(Mohammed Ali, a 55-year-old-construction worker, right, holds a home-made sign in response to the planned U.S. withdrawal from northeastern Syria in downtown Atlanta on Oct. 13, 2019.)
By Joe Youorski, contributor
A group of Kurdish locals and supporters marched in downtown Oct. 13, holding home-made signs and singing protest chants. The rally took place near Centennial Olympic Park and the CNN Center in downtown and was organized in response to President Trump’s on-going decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria.
Kurdish forces allied with the U.S. have largely driven ISIS out of the area, which is known as the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria or Rojava. However, their military arm is considered a hostile organization by Turkey, and U.S. withdrawal has opened the Kurds up to altercations with Turkish forces. 
“We need American support in this situation,” said Mohammed Ali, a 55-year-old construction worker present at the rally.
About 100 people walked along the sidewalk on Marietta Street in support of Kurdish struggles. The effort was put together by grassroots organizing across word-of-mouth in local Kurdish communities and on Twitter.
On the same day of the Atlanta protest was a number of similar events, such as in Seattle, San Francisco, and Toronto. Supportive posts and efforts across the events have been marked with the #RiseUpForRojava hashtag on Twitter. 
As of last survey in 2013, the U.S. Census places the number of Kurdish speakers at over 17,000. The largest population of Kurds in the southeast, and the entire country, is in Nashville, Tennessee, where another rally was held Oct. 12.
The marchers ranged in age, carrying a number of flags and banners together. Atlantans from outside the Kurdish community also marched.
Alec Desbordes, a 24-year-old union organizer, came to downtown to show support of the Kurdish struggle.
“These people have stood up against basically everything,” Desbordes said.
He said interaction along the way seemed positive, with cars honking in support or recognition. Desbordes said he thinks most people would be in support of the Kurdish cause if they knew the problems present.
“I think a lot of people are really just uneducated about these issues,” Desbordes said.
The Kurdish people are a majority Muslim group with their own language that live in a number of countries, notably Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey. Rojava is located across northeastern Syria, largely over three regions including the Afrin canton, the Kobane canton, and Cizre canton. 
Efforts by groups in the Rojava noted internationally have included an all-women military effort, known as the Women’s Protection Units, council-based political systems influenced by jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, and successful fights against ISIS by the People’s Protection Units, known as the YPG.
Cizre borders Iraq, where the Kurds suffered intense persecution under Saddam Hussein, and all three border Turkey, where tensions have continued to run high between Kurds living in Turkey and the state.
In Turkey, the Kurdish Workers’ Party, or PKK, and the Turkish state have fought in decades of notable violent altercations, with nonprofit the Crisis Group tallying at least 4,686 people killed across both sides and civilians. Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan has made rooting out the PKK a primary goal.
Now, with the U.S. decision to exit northeastern Syria, Erdoğan has already launched an offensive strategy into the country, viewing the areas neighboring Turkey as links to the PKK, according to the Washington Post. As of yesterday, the Syrian army has re-entered the area for the first time since leaving in 2015, the European Union has banned arms sales to Turkey, and President Trump has spoken on raising tariffs with Turkey, according to The New York Times.
Dr. Allen Fromherz, director of Georgia State University’s Middle East Studies Center, said over email he does not think Turkey will halt all of its movements after the abrupt U.S. withdrawal. Erdoğan may adjust strategy in response to the Syrian government now entering the territory as negotiated by the Kurds, however.
Fromherz also said Russian military influence will likely play a bigger part in these politics.
“The real determinant here is now Russia — allied with both Turkey and the Syrian Regime,” Fromherz said.
Fromherz said this instability will mean more Syrian Kurds turned to refugee status in the short term, but what developments will come next in the Rojava is unclear.
“The US has conceded to Russia the position of power broker in the region,” Fromherz said. “It is uncertain what that will mean for the Kurds in the long term. It’s still possible Russia and Syrian regime may see it in its interests to compel Turkey to halt.”
(Following a march down Marietta Street, attendees exchange flags and signs in downtown Atlanta on Oct. 13, 2019, hoping to raise awareness of situations facing the Kurdish Rojava.)
Atlanta’s march wrapped up around 5 p.m Sunday. Ali said he’s attended five similar events to help raise awareness of what the Kurdish situation is like in Syria and across the globe.
“We would like everyone to know who the Kurds are and to support the Kurds,” Ali said. “But first, we need everyone to know where we live.”