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Kurdish tolerance thrives as sectarianism plagues the region

By Paul Iddon 7/12/2015
Assyrian Patriarch Mar Ada inaugurates St. Peter and St. Paul's Church in Duhok, May 2012. Photo:
Assyrian Patriarch Mar Ada inaugurates St. Peter and St. Paul's Church in Duhok, May 2012. Photo:

Despite the best efforts of the barbaric reactionary forces of Islamic State (ISIS) the Kurds of Iraq and Syria have not only stood firm in defense of their homeland, but they haven't compromised on any of the very foundational principles of progressive civilization which ISIS abhors. In fact they have, in the process of combating this ruthless terrorist gang, enhanced and improved those very things which make their societies worth fighting in defense of.

When ISIS showcased just how barbaric and savage they are through their vile rape and enslavement of innocent Yezidi women in Sinjar the Kurds of Syria demonstrated how their nascent quasi-autonomous entity is the absolute antithesis to the so-called Islamic State by granting their women complete emancipation: Everything from equal labour and wage rights to that of their male counterparts to having an equal say in a court of law (unlike in some Islamic countries where under the law a man's word is worth that of two women) along with equal inheritance rights.

Also in stark contrast to the nearby territory upon which ISIS declared their so-called Islamic State wherein, according to Amnesty International, female Yezidi and Christian girls as young as 12 were forced into marriages as sex-slaves the minimum age for marriage of Syrian Kurdish females is 18 – and even then it is only acceptable provided they give their full consent.

All attempts by ISIS to subdue the Kurds of Iraq and Syria have failed. And while the fight is far from over the Kurds continued resoluteness to fight on for their cause and homeland is highly admirable and commendable.

While ISIS deems minorities to be heretical and calls for them to be enslaved or murdered in obscene ways the Kurds both respect and appreciate their minorities as an important part of society. Iraq's Kurdish region recently welcomed the ancestors of Kurdish Jews who had been deported, following the foundation of the State of Israel, by the central government in Baghdad about 70 years ago and has made a point of recognizing and valuing their contributions to that region.

Similarly Shia Muslims in Kurdistan, while a minority there as opposed to the rest of Iraq, can freely mark the Day of Ashura in accordance with their sects beliefs (one of the differences between the Sunni and Shia beliefs about the early history of Islam stems from conflicting beliefs over what that date represents and how it should be remembered which has led to many disagreements and violent sectarian clashes in places) without fear that the government or the wider society will attempt to suppress them.

ISIS on the other hand deems Shiites as unforgivably heretical and has murdered many of them. In the infamous case of Camp Speicher in Tikrit back in July 2014 over 1,700 unarmed and captured Shia Iraqi cadets were sadistically massacred by ISIS.

It's quite something that in both Kurdish regions, whose frontiers are de-facto frontlines against ISIS, such liberal and open societies have endured the great risk and sacrifice required to both defend and uphold such fragile orders. A true testament to the Kurdish peoples courage and determination.

Civilization and freedom do not always triumph over savagery and tyranny by their superior merit alone. That's an overly simplistic and romanticized, as well as often ahistorical, fallacy. However in the case of the Kurds against ISIS civilization and freedom are winning the day. Which is the fundamental reason the Kurds should be supported unwaveringly until the very end.

Paul Iddon is a freelance journalist and political writer who writes on Middle East affairs, politics, developments and history. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.


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Brzoo Kurdi
Brzoo Kurdi | 7/12/2015
We have suffered too much,and it is indisputable,that if you suffer too much, you become either very human like the Kurds,or very inhuman like the leaders of Isis.
bebegun | 8/12/2015
It's not just ISIS, the Iraqi government recently passed some very controversial laws that target none muslim minorities. As usual Kurds stood alone against the passing of these laws in the Iraqi parliament while Arabs and Turkmen MP pushed it through by majority votes. Kurds also stood alone in 2003 when the "new" constitution was passed, we wanted a secular constitution but the Arabs wanted a sharia based one. On every issue we are going in the opposite direction of the rest of Iraq.
Hersh | 8/12/2015
I think we view minorities differently from the counties around us (who see minorities as a threat) for two reasons. 1. Our own history, we've always been marginalized and oppressed as minorities ourselves 2. We see minorities as something positive, as assets. A multi ethnic multi religious society is a rich society, every group contributes something and the society becomes creative and vibrant. This is also part of Western values, a set of values some in the West seem to have forgotten unfortunately because of criminal extremists.
smarin | 8/12/2015
Excellent piece. I enjoyed seeing someone so elegantly and clearly lay out who the kurds are and what they stand for compared to the child raping head cutters and sick shia death squads surrounding them. A hopeful vet
gg | 8/12/2015
If anyone read some of the comments here on Rudaw you'd see a completely different side to "Kurdish Tolerance".
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