They’ve been painted as the lone heroes of Iraq’s civil unrest, the bold defenders against the so-called Islamic State (I.S.) in Syria, and the fearless allies of the West against total anarchy in the war-torn Middle East.
But the Kurdish populations of Syria and Iraq are far from guilt-free when it comes to the brutal atrocities and blatant corruption that are endemic in Iraq and Syria.
Often portrayed by the Western press as freedom fighters, the Kurdish Peshmerga have been accused by Amnesty International of any number of war crimes, including the brutal razing of Arab homes after they forced I.S. militants out of villages in northern Iraq.
Aided and abetted by the U.S.-led bombing coalition, the Peshmerga have, according to a recent Amnesty report, burned entire villages to the ground and even participated in ethnic cleansing exercises against Iraqi Shi’ites.
“In some villages, nothing is left, not even a single house,” said Amnesty’s Donatella Rovera.
“Under international law, such deliberate destruction is very clearly a war crime.”
In many parts where the Kurds have pushed back I.S. forces, they have retaliated against locals for perceived or real atrocities by the Islamic State against their fighters, and in too many of these cases, the West simply turns a blind eye, chalking up the carnage as the price it has to pay to keep Peshmerga support.
Meanwhile, the Kurds in Iraq and Syria continue to make territorial gains with emboldening separatist sentiments and hopes that they hope will later be allowed fuller autonomy or even statehood.
This is a dangerous scenario because the Kurds now have a sense of impunity that will be hard to curtail when and if peace is ever reinstalled in the region.
Both the Kurds in Syria and Iraq already operate as autonomous territories, and their thirst for full independence is proving concerns in both Iran and Turkey, both countries will sizable Kurdish minorities.
It is time for the West to reel in the Kurds and make them play by the same rules as everyone else.
Otherwise, these not-so-heroic heroes could turn out to be Frankenstein monsters that are worse than the jihadist groups they are supposed to be trying to halt.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org