The elements that have been causing stagnation
The borders of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey divide the Kurdish people, the biggest ethnic group without a nation state. This paper seeks to shed light on whom the Kurds are, the territory they claim being a part of their right, and more on the status of their struggle for nationhood, an independent Kurdistan with its main focus on Iraqi Kurdistan. It also establishes the relationship with the nation-states in which they (Kurds) live. The study also explores the challenges, and resolutions, of and by the Kurds. For Kurds to face their plight and get solutions, they have had to take hard decisions. Such a decision is the resolve by some of them to take part in the guerilla movements against the oppressing countries.It will be important, therefore, to establish what inspired their entry into guerilla movements, how they developed guerilla formations, other nation-states’ reactions, international interventions, and the future shaping of the formations’ activities. Related to the guerilla formations, is the quest for autonomy, and the effects on the Kurds’ global relations.It is vital to grasp the historical, present and future attempts at attaining autonomy, the challenges in the quest for autonomy, the reaction from other nation-states, and if there is any global support towards attainment of independence. In any walk, there are bound to be enemies. The enemies of the Kurds are those nations and elements that have been causing stagnation in their quest for autonomy. An exploration of the various ways this has been happening shall be fundamental. Also, there are ways in which they have had self-inflicted stagnation. Such ways need elucidation. The above will guide on the future of the Kurds.The future of the Kurds will depend on how the dynamics of enemy repression will balance with those of liberation. A look at the potential future challenges will also be important. An evaluation of the need for self-governance, and the possibility of the other nations to follow the Iraq model will aid the study. Last but not least, the study will draw a conclusion based on the survey.Kurds and KurdistanAccording to Katzman (1), despite the fact that the Kurds form the fourth in size ethnic block in the entire Middle East, they do not have a nation-state. On the contrary, over the years, they have only received minority status in the countries they live in. Chaliland (4) points to the national identity of the Kurds, which has been in question in the period succeeding World War I due to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the border drawings by the British and The League of Nations. Kurdistan extends from Southeastern side of Turkey through Iraq (northern), into Iran (eastern) and Syria (northeastern). Even though Kurds live mainly in Kurdistan, there is also a minority in Russia (Chaliland 4). Others live in Azerbaijan and Armenia (Hassanpour). Kurdistan is a mountainous region and the most feasible economic engagement is agriculture. Majorly Sunni Muslims, the language of the Kurds is indo-European. The origin of the political divisions amongst the Kurds is in the colonial powers that governed in the neighboring geographical boundaries –like the British in Iraq – and the occupancy of the oilfields like Mosul. It’s also a fact that Kurdistan is rich in other mineral resources (Jwaideh 8). Faced with the challenges of existing in lands where they are immensely disenfranchised, the Kurds – over the ages – have resorted to various means of finding expression like creating formations, both politico-diplomatic and military. Kurds have even had guerilla fighters from amongst themselves. Kurds as Guerilla FightersA guerilla fighter does not join the regular fighters, he continues fighting according to McLachlan (5). This means, a guerilla fighter emerges unexpectedly to carry out an attack and take cover. Kurdish fighters are called Peshmargea, which translates into in front of death. Kurds got inspiration to engage in guerilla activities as a tool for self-emancipation and a reaction to repression. Those taking part wanted to bring about independence for the Kurdish people in a nation-state of their own. According to Pike, the Kurdistan Workers Party, PKK, came into existence in 1978 and consisted “of Kurds from Turkey”. The main goal of PKK was to lead the Kurds to come up with a Kurdish nation-state in the parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey where they live but focused mostly in struggling against the Turkish government. To achieve this, the movement employed military and diplomatic ways.In a move from the traditional military tactics, the leader of the movement, Mr. Ocalan led the group in 1999 to adopt an initiative of peaceful approach, which they described as political means (Pike, 2004). To commit to the call for non-violence, the name changed from PKK to KADEK, meaning the “Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress” (Pike). To hybridize between peaceful and armed defense formations, Pike notes that the PKK planners in late 2003 changed KADEK to Kongra-Gel, or KGK. Pike also notes that early 2004, the planners came up with the “People’s Defense Force”, or HPG, and the new outfit took control of the group while renouncing PKK’s call for a ceasefire in 1999.Around 1980-1988, during the Iraq – Iran war the Kurds made some military gain over Iraq (Meho 15). Following the gains by the Kurds, Iraq – under Saddam Hussein’s reign – responded by a military campaign called “Operation Anfal” also referred to as the Kurdish genocide that took place in 1986 – 1989 all over the Kurdish parts of Iraq. The Saddam regime used brutal measures to stop the Kurdish struggle for independence by using chemical weapons (Mustard gas) on the town of Halabja, killing 5000 civilians, this was the first time since WWII that chemical weapons was used on a civilian population. The regime employed other means like, mass deportation, Arabization, firing squads, destruction of 5,000 villages and other brutal atrocities. As Saddam attacked Kuwait in 1991, the Americans and its allied lead a military operation with a United Nations mandate to force the Iraqi army out of Kuwait. Following the weakening of the Iraqi military from the Allied bombardments, the Kurdish people seized the opportunity to become free from their internal suppression by the central government. As an act of emancipation, the Kurds and other rebels formed a coalition around the time the Gulf War commenced; the central goal was removal of the then Iraq President, Saddam Hussein. However, the miscalculations of the regimes strength resulted in mass slaughter of the Kurdish people. This time the Americans could not ignore the slaughter of the Kurdish people so the Americans put up no fly zone over northern Iraq to protect the Kurds. The effort by the Kurdish people to gain autonomy has gone on for quite some time. The efforts that the Kurds have input towards gaining their autonomy has had varied repercussions with various global and internal players. This can be summed up as the effects of their quest for autonomy. The Effect of Kurds’ Autonomy on their Global RelationsAccording to Chaliland (6), the joint Iraqi – British declaration in 1922 to allow the Kurdish people attain autonomy within the frontiers of Iraq must have been inspired by the British annexation of the oil-rich Mosul. That was the first attempt to the formation of the nation state for the Kurds. Later, around mid 20th Century, the British and US saw the rising of Azerbaijan People’s Government, and The Republic of Kurdistan in Iran supported by the Soviet Union (Hassanpour). Due to the backing of the Soviet Union and the Cold War the British and US supported Iranian forces to quash the two. Despite a long struggle for nationalization, the Kurdish nationalism is not enduring (Hassanpour). For instance, this movement collapsed in 1946 (Marcus, 2007: 33). Marcus (2007: 33) notes that “in March 1975, the Kurdish nationalist movement suffered its biggest blow since the collapse in 1946 of the Mahabad republic in Iran’s Kurdish region”. The withdrawal of Iranian support for the Kurdish movement against Iraq was a blow to the leader of the movement, who pleaded defeated. Some fled to the Soviet Union but the Movement leader Qazi Mohammad stayed and got executed on the same square that the declared the independence of the Republic of Kurdistan. Despite the fact that the Kurds periodically enjoy self-rule in Iraq, the latter has employed very brutal means to repress the Kurds (Salih, McGarry and O’Leary, 2005).In spite of any challenges, the quest for the autonomy of the Kurds has been more successful in Iraq than any of the other states where they (Kurds) exist. Turkey, Syria and Iran have not been comfortable with the apparent state of autonomy that the Kurds have enjoyed in Iraq. The Allied forces, however, have incessantly supported all efforts towards a peaceful coexistence between the Kurdish Regional Government representation in Iraq and Iraqi central government. On the other hand, Turkey has had a fair share of friction, at any opportune time, inflicted against the Kurds of Turkey. To strengthen their quest for independence, the Kurds supporting the cause of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) and all its other forms have caused conflicts in countries they have operated in. For instance, they have been a sore in the throat of the Turkish government. The latter has done all that it could to suppress it. The quest for autonomy by the Kurds received a boost when America pressured Iraq to institute governmental reforms that were all-inclusive and minimize the repression of the dissent. Thyne (173) recognizes the original effort by the US as their international policy of sending strong and expensive signals to assert their authority, and tame civil war. Such a strong action reminds the countries of America’s watch in global affairs. The US has been using such tactics to control security issues on the global stage.The Enemies of the Kurdish People”As early as 1924, Kemalist Turkey passed a law forbidding the teaching of Kurdish in school” (Chaliland 5). As though that was not enough, the Turkish constitution made legislation disowning the existence of the Kurds in the Turkish territory, albeit as the major minority. The fact that Iraq government has given the Kurdish parliamentary groups legal existence has caused discomfort in Turkey. The government of Turkey, it seems, can go to any extent to crash any Kurdish dissent. For instance, it (Turkey) has recognized an opportunity in undermining “power consolidation among Iraqi Kurds” by sponsoring Turkmen led groups opposed to northern Iraq Kurds (Eccarius-Kelly 153).As will be discussed in the future of the Kurds, these people are their own enemies to an extent. As much as there is external pressure on the Kurds, they also have an internal rivalry, which is partly contributing to their own fall. Also, the international community has reservations on the consequences of establishing an independent Kurdistan (Meho 15). Hassanpour observes that the nation of the Kurds has encountered little cooperation on nation state formation within the borders of the surrounding Turkish, Persian and Arab nationalist regimes despite its distinctive culture. Such little cooperation is evidence that the states for feeling threatened, have assumed a state of enmity between the Kurdish people and themselves.Meho (18) also concludes that the Kurds have had challenges of communication-due to religious and linguistic diversity – and that they have coexisted amidst repressive regimes like Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Syria. The element of repressing a people who are struggling to find identity in a region they are fourth largest in ethnic intensity alludes to enmity.The Future of the Kurdish PeopleGiven the fact that the regions the Kurdish people occupy overlap the borders of the countries in question, there is an element of vulnerability concerning security issues. The marginalization of the Kurdish areas in terms of economic allocations is a threat to the future development of the Kurdish nation (Hassanpour). To add on that, the dynamics of repressing the Kurds together with those of assimilating them produce a complex matrix and the outcome of the Kurdish nationalization becomes unpredictable. To add insult on scar, the Kurds are their own enemies, by competing amongst themselves on political and ideological differences. As Salih, McGarry, and O’Leary writes: “At a first glance, it would seem that the Kurds of Iraq have made substantial progress toward consolidating their current level of autonomy within the future Iraq state” (Salih, McGarry, and O’Leary 195). The above authors base on the fact that the government of Iraq signed the “Transitional Administrative Law” that endorsed federalism and recognized the government of Kurdistan officially existing in a unified Iraq (195). However, there are some reservations to this.According to Salih, McGarry and O’Leary (195), there are two problems in future. The first is basing federalism on history, geography, and separating powers, the latter is still vague and not clearly defined. This has elicited different interpretations depending on who is looking at it. The Kurds see it as a potential for self-government, and democracy in future. Given the history of repression that is inherent in the Iraq fear of a free Kurdistan, it leaves a lot of speculation on what might happen if the Kurds’ wishes come to pass. On the other hand, the vagueness may be a show of diplomacy while deep within, the Iraq only wants to pacify the pro-Kurd governance supporters while holding fast on absolute authority. The second problem lies with the Kurds themselves. Supposing they see light at the end of the Iraq tunnel and they get the mandate of self-governance, how would they manage it amidst internal conflicts? Their political differences are so noticeable that they are equally against their own progress as their external detractors. For instance, the “Kurdistan National Assembly” is split into the “Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)” (Salih, McGarry and O’Leary 196). The two sides have even fought over land. Given this internal conflict, it is hard to tell what can emerge if any of the two factions emerge as the front-runner in bringing power to Kurdistan. It is a time bomb, a potential for a bigger conflict than already existing. According to Eccarius-Kelly (153), the fact that the two parliamentary wings of the Kurdish people in Iraq have an official representation has resulted into strained relations between Turkey and Iraq. It is true, therefore, to contend that the potential future absolute emancipation of the Kurd is a political threat to the Turkish. The immense fear in Turkey could be that the Iraqi Kurds freedom can cause ripple effect across the countries where the Kurd people occupy. Therefore, there should be a bold move to resolve the internal conflicts and build a capacity for self-governance. This will be based on the optimism that any doubts, external setbacks against the dream shall be vanquished. The capacity for self-governance needs to look at the political, economic, and social preparedness of the people of Kurdistan. As Eccarius-Kelly writes, “For Turkey’s high command the nightmare scenario of an assertive Iraqi Kurdistan and a strengthened PKK had become a reality by 2004” (Eccarius-Kelly 153). On the other hand, the fear of the Iraq government is that should the Turkey government wage war against PKK, it may result into a civil war.It seems Saddam Hussein was a stumbling block to the peaceful existence of the Kurds in northern Iraq. Katzman (2009) in his summary observes that the Iraq Kurds have lived peacefully since the exit of the former militant leader from the global political stage, and from life as a whole. According to Katzman, Turkey and Iran could as well be reconciling to the reality of the expanded space for the Kurds in Iraq. However, major differences between the Kurds and the government have not been resolved. The clear future shall be in resolving any conflicts between the Iraqi central government and the Kurds’ representation, and a global attempt to replicate the successful model in other states where the Kurds occupy. The nation-state of Kurdistan deserves a global formal recognition amongst the United Nations. The nation states involved need to be guided on such a possibility.So to conclude; The irony of a fourth dominant people in the Middle East living on the peripheries of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. In an effort to emancipate them, they have made ageless attempts, using all means. One of the ways they have worked this out has been through guerilla tactics. Hence, they have formed both armed and diplomatic formations. Over the ages, the armed formations have run into conflicts with the host countries, most which have intentionally suppressed them brutally. Some of the actions have moved global players like the United Nations and the United States of America be forced to intervened like in the Iraq’s case to stop the killing of the Kurds. Despite a number of breakthroughs, the Iraqi model is yet to be emulated by Iran, Syria, and Turkey. A country like Turkey is trying all means at her disposal to contain the Kurds in Turkey, and to undermine the Kurds people in northern Iraq. The other challenges are the little conflicts between the central government, and the Kurds representation in Iraq, and the internal conflicts amongst the Kurds’ warring political factions. There should be a deliberate move to fix the Kurds’ challenges both internally, and externally. The fourth largest ethnic block in the Middle East deserves a nation-state. It is not fair for the Kurds to receive a minority treatment while they are not, in the real sense the minor group.Works CitedChaliland, Gerard. A people Without a Country: The Kurds and Kurdistan. London: Zed Press, 1980. Print. Eccarius-Kelly, Vera. The Militant Kurds: A Dual Strategy for Freedom. California: ABC-CLIO 2011. Print.Hassanpour, Amir. ‘The Kurdish Experience’ in Middle East Research and Information Project. Washington, Middle East Research and Information Project. 2009. Web. 7 Dec. 2013. http://www.merip.org/mer/mer189/Kurdish-experience.Jwaideh, Wadie. The Kurdish National Movement: It’s Origins and Development. New York, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2006. Print. Marcus, Aliza. Blood and Belief: The PKK and the Kurdish Fight for Independence. New York, NY: New York University, 2007. Print.McLachlan, Sean. American Civil War Guerrilla Tactics. New York: Osprey Publishing Ltd, 2009. Print.Meho, Lokman. The Kurds and Kurdistan: A selective and Annotated Bibliography. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1997. Print.Pike, John. Kurdistan Workers’ Party. 2004. Web. 7 Dec. 2013. http://www.fas.org/irp/world/para/pkk.htmSalih, Khaled, McGarry, John., and O’Leary, Brendan. The Future of Kurdistan in Iraq. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2005. Print.Thyne, Clayton. How International Relations Affect Civil Conflict. Plymouth: Lexington Books, 2009. Print.