Filmed by Ford Fischer
Article and Photos by Alejandro Alvarez
Over 50 Iraqi Kurds marched in front of the White House on Sunday morning, demanding their ally in the battle against ISIS come to their aid during an embattled bid for an independent state.
Washington’s Kurdish community renewed its call for the American government to intervene on behalf of their friends and relatives, pleading to the Trump administration that “it’s time to support your allies” against Iraqi efforts to quash independence. The same group that previously organized rallies before the referendum has now progressed to defending its results.
“I ask my president Donald Trump to help us, please,” said Hiwa Raaof, who mentioned he had family back in the Kurdish region. “Help us – the Iranian state is using American weapons to kill Kurdish people.”
The US has so far chosen to distance itself from the emerging conflict, expressing support for a “unified, stable, and a federal Iraq” in its response to the September 25th referendum, and cautioning against Kurdistan’s push for independence providing a distraction from efforts against ISIS.
“It’s unfair because we’ve been the biggest supporters of America, we’ve been fighting ISIS ourselves, and we just want to end American silence,” said Nashmin Behrouzi, holding a sign reading “your silence is supporting ISIS.” She added: “We just want a nation. We just want peace.”
Almost a month after an overwhelming vote favoring secession, Kurds have been drawn into a clash against an Iraqi state determined to reestablish its control over the semi-autonomous area in northeastern Iraq. In the last week, Iraqi forces – including American-trained units – have wrested control of Kirkuk province from the Kurds, with Kurdish Peshmerga forces withdrawing following an intense battle with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. Iran and Turkey, both home to sizeable Kurdish regions with their own independence aspirations, have also jumped into the fray.
“The Kurds have been loyal and trustworthy allies of the United States,” read the event’s Facebook invite. “Abandoning our Kurdish friends now violates that trust and partnership and exposes the region and the world to the increasing threat of the Iranian regime and its violent, expansionist and anti-Israel agenda.”
Kurdish protesters demonstrated outside the White House for about an hour, with chants including “We want Kurdistan, we want freedom, and “Iran/Iraq and ISIS are the same, the difference is the name.” They announced their intention for additional protests, including plans for a picket outside the Iraqi embassy in Washington on Monday.