Kurdistan: a new state on horizon? – Siddharth Acharya

Arab spring and constant developments happening there in middle-east in past three years have always fascinated me to pen down something. I tried to trace the genesis as what really happened that shook the faith of common citizens in Government and made people so rebellious that they desire for a separate “home-land” for themselves. I concluded that it is something more than preserving ethnic identity. Over the years they had been destined to be ruled by tyrants and had lived in despotic environment, but now scenario is gradually changing. The “Arab Spring” has given a quite critical result in worldwide perception. The Middle East of Leaders is now facing the Middle East of masses. The more the masses in the Middle East have taken to the street, the more their demands have gained legitimacy along with tremendous support. The world is mesmerized by the revolution and it had marked the end of utopian era in different countries.

As the world, without hesitation, approves automatic or organized actions of masses in the Middle East, it questions the regime at the source of problems that have caused mass actions. When I was given the opportunity to write, it took me fraction of seconds to decide the topic. Since a lot has been written about Jasmine Revolution, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Yemen, I decided to shift my attention towards another burning and in my sense most important topic in current scenario which entire World community is talking about i.e. freedom of largest ethnic and homeless tribe. The reason why Kurdistan revolution is tougher from rest other revolutions is due to its geopolitical location as it shares border with three volatile nations around i.e. Iraq, Turkey and Syria. All these countries have exuberant political scenario which has added vitriol on the woes of poor Kurds who now dream of having their own separate nation. The only identity which they have earned over the years is of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

“The largest stateless” nation in the world:

The history of the Kurds in Turkey is a long succession of revolts and uprisings. After years of being terrorized by Saddam Hussain and desperate to maintain a separate ethnic identity, the Kurds, wanted to take the opportunity to finally break free from Baghdad.
But beneath the apparent calm, the same tensions still simmer – Kurdistan’s legal status remains undetermined, the ethnic Kurds are still demanding a homeland and I strongly feel that the regional government is illegally helping itself to the nation’s oil, water and other resources due to its geo-strategic location. The geopolitical importance of the region combined with significant oil and water resources there always appears to have hindered, not helped, the Kurds. The issues faced by Kurds in each country vary in nature and intensity, but there are undeniably common threads. In almost all regions, Kurds face suspicion of harboring separatist sympathies simply by virtue of their ethnic origin. Ethnic cleansing programmes, ‘Arabisation’ and ‘Turkification’, have been implemented, accompanied by mass killings, displacement and prohibitions on Kurdish culture and language. Over the last twenty years, the Kurdish regions have been the scenes of genocide, crimes against humanity, extra-judicial killings, torture, mass displacement and censorship, among other abuses of international law.

Rise and Insurgence of Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK)

The Kurdistan Workers’ party (Kurdish: Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan, PKK) is an armed group established in the early 1970s. Its ideology was based on revolutionary Marxism-Leninism and Kurdish nationalism. Abdullah Ocalan founded the party in 1974 and it was formally named the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) in 1978. The goal of the PKK has been to create an independent socialist Kurdish state in a territory which it claims as Kurdistan – an area that includes parts of southeast Turkey, northeast Iraq, northeast Syria and northwestern Iran. These

states oppose any such change.

The PKK uses force and the threat of force against both civilian and military targets for achieving its political goals. It is listed as a “terrorist organization” by a number of states and organizations, including the US, NATO and the EU. The PKK took up arms against Turkey in 1984 with the aim of creating an ethnic homeland in the southeast. More than 30,000 people have been killed in the conflict since then. In 1999, Ocalan was captured and sentenced to death by a Turkish court. His sentence was reduced to life imprisonment in October 2002 after Turkey abolished the death penalty. Fighting subsided after Ocalan’s capture and led to a ceasefire and the withdrawal of fighters from Turkey.

After his arrest, Ocalan stressed the importance of achieving rights for the Kurds through politics rather than the armed struggle. This encouraged the group to establish a political wing known as Kongra–Gel in November 2003.

About 3,000 PKK fighters are based in northern Iraq and launch attacks on security and civilian targets in Turkish territory. A few thousand PKK fighters are also believed to be inside Turkey. The Kurds have remained anguished for a separate nation due to continuous oppression over the years. The tragic twists in the history of the Kurds seem to continue as they are once more powerless without the help of the enemy of their oppressors. The oppression of the few Kurdish voices of dissent in northern Iraq which oppose the regime makes it obvious that freedom will be an ach Kurdistan. But the freedom of Barzani and Talabani to increase their influence and wealth is indeed a reality. The involvement of Israel in Kurdish northern Iraq, where they are training government and security officials, is a further indictment of the US-backed Kurdish regime. The fragility of the Barzani-Talabani empire becomes more visible as the Western occupiers consider inviting Syria and Iran to help solve the problem and control the resistance in Iraq. Syria and Iran both have their own oppressed Kurdish minorities. And if these countries become US allies in Iraq, the US is less likely to need Barzani and Talabani. I strongly believe that freedom comes with a big price but now the question arises that whether what price exactly these innocent Kurdis have to pay to get a separate status. Is it really worth? Would they be able to sustain entire new administration? Do they expect a new constitution? Kurds of the region expect the new constitution to be based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and the recognition of plurality in society. Apart from desiring that these highly praised values be included in the new constitution, there are some values that the respondents wish to see excluded. Constitution is the pillar of nation and in the wake of Jasmine revolution and Arab Spring, they are optimistic about their dream turning into realities. Syrian Kurds are nationalists before they are patriots, a direct result of political and cultural marginalization and the very suffering they have endured over the years, most notably the 1962 census that denied Syrian citizenship to hundreds of thousands of Kurds, centralized population projects that led to the forcible demographic alteration of formerly Kurdish regions and finally, the law that was passed a few years ago, which prevents the buying or selling of land within fifty kilometres of the Syrian border, a measure which the Kurds regard as targeting their communities.

The uprising of 2004 had the effect of making the Kurds even more insular and engendered feelings of impotent bitterness towards their Arab brethren. At the same time, the invasion and occupation of Iraq and the fall of Saddam Hussein gave Syrian Kurds a huge morale boost. Then came the Syrian revolution, a historic opportunity to achieve what they had never been able to achieve, and restore the rights which were stripped from them.

Taken together, these factors ensured that Kurdish participation in the revolution was less enthusiastic than anticipated, especially in the province of Aleppo. The Kurdish political movement, however, was even more passive than the general population.

Renaissance of Kurdistan in Syria

Since the Syrian crisis developed into a civil war, insurgents from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, better known as the PKK, have launched their most intense guerrilla campaign against Turkish security forces since the 1990s. At the same time, Kurds in Syria have taken advantage of the turmoil there to start planting Kurdish flags in towns along Turkey’s border and declaring a de facto autonomy.

Turkey believes Syria’s Kurds are abetting the PKK, with encouragement from Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. The Kurdish conflict has killed almost 40,000 people over three decades, and cost more than $300 billion according to official estimates. As the uprising has evolved, however, the Kurds — largely concentrated in the country’s northeast, which holds a significant portion of Syria’s limited but vital oil reserves — have been quietly preparing for a post-Assad future, opening police stations, courts and local councils that they hope will form the foundations of an autonomous region. The proliferation of newly hung Kurdish flags and signs in the mother tongue in al-Hasakah province give the impression of liberation after years of rule under the Baath party, which expropriated land in Kurdish areas, suppressed expressions of Kurdish identity and arrested thousands of Kurdish activists, especially after riots shook the Kurdish areas in 2004. But the effort to achieve self-governance is taking place while the government’s troops maintain a presence in many of the region’s towns and cities, appearing to turn a blind eye to what would have previously been an unthinkable threat to its power. The state’s inaction may reflect a strategic decision to avoid opening up another front of conflict or, as many in the Syrian opposition say, could be intended to invigorate the Kurdish separatist movement in Turkey to rattle Ankara as it funnels support to the rebel Free Syrian Army. Turkey’s declaring war on Syria can give an international character to this revolution which currently looks like a national or internal problem. If Turkey fights Syria, this revolution will be able to be marketed

not as a nation’s quest to liberate itself from a 40-year dictatorship, but as an ethnic conflict between Arabs, Turks and Kurds. And most importantly, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) presence in Syria and Turkey will acquire an international identity based on these developments; in other words, Turkey’s Kurdish issue will transform into an international problem.

Removing the fences and developments happened post revolution:

When the uprising began nearly 18 months ago, nations were worried that the Kurds could make common cause with Mr. Assad in exchange for more rights and autonomy. Many described the Kurds as sitting on the fence, waiting to choose sides. Many Kurds dispute that analysis. They say they have always hated President Assad.

In ceding control of the Kurdish cities, the Assad government has been able to focus its heavy weapons on the fight with the Sunni-led opposition. The move has also antagonized Turkey, which has supported the opposition but worries that an autonomous Kurdish region in Syria could become a free zone for Kurdish insurgents to launch attacks on Turkey. The Syrian military has kept a low profile in Kurdish areas. For now, with the focus on Syria, Kurdish leaders acknowledge the ambition of an independent nation that unites the Kurdish communities in Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq, but they say they will settle for independence within a united Syria — as an interim step.

From dreadful past to unseen future:

In the Middle East, historical grievances are never fully in the past, but only prologue to current circumstances. As some Kurds see it, the historical roots of their oppression stretch back centuries, to the exploits of a Muslim Kurdish warrior named Saladin, the first sultan of Egypt, who achieved victory over European crusaders in the 12th century. Thus they should pursue autonomy in fallen areas. An autonomous Kurdish region in what is now Syria, a prospect they see as a step toward fulfilling a centuries-old dream of linking the Kurdish minorities in Iraq, Turkey and Iran into an independent nation. For the Kurds, the need for a clear vision and the acquisition of the necessary means to pursue their strategic goals emerge as indispensable. If the Kurdish issue is to be resolved, Kurdish pleas for inter and intra-Kurdish cooperation and unity should be therefore made a priority. This will start making there yester-year endeavor and dream of separate land ripening into reality.


One comment

  1. Siddharth /

    Hope u guys like it!!!

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