Students share thoughts as ceasefire between Turkey and Kurds expires


عمرو بن كلثوم [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

Mount Aqraa (Mount Casius) overlooking the town of Kasab in the province of Latakia in Syria.

At 10:00 p.m. local time Tuesday in Syria, the five-day ceasefire arranged in part by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence between Turkey and Kurdish forces in Syria is set to expire. Although there were reports of small skirmishes between the two sides, it is possible that full-fledged war will resume.

Tuesday’s expiration comes two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he would be pulling U.S. forces from Northern Syria. As a result, Turkey was able to begin executing a military offensive that involves clearing Kurdish forces from a proposed safe-zone in Northern Syria in which Turkey plans to resettle some 2 million Syrian refugees.  

Turkey’s relationship with Kurds in the region is dominated by a long history of violence. Turkey recognizes the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.) as a terrorist group which has been engaged in a separatist movement since the 1980s that has killed 40,000 people

Turkish student, sophomore Kareem Genser believes this history plays a role in the conflict.

“That’s why I can understand why the Turkish government is going against the Kurds,” Genser said. “I never supported Erdogan from the beginning and in my opinion we should stop the war with a ceasefire. I think Turkish should get back with the U.S., not Russia.”

Having lived in Turkey for eight years, junior Arda Can believes that ensuring a defeated ISIS is important to the security of his country and wants peace before anything else.

“First off, I would like to see peace in Syria after long years of civil unrest and terrorist groups taking over large areas, for example ISIS, as a Turk since the situation also will affect my country,” Can said via text message. “The only thing I want to see is Syrian people finally being able to go back to their homes.”

Berkaysnklf via Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]

Fighting has resulted in the displacement of 160,000 Syrian Kurds with the United Nations warning of a humanitarian disaster. The Trump administration has received bipartisan criticism for its removal of troops and response to Turkish advancements. Syrian Kurds were a key U.S. ally in defeating ISIS forces in the region, and now with the U.S. leaving, leaders fear a return of the Islamic State, and an opportunity for the Assad Regime to gain power.

“Withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria is a grave strategic mistake. It will leave the American people and homeland less safe, embolden our enemies, and weaken important alliances,” wrote Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in an op-ed for the Washington Post. “Unless halted, our retreat will invite the brutal Assad regime in Syria and its Iranian backers to expand their influence.”

Kurdish refugee Kaniwar Abdul Hamid views Trump’s decision to pull out troops as a betrayal after the two sides worked together in fighting ISIS.

“Trump is responsible,” Hamid said in an interview with PBS. “He betrayed the Kurds. Children have died. People have been displaced. All these people in these tents, it’s Trump’s fault. He took the decision. He sold out the Kurds.”