Building bridges, weaving nets, constructing words.

Thursday, 2 October 2014


For those who still do not know, Kurdistan, the land of the Kurds, is a geographical extension of at least 400,000 km2 along mountain ranges that underpin the natural boundaries between the states of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. It has an estimated population of about forty million people. There is not certainty about this number because countries that govern this fragmented territory have made every effort to prevent reliable censuses. Their ancestors date back to prehistoric times. Shanidar cave and the archaeological site of Jarmo in Iraq, Gobelki Tepe in Turkey, etc, are some of its most famous evidence. Moreover, studies conducted by prestigious geneticists qualify Kurds’ ancestors as one of the three oldest indigenous peoples of the Middle East along with Assyrians and Jews.

Artificially divided following other interests than their own, Kurds lost the train of history with the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923. Since then we speak of Kurdistan from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey instead of a single Kurdistan. Its strategic location, its deposits of oil under its soil, its rich mining resources, the water gathers in the mountains and crosses its fertile slopes and valleys and its agricultural wealth, made Kurdistan the object of desire of the victorious powers of the First World War and the state governments of the emerging countries after them. The traditional tribal structure and the weak urban infrastructure of the Kurds as well as the strong rivalry among the most notable personalities have facilitated internal dissension which has stopped any united state possibility.

Rebellion after rebellion, war after war, Kurds have shown that they are a people who love their history, their culture - despite speaking four different dialects and having different religious beliefs - and, above all, freedom. Subjected to a brutal genocide by Turkish and Iraqi governments and forced relocation by them and Iran, their fate was known, or rather, recognized after the bombing of Halabja in 1988 and the Anfal campaign of extermination conducted by Saddam Hussein. The uprising of early 1991 after the Gulf War left them in the north and the Shiites in the south, at the mercy of Saddam's revenge. The application of an air exclusion area allowed them to continue living on their land but deprived of food, medicine and all kinds of supplies as an added reprisal by the Baath regime.

In parallel, successive Turkish governments maintained the policy of prohibiting the use of the Kurdish language, teaching and tradition to twenty million people living in its territory while punishing entire villages under the guise of purging PKK guerrillas.
In Syria, the Baath regime of Hafiz al-Assad, simply denied its existence, depriving them even of identification documents.

The invasion of Iraq in 2003, allowed the Kurds of Iraq, or rather South Kurdistan, put in place a regional government, making the three provinces of Erbil, Duhok and Suleimania a haven of peace in the chaotic Iraq. Despite corruption and agreed bipartisanship, the KRG has developed a frenetic activity reconstruction. Its recovery is exemplary in such a difficult surrounding.

Their Kurdish brothers in Syria have not had the same luck. They are now suffering a new episode of cruelty. The Syrian Civil War has allowed the entry of numerous Islamist terrorist groups: Al Qaeda, Isis, Jabhat to Nursa, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, forcing Kurds to organize and turn once again to arms to defend themselves. In Rojava - Kurdish west - the name given to Kurdistan in Syria, the YPG, People's Protection Units have managed to control the Kurdish areas of the country, namely, Afrin, Kobani and Jazira, ensuring the safety of its citizens, both Kurds and other ethnic groups. But its situation, like all non-Islamist resistance has proven to be very precarious. Unable to get serious and strong international support to first destroy the terrorists and then depose Bashar al-Assad - although some would argue that the Kurds are collaborating with the regime - its moral, sometimes falters as in the last weeks.

A Kurd Rojava told me a sometime ago, about the desperation and helplessness in solitude to be found on the one hand, from the fragmented opposition to the regime and, secondly, from the International Community. Up in arms, Kurds constantly monitored the border with Turkey due to the entering of many Islamist terrorists, apparently with the tacit consent of the government of Ankara. Turkey, under no circumstances, is willing to accept an autonomous Kurdish zone, much less independent, and has willing risked preference with criminal ISIS before the Kurds until now.

Apart from these factors, there is a healthy and necessary ideological division among Kurds as in any plural society. There are two parties or factions that bring together most of the Kurds in Syria, the DUP the Democratic Union Party, more belligerent than the second largest group, the Kurdish National Council or KNC trend. Besides there is a strong connection between the PDU and the PKK or Kurdistan Workers Party from Turkey and the KNC with the KDP or Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iraq. As if this ideological division was not enough, each party supports a different faction of the Syrian resistance. The first has joined the National Coordination Body while the second has joined in August 2013 the Syrian National Coalition.

The international community took no interest in the situation in Syria until a major humanitarian crisis happened. The slow reaction will push the country into a more complex and intractable theatre of war than the one that took place in Lebanon. The Turkish blockade of the Kurdish military aid and volunteers will only increase the loss of lives. And the sole bombardment by the International coalition, though helpful, will not halt the advance of ISIS. The Kurds, once more have been left to their own, a mistake that not only will have dramatic consequences for them but the future of the whole region.

No comments:

Post a Comment