Iraqi Kurds’ Pursuit of Independence

The Iraqi Kurds are seeking for a referendum announced to be held on 25 September 2017 despite the U.S. objection.

A free state for the Kurds has been cemented in the hearts of Kurdish people ever since the defeated Ottoman Empire signed the Treaty of Sevres promising a free state for the Kurds after the First World War.

The KRG President Massoud Barzani’s close adviser, Hoshyar Zebari told Reuters “The date is standing, Sept 25, no change.”  The U.S. fears that the referendum craze in Erbil could drive the Kurdish attention away from its commitment to fight against terrorism.

The United States has reiterated its support for a “unified, federal, stable and democratic Iraq,” but it doesn’t hesitate to recognize the ‘legitimate aspirations’ of Kurdish people. The U.S. apparently tries to focus on more important issues to get Kurdish power’s attention occupied.

The Kurdish presidency, however, sounded resolute in a statement after the U.S. call. It said, “On the issue of the postponement of the referendum, the President [Barzani] stated that the people of the Kurdistan Region would expect guarantees and alternatives for their future.”

The stateless Kurds

The Kurds are often dubbed “the largest ethnic group without a state,” a statement that has much to debate about its statistical accuracy. But the Kurds are a large group of people who have been deprived of a state of their own as promised.

In Iraq, the Kurds are the majority in at least three provinces. Kurdish people constitute around 17% of the country’s population. The neighboring countries of Iraq have also been dealing issues with their sum of Kurdish people since the Treaty of Sevres failed to give them a state of their own.

There are around 12 to 14 million Kurdish people in Turkey. In Iran, around seven millions Kurdish people live. In Syria, they are the largest minority. All these countries have always been engaged in different sorts of disputes with the Kurdish section of the population over the last century.

The Kurdish timeline of instability could be dated back to the last century when the then Turkish leader, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk refused to comply with the accord to create a Kurdish state in the region. Kurdish people have been living mainly in four different countries ever since, forever demanding a state of their own but never to achieve.

Peshmerga’s success against the ISIS

Some sects of Kurdish people have been engaging in protests and violence for greater rights and privileges in their respective countries. PKK in Turkey, a group who are inspired by Karl Marx, have been engaged in violence with the government.

An independent Kurdish state is unanimously opposed by Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria where the majority of the Kurds live. PKK has been fighting against the Turkish government and eventually got enlisted as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and Turkey.

The Peshmerga of KRG has been the guerrilla group that fought against Saddam Hossain in the last decades. But KRG’s Peshmerga appeared as ‘brave hero’ after its battles against ISIS.

The former Head of US Training of the Iraqi Army Lt. Gen. Barbero spoke highly of Peshmerga forces, “The Peshmerga are brave fighters who punch above their weight.” He praised the Peshmerga force’s capacity to “take on bigger enemies such as ISIS and perform bravely.”

When government troops in Iraq seemed to be at a loss against the fight with the ISIS, the Kurdish Peshmerga forces have been way too effective regaining territory from ISIS. Their progress in the war against ISIS inspired other forces which eventually helped the world to defeat the vicious agents of terror in the modern world.

Could the Iraqi KRG’s warm relations with Turkey contribute to independence?

Turkey has been one of the most trusted friends of KRG of Iraq.  Even though Turkey has re-engaged in conflict with its Kurdish guerrilla group PKK, the country maintains a good relationship with the Iraqi Kurds.

Kurdistan Map Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Kurdistan Map Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Turkey has been doing business with the KRG government that helped the KRG economy to grow faster. But Turkey, as expected, has declined to support the KRG’s move to hold a referendum this year. Turkey along with its other three neighbors have always refused an independent Kurdish state.

A Kurdish state out of Iraq threatens the stability of their integration with own Kurd population. Turkey has a long history of conflict with PKK that cost tens of thousands of lives. Turkey has an interest in maintaining good relationships with KRG as it happens to be good for business. But when the question of Kurdish independence comes, Turkey seems to prefer a “unified, federal, stable and democratic Iraq” as U.S. does.

What does an independent Kurdish state mean for the Middle East?

Given that an independent Kurdish state is created, could that bring peace in the Middle East? Or escalate the already burned pit of fire?

The internal fight between different groups of the Kurdish people predicts grim future for a possible Kurdish independent state, especially because the country would be in the Middle East.

A state for the Kurdish population could be the best thing ever happened to this large stateless ethnic group. After a long centralized rule of Ottoman Empire and the dictatorship of Saddam Hossain, a free democratic republic for the Kurdish people could serve the purpose of independence if a bloodbath out of it doesn’t emerge.

If an independent Kurdish state could stop internal violence between the rival Kurdish groups, could weaken the extremists’ grip over the region, independent Kurdish sounds pretty awesome.

An independent Kurdish state sounds like a blessing for the Kurdish people if someone could ensure that the Middle East wouldn’t breed another failed state or the partition of Iraq wouldn’t follow a bloodbath as the partition of India did.

About Masum Billah 24 Articles
Masum Billah is a Staff Writer for The GeoStrategists. A Graduate from the Department of International Relations at the University of Dhaka, Masum Billah is a human rights activist. He writes columns on human rights, foreign policy, and terrorism.
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