Plight of Syria’s Kurds Breaks into the News
In the Western press, the story of Syria’s beleaguered Kurdish population has been overshadowed by coverage of their immediate cousins, the U.S.-friendly Kurds of northern Iraq and those of Turkey. Michael Kennedy’s story on page A6 in the New York Times of April 18 changes that. In a deeply sourced and widely researched report, Kennedy quotes longtime Washington Post correspondent and author Jonathan C. Randal and other experts on the Syrian Kurds’ long and heartrending struggle for independence against the long-running hereditary regimes of strongman Syrian Presidents Bashar al-Assad and his father, Hafez al-Assad.
An old personal friend of my wife and myself, Randal always had a reputation among his colleagues of daring to go where no one else would asking the provocative questions no one else dared ask. Following on the pioneering 1960s book on the Kurds by another friend, New York Times’ Dana Adams Schmidt, Randal’s updated and highly detailed book on the Kurds’ struggle landed him with a subpoena from a Turkish court which he, characteristically, flew from France to Istanbul to answer in order to assert freedom of the press in some of the more dangerous corridors within a strife-torn nation wishing to qualify for membership in the European Union.
Kennedy’s fine piece in this week’s New York Times alerts modern readers to the seemingly eternal reality of tribalism as a stumbling block to national identity everywhere in the Middle East and south Asia — the fundamental resistance to political “modernization” as earnestly attempted under the evolving value systems and political motivations, in the course of their histories, by Britain, Russia, and now the U.S. Good luck. Or maybe Godspeed would be the more appropriate term, given the religious undercurrents always involved.
Another fine photographer who covered the Kurds extensively is Susan Meiselas. Visit her website www.akakurdistan.com, “a safe and anonymous space on the web to share some of the complexities of Kurdish history.”