On Tuesday November 12, 2013 the Kurdish people in Syria proclaimed the creation of an autonomous region under Kurdish administration. This region lies near the boundary of Syria with Turkey; its principal city is Qamisle (in any of its many transliterations). 

This is a positive move. It parallels the creation of the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq 22 years ago, a change which has proved to benefit everyone. The Kurdish region in Syria also arises during a long war from which the Kurdish region has largely kept out. Efforts to recruit the Kurdish people to one or another side of the conflict have not been successful, and the new autonomous region is dedicated to maintaining this neutrality. 

Staying out of the war has not been easy. Since July there has been extensive invasion of the Kurdish area by al-Nusra forces. Religious extremism is foreign to almost all Kurdish people, certainly to the women.

Pictures of female Kurdish defense forces have crowded the internet since July, when they took up arms in droves to protect their territory from the al-Nusra forces. Al-Nusra has now largely been repelled from Kurdish territory, but at the cost of many lives including the lives of many brave young Kurdish women. These women and their brothers should not die in vain.

In Iraq the Kurdish people created a pocket of peace and prosperity. Now there are favorable cultural and business exchanges, international flights to Erbil, all positive benefits that peace and development bring, even though the rest of Iraq remains in turmoil. It is to the benefit of the United States and everyone else to follow suit and recognize the Kurdish autonomous region in Syria.

Lucina Kathmann

International Vice-president, PEN International*

*(organizational affiliation for identification purposes only)