Letter: Conditions worsen for forgotten Kurds

To the Editor:

The world's understandable focus on the coronavirus pandemic blots out many other problems. In some cases, the pandemic forms an additional layer of misery atop an existing problem, making a terrible situation even worse. That's the case with the Kurdish population in Syria.

It was just last October that Trump suddenly decided, after talking to Turkey's President Erdogan, to withdraw American troops from the Syrian border with Turkey. These troops had served as a buffer, preventing Turkey from attacking the Kurds, viewed by Turkey as a security threat because the Kurds who live in Turkey want to join other Kurds to form their own country. As soon as American forces left, Turkish troops and their Syrian proxies began a bloody invasion.

At the time, we heard plenty about how the Kurds had played a major role, at the request of America, in defeating ISIS. At the time, we heard plenty about the Turks attacking and slaughtering Kurdish men, women and children. Lately we have heard little to nothing about the Kurds, though they remain isolated, with few resources, and open to further attack from Turkey.

Now the coronavirus has been added to this deadly equation. The first Syrian Kurdish death from COVID-19 was reported just a few days ago. The Kurds' situation is so dire that the Jerusalem Post said "The local population is struggling to find clean water simply for drinking and cooking - much less for hand washing." Maintaining "social distancing" in a war zone is pure fantasy.

Nor is this a problem just for the Kurds. The 25 to 30 million Kurds are spread throughout several Middle East countries: southeastern Turkey, northeastern Syria, northern Iraq, northeastern Iran and southwestern Armenia. Kurdish people travel between them. An infected Kurd in Syria who travels to Iraq, or Iran or Turkey is taking the virus with them.

The world's laser focus on the coronavirus is also presenting Turkey with an opportunity. The Jerusalem Post reported on April 14 that Turkey is "using the distraction caused by the pandemic to once again threaten military strikes and a subsequent invasion further into north and east Syria .These threats are disrupting the region's ability to respond to the pandemic." Who will step in to help the Kurds? Certainly not Syria or Turkey. Nor will Trump, who put the Kurds in this position in the first place.Magdalena Usategui,


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