Donald Trump has given the green light for a Turkish invasion of Kurdish territory. He’s not the first US leader to turn his back on this ethnic group

The old Kurdish proverb is quoted so often that it would be hackneyed if it were not so true. An ethnic minority of about 30 million people spread across the Middle East, the Kurds have “no friends but the mountains”, they say. The aphorism proved itself again this week.

The Kurds, the fourth-largest ethnic group in the region, have been campaigning for their own state since the late 1800s. In the dismemberment of the Ottoman empire that followed the first world war, they saw their chance. The boundaries of a possible Kurdistan were considered in the negotiations after the 1918 armistice, but after Turkey fought back, the French and British tore up those plans and divided Kurdish-inhabited lands between Turkey, Iraq and Syria.

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