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The “Other Kurds” of Kurdistan

By KANI XULAM 25/8/2014

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!


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Anwar | 25/8/2014
Excellent Job Kani. We need people like you to show how things really are. We should use the recent events as turning point in our history.Fake people and fake institutions show their true face at the time of crisis. Kurdistan needs genuine people for genuine work of nation building. Kurdish leadership should use this opportunity to cleanse government machinery of corrupt, self-centered and Ba'thist-minded officials who have betrayed a nation and destroyed our image. Anwar
kurt bashar | 25/8/2014
The Kurd's with protecting the refuges of the Christians, Torkman's & the other minorities, they earned respect & admiration of the civilize world which is commendable. This is the Era of the Kurd's & we shouldn't have any doubt about that. The E-Zidies regardless of all the difficulties which giving to them by the occupiers as well as the Muslim Kurd's, They are the only Kurdish group who to this day preserved true ancient Culture, Traditions & religion of the Kurd's. We shouldn't believe the lies of our enemies because definitely they aren't the Devil worshipers, they are believers of the Truth same as us. The E-Zidies religion Cosmogony is the Sumerians origin where all the other religions copied their religion books from. I hope we will all become one for the LOVE of Our Kurdish nation & help the E-Zidies regardless of our differences, and with doing that for once we let LOVE to rule the Kurdistan not the STRIFE (hate). Please go & visit the Lalish valley & see the most beautiful ceremonies which teach you to live in TRUTH & be be with the TRUTH. HADE (Ha-Daea) to be with you
enana | 25/8/2014
So it is a Kurdish ISIS?
Hemin Qadir | 25/8/2014
There must be a reason for them to run away because No kurd. Is ever afraid of dying for kurdistan. What ever reason it's, they must get published for what they have done. Now we are all united in protecting our homeland Kurdistan there's few things will make us even more united. 1 everyone must respect the rule of law including all politicians no matter who they are or who they related to. 2 Peshmarga should be nations Peshmarga and should not be partys own force. 3 all Peshmarga, police and anti terrorist force should be well trained and equipped. 4 women must be treated equally to men in all public sectors. 5 any violence against women such as rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, coercive use of contraceptives; female infanticide; prenatal sex selection; obstetric violence and mob violence; as well as harmful customary or traditional practices such as honor killings, dowry violence, female genital mutilation, marriage by abduction and forced marriage. All perpetrators must be punished by the rule of law. 6 people who are unable to work should get help and support they need 7 child benefit upto the 16 year of age. 8 children labour must be stopped. 9 work on education system. 10 guns must be illegal for public to keep. We have come along way and one day we will see all of the above in use
Perry de Havilland
Perry de Havilland | 25/8/2014
The ability look at mistakes and learn from them is a powerful ability that many cultures simply do not have. Indeed I would say if you look at the contrasting military histories of Israel and its neighbours, one cannot escape the observation that there is only one party there who actually looks honestly at what went wrong and then does what is needed to fix it. If Kurdish culture is robust enough to examine reverses, defeats and mistakes and use them to become stronger, Kurdistan will inexorably emerge from its long and heartbreaking history to be one of the regions winners. And if not, well... things may turn out rather differently.
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