News / Middle East

Kurds Caught in Throes of Syria's War

Kurds Caught in Throes of Syria's Wari
September 13, 2013 12:52 AM
Syria's Kurds are the country's largest ethnic minority. They are caught in the web of Syria's civil war, fighting among themselves and also battling Islamist extremists for control of a pocket of the country. Thousands of Kurds have fled Syria, mostly to Lebanon and Iraq. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, where many Syrian Kurdish refugees have taken shelter.
Heather Murdock
Syrian Kurds are caught in the middle of Syria's civil war, fighting among themselves and also battling Islamist extremists for control of pockets of the country.

When Soaad Zenno left Syria with her three children a year ago, she left a country that banned Kurdish holidays and wouldn’t allow Kurdish history or language to be taught in schools.

But for families like Zenno's, crowded into two rooms near the Syrian border as refugees in Lebanon, there is nothing good about the war for Kurds.

Talking about the hardship of living displaced from her war-torn homeland, Zenno said her children did’t even go to school.

Syrians Kurds have fled by the tens of thousands as fighting rages in Syria not only among Kurdish factions, but also between Kurdish groups and Islamist insurgents.

Some Kurdish groups support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while others are with the Free Syrian Army rebels. Islamist groups, like al-Qaida and Jabhat al-Nusra (a Free Syrian Army ally) are considered Kurdish arch-enemies.

Giorgio Cafiero is a research analyst for the consulting firm Country Risk Solutions.

“Some of these Islamist groups have beheaded Kurds and threatened many Kurdish communities with violence if they don’t comply with the al-Qaida groups,” said Cafiero.

Increased violence between Islamists and Kurds is widening the Kurdish humanitarian crisis that is spilling into Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.

To complicate matters further, the land occupied by a largely Kurdish population in Syria was extremely valuable, said Daniel Wagner, who works with Cafiero.

“Syria’s real only oil reserves are in the northeast -- so from a natural resource perspective, that’s the big prize -- which is largely populated by Kurds. And the Islamists, naturally, want a piece of that, just like the government wants to hang on to it,” he said.

Spread throughout Syria and the neighboring countries of Iraq, Turkey and Iran, Kurds are looking long term to national autonomy in a greater Kurdistan. In Syria, Kurds make up about nine percent of the population.

Analyst Wagner said a Kurdish nation -- or something like it -- may be a "pipe dream" now but was an important ideal in future Middle East peace efforts.

“My sense is that until the greater Kurdistan issue is resolved there can be no real peace in the Middle East, just as there can be no real and lasting peace until ... the Israeli-Palestinian issue is resolved,” he said.

Displaced Syrian Kurdish families can only think about the misery of the present.

In their border-town apartment, Evy, Soaad’s 13-year-old daughter, said she wanted to study French, not work in a clothing store, but that she had no choice.

Evy recalled her school in Syria, where she studied science, math, English and history. But the school, she said, like much of Syria, was bombed and now she didn’t even have papers to prove her class ranking. She cannot be admitted into a school in Lebanon.

Still, some analysts said the long-term fallout from Syria's conflict may be positive for Kurds.

Analyst Cafiero said that although there was no end to the war in sight, Kurds may ultimately gain more rights in Syria.

“They see the rest of Syria bogged down in a very bloody and complicated conflict and it is within this context that they are trying to push for a level of autonomy that they have never enjoyed since the Syrian state was created,” he said.

But Evy's mother said she didn't know whether the end of the war would leave her family better or worse off. For now, she said, the war has left her without hope.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Hamma Mirwaisi from: USA
September 13, 2013 6:35 AM
Please read our articles and books to understand Kurdish people history better

Kurdish women Guerrillas on Front Line of War against Sex Slavery in Syria!
Consequently, we are appealing to feminists, and all others who have compassion and respect for their sisters and fellow human beings to support peace for the Kurdish people, and victory for their forces in Syria and other parts of Kurdistan as they struggle against attacks, especially on women, from Islamic terrorist organizations. The desperate situation in Syria is all too familiar to the Kurdish people who, after 1400 year

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs