Archive for November 2012
In September, I traveled to northeastern Syria’s Kurdish-majority Hassake province to get a firsthand look at the role the Kurds are playing in the country’s civil war.
The 30 million Kurds in Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran represent the world’s largest ethnic group without its own state. The Kurds seem to get little attention, though their role in the region is growing.
In Syria, after decades of mistreatment and marginalization under the ruling Ba’ath Party, Kurdish groups have taken advantage of the chaos of the civil war to take control of many Kurdish-majority areas. Many want autonomy in one form or another, but it’s not that easy. Recently, Kurdish groups began fighting with the rebel Free Syrian Army and, of course, there’s the issue of all the oil that they are sitting on top of.
Next door in Iraq, tensions between the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government and the central government in Baghdad continue to rise over oil revenues and the role of the Kurdish military force, the Peshmerga. In southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq’s Qandil Mountains, there has been an uptick in fighting this year between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (the PKK) and Turkish forces.
For the region’s Kurds – and especially Syria’s – the stakes are high in these interesting times.
Below are some articles by me that dive into all this a little bit more
The Lebanese civil war was perhaps inevitable. In the mid 1970s, Lebanon was primed for conflict, just waiting for that final spark. The spark could have been anything, but it turned out to be this bus, which was carrying Palestinian passengers from Tal Zaatar refugee camp to Shatila refugee camp in south Beirut when it was ambushed by Christian gunmen belonging to the Phalange Party. Fifteen years of hell followed.
Today the bus is parked in south Beirut and looked after by a very interesting historian/activist/curator named Lokman Slim. For this month’s issue of Esquire Middle East, I took a look at the history of the bus and talked with Lokman about its significance and the country today.
These days, tensions continue to rise in Lebanon over the war in neighboring Syria. Some groups are arming up, others are looking for an escape. During the “incidents” as they are called here (such as after last month’s assassination of Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan) the guns come out, the balaclavas go on and the country braces. Lokman said it best:
“We are living in a kind of country which is filled with civil war triggers, where everything – every object, every word – could become a bus.”