Gregory Stanton, the chairman of Genocide Watch, sits down with Rudaw in April 2018 to discuss a warning issued by the Washington, D.C.-based organization regarding Kurds in all four parts.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Kurds in the Middle East are in "grave danger" and in the midst of genocide like the Anfal that culminated 30 years ago, according to an international watchdog.
"Remembering and commemorating these past genocides is very important to understand the warning signs and to look out for the genocides that are coming. And that is exactly what is coming right now," Gregory Stanton, the founding chairman of the US-based Genocide Watch, said in an interview.
April 14 marks the Anfal memorial day in the Kurdistan Region, when people remember 182,000 Kurds who were systematically rounded up and driven to southern Iraq and executed by Saddam Hussein's Baath regime.
"In the Anfal, there was the chemical attack on Halabja. Well guess what happened just last week? A huge chemical attack in Syria. As they say in French, 'The more things change, the more things stay the same.' It looks like nobody has learned," said Stanton.
The Research Professor in Genocide Studies and Prevention sees Kurds on the brink of "extermination" in the Middle East.
"We believe that is the next stage about to happen... It's already happened in small massacres — not small of course by the people who are affected — but massacres of several thousands of people" he said.
Split between Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran, Stanton sees "very, very strong signs of the genocide beginning," pointing to Afrin and Cizre. "It wasn't just forced displacement because it included mass killing.”
“Genocide is about power” Stanton says, “what you have are three ancient empires that are continuing to exist and try to re-assert their control ... the Ottoman Empire ... the Persian Empire ... and the Arab Empire. All of them consider the Kurds a dangerous threat to their full control. Imperialism always causes genocide"
He expresses particular concern with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's emboldened rhetoric and forecasting of where he will go next, stating “We think the biggest dangers are coming from Turkey… we believe that the aim of the Turkish regime is to push all the way across into northern Iraq and to basically takeover all of those areas where Kurds control the territory," he said.
The genocide expert began working on the Cambodian Genocide Project at Yale in 1981.
"The Turks are very much afraid of these people," he said, referring to Kurdish forces in control of Syria’s northern enclave and Peshmerga in the Kurdistan Region "Because they realize they are such good fighters and they will defend their territory..." he added.
However, Stanton considers confederalism, as a better alternative to independence because it is less likely to be viewed as an existential threat.
"The best thing right now for people in [Iraqi] Kurdistan and Rojava and other areas is not to declare independence. Instead say, 'We just want to control our own government, we want to control our own affairs.' In other words, autonomy should be the proper objective so you don't directly threaten these empires," he said.
Still Western powers can play a role in assisting Kurdish bids for greater autonomy, according to Stanton.
"A good example what happens if you do have a power like the United States willing to defend the autonomy of Kurdish people, Kurdistan, I believe, became one of the model areas of the whole Middle East with American protection. I believe we need to do the same thing right now with Rojava, with northern Iraq, in order to tell the Turks we aren't going to put up with this anymore. And we basically have to tell the Russians the same thing," argued Stanton.
Genocide Watch issued a warning for Kurds being "at risk for a large-scale genocide" at the hands of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria earlier this month.
"Currently the largest threat comes from Turkey," the reported summarized.
Directors and advisors of the Washington-based organization include Elisa von Joeden-Forgey, a Holocaust and Genocide Studies Program director at Stockton University; Adama Dieng, a special advisor to the UN Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide; and Samantha Power, a former US Ambassador to the United Nations.