Eva Bartlett is a Canadian independent journalist and activist. She has spent years on the ground covering conflict zones in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Palestine (where she lived for nearly four years). Follow her on Twitter @EvaKBartlett
Follow RT onSyrians accuse the Western-backed Kurdish enclave in the country of using ethnic cleansing and child soldiers against them to form a new anti-Arab state. The parallels with Israel's creation in the 1940s are striking.
Kurdish forces in Syria have been lauded by many in the West as being fighters for freedom and an autonomous society. But, unless you've been following independent researchers and the Syrian media, you might be unaware of the crimes the US-backed group have been committing over a number of years.
On November 25, the Daily Sabah (a website not sympathetic to the Syrian government) reported on one of their most sickening practices. It revealed, "YPG/PKK terrorists detained three more 15-year-old girls - Hediyye Abdurrahim Anter, Evin Jalal Halil and Ayana Idris Ibrahim - in Amuda in Hassakeh province on Nov. 21 to forcibly recruit them as ‘child fighters.' The terror group detained two children, aged 13 and 16, in early August. And two children aged 16 and 13 were kidnapped Aug. 23."
The piece went on to note that this practice of abducting children and forcing them to fight has been documented by the United Nations, with one report stating that the YPG/PKK used more than 400 children between July 2018 and June 2020.
Yet, the world has been led to believe that the self-declared autonomous region - known as Rojava and comprising areas of Hassakeh, Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor and Aleppo governorates - is a haven for liberals and feminists, with freedom-loving Kurdish fighters based there fighting ISIS and liberating Syria.
Indeed, the YPG Rojava page claims: "The YPG was set up to protect the legacy and values of the people of Rojava and is founded on the principles of the paradigm of a democratic society, ecology and woman's liberation. Without preferring or discriminating any religion, language, nation, gender or political parties, the YPG is protecting the country against all attacks from outside. The YPG is the Democratic Nation's defense force and is not related to any political party."
It reads like a feelgood fairytale, but is not based in reality.
The utopian image of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which includes the YPG and PKK, is betrayed by the kidnappings, which sadly are not a new development. Search for QSD - their Arabic acronym - on Syrian media and you'll see regular updates on Kurdish forces kidnapping civilians and journalists.
This image is further betrayed by their ethnic cleansing of indigenous Syrians from the northeastern Syrian regions Kurdish forces occupy and collaboration with illegally occupying US forces.
But this won't be highlighted in corporate media. Instead, you will still find odes romanticizing Kurdish fighters, with one such recent story deceptively saying that the areas controlled by Kurdish forces have a "predominantly Kurdish population" - a claim not backed up by the truth.
As author Stephen Gowans detailed in a 2017 article, Kurds in Syria comprise, "only a small percentage of the Syrian population... Estimates of the proportion of the total Kurd population living in Syria vary from two to seven percent based on population figures presented in the CIA World Factbook."
And yet, Assyrians, Arameans, and other Syrians who have lived there for generations should accept being ruled, or expelled, by Kurds?
Gowans went on to note, "Kurdish fighters have used the campaign against ISIS as an opportunity to extend Kurdistan into traditionally Arab territories in which Kurds have never been in the majority."
In 2018, Syrian journalist Sarah Abed wrote of the SDF's kidnapping and ethnic cleansing, noting not only the abductions of men, but, again, children. She recorded how Eddie Gaboro Hanna, the founder of Patriarchal Relief Care Australia, a group providing assistance to Christian families impacted by wars in Syria and Iraq, had explained, "They are taking young Christian boys by force to sign them up for the Kurdish military and send them to the front line."
And he added, "Christians are treated as second-class citizens [here] in their own land. Just like how ISIS has the Islamic tax they have their own Kurdish one. They've replaced ISIS."
Although the BBC's coverage of the Kurds' activities in Syria is predictably pro-SDF, in 2015, even it reported on their ethnic cleansing and displacing of indigenous Syrians. Citing an Amnesty International report, it noted the YPG were accused of "razing entire villages after capturing them from Islamic State (IS)," in Hassakeh and Raqqa provinces.
The Kurds' history in Syria
In January 2019, I spoke with geopolitical analyst and Sputnik contributor Laith Marouf about the Kurds in Syria. A descendant of eastern Syria's Deir ez-Zor governorate, part of which is now occupied by Kurds, Marouf had a lot to say about the history of the Kurds in Syria and this 21st century land-usurpation project.
He told me, "There was a wave of Kurdish refugees coming down to Syria (from Turkey) in the 1940s, and the second wave of them in the 1960s when the PKK started the armed rebellion against the Turkish government in what was Arab lands."
"They were given citizenship by the Syrian government. They were armed and given protection by the Syrian state to fight for their liberation in the Kurdistan mountains in Turkey, and the Syrian government housed the leadership of all the Kurdish resistance up until the early 90s."
Marouf noted that Syria's support for the Kurds saw Turkey threatening to invade in the 1990s and building numerous dams on the Euphrates, cutting the water flow. Yet, Syria refused to hand over PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. Marouf emphasized: "Syria almost went to war with Turkey, and the Syrian people (in the northeast) went thirsty and the agricultural fields-the breadbasket of Syria-almost collapsed those couple of years, to protect Kurdish rights."
"And then what happens now is some crazies are saying there's something called Rojava and that they can secede and colonize and settle and steal parts of Syrian lands."
He, too, spoke of the years of kidnappings and disappearances of those critical of Kurdish rule. "Even Kurdish Syrians that are critical of what the YPG is doing, even remotely critical professors in the universities in Hassakeh and Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor, were disappeared. And these were just critical Kurds.
"So you could imagine what happened to the Assyrian and the Arab leaders in the area, thinkers, tribal leaders, ex-military - huge amounts of disappearances and forced displacements."
And as Abed's article highlighted, formerly Assyrian villages in Hassakeh and Raqqa have been fully taken over by Kurdish forces. "They're moving in the Kurdish militias and their family members into those villages and creating new ethnically pure towns and villages that are Kurdish. And this is expanding to the holdings of the Syrian churches and their Armenian churches, they confiscated all their land."
So much, then, for the Rojava "legacy and values" that included "without preferring or discriminating any religion, language, nation, gender or political parties."
Marouf also said, "They have enforced an educational curriculum on all the schools-including schools that are run by ethnic and/or religious groups - so all those that are run by the churches are being told that they have to teach a certain curriculum that specifically promotes and propagates falsehoods about the Kurdish control of the area."
"When the Assyrians refused, because these are their own private schools that are controlled by the church, the YPG went ahead and shut down all the schools, with armed men making sure the kids cannot go to school."
The ethnic cleansing and forced expulsion of indigenous people sounds horribly familiar, as Marouf pointed out. "So, the reality is that we have an ethno-nationalist settler colonial state being enforced by the empire, called Rojava - and it's being sold the exact way that Israel was being sold in the 1940s. It's like cut and paste propaganda saying that we're creating a utopia of secular and socialist government in the ‘sea of barbaric Arabs.'"
Over the years, I've had Rojava supporters criticize me for respecting Syria's sovereignty and speaking critically about the West's attempt to overthrow the Syrian government. Instead, according to them, I should have been supporting this false utopia which has killed and displaced many. To them, I say you have been deluded, as much of the Western left has on Syria.
And you can rest assured that had it been Syria committing these crimes, the media would be reporting loudly and regularly. But because they are being carried out by puppets of the West, all is quiet on that front.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.