern Iraq and the Middle East to a far. Kurds are an ethnic group indigenous to the rugged mountainous region of northern Syria, which once formed an autonomous area in the face of the Turkish Empire. Under the Ottoman Empire, the region was known as Roza (meaning “the red”). During the first World War, the Turkish military took control of Roza and the rest of the region, including parts of modern day Syria, and the Hashemite Gulf coast region.
Syria and Iraq were always ruled by two different governments, so the population had to adapt to a variety of political systems. During the periods of Syria’s history that were recognized as modernity, such as the 20th century, the regime was divided into areas ruled by the Rashid dynasty, the Alawites, and the Baath Party. In addition, there were periods of Baathist rule, such as during the years of the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. When the Americans went to fight the Saddam war, they found an unexpected lack of support from the locals who felt they had lost everything while the US soldiers did just fine. The US soldiers left a lasting impression on the locals, and their victory boosted their morale, giving them the strength and confidence to fight against their former enemies, and launch a revolution against the Baathist government, toppling it and instituting a democratic system of government. After the fall of Saddam, the new regime included various minorities in its ranks, such as the Arabs of Basra, the Christians of Samarra, and the Turkmen, who comprise a large percentage of the population.
Today, there are three largest ethnic groups in the country: Arabs, the Sorbs, and the Assyrians. Most of the Arabs live in and around the oil rich Deir Ezzor and Tartous regions while the Sorbs live in the northern part of the country near the Syrian border. The Assyrians, also known as Hillays, are located in the regions of Qalat and Hassakeh. These three groups are different from each other in culture, language, beliefs, and traditions, but they are all bound together by their desire to be recognized as a nation.
The resistance of the kurds in Syria against the brutal attacks of the Baathist regime forced the United States and other international powers to assist the rebels on many occasions. In fact, the United States and the United Kingdom (along with France and Russia) were actively supporting the so-called “rebels” in Syria in 2021 when it became clear that the Assad Regime was losing control of the areas of northern Syria controlled by the opposition. When Russia began its air campaign in support of the Assad Regime in Syria, the United States and its allies immediately began supplying non-lethal weapons to the rebels, including how to use light weapons. This included both small arms and more powerful surface-to-air missiles. The resistance succeeded in defeating the regime completely at the start of the 4th of July celebrations.
The rise of the Islamic State (IS) and its takeover of large portions of northern Iraq and neighboring Syria has changed the dynamics of the Middle East and polarized the region. Iran and its close allies are supporting the Assad Regime, while the United States and its regional partners, led by Saudi Arabia, are providing military and financial aid to the rebels fighting the IS. The Russians have recently provided the rebels with advanced weapons systems and intelligence. As the struggle continues, the parties to this conflict will pursue their own agendas, increasing regional tension and inevitably resulting in greater conflicts within the Middle East. The parties to this fight are also looking for new friends to help defeat the IS, but how will the parties in the future interpret the emerging international consensus on how to defeat the IS?