Kurdish Diaspora Solidarity with Jewish Community

A Kurdish activist in London took the picture and granted the author consent to use the image!

On October 7, 2023, the radical jihadist organisation Hamas committed barbarous massacres against young Israelis who were celebrating, tourists from 43 other nations, migrant agricultural workers, caretakers, and home nurses from Thailand, Nepal, India, and Sri Lanka. The Hamas perpetrators disregarded the victims’ gender, age, political views, and ethnicity. The authorities discovered over one hundred civilian bodies in Kibbutz Beeri. Hamas terrorists brutally murdered over 1,300 innocent civilians by beheading and burning alive a large number of victims, inflicting over 2,000 injuries, and kidnapping more than 200 hostages, including infants and children. Several women were first raped and brutally murdered, with their corpses dragged through the streets of Gaza. Israeli officials, the media, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu associated the atrocities committed by Hamas with those of the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), or DAESH (its Arabic acronym), which fetishized murdering defenceless civilians and molesting women. Although Hamas’ reprehensible methods of erredicating certain human beings have been explicitly juxtaposed with those of ISIS, the identities of their victims as a collective group have not been addressed. Who exactly were the slaughtered victims at the hands of ISIS? How did ISIS victims and their kin react to the atrocities committed by Hamas against Israelis? How do state actors in the region perceive the atrocities committed in 2014 by ISIS and in 2023 by Hamas?

A Kurdish activist in London took the picture and granted the author consent to use the image!

In the middle of 2014, after ISIS had invaded and seized control of the Iraqi city of Mosul, they proceeded to move towards the Kurdish region of Iraq and then expanded their attacks into the northern Kurdish region of Syria. The defenceless and unarmed Kurdish-Yezidi individuals were a target for the DAESH extremists, who separated the thousands of Kurdish-Yezidi hostages into male and female categories. The DAES terrorists slaughtered the men and fetishized their murders, which they then disseminated across the globe via social media platforms. They then raped women, abducted them, transported them to Mosul, Raqqa, and other Arabic cities, and held Kurdish-Yezidi women auctions in the central squares of these cities. In these marketplaces, Kurdish-Yezidi women were sold to multiple jihadists as sex slaves. As a result, tens of thousands  of Kurdish-Yezidis have been slain, either as a result of ISIS’s atrocities or in their battle against this terrorist organisation. In addition, tens of thousands of civilians were injured physically, mentally, and emotionally, traumatised, displaced from their homes, and became refugees in neighbouring and distant countries. These DAESH atrocities have already been recognised by the parliaments of the overwhelming majority of European nations, the United States, and the United Kingdom as acts of genocide. While the western states condemned the DAESH atrocities, supported the local armed Kurdish forces of Peshmergas and other Kurdish fighters in Iraq and the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) in Northern Syria, and acknowledged the DAESH atrocities as genocide, the neighbouring states, including the Turkish and Qatari governments, not only failed to acknowledge the ISIS atrocities, but Turkey in particular allowed these radical jihadists to travel via its territory from all over the world to Syria. The Turkish government was also accused of letting DAESH sell oil from Iraq and Syria in the “Turkish black markets”. In other words, the Turkish government in particular has hindered the defeat of ISIS in Syria by repeatedly striking civilians and anti-ISIS Kurdish troops, diverting the attention of the international coalition away from its focus on its fight against ISIS.

In response to the horrific massacres committed by ISIS in 2014, Kurdish diaspora networks and activists have taken over streets and public spaces in Western countries to denounce the ISIS attacks, raise awareness, and encourage citizens of receiving nations in Europe, North America, and Australia to express their solidarity with the Kurdish people against the ISIS massacre. The horrendous atrocities committed by ISIS have become poignant in the memories of the Kurdish victims in Kurdistan and their dispersed diaspora kin around the globe. These memories also serve as the painful components of the collective Kurdish identities that motivate them to mobilise in solidarity with other communities facing similar crimes, particularly the Jewish people suffering under Hamas. Yet, the vast majority of the Kurdish population in the Middle East, which lives in the shadow of Iranian, Turkish, and Arab threats, remains muted. To counter Hamas attacks, however, Kurdish diasporic movements have participated in pro-Israel protests and rallies in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, the United States, and Canada while waving national flags and carrying national Kurdish emblems to ensure that they, as victims of ISIS genocide, are with the Jewish people. Kurdish diaspora members in Germany and the United Kingdom told me that the Kurdish people are the first to comprehend and identify with the traumatic experiences endured by Jews as a result of last week’s Hamas massacre. According to members and activists of the Kurdish diaspora, the Kurdish and Jewish communities share a similar experience of persecution as well as a desire and interest to survive in their traditional and ancient Middle Eastern homeland. First, they have been stateless for millennia and have endured pogroms, ethnic cleansing, and genocide at the hands of Islamist and nationalist rulers in neighbouring Middle Eastern countries. Second, what the Kurdish people have evidently endured in terms of murders, body mutilations of Kurdish female members, including those of Hevrin Khalaf, displacement, and constant assaults at the hands of ISIS, its jihadist peers, and states sponsoring these radical groups such as Turkey, Iran, and the Syrian regime, Jewish civilians have recently experienced similar atrocities in the wake of Hamas terrorist attacks. They committed a war crime by beheading Jewish children, elders, and women, as well as mutilating their corpses and displaying them in public parades.

To underscore the similar experiences that underpin Kurdish sympathy for the Jewish people, members of the Kurdish diaspora have taken part in a number of pro-Israeli rallies and have become active in the digital space. I spoke with a variety of Kurdish individuals, and many of them claimed that they could relate to Jews due to the traumatic experiences they endured at the hands of radical jihadist groups like ISIS and the state sponsors of these groups. In addition, they pointed out that the Kurdish wounds caused by ISIS are still very fresh, citing recent Turkish assaults and bombing campaigns against Kurdish civilians and infrastructure in northern and eastern Syria (Rojava) on October 5, just two days prior to the Hamas terrorist massacre in southern Israel. Kurdish diaspora leaders and activists also emphasised that they share many common objectives with the Jewish community in the Middle East, including the establishment of a secular and peaceful environment in which every ethnically, religiously, and culturally diverse community is able to coexist peacefully with its cultural, traditional norms, values, and faith. Kurdish diaspora groups, inspired by these objectives, reiterated that their confessional affiliations with Sunni Turks and Arabs or Shia Persians did not encourage these rulers to respect the diverse cultural Kurdish rights or to assist the Kurdish population in maintaining the recognition of their cultural identities, ways of life, and freedom of expression in their own native language. However, the secular way of life and cultural Kurdish identities inspire the Kurdish diaspora to side with Israel and its people against the extremist Islamist groups that have just murdered innocent civilians and caused a tragedy. In this context, the Kurdish diasporas have voiced their support for the Jewish people on social media platforms in opposition to the atrocities committed by Hamas terrorists, whose leadership is sponsored by and based in Ankara, Doha, and Tehran. Last but not least, they highlighted that the Kudish diasporas represent their homeland kin, whose positions and sentiments are against Hamas but are manipulated by the regimes ruling, assimilating, and oppressing their fellow Kurdish compatriots, thereby fostering antagonistic relationships between the ancient Kurdish and Jewish communities in the Middle East.

About the Author
The author is a research fellow at the Political Science Department of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, working on the governance structures of the Kurdish diaspora community in Berlin and the structures of the Kurdistani Jews in Jerusalem.