On Sunday evening October 27th, 2019, in the basement of a D.C hotel, over 600 Christians, Muslims, Jews, and various other faith traditions united in prayer for the Kurdish people. It was a historic gathering on International Religious Liberty Day for the world’s largest population of dispossessed people: the Kurds. According to Secretary of State Pomeo “A government can never reach its full potential if individuals within its borders are marginalized or oppressed. Only by fully embracing and protecting religious freedom can countries achieve their economic aspirations, ensure security, and eradicate terrorism.”
The event was organized by Frontier Alliance International (FAI), in response to the recent withdrawal of US Forces by the Trump administration. The US withdrawal triggered the long-promised invasion of Turkish forces into the Kurdish areas and has initiated an ethnic cleansing many feared was coming. The FAI estimates over 400,000 people are now running for their lives. And we can not leave them alone to die.
Free Burma Rangers is a humanitarian aid organization embedded with the Kurdish forces. They say the recently agreed-upon cease-fire has done little to quell the violence, as Turkish drone attacks and armored vehicles have engaged Kurdish positions as early as the morning of Oct. 27th, 2019.
Insight on the Ground
FAI brought together an array of speakers and Kurdish dignitaries for the evening. From best selling authors Joel Richardson and Stephen Mansfield to Kurdish born Diliman Abdulkader and the President of the Syrian Democratic Council Ilham Ahmed.
“A historic massacre is in front of us. Everyone knows it. But for some reason, all hands are tied. The people in the US must pressure their government to take action.” said Ilham. She claims Turkey has recently used chemical phosphorus bombs against her people, killing 250 in 10 days, 22 of whom were children. Injuries have climbed to 677 people since fighting began.
FAI Founder Dalton Thomas invited the Kurdish leader to join the event while in Washington on a diplomatic mission.
Had the honor of meeting Ilham Ahmed, President of the Syrian Democratic Council in DC. She will be speaking at our “Night of Prayer for the Kurds” tonight. Join us: https://t.co/RmIZ3MOSOP @cmoc_sdf @mustefabali @MazloumAbdi @ilham_ehmed #PrayForTheKurds pic.twitter.com/nVwnEaG1Zt
— Dalton Thomas (@DaltonLThomas) October 27, 2019
Trump’s decision to withdrawal has unleashed a political firestorm in the US and abroad; uniting Republicans and Democrats alike in calls for a change of policy. Even so, the evening was not a political protest but a call to prayer. The FAI leadership made it clear that the Kurdish issue is not political but moral. They issued a call to stand in prayer with the Kurds and the religious tolerance they have established in the region. They appealed to heaven for justice and respectfully presented their case to President Trump, requesting he amend his policy and do the right thing.
Who are the Kurds?
Kurdistan is an autonomous region sandwiched between Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. For them, marginalization and oppression have been the norm for a hundred years. And for much of that time, they have been under the heel of neighboring leaders who promote jihad and genocide. Conservative estimates document over 50,000 Kurds who were brutally murdered with chemical attacks by Sadam Hussain between 1987-89. But in 2014 they stood as the defenders of the Middle East in their victorious US-backed campaign which destroyed ISIS.
The end of the first World War saw the collapse of the Ottoman Empire that had ruled the region for 400 years. It’s then that allied powers promised the Kurdish people a state. The 1920 Treaty of Sèvres began a modern Kurdish nationalism. For decades they’ve pursued peaceful means of establishing a state. But since 1923 Kurds have been denied this state. Also denied is freedom to speak their own language, wear Kurdish colors or even whistle a Kurdish song without fear of being labeled a terrorist. In 1984 the Kurdish people established a military called the Peshmerga and began to fight for their autonomy.
Are the Kurds Terrorists?
Turkey and other western powers consider elements of the Kurdish government and military a terrorist organization. However, this designation is suspect and deserves a little context. The dismantling of the Ottoman Empire helped create modern-day Turkey. While considered a democracy, Turkey has a long way to go before this designation is warranted. The truth is, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been very vocal about his desire to reclaim ancient Ottoman territory. Acquiring the land inhabited by the Kurds is central to his plan. This land spans today’s Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey.
Erdogan’s current assaults on Kurdish positions inside Syria demonstrate he is serious about restoring Ottoman greatness. If history has taught us anything it’s that we must take serious genocidal threats of dictators. Even a former prosecutor and U.N. investigator have recently called to have him investigated for war crimes.
In 2017 the Kurdish region in Iraq held an independence referendum in which 93 percent voted for independence. However, it was non-binding and the Turkish government saw it as a provocation to their interests. Without US support, the Syrian strongman Assad Bashar stepped in to prevent the Turkish invasion of the Kurds. This is happening all over again. Subsequently, a Kurdish Syrian alliance has invited a greater Russian presence and things have gone from bad to worse.
Why Support the Kurds?
The Kurdish issue is not just about the Kurds. It’s about a hundred other issues as well. Religious liberty, freedom for ethnic minorities oppressed by brutal dictatorial regimes, Israel and the Middle East. It’s also about Israel-loving Muslims from the ancient home of Abraham (Haran) who embraced religious tolerance and democratic ideology.
Author Stephen Mansfield shared a story from the Senior Mullah of Kurdistan who said, “I’m a Kurd first and Muslim second. But you Christians will always be allowed here”. Why are we not talking about moderate Muslims who embrace the freedom of religion and individual sovereignty? We should be championing and trumpeting what the Kurds have wrought from this explosive region. It is nothing short of miraculous.
Since 2003 US troops and Special Forces have been stationed in the region. Remarkably, not a single American servicemen stationed with Kurds have lost their life. “The Kurds are not asking for others to fight their battles. They simply want our support and friendship” said Dalton.
FAI is a US-based Christian non-profit that has worked in the region since 2011. FAI recently released a film about the underground Iranian church whom they say experiencing an “awakening [which is] rapidly reproducing discipleship movement that owns no property, no buildings, has no budget, no 501c3 status, and is predominantly led by women.”