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Better the devil you know for Kurds betrayed by Donald Trump

  • Video report by ITV News Senior Correspondent John Irvine

Five years after starting out with nothing, the Syrian Kurds have ended up with nothing.

In between 11,000 of them were killed in the fight against IS; tens of thousands saw their homes destroyed; hundreds of thousands were displaced.

A week ago they controlled a third of Syria. Now their dream of a semi-autonomous homeland is gone.

The hopes Syrian Kurds had fought for for five years are over.

Abandoned by the largest army in NATO to face the wrath of the second largest, the Kurds have had to run to the Assad regime for help.

They felt their choice was genocide at the hands of the invading Turks or persecution by a vengeful regime.

Better the devil you know.

  • The moment an explosion is heard as Kurds grieve at a cemetery

The regime army is now taking over key Kurdish towns and villages and the nervous locals will have to wait and see what President Assad has in store for them.

We left north-eastern Syria on Monday morning, crossing the River Tigris into Iraqi Kurdistan. It was too risky to stay.

The Kurds are both aggrieved and grieving.

As journalists who had entered Syria without visas we would undoubtedly have been arrested and jailed if we had run into regime soldiers.

Five years ago the United States, with Britain and France in tow, enlisted the Syrian Kurds as their boots on the ground in the fight against the monstrous Islamic State caliphate.

This boy was injured three years ago in an IS blast.

IS had established their capital in the eastern Syrian town of Raqqa. But their domain stretched all the way north to Kobani on the Turkish border. With coalition air power the deciding factor, the Kurds pushed south at tremendous cost. They were brave and reliable allies.

When the last of the physical caliphate was finally eradicated earlier this year, the Kurds were exhausted but jubilant.

The West owed them and surely their loyalty would be rewarded.

The Kurds feel betrayed.

The presence of 1,000 US soldiers at various bases in Kurdish-held Syria was an insurance policy that kept potential aggressors – principally the Turks and the Syrian regime – at bay.

Then President Trump was bamboozled by President Erdogan into withdrawing the 50 or so American soldiers stationed in the Syria-Turkey border zone.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Donald Trump at the G20 in June. Credit: AP

The Kurds saw the move as a stunning act of betrayal.

"You are leaving us to be slaughtered," their leader told the Americans.

How right he was. Among the grieving mothers we met at a makeshift hospital on Sunday was one who had just been told her son had been killed by the Turks. Her two other sons died in the battle against IS.

In the wake of the pull out of those 50 American soldiers from the border area something like 150,000 civilians have had to follow, fleeing the advancing Turks.

This mother of four asked where she and others can go.

Rarely can the voluntary departure of so few resulted in the involuntary departure of so many.

The Americans are complicit in the Turkish invasion of what was the Kurdish homeland; in the revitalisation of Islamic State; the strengthening of President Assad and Vladimir Putin.

But worst of all, they are complicit in the crushing of the dreams of a people who had shown them nothing but loyalty.

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