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April 16, 2014

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What Are We Doing In Baghdad?

Kurdishaspect.com - By: Dr. Rashid Karadaghi

On April 30th, about two weeks from now, Iraq will hold elections for a new parliament. And guess what? The Kurds will participate in this election, too! Right! Candidates from all Kurdish political parties are campaigning feverishly to win the people’s vote so they can go to Baghdad and achieve the elusive goal which no one before them has been able to achieve, not necessarily because of their shortcomings but because they were looking in the wrong place to begin with. These candidates are promising the Kurdish electorate to part the Red Sea in order to free their people from captivity. The Kurds will elect their representatives to fight for Kurdish rights in Baghdad! How about that? 

I just wonder what you can say to someone who has tried a poison for a hundred years and yet continues to hope and believe, against all logic, that it will turn into honey -- some day -- if only he tries a little harder than before.

It is said that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. It seems that we Kurds have learnt nothing from our very painful history with Arab Iraq for the last hundred years. How else, otherwise, would you explain our actions vis-à-vis Baghdad since Iraq’s liberation in 2003? How else can you explain a victim’s wholehearted effort to resuscitate his victimizer so he would come back to life and terrorize him more? 

We were a major player in recreating Iraq after its collapse as a state in 2003. No one can argue that what we did then was not a near-fatal mistake, as it has been proven by the increasingly hostile moves by the government of Iraq against the people of Kurdistan. The stronger Baghdad feels, the more hostile towards the Kurdish people it becomes, which is to be expected if we look at the history of Iraq since its creation as a state almost a century ago. 

No student of history would be surprised in the least by Baghdad’s escalation of its hostile actions towards the Kurds. In fact, Baghdad’s hostile acts towards Kurdistan would have happened a lot sooner, NO MATTER WHO WAS IN CHARGE THERE, had it not been for the sectarian violence which has weakened it considerably. Again, we should not be surprised at all because Baghdad is acting as Baghdad would, as dictated by its nature. If it acted differently, it wouldn’t be Baghdad, and it would be against nature. No one should expect a wolf to behave except like a wolf. That is simple logic. One does not need to have a degree in psychology or political science to know this simple truth.

So, knowing what we know, and should have known because of our long and bitter history with Arab Iraq, what should have we done (and didn’t do) and what should we do now?  The best time to have done something was in 2003 by not going to Baghdad at all. The next best time to have done something would have been during the drafting of the Iraqi constitution in 2004 when, despite the fact that Iraq was down on its knees as a state, the Arab Iraqis of the “new Iraq” refused to include an article in the Iraqi constitution that would have given the Kurds the right to hold a referendum twelve years from then (which would be 2016) to vote on whether to remain as part of Iraq or declare independence. If that wasn’t enough of a clue! That was when the Kurds should have packed up and gone home never to step in Baghdad again.

So, my reaction to the enthusiasm of the candidates from different Kurdish political parties to the Iraqi parliament about the miracles they would try to perform if they are elected to that body is, “Good luck”!  Look at the “achievements” of your predecessors. Read and digest a bit of history before you make all these promises. I don’t doubt the sincerity of any of the candidates from any political party, or their loyalty to the Kurdish Cause, but I believe that they are hoping to achieve an impossible task. I admire their enthusiasm, but I doubt the wisdom of it.

Going to Baghdad is nothing more than repeating and reaffirming the mistakes we made in 2003 and thereafter. Assuming we had no choice but to stay within Iraq for a while, why did we give the keys to our survival to Baghdad? Why did we allow Baghdad to “give” us our share of the budget? By signing on to this, we gave Baghdad the power of life and death over us. Shouldn’t we have remembered how Arab Iraq had treated us for a hundred years? Did we think that the wolf had suddenly turned into a lamb? 

No one may have the ideal and realistic answer for our dilemma right now, but I know in my bones that going to Baghdad and trying to influence policy there is not the answer because we have tried that route for a hundred years with disastrous results. Until and unless we change our thought processes and turn them upside down, we are bound to move in the vicious cycle we have been in for too long. A master does not give a slave his rights; the slave must give them to himself. The minute the slave asks the master for his rights, he loses the fight. We should not go to Baghdad to fight for Kurdish rights because those rights are not Baghdad’s to give; those rights are ours to give ourselves. 

So, let us break with the past and break out of the vicious cycle we have been stuck in for decades. Let us break with the wrong ways we have been thinking about solving our problems. Let us act as a free people, not as slaves. To expect any humanity and decency from the perpetrators of the Anfal genocide and Halabja massacre is the height of delusion, self-deception, absurdity, and naivete. Our freedom is not “given” to us by Baghdad, or anyone else, but by ourselves. Instead of looking to Baghdad for freedom, let us look to Kurdistan and the Kurdish people. Baghdad cannot “give” what it doesn’t have. It is demeaning to us, a nation with a proud history and a reputation for bravery and dignity, not to take matters into our own hands. You are as free as you want to be, not as someone else allows you to be. Our forefathers have said, “Freedom is taken, not given.” The answer is in Kurdistan, not in Baghdad; it is within us, not someone else. It is time to cut the rope and be free. It is time.

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