Kurdish People Pushed Off Syrian Border after President Trump Orders US Troop Withdrawal

North Central students recently visited refugee camps filled with those who fled ISIS advances; Professor Bob Brenneman has spent many years living, working in Kurdish communities

A crowd pelted stones and potatoes at U.S. convoys as they traveled from northern Syria to Iraq. One man shouted in Arabic, “Like rats, America is running away,” the Associated Press reported. Several Kurdish residents of Qamishli, Syria, yelled at the troops as the thudding armored vehicles drove passed.

The turbulence was due to President Donald Trump’s order earlier this month, announcing the withdrawal of U.S. forces from northern Syria. “I held off this fight for almost 3 years…but it’s time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” Trump said via Twitter. Under a deal, Turkey agreed to a five-day-cease-fire and the U.S. agreed to help usher their once-allies Kurdish forces, out of a highly contested 20-mile-wide “safe zone”. 

Turkey perceives the Kurdish forces as a terrorist insurgency, and has long desired to end American support for the Kurds. Kurdish forces, whom are apart of the Syrain Democratic Forces, or S.D.F, have been the United States’ most vital partner in battling the Islamic State. 

The “safe zone” Turkey desires to conquer is a strip of land that sits along the Syrian side of the border. It’s a 20-mile-wide zone that will become a neutral zone between Turkey and Syria. With Russia becoming the new mediator in place of the U.S., the Kurds have begun withdrawing from the zone. Reactions among republicans, american officials, and the Kurds; have disagreed with the United States’ gesture feeling betrayed.

 “I have been with them my whole life, most of my ministry has been with the Kurds,” said Professor of Intercultural Studies and Languages at North Central University Bob Brenneman, Ph.D. Brenneman resided in Turkey for 10 years and in Iraq for four years, teaching as an English teacher. Brenneman was heavily involved in humanitarian work among the Kurdish, serving in ways such as building shelters, schools, roads, and other necessities among the community.  

About 28 million Kurds inhabit a geographic region that is referred to as Kurdistan, “The Land of The Kurds.” Kurds live in the contiguous border regions of Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Armenia. Between 7% and 10% of Kurds inhabit northern Syria. The Kurdish are the largest people group without a homeland. 

In May 2019, Brenneman lead a group of 10 North Central University students on a trip to Turkey to live and serve among refugees for almost a month. “We had a chance to stay with Iraqi Christian refugees who had to flee ISIS,” said Brenneman. Brenneman explained that Iraqi Christian refugees were given 24 hours with the options to leave, be killed, pay a tax, or convert to Islam. “They had to leave everything behind, and flee with the clothes on their backs,” said Brenneman.

As the United States withdraws troops, President Donald Trump suggested during a Cabinet meeting at the White House on Oct. 21. Some U.S. forces will remain in Syria to protect oil resources, but no longer will protect the Kurdish. “We never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives,” Trump said, “…we want to keep the oil and we will work something out with the Kurds so they have some money, they have some cash flow.” 

“The Kurds have an expression that I wrote about,” said Brenneman, “We have no friends, but the mountains,” because the Kurds had to flee to the mountains for refuge. “And now that’s being questioned, so I think somehow we got to establish the fact, “True friends stick together.”