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Local Kurds Protest Turkish Military Action — And U.S. Response — At Mass. State House

Protesters at a rally organized by two New England Kurdish associations chant and wave banners in front of the Massachusetts State House. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Protesters at a rally organized by two New England Kurdish associations chant and wave banners in front of the Massachusetts State House. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

As the Turkish military ramps up its military operation against U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in northern Syria, members of the Kurdish community in Massachusetts gathered in Boston Wednesday afternoon to call on local lawmakers for help.

Two dozen local Kurds and supporters from the New England Kurdish Association and the Kurdish Student Association at UMass Boston rallied in front of the State House.

UMass Boston student Soma Syan — who came to the U.S. as a baby from Iraq — helped organize the protest to get the attention of lawmakers.

"We need some kind of policy change, some kind of emergency action against Turkey to stop the ethnic cleaning that’s currently going on," Syan said.

As NPR reported earlier Wednesday:

The Turkish offensive jeopardizes Kurdish-led forces who have been a key U.S. ally in the bloody fight against ISIS. Turkey says those same forces are linked to militant groups who stage attacks in a separatist movement against the Turkish government.

The New England Kurdish Association estimates about 500 Kurdish people live in New England. The group says the Turkish attack on northeastern Syria could lead to thousands of deaths, displace millions of people and risk freeing ISIS fighters detained by Kurdish militias.

Agir Rojhat, a Providence resident who used to live in a Kurdish-dominated area of Turkey, said that the "situation is very desperate" and "saddening."

"We lost 11,000 brave men and women to fight ISIS — not just protecting our families and our lands — [but] also fighting for humanity,” Rojhat said.

Agir Rojhat, of the New England Kurdish Association, holds up a flag of Kurdistan in front of the Massachusetts State House. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Agir Rojhat, of the New England Kurdish Association, holds up a flag of Kurdistan in front of the Massachusetts State House. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

A main target of the protest was the Trump administration's decision Sunday to pull away troops from the Syrian border after President Trump spoke on the phone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about his plans for the military attacks.

As NPR also reported, the White House released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying:

"The United States did not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea."

But Rojhat said he’s calling on Americans to pressure the Trump administration to reverse course on Turkey, something he said the president can do with one call, or one tweet.

Related:

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Simón Ríos is an award-winning bilingual reporter in WBUR's newsroom.

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