President Trump’s temporary visa ban on seven states affected by conflict, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen Iran, Iraq and Syria is a debatable measure to ensure the safety of Americans at home. The President has already emphasized that Christians will receive priority status since they are a minority religion in the Middle East. Prioritizing Christians is a suitable step, they are often persecuted by Muslim majority states and by the Islamic State (IS). In 2016, 85,000 refugees were admitted into the US, 46% of them were Muslims mainly from Somalia and Syria, similarly 44% who entered were Christians.
However, the ban does not take into account ethnic minorities who are Pro-American such as the Kurds. The Kurds, who are often persecuted by Muslims from Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey should receive priority entrance into the United States, like their Christian counterparts. The Kurds are often the ones protecting Christian churches as well as Muslims who are ignored by other Muslim majority states.
When the operation to liberate Mosul from IS began in late 2016, the Kurdish Peshmerga (those who face death) forces advanced into the town of Bashiqa, situated in northeastern Mosul. Bashiqa is a diverse town, which includes both Christians and Yazedi Kurds. The Peshmerga helped Christians raise the cross on top of churches and rang the bell shedding light on a new beginning. In 2014, nearly 100,000 Christians were displaced due to the Islamic State, they sought refuge in the Kurdish region of Iraq. The Christians also received a promise from Kurdish authorities that they will be protected “until the last drop of blood.” The Secretary-General of the Christian Assyrian Bet al-Nahrain Party, Romeo Hakkari stated that “Christians are with an independent Kurdistan region that protects the right of all ethnic and religious groups in the region, a democratic Kurdistan that defends minorities before Kurds.” During the entirety of the 2003 Iraq war, not one American soldier lost their lives in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, as they were welcomed with open arms by Kurds.
Both Kurds in Iraq and Syria have been loyal allies of the United States and the fight to end radical Islamic terrorism from the region. Kurds are eager to separate themselves from Arabs, Iranians and Turks simply because these people do not recognize the Kurds for who they are. Kurds are a proud people who have suffered from Islamic tyrants since the end of World War I. Kurds are also close friends of the Jews and Israel, and have built a historical partnership.
Although Sunni Islam is the dominating sect in Kurdistan, it is important to note that Kurds identify by their ethnic identity rather than their religious faith. Therefore, Kurds are tolerant of other religions in the Middle East. In 2012 the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) declared that schools would be “religiously neutral.” Similarly, in a recent visit by Co-President of the recently Syrian Democratic Council to Washington, Ilham Ehmed emphasized that northern Syria would be tolerant of all religions not just Islam. As a reaction to extremist Islam, many Kurds have even abandoned the religion and have turned to their historical ancient faith, Zoroastrianism. Today there are nearly 190,000 believers in the world, Zoroastrians believe that the forces of good and evil are continually struggling in the world. Mariwan Naqshbandi, spokesperson for Iraq’s Kurdistan’s Ministry of Religious Affairs states that “there are many people [Kurds] who are very angry with the Islamic State and its inhumanity.”
Kurdish families have already felt the effect of the President’s visa ban when a family of five on their way to Nashville, Tennessee were stopped in Cairo before boarding the plane. The family was forced to return to Iraq and stated that “I did not know the president can sign such orders, because it looks like those autocratic leaders in corrupt countries, not democratic modern country like America.” The family was eventually offered asylum in the US after a second review.
If Kurds wish to seek refuge in the United States, they should be allowed to do so. They have been proven to be loyal and secular. Kurdish refugees cannot look to Arab states for refuge as they even deny their own kind, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and Kuwait, all who are capable of housing their “Muslim brothers and sisters.” Christians and Kurds have historical ties and have the ability to forge long term alliances in a region dominated by radical Islamic terrorism, this begins with Americans viewing them as equals.
Originally published at NRT English on February 6, 2017.