Foreign Policy Blogs

The Olvidados

Female Kurdish Fighters seek Allies after Turkish Intervention

The people of Hong Kong know that if they become ignored or forgotten, they will be subject to many rounds of dehumanization followed by oppression and possibly violence. They are very aware of their place in the world, and they also know that in this world we have had genocide and a Holocaust and that much of it goes on under-reported or actively ignored. In a way, all of the forgotten have the same issue. They are subjected to human rights abuses and atrocities partly because no one is watching. They endure the worst types of treatment because their perpetrators know that silence aids in the acceptance of their murderer’s actions.

The Maduro regime in Venezuela is well aware of how the international community treats their Olvidados. Learning from oppressive actions by governments who inflicted punishment against their own people in Iran and Syria after 2009, Maduro’s government depends on the lack of attention past five days that the international community has for Venezuela’s citizens. With millions of Venezuelans escaping poverty and oppression in their country, the rest of the world gave them a few days of care and attention before moving on to other issues.

The recent attack by Turkish forces over the Kurdish militias in Syria is not wholly surprising. The Kurds are the tip of the spear against ISIS and were ignored since 2016 by the international community and media. A lack of arms, or empty weapons, or extremely light weapons were what Kurdish men and women in Iraq and Syria used against ISIS. Their opponent that came in from all parts of the world were using captured heavy weapons and were funded by many diverse sources. The war the Kurds fought and we constantly ignored placed them in a situation where the Kurdish militia’s capabilities were overwhelmed. With the power of the Syrian Army, Iranian militia and Russian air assets fighting ISIS to a standstill in many cases, the Kurds did not just fight for their survival, but fought for all of us.

Despite all of the recent support for Syria’s Kurdish forces, the reality is that they were never in a place where NATO planes would not attack them and where the international community gave them meaningful assistance. They have always been ignored, and only given brief attention because they fought to prevent another Holocaust, mostly unsuccessfully. The recent attention given to actions by the Turkish government and giving sympathy to the Kurds is refreshing, but it is very late considering the odds they have faced since 2016.

With many of the communities in Northern Syria and Northern Iraq being exterminated by ISIS, the Yazidi community has faced their own Holocaust. Despite the history of genocide in the region and in Western history since the Second World War, the Yazidis seem to be ignored, even when they escaped. Today, in countries like Germany and Canada, Yazidi refugees who are told they are safe by the governments who rescued them are facing threats, from some of the fighters that tortured them in Iraq or Syria, and are being told to shut up by local officials when they encounter their torturers in places like Canada. At the same time, the government of these countries say they cannot prosecute any returning fighters because there are no witnesses to the atrocities, despite their acts being documented and obvious witnesses residing in their country. The effort to make them the Olvidados in societies where they are suppose to be safe, in order to prevent a prosecution against those who commit human rights atrocities is another level of dehumanization in an otherwise fair justice system. To escape with the help of Kurdish forces or individually is a heroic act. To be silenced when facing your torturer in a safe country should be a crime in itself.

 

Author

Richard Basas
Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration

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