What Turkish adventures in Northern Syria mean for ethnic minorities

Last weekend, US President Donald Trump took a decision that can easily be called the most impacting and influential Western policy regarding Middle Eastern ethnic and religious politics by allowing Turkish troops to “intervene” in Syria. In layman’s terms, the American president just gave the most powerful ethnic and political group in the area the power to run amok in a neighborhood full of rival ethnic and religious groups, all fighting real wars and all participating in the “Assimilation War”; whose culture can dominate the area and emerge victorious after centuries of petty struggles.

In the age of surveillance and mass media, few ways exist to commit genocide without the whole world knowing. But in Northern Syria, where the last remnants of the campaign to end the terrorist group ISIS and the Syrian civil war still rage, an opportunity is afforded to despots who wish to become the last man standing in the region’s culture wars. Confusion and chaos are often the only way for a government to commit genocide in this day and age. For example, the Rwandan Genocide of the late 20th Century was brewed after years of built-up tensions under resented foreign and colonial rule. As with the Armenian Genocide that happened in the early 1900s in the chaos of World War I in the Ottoman Empire, genocidal acts against Kurds, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Jews, Circassians, Syriacs, and Armenians, among others (Christian groups like Assyrians, Armenians, Chaldeans, and Syriacs are especially a target because of their faith).

In these parts of Syria, ethnic and religious tensions tend to explode, with periodic skirmishes being fought between rival militias. But now they face a larger threat; potential of their destruction by the large and powerful Turkish state should not be understated. Trump’s willingness to abandon American allies like Kurdish militias who were instrumental in defeating ISIS signifies that one the US achieves its goal, the situation is no longer their problem. Just as when US Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama left Iraq to its own devices after deposing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, leaving a power vacuum filled by ISIS, Trump is acting similarly, only this time the vacuum will be filled by Turkey and its authoritarian theocratic ruler, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey and Erdogan are already accused of ethnic cleansing, after the uprootal of the Kurds of Eastern Turkey and the continued denial of the Armenian Genocide. To add to this reputation, in a year they may find themselves once again being threatened to behave lest they deal with European and American sanctions, pending their actions in Northern Syria. Turkish entry into the hostile and embattled region seems to have few happy endings, if any.

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