Why I Protested for Rojava

It’s already been over a month, and I am happy to say there have been other protests in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and elsewhere in Israel. Nevertheless, as the tragedy in Rojava persists, it remains important for me–as an American, as an Israeli, and yes, “as a Jew”–to speak out for Kurdistan and explain why I protested.

I didn’t go to the Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv for a travel visa to Antalya, Ankara, or Istanbul. I went to demonstrate against the Turkish military’s illegal invasion of Rojava–Kurdish-dominated northern Syria. Horror stories of families uprooted from their land, feminist politicians being gang-raped and murdered, and photos of children suffering from chemical weapon attacks are apparently not enough to move the international community into action. It is up to “we the people” to demonstrate, raise awareness, and force the powers that be to do something about this grave injustice.

Turkey’s fanatical president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is pursuing a radical, fascist, imperialist, and short-sighted agenda that imperils the entire Middle East. It is already widely known that he denies the Armenian Genocide, slanders Israel, supports Hamas, and has supported anti-Semitic sentiment that is leading Turkey’s Jews to flee to Israel. His invasion of Rojava is an attempt to draw national attention away from his economic failures by whipping up ultra-nationalist sentiment against one of Turkey’s many historic ethnic rivals. By conquering swathes of northern Syria and displacing or murdering thousands of Kurds, Turkey has empowered the forces of ISIS and al-Qaeda, which were just beginning to be marginalized and uprooted. This comes amidst a domestic campaign to remove Kurdish mayors from office, quash pro-peace/pro-Kurdish demonstrations in Turkey, and Erdoğan’s calls to create a Hitler-esque government that gives him supreme power. Erdoğan is currently changing the Kemalist nature of Turkey into one that more closely resembles a radical terror regime. His actions in Syria will serve to empower Sunni jihadism that poses a great threat not just to those living in the Middle East, but to Russians and Westerners as well.

Beyond these solid political considerations, I had to speak out against Turkey’s actions particularly against the Kurdish people. I protested because without the Kurds, ISIS, al-Qaeda, and numerous other radical Sunni groups would have been considerably more powerful today than they currently are. I protested because without the Kurds, the US and its allies would have suffered more terror attacks and casualties in the 2003 Iraq War. I protested because without the Kurds, additional thousands of Yezidis, Armenians, and other Christian and ethnic minority groups would have been displaced and butchered by the terrorist onslaught that was ISIS. Without the Kurds, more women would’ve been gang-raped and sold into sexual slavery. Without the Kurds, hundreds of thousands of Jews in Iraq would have been mutilated, raped, and murdered in the mid-20th Century. Indeed, if the Kurds hadn’t helped smuggle so many Iraqi Jews to safety, Israel would look very different today.

I believe that there is a special, symbiotic relationship between two nations in the Middle East: the Jewish nation and the Kurdish nation. Both of us have suffered very similar, unspeakable horrors at the hands of Western powers and the ethnic majorities (Arabs, Persians and Turks) in the Middle East. Both of us have come to the other’s aid at different points in history. Both of us hold the most pro-Western and democratic political systems in the region, and are the best at fighting terrorism. As a Jew, I had to “be my brother’s keeper” and protest. But that’s not enough. More of us must keep speaking out against the injustice directed at Kurdistan and lobby our governments to do more to support their cause.

About the Author
Dmitri Shufutinsky is a graduate of Arcadia University's Masters program in International Peace & Conflict Resolution. He is an ardent Zionist and a supporter of indigenous rights, autonomy, solidarity, and sovereignty. Dmitri currently lives in Kibbutz Erez, Israel as a Lone Soldier in the Garin Tzabar program, and is drafting to Michve Alon on 15 December.
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