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I spent a week in Iraqi Kurdistan and saw a lot of interesting things, experienced unique iraqi kurdish culture, ate great food, and enjoyed good music. Altogether it was an excellent time. But I also saw the middle east wars from the kurdish standpoint and it was fascinating.

Kurdistan has a misfortune of having been left out of statehood by the World Powers after the Sykes-Picot treaty
Kurdistan has a misfortune of having been left out of statehood by the World Powers after the Sykes-Picot treaty

 

The Kurdish lands were divided to make them minorities within four separate countries, even though the kurds have their own language, their own ethnicity, their own cultures, and their own heritage. It’s probably one of the rawest deals a group has in the world.

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The names of the kurdish states.

 

In 3 of the four countries, the kurds have fought for and now in two out of those 3 achieved some level of autonomy. In Iraq, the Kurdish areas are autonomous. They even give out their own visas and elect their own president. The military there is called the Peshmerga, kurdish for Taking Death, though the translation is meant to die yourself, sacrificing yourself in battle. They’re pretty bad ass.

Hanging out with some Iraqi Peshmerga
Hanging out with some Iraqi Peshmerga

The Peshmerga have already proven themselves to be better in battle than even the Iraqi army. they have tanks, military ranks and officers, and an air force. They are a force to be reckoned with.

In Syria, they are known as the YPG.

YPG allows women to fight with them, and they are pretty intimidating
YPG allows women to fight with them, and they are pretty intimidating

 

In Turkey, though, they are the PKK.

A picture of PKK in a truck following a Peshmerga truck, in Sulimani, Iraqi Kurdistan.
A picture I took of PKK in a truck following a Peshmerga truck, in Sulimani, Iraqi Kurdistan.

For the United States, the Peshmerga and the YPG of Iraq and Syria, who have in the past practiced what could be deemed gorilla warfare in order to achieve autonomous status, are allies who get military funding and aid all the time. Now more so than ever due to the rise of ISIS.

But TURKEY’S KURDS are on the US Terrorist List, right next to Al Qaeda. They don’t do anything different, though they are more lowkey due to the heavy crackdown by the Turkish Army. So why the difference?

Nonetheless, Peshmerga and YPG fight along side the PKK and give them weapons and arms that the United States ourselves gave them. And we knowingly do this even though we know that the arms will go to a group on our terror list. There’s some irony there, right?

A map of what kurdistan might look like
A map of what kurdistan might look like

 

Peshmerga (who we give money and weapons to) with PKK (a group who you can go to prison for giving money or weapons to)
Peshmerga (who we give money and weapons to) with PKK (a group who you can go to prison for giving money or weapons to)

 

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