EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Head of Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria

Sherkoh Abbas
Sherkoh Abbas (Photo: Courtesy)

After the Times of Israel reported that Erdogan would try to pressure the Americans into opposing Kurdish independence during his visit to the United States, U.S. President Donald Trump tried to reassure Erdogan that he was still a good partner for Turkey even though the U.S. plans to arm Kurdish groups in Syria in order to help them fight against ISIS.

One of the ways that he tried to reassure Erdogan was by not responding to Senator McCain’s call to oust the Turkish Ambassador after Turkish security forces beat up Kurdish and Armenian demonstrators in Washington, D.C.

However, as the United States tries to balance its support for Kurdish forces with their alliances with countries like Turkey, various Kurdish sources and a Canadian MP have demonstrated that since the Liberal Party came to power in Canada, the Canadian government has moved away from supporting the Kurds and gravitated towards supporting countries like Turkey, Iran and certain Arab countries.

Ihsan Efrini, a Canadian leader for the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria, explained that when the Conservative Party of Stephen Harper was in power, they made great efforts to help the Kurds in their struggle against terrorism:

“They were sending weekly munitions to the Peshmerga. They joined the coalition with two fighter jets and sent 300 Canadian Armed Forces to train the Peshmerga. However, since the Liberal Party took over the government, they withdrew their fighter jets and reduced their help for the Kurds. The Liberal Party in Canada is infiltrated by pro-Arab nationalists, as well as by Turks and Iranian nationalist groups and institutions.

“Moreover, these groups lobby to break down the funding and support to the Kurds. Till now, our friends in the Canadian opposition in parliament are forcing the Liberal Party to keep supporting the Kurds, but the help and support are very limited.”

Canadian MP Tom Kmiec, chair of the Canadian Kurdish Fellowship at the Canadian parliament, confirmed those sentiments. He also added: “The Liberals are also considering forbidding Canadian troops who are supporting the Kurdish Peshmerga on the ground from wearing the KRG flag on their uniforms, but they changed their minds and [allowed them to keep] the flags on. They have also sought much closer relations with Iran, and that comes at a price likely to be paid by the Kurds in Iraq and Iran.”

Sherkoh Abbas, the head of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria, related that Canada presently is pursuing a neutral policy on Kurdistan, while maintaining a relationship with countries that the U.S. does not, such as Iran: “They [Canada] have given some light assistance in the struggle against ISIS. However, they never went beyond the tactical support. They never partnered with the Kurds in fighting extremism and promoting democracy. Canada has promoted the idea of supporting the Kurds but did not let it get stronger.”

“It is the same for the Canadians as it is for other nations,” Abbas added. “We hear from the Israelis a lot that they work with the Saudis and Turks. However, these regimes oppress their people, who are unemployed and go to the mosques. There, they get recruited by ISIS and other jihadist groups.

“Furthermore, Turkey is only focused on crushing the Kurds. It is their interest to make deals to prevent the creation of Kurdistan. They won’t support Israel or anyone else.

“The Turks as you can see don’t forgive and never forget.  Look at what they did to the Gulen Movement. Once they identify you as an enemy, they will try to destroy you no matter what. They won’t march by and will create policies in conflict to the policies of other countries.”

For these reasons, Abbas argues that Canada and other countries should not get fooled by the Turks and Saudis.  He claims that neither are partners in the War against Terrorism.

However, Abbas emphasized that the Kurds are an excellent partner for Canada and other Western countries, since their nation shares the same goals and aspirations as the international community:

“How come they depart from their values of democracy and focus only on pure interests? That is a concern that is disheartening, and we hope that the Canadians will reconsider by arming the Kurds, training the Kurds on human rights, giving scholarships to Kurds and accepting Kurdish refugees. Canada can do a lot.”

For Abbas, the fact that Canada has never taken a stance for Kurdish independence is disappointing: “We want them to support the Kurds fully and not occasionally and not to abandon them.   Is that relevant to their interests? Of course.”

Abbas emphasized that Canada, like the United States, is a melting pot and a democracy, which should seek to support Kurdistan in order to enhance multiculturalism in the Middle East as well as human rights and minority rights, since Iraqi Kurdistan is one of the few Muslim majority areas that seeks to offer their citizens these things.

“Many leaders around the world support the Kurds, but it is just words and no actions,” he stressed. “Is several billion dollars’ worth it to override your values? We can have a neo-Ottoman Empire marching on Baghdad, Jerusalem, etc. Is this worth several billion dollars a year? Or should you really stop this?”

According to Abbas, Erdogan may scream if Canada recognizes Kurdistan, but eventually, he will accept the decision.  He cited the example of Trump’s immigration ban.

At first, he noted that the Arab world was up in arms about it.  but now, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries have more respect for Trump than they had for Obama:

“That is an indication that in this part of the world, you have to be harsh and strong in order to be heard. [The West] cannot pick and choose and only focus on economics. They need to promote the values that they preach and practice. When they do that, the only solution is the Kurds, who can stop the Shia Crescent and prevent the Neo-Ottoman Empire from forming.”

 

Rachel Avraham is a senior media research analyst at the Center for Near East Policy Research. She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media.”