The invasion of Ukraine and the war it sparked led to widespread coverage of the struggles of ordinary people in a surprisingly rare conflict zone. The sympathy shown for the victims of this unlawful war of aggression is both a victory for our better nature and a disturbing reminder that most of the victims of the global problem of runaway militarism do not receive the same attention from the West press.
The reasons for this were quite clear in the early reports of the pain and loss inflicted on the Ukrainian people: they are Europeans and as such are seen as ‘worthy’ victims whose stories are worth telling. . Others are not so lucky, even when in the crosshairs of allied nations, Western governments should have more influence than a rival like Russia.
A recent example is an ongoing story in the Middle East that demonstrates both a bias in coverage between the north and south of the world and how the war in Ukraine is having geopolitical ripple effects, creating new tragedies. away from his shores.
At least partly as the price of not using his veto to prevent Sweden and Finland from joining NATO, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has effectively been given the green light to continue its ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Kurdish minority in neighboring Syria.
It may seem like an eternity now, but Kurdish forces in Syria have led the fight against the dystopian caliphate of the so-called Islamic State while rejecting the ethnic nationalism we might expect from a people spread across four states in the Middle East with no country to call. theirs. They offered a different and democratic vision for the orderly society that has been taken up by other communities within Syria’s rich mosaic of cultures.
It was former US President Donald Trump who first betrayed Kurdish NATO allies in 2019 by withdrawing US troops who prevented attacks by other hostile forces, including the Syrian government and Islamists under the control of Turkey, in areas liberated from ISIS.
Turkey‘s “Kurdish problem”, which has led to violence in Syria and Iraq, stems from the continued persecution of their own Kurds, who have been denied the right to their own language and culture, which has led to decades of resistance. The Turkish government insists that the Syrian Kurds, perhaps because of the example they could set for their Turkish cousins, pose some sort of existential threat to their country.
When it comes to Syria, there are parallels between Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the Turkish president Erdogan’s desire to create a 30 kilometer “buffer zone” in northeast Syria, which will almost certainly lead to further ethnic cleansing of Syria’s Kurds (and Christian communities and other minorities who inhabit this part of the country).
Never mind that the Kurds have been such staunch allies throughout the Syrian conflict, but rather that they, like the Ukrainians who have received so much Western empathy and support, are driven from their homes by a hostile foreign power. Like all victims of unprovoked wars, they simply want to rebuild their communities and start creating a better future for themselves and their families.
Policy makers and the press should not view their plight as so different from that of Ukrainians because of where they live.
Derek Royden is a Canadian journalist.