Kurdistan Conflict:

                                    

History
and Overview:

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1Kurdistan
is a roughly defined geo-cultural region in Middle East with the population of
28 million with an area covering more than 200,000 km²  situated between Turkey,Iraq,Iran and Syria
equal to the area of France. It is mainly inhabited by Kurds who are an ethno
linguistic group residing mainly in Taurus and Zagros Mountain. The language
spoken in this region is mainly Kurdish, which is related to Northwest Iranian
Group and majority of the inhabitants are predominantly Sunni Muslims with
minor population of Shias, Yazidis and Christians. The dominant ethnicity in
this region is Kurds. 2Although
the prehistory of Kurds is somehow unknown but according to some
anthropologists their ancestors have believed to have inhabited in same region
for millennia or long before 16th century. They are believed to be of
heterogeneous origins containing number of earlier tribes i.e. Guti, Kardouchoi
or the inhabitants of ancient Mesopotamia. Moreover, they are also considered
the descendants of Median Empire who invaded Assyria which present day Iran and
partially Anatolia which was later invaded by Alexander.612 BC is considered as
a first Kurdish year by Kurdish nationalists. On this date, they conquered the
powerful Assyria and hence dominated Persia and Central Anatolia Then during
the Islamic conquest of the Old Iranian realms, the final necessary cultural
influence was introduced to create the beginning of Kurds, which was indeed an
important factor in securing the position of Kurds along with their neighbors
in embracing the Arab culture through conversion to Islam. Soon after the
advent of Islam their fate was linked to Arab rather than the previous Median or
Sassanid Empire. From 9th century onwards, the Kurds started playing an
effective role in Arts, culture and even in their own politics. The rule of
Ayyubid dynasty is considered the most successful period of Kurdish power which
was founded by The Great Saladin who is best known for epitomizing the Kurdish
military reputation. Before World war one the Kurdish lifestyle used to be
nomadic.  Soon after the disintegration
of Ottoman Empire and according to the treaty of Severs, Different nation
states (Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Syria) came into being. Since there was no
separate Kurdistan, so the Kurds were divided within the four new nation states
which developed nationalism among the Kurds. Although Kurds were promised to be
given a separate states according to treaty but the deal was rejected by
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Kurdistan was fragmented more than before which gave
birth to various separatist movements among Kurdish Groups.

 

Rise
of Kurdish Nationalism:

Kurds then started fighting for their rights but
each time their uprising met with brutal suppression by the states. Kurds felt
oppressed and then they started fighting for the independence. Although in many
occasions, Kurds were promised autonomy by successive administrations in
Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran; and each time the promise always persisted
unfulfilled, the Kurds then revolted and then the revolt was every time
brutally crushed resulting in the annihilation of Kurdish villages, massacre
and further killing of Kurdish people. Along with the political suppression,
the Kurds had also experienced cultural suppression. In Turkey, Iran, Iraq and
Syria, there had been widespread movements following the policy of forced integration.
Kurds were many times prohibited to speak their own native Kurdish language in public
areas. 3They
were often compelled abandon their Kurdish names and to adopt local ethnic
names, in order to get a proper job or to for the enrollment of the Kurdish
children in educational institutions. Their books, music and clothing were
considered illegal and they had to camouflage them in their households. If
authorities searched their houses and anything regarding Kurdish came out, they
could face lifetime imprisonment. In recent years, both Iran and Turkey to some
extent have relaxed their complete cultural suppression, while Iraqi Kurds have
been successful in achieving autonomy.

 

 

Turkish
Kurdistan:

4Kurds
were treated harshly at by the Turkish government, which tried to deprive them
of Kurdish identity by labeling them as Mountain Turks, further repressing tem
by outlawing their language and forbidding them to wear traditional Kurdish
costumes. A Marxist organization Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) was established by
Abdullah Ocalan whose aim was to create an independent Kurdistan which was
allegedly supported by Soviet Union was declared a terrorist organization by
the Turkish state. There was a peace process between the two entities which to
some extent limited the Guerilla war imposed by PKK. Many of the PKK fighters
took refuge in Lebanon in the 1980s. The also went to the Palestinian refugee
camps and fought along the Palestinian Popular Liberation Front (PELP), a
leftist group against the Israeli invasion in Lebanon in 1982. In 2002, when Tayyip
Erdogan’s AK Party formed the government, Erdogan took an adopted liberal approach
than predecessors as he brought several reforms that allowed more cultural and
language privileges to Kurds.  Despite
Erdogan’s limited autonomy to Kurds, Kurdish activists still complained about
continued repression and demanded greater changes.

 

Iranian
Kurdistan:                                         

5Iran
faced an insurgency right after World War II. Under the protection of Soviet
troops who had occupied parts of north-western Iran during the war. In 1946, a
Kurdish Republic was declared in the city of Mahabad in the Iranian Kurdistan.
By a political group known as KDP (Democratic Pary of Kurdistan) with the help
of Soviets which was later crushed by the Iranian monarchy. It lasted for 10 months,
until Soviet troops left Iran under pressure from the United States andagter
signing Yalta Agreement. The president of the republic, Qazi Muhammad was
hanged while the defense minister of this short lived republic Mustafa Barzani
escaped to Soviet Union and returned to his native country Iraq in 1958. Hence,
The Nationalist Party established its militant group and bombed the cities of
Iran further revolting against the state. It main objective was to seek greater
autonomy within the Iranian federation but it resulted in Kurdish revolt
suppressed. Even after 1979 Islamic Revolution the Kurds hoped of achieving
their destiny but Khomeini declared a holy war on them. To lot of extent, the
Islamic Republic of Iran under Khomeini regime was even more aggressive to
Kurdish separatists than the Pahlavi Shahs, and the first battle between Kurds
and adherents of the new Islamist regime took place less than a month after
Khomeini’s return to Iran in February 1979.6 After
merging the power struggle in Tehran between Khomeini’s Islamic party workers
and leftist factions of exiled previous President Abol Hassan Bani?Sadr along with Iranian
benefits in the conflict against Iraq, the Islamic regime began fighting against
with Kurdish nationalists again in 1982. Recently a new political party
known as free life party of Kurdistan emerged whose demands is same as KDP and
is in conflict with the current Iranian democratic regime. Iran has for
numerous times blamed Turkey and USA for supporting it.

 

Iraqi
Kurdistan:

In Iraq, The Kurds have faced the similar repression
by the Iraqi government. At first the Kurds revolted in 1923 and 1932 during
British rule but were crushed. By 1961, a Kurdish nationalist waged a massive
struggle against Baghdad after Baghdad refused to fulfill Kurds demands, which
was successful. Then negotiations were held between the two parties. The
negotiations were successful and Kurds achieved the autonomous status thus
after the Iran-Iraq war the autonomy was abolished and in 1988 Saddam Hussein
persecuted more than 50000 Kurds in Al Infal campaign. But autonomy was again
granted in 1990. Currently, Iraqi Kurdistan is governed by the President Masood
Barzani. It has raised its own Defense force known as Peshmerga. Many Iraqi regimes
promised autonomy to the Kurds especially after the 1958 revolution, but unfortunately
none of the promise was fulfilled until the anti-Saddam international alliance recognized
a partial no-fly zone in northern Iraq in 1991 after the first Gulf War.
7Tensions
between the main political parties of Kurdistan region i.e. the Patriotic Union
of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party  engaged into conflict with each other resulting
into civil war that almost destroyed the autonomous Kurdish administration in
1994-97, and some differences remain  Soon after the Saddam regime was overthrown
during Iraq War in 2003, the Kurdish Regional Government had to face instant
tasks such as rebuilding infrastructure, creating a proper functioning
democratic administration and adjusting thousands of displaced people after a
decade of war and destruction.

Overall its efforts exceeded all expectations. Iraqi
Kurdistan largely escaped the privations of the last years of Saddam’s rule and
the chaos that followed his ouster in 2003, and built a parliamentary democracy
with a growing economy.

 

Syrian
Kurdistan:

Soon after the Syrian Independence, A Syrian Kurdish
party known as Democratic Party of Kurdistan was emerged which had similar
ambitions but they also had a same fate, By 1970, Baathist regime of Hafez Al
Assad began Arabizing Syrian Kurdistan, which resulted in displacement of
thousands of ethnic Syrian Kurds. In the early 1970s,
thousands of Arabs were shifted on seized Kurdish property along a 200-mile
strip on the Turkish border as part of an Arabization procedure that included
banning the teaching of Kurdish literature from schools. In 2003, Democratic
Union Party (PYD) and its militant wing known as YPG (Peoples Protection Unit)
were established for the rights of Syrian Kurds. Recently, a
civil war in Syria has further improved the position of Syrian Kurds, which
embattled the Syrian President Bashar Al Assad in seeking support from Kurds
and in return Kurds were given Syrian citizenship as they were referred as
foreigners from 1962-2011.By 2013 Kurds declared full autonomy on their
territory known as Rojava.

 

 

Current
Scenario:

As the Middle East is stormed by the Arab spring
from 2011, In Syria the Kurds along with the opposing force of Free Syrian Army
rebelled against the current Assad regime which resulted in Syrian civil war.
Assad granted citizenship to the Kurds to prevent Syrian Kurdish conflict which
resulted in autonomous status for Syrian Kurds. By 2014, a Salafist jihadist
militant organization known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) captured
some of the regions of Iraq and Syria including Kurdish i.e. Kobani. The YPG
along with the support of US army and Peshmerga successfully liberated Kobani
from ISIS control. The Kurdish rebels, so far gained international support and
our being praised worldwide for their bravery, but the support by western
countries to Kurdish rebels has strained relations between US and Turkey. The
ISIS killing of Kurds created more tension between Arabs and Kurds and Iraqi
Kurdistan is on the verge of getting independence which would be the source of
inspiration for the Kurds in Syria, Turkey and Iran. Kurdish secession from
Iraq as an independent state would likely trigger conflict with Baghdad and
exacerbate sectarian conflict between Iraq’s Sunni and Shia Arabs. Neighboring
Iran, Syria, and Turkey are concerned that independence for Iraq’s Kurds could
inspire Kurdish uprisings in their own countries and that an independent
Kurdistan might harbor militant Kurdish groups. Under Erdogan, Turkey has
boosted extensive economic ties with the Kurdistan Regional Government,
including a booming oil trade, but also threatened that it would send its
troops into KRG territory, where the PKK’s guerrillas are known to operate.
Many analysts believe that Turkey would not support Iraqi Kurdish independence
without resolving its own internal Kurdish conflict first. As of 2015, Several
Kurdish militant headquarters were bombed by Turkey which again fuelled the
conflict between PKK and Turkish leadership. Now the Kurdistan conflict has
become an international issue for international community.8

In recent years, the Iranian Kurds have been trying
to participate in Iranian mainstream politics and elections but the Iranian
State continues to discriminate against them socially, politically and
economically. Even now that the conflict in Iraq has escalated and the Iraqi
Kurdish leader, Barzani wants a referendum to decide fate of Kurdish
people.  Many analysts believe that the
Iranian politicians in the government have no will to ease discriminations and
give Kurds their political rights. The relationship between Iraqi Kurdistan and
Israel fears Iran. Israel has fully expressed its support for Kurdish self-determination
and independence. 9
Israel believes that an independent Kurdistan would be friendlier towards
Israel. Even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his 2014 policy speech expressed
his support for an independent and sovereign Kurdistan. He further praised
their political commitment and political moderation saying that the Kurdish
people were worthy of their own self determination and political independence.

On 25th September 2017, an independence
referendum was held in Iraqi Kurdistan that was overwhelmingly backed by vast
majority of Iraqi Kurdish voters, at the same time it has raised further
strained relations between Erbil and Baghdad.  While the Kurdish Regional Government has outlined
the vote as a decree to have negotiations with Baghdad over the terms of independence,
President Haider al-Abadi had instead emphasized that the referendum was
invalid and hence, threatened to isolate the landlocked Kurdish region. 10He
further warned of repercussions and committed that the disintegration of Iraq
would never take place. The referendum has raised alarm in Iraq’s neighbors
Turkey, Iran and Syria; they are concerned that the independence of Iraqi
independence would be a source of inspiration for Kurdish minorities in their
states to break away. Iraqi Supreme Federal Court strictly
ruled on Monday that no region or province can seek independence, which further
enabled government to strengthen its hand as it seeks to avert a repeat of
September’s Kurdish independence vote. 11Iraqi
government forces and the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces launched a
surprise offensive on Oct. 16 in retaliation. Government forces managed to
wrest back control of the oil city of Kirkuk and other disputed territories.

On 17th December 2017, Thousands of
people across Kurdistan had marked their flag day to renew solidarity for the
Peshmerga and support for the Kurdistan independence as they continued to feel
the consequences of economic crises and the recent loss of Kurdistan or
disputed areas after the Iraqi forces were order to seize control of Iraqi
Kurdistan soon after controversial referendum. The Kirkuk Provincial Council,
in a historical move this spring, decreed to raise Kurdistan flag across Kirkuk
province along with the Iraqi flag. This move drew condemnation not only by
Iraq, but also neighboring countries such as Turkey. 12Flag
Day was also marked in the town of Khanaqin which fell to the Iraqi forces
after the events of October.  A group of
students wearing traditional Kurdish clothing and holding the Kurdistan flag
celebrated with Kurdish dancing, called shaiy.

Conclusion:

A move toward independence would also risk conflict
with Iran-backed Shia militias and possibly even inflame the sectarian
competition between Iraq’s Sunni and Shia Arab. Iraqi Kurds have claimed
disputed territories beyond the borders of the three provinces that make up the
Kurdistan Regional Government and where Arabs, Turkmen, and others have lived
for many years. Stoking tensions with Baghdad, Kurdish officials extended the
referendum to the ethnically mixed, oil-rich Kirkuk area, which the Peshmerga
captured in 2014 from the Islamic State. The international community has raised
it concerns regarding the controversial referendum. UN has categorically warned
of the vote’s potentially subverting effect, while the staunch supporter of
Kurds US has said it would only fuel regional unrest and distracts attention
from ongoing campaigns to crush the ISIS group in Iraq and Syria. Now only the
time would tell either Kurdistan would be an independent state or an autonomous
entity within the four states. Iraq is likely to be hostile to a unilateral
declaration of Kurdish independence but may be too internally divided to stop
it and may find benefits from negotiating a peaceful secession that advances
Baghdad’s and Erbil’s mutual interests. But while the Kurds have focused on the
establishment of a sovereign state as their principal goal, a declaration of
independence would only be the initial step in the building of a new nation. As
many other nations have learned, constructing a stable, prosperous state is far
more complicated than proclaiming its existence.

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