If an ethnic group ever deserved an award for patience and perseverance then it is the Kurds. Still the largest nation without a state, the Kurds are told to bide their time for independence or worse are threatened by its consequences.
One hundred years have passed since the infamous Sykes-Picot agreement and it is approaching the centenial of the respective Treaties of Sevres and Lausanne. The truth is, Kurdistan may be embroiled in a valiant battle against the Islamic State (IS) today and in many ways carry the global fight against the group, but their struggle for existence and freedom is nothing new.
Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani announced plans to hold a referendum as far back as July 2014 when Iraqi forces rapidly collapsed under IS attacks. This intention was renewed with repeated plans to hold a referendum by end of 2016.
Skeptics point to the difficult fight against IS, Kurdistan’s economic crisis, retaliation from neighboring powers, the instability engulfing the rest of Iraq and so on.
However, if Kurdistan ties its independence to a perfect moment in Iraq and the Middle East then independence will remain a distant dream. The Kurds must not equate their right of independence with a perfect regional, political or economic climate.
If independence was based on buy-in from all sides, a flourishing economy and a perfect democratic and social system, then dozens of sovereign countries would not exist today. On the contrary, independence will give the Kurds a strong hand to dictate fiscal matters such as devaluing their currency, printing money and borrowing from international markets.
Moreover, the independence of Kurdistan should not be a piecemeal measure. Even Saddam Hussein was willing to give the Kurds substantial autonomy with the exception of Kirkuk.
Kurdistan should declare independence and a referendum is the right and legal platform. As governed by United Nations charters, the voice of the people in deciding their fate is vital. Many nations have declared their independence in such a manner and the fate of many disputed cities has been resolved via plebiscites.
Abandoning the legal notion of self-determination and asking permission from Western powers, Ankara, Baghdad, and Tehran is a sure path to failure.
The Kurds have suffered under the hands of such governments and struggled for even basic rights, why should the fate of millions of Kurds and a legal right be placed in their hands once more?
Kurdistan has a rich array of ethnicities and religions. Assyrians, Chaldeans, Turkmen, Shabaks, Yezidis and Christians have enjoyed a historical foothold in these lands. This very coexistence should be heralded across the West and serve as a model of co-existence across the Middle East.
First Published: Kurdish Globe
Other Publication Sources: Various Misc