These have been extremely sad days for me.
When the fanatics of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) made a dash for Mosul in June, the Kurdish forces of the KRG did the same for Kirkuk and other Kurdish populated regions inside Iraq, which included a highland range known as Mount Shingal.
For about two months a cold war of sorts, punctuated with occasional skirmishes, prevailed between the two sides.
On the night of August 2, the ISIS attacked Shingal and took it without a real fight.
The next day, pictures of Islamic fanatics posing in abandoned KRG offices, one with a picture of Mullah Mustafa Barzani hanging on the wall for good effect, circulated on the Internet.
I happened to be talking to a KRG functionary on that day and asked him if the circulating pictures were real. He admitted they were.
It was a stunning retreat for the legendary Kurdish forces, known as Peshmerga, meaning those who face death. But in Shingal, they had run away from it.
They had left behind thousands of hapless Yezidis, also known as the “Other Kurds,” for the carnal desires of fanatics who are brainwashed to die as soon as possible so that scores of Houris would welcome them in paradise.
I am extremely sorry to note that our Peshmerga forces did not do their duty to unite as many of these fanatics with as many of their imaginary Houris on that black Saturday.
They let our Yezidi women to be their “Houris” to our eternal shame.
Regrettably, there hasn’t been much discussion of the Mount Shingal mortification in the impartial Kurdish media.
But this disaster needs to be overturned. This betrayal of our kith and kin needs to be remedied. Our stained honor needs to be purified.
True, the commander of the force responsible for the retreat has been sacked. But is this enough?
One Kurdish commentator of these pages compared the tragedy of Mount Shingal to the siege of Leningrad and another, forcing the boundaries of credulity, said: it is our “Stalingrad!”
Do Kurds know how Stalin rewarded dereliction of duty? By execution!
Kurds naturally want to stand tall, speak tough, show our teeth to our foes, and our smiles to our friends.
But in Shingal, we learned that we are also capable of embarrassing our friends and delighting our foes.
For years, we had been telling the world that Kurds are brave fighters, and if you take away the air force of our foes, we are ready to challenge anyone for second-to-none place in any field of valor.
Well, the ISIS, doesn’t have an air force—and Kurds still ran.
In Shingal, our foes approached us from the plains. Our back was covered with our proverbial mountains. With a bit of resistance, we could have saved many lives.
If we Kurds are serious about our freedom, we need to get to the bottom of the Mount Shingal fiasco.
And we need to openly publish the results.
We must not lose close to one million Yezidi Kurds in vain.
Of course, with the right leadership something entirely different could have happened on Mount Shingal.
Imagine if our Peshmerga—the real ones at least—had turned Mount Shingal into a sacred Masada, a fearless memorial to freedom.
It would have been our eternal badge of honor.
At Masada, Jews, famously, told the Romans they only bowed to God.
Close to a thousand of them chose suicide rather than kneel before the children of men.
That consecrated altar of resistance to tyranny has been a source of inspiration for poets, painters, historians and soldiers ever since.
Today, new Israeli conscripts solemnly take their sacred oath of allegiance on that illustrious outcrop.
At Shingal, we could have credibly demonstrated, as the old saying goes, that it is not the dog in the fight—but the fight in the dog—that determines the outcome of a battle.
We could have. But we didn’t.
Even so, as some other commentators of these pages have noted, there were also some possible silver linings in the occupation of Shingal.
Kurds who used to delight in wasting their energies in factional politics have now come together against the ISIS fanatics.
The knife that beheaded James Foley has been used to decapitate Kurds as well, forcing us to look beyond our petty squabbles or as Samuel Johnson might have put it these days, “Nothing focuses the mind like the prospect of beheading!”
Who knows? Perhaps the ISIS will turn out to be a Godsend for the Kurds, uniting us as we have been unable to do on our own for centuries.
A few days ago, President Obama—who finally recognized the ISIS threat, after dismissing them as mere “junior varsity” earlier this year—mustered enough courage and clarity to call them “cancerous.”
With tongue-in-cheek, I am tempted to write Mr. Obama—since the ISIS is finally uniting the Kurds—to let that despicable pestilence live a bit longer.
But seriously, Kurds should clutch to their heart what noted historian Edward Gibbon observed: “The momentary junction of several tribes [today, he would have said factions] produces an army: their more lasting union constitutes a nation.”
Many of those who have always disdained to speak of us as a nation are now—thanks to the ISIS atrocities—beginning to recognize this emerging new reality.
They at least sense the possibility, if not actuality, of the new nation of Kurdistan.
We need that new nation—one united, free among nations, equal to all others—affording safety and security to all its children, including Yezidis.
May that day come soon!