Kurds – showing a tongue with which to talk, but teeth with which to bite

The Syrian Kurds are in many ways the forgotten kindred of the Kurdish landscape that have suddenly found themselves at a centre of increasing regional and international focus. Indeed, while Kurdistan was forcibly partitioned in the selfish interest of the imperial powers at the time, the Kurdish national identity became increasingly more localised with the respective struggles following suit.

It has become a common future to be labelled as an Iraqi Kurd, Turkish Kurd, Syrian Kurd or Iranian Kurd, which in itself is rubbing salt into the wounds of the Kurds. They were segregated against their will and such labelling based on their new found minority status, may seem as a logical way to distinguish the new Kurdish segments, but it simply aided the assimilation drive of the respective occupying forces.

At a crucial and sensitive juncture of the Kurdistan national renaissance, the Kurds have a unique opportunity to rewrite the wrongs of history. While the borders cannot be redrawn overnight, the mere conception of the Kurds as a disparate force whose influence is limited to their respective state can be changed.

Whether based in Syria, Turkey, Iraq or Iran, a Kurd will always be a Kurd and successive Kurdish policies should reflect a coming together of interests and an alliance of different components for the benefit of greater Kurdish nationalism. The old Kurdish saying that Kurds have no friends but the mountains may have spoken true in yesteryears, but in the new dawn the Kurds have each other.

Millions of Kurds under Baghdad rule

Although the Kurdistan Region finds itself in an enviable position of becoming a prosperous, strategic, political and economic hub, it is at the end of the day only the boundaries of the Kurdistan that has been loosely defined by the Iraqi constitution.

Remarkably, over 40% of the Kurdistan ethnic border lies outside of the Region that form part of the so-called disputed territories.  Yet constitutional articles that govern how the status of these territories is to be resolved has been strategically stalled by Baghdad in order to restrain the rapid advancement of the Kurds.

Four years after the deadline for the implementation of article 140, these Kurds still find themselves no closer to an official return to the Kurdistan Region and to compound matters are at the mercy of insurgents intent on derailing Kurdish grip on these areas.

While most Kurds in the Kurdistan Region enjoy relative stability and welfare, the Kurds outside of the region do not enjoy such privileges. Deterioration in the security of Iraq or any political vacuums in Baghdad such as that experienced today ensures they get caught up in the whirlwind of violence and fear.

The Kurdish and Iraqi security forces have come close to outright fighting on a number of occasions in the disputed areas and Baghdad has frequently opposed the presence of Peshmerga forces in the disputed territories, but at some point the Kurds have to say enough is enough.

The recent spate of bombings across Kirkuk, Nineveh, Salahaddin and especially Diyala provinces continues to highlight the dangers that Kurds endure in the face of hard-line groups and Arab nationalists.

Kurdish complaints at the lack of protection from Baghdad are not new and have regularly called on the KRG to intercede on their behalf.

Baghdad cannot have it both ways – stalling the resolution of disputed territories yet not affording the Kurds the protection they are entitled to under their roof.

It is time for the KRG to intervene more directly in such hotspots and safeguard the wellbeing of the Kurdish citizens. Sitting idle or waiting for the goodwill of Baghdad to take pace will only end in disappointment.

More importantly, the Kurds have to grab the bull by the horns as far as the issue of disputed territories are concerned and set Baghdad key deadlines and milestones, whereby if they fail to deliver then the Kurds will take matters into their own hands.

Kurds too often have been fearful of not upsetting their neighbours with respective Kurdish headaches or straining ties with Baghdad. However, Kurds have done as much as anyone to preserve stability and unity in Iraq and indeed ensure dialogue takes precedence over violence in Turkey. The Kurds should not be any less weary than other nation to enjoy their legal rights and make their own demands and also enact counter measures as they see fit to defend their nationality and region.

This is not to say that productive relations with neighbours is not of paramount importance as this is key for the economic growth of Kurdistan and overall political stability, however it means that the Kurds have to be taken as an important strategic power in their own right and as equal partners at the regional table. To show that the Kurds have a tongue by which they engage dialogue but also teeth by which they can bite.

Plight of Syrian Kurds

Under the increasing limelight are the Syrian Kurds who in many ways are stuck between an Assad regime that has subjected them to systemic repression and Arab opposition groups they distrust.

While neighbouring Sunni countries have flocked to stand up for their brethren that are subject to increasing brutality amidst a fierce government reprisal, the Kurds in Syria have suffered for decades with much of the world turning a blind eye.

When Arabs defend their brethren, the Kurdistan Region should be ready to defend their own. Syrian Kurds look to the Kurds in Iraq as big brothers and it is the duty of Kurdistan region to embrace them with open arms.

As such the awarding of refugee status to 30 Syrian Kurdish soldiers who had defected is a welcome step. The Kurdistan Region should become the natural hub where Syrian Kurds can use to oppose the Assad regime and ensure a new democratic and federalist dawn in Syria ensues.

Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 to protect its Turkish inhabitants and has played a frequent hand in ensuring Turkmen interests are preserved in Iraq, with many other regional examples that follow suit. The Kurds cannot stay idle at a unique historical opportunity to unite all of Kurdistan in politics, strategy and spirit.

Federalism as a step to unity

The minimum demand of the Kurds in Syria should be federalism. While the Kurds have an undeniable right to self-determination that has been harshly and selfishly deprived, the greatest formula for the overall unity of Kurdistan at the present time is the establishment of federal region across all countries where they find themselves a significant minority.

A future federal state of Kurdistan in Syria will undoubtedly have a strong alliance with Kurdistan Region which will benefit the entire region in promoting long-term stability.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Peyamner, Various Misc.

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