The United States relies on its allies to wage war in the Middle East. The U.S. Air Force operates out of Turkish bases and the American government uses Kurdish militias as proxies in both Iraq and Syria.

But while the U.S. maintains alliances with both groups, it skirts around the issues between the two. In addition to the Kurdish populations in Iraq and Syria, around 20 percent of the population in Turkey is also ethnically Kurdish and has tried to gain independence or at least greater autonomy many times in the past.

Since last July’s coup attempt in Turkey, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has redoubled his crackdown on Kurdish liberty. Pro-Kurdish journalists have been jailed, Kurdish mayors have been removed from office, and Kurdish media sources have been shut down.

The United Nations has condemned Turkey’s human rights abuses against their Kurdish minority, but the U.S. tries to court both sides, with President Trump inviting Erdoğan to the White House even as American-backed Kurdish militia marched against the Islamic State.

There is certainly a strategic concern for the U.S. since Turkey is one of our most important allies in the region, but the American government also cannot turn a blind eye to human rights abuses. It is in a unique position of having generally amicable relations with both Turkey and Kurdish groups. The U.S. should try to mediate dialogues between the two peoples, or else the cycle of violence that has plagued the modern Middle East will continue unabated.

Michael Goodyear