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September 22, 2011

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The Obstacles to Kurdish Nationhood:  Kurds Should Not Get Lost in the Shuffle Again 

Kurdishaspect.com - By Dr. Aland Mizell 

Abraham Lincoln once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Many Kurds repeatedly ask the question, “Since Kurds are the major ethnic minority in the world with no nation state of their own, why do they not achieve one? The answer may be that the biggest obstacle for the Kurds is possibly not having their own nationhood nor reacting to outside sources, but rather that they are themselves the most formidable obstacle. Because Kurds fail to stand together, fail to learn lessons from history about repeated betrayal by outside forces and regional players, and fail to realize that now history is repeating the same errors, once again Kurds are being used as cards played against one another. Major players in the region are using the card for their self-interest, and again Kurds are fighting against Kurds, even in spite of the Kurdish Regional Government’s (KRG) saying or promising it will not fight against other Kurds but then behind closed doors joining alliances with the governments of Turkey, Iran, and Iraq to fights against the PKK.[i] 

The KRG should not join this game but should stay neutral because these diversions have been played in the past, and the regional government knows the outcomes very well. Kurds in Iraq also should use the policy of “zero problems” with their Kurdish brothers in the region because when Kurds are united, they are strong, but when they are divided, they are weak. Kurds will never be recognized seriously in the international arena unless they become united. However, I condemn the Kurdish Workers’ Party’s (PKK) killing, as well as the Turkish military’s assassinations because I have always believed that Turkey’s negotiating with the PKK is the solution to the Kurdish problem. The government should sit down and talk to the PKK and to the Peace and Democratic Party (BDP).  Definitely, militarism is not the solution to this issue because the Turkish government will not kill or jail millions of Kurds who support the PKK or the BDP, but ironically Ankara has created more PKK supporters since the more people wholose their loved ones, the more hate they will have toward each other and the more peace will have a hard time and elude them. Prime Minister Erdogan should not be arrogant and should talk with and listen to the BDP in order to come up with some kind of middle ground to solve the Kurds’ concerns.[ii]   

The PKK is not the only interest that Turkey has in northern Iraq. In part because they have important oil resources, Turkey has always had the aspiration of annexing Mosul and Kirkuk, cities which Turks claim were part of the Turkish state before World War I.  Relationships among nations are based on each nation’s interests in having more power. What interests do the Kurds have in allying themselves with Iran and Turkey to fight against the PKK?[iii] Those states continue to oppress the Kurds. Would it not be in the interest of the KRG not to provide any support to the Turkish military or to the Iranian military? While the PKK’s actions in killing innocent people are not justified, the PKK should ask for their rights by political means, but the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) does not want to talk with them. That is another obstacle to peace. We support the rights of the Kurdish people, but we do not support the use of arms by the PKK’s or the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), the Iranian branch of the PKK; instead we encourage Kurds to ask for their rights through Parliament in Ankara using peaceful means. President Jalal Talabani and Necirvan Barzani have said they do not want to be part of this fight. KRG officials say that the Qandil mountain range does not belong to the PKK, but only to the KRG, so that the PKK must leave the territory and go solve their problem with Turkey because they really do not care about it. Former Prime Minister Barzani, however, draws the line on letting Iran and Turkey go all the way to annihilate the PKK and the PJAK.  Deputy Leyla Zana from Diyarbakir sent a letter to powerful world leaders explaining: “When it comes to the Kurds and their political status, the world opinion keeps remaining silent and condoning the right and boundary violations, bombings on villages, houses and people, regardless of women, men and children, cross-border operations and the ongoing aerial operations. This situation is greeted with great astonishment by our people and considered difficult to understand. The constant attack position of these powers and their intention to destroy all the values of Kurds do not comply with the character of the 21st century and the principles of fairness in the world.”[iv] The problem is that if the Kurds cooperate and let Turkey and Iran bomb along the Iranian-Iraqi border and the Turkish –Iraqi border, then what would you expect from the international community? First, Kurds need to unite to speak with one voice, so they can pressure the international community.  The KRG has the credentials and, as of now, has this historical task and exigence to take a stand. The KRG could invest more in lobbying, education, and media to disseminate information about the Kurdish cause in the region as well in the Western world. The Turkish Army has conducted more then 52 operations into Iraqi Kurdistan, allegedly against the PKK to destroy it. Iran has conducted more than 8 operations against the PJAK during the same period. Why could the Turkish Army not destroy the PKK completely? Was it because the Turkish Army did not want to or because the PKK was so powerful that the Turkish Army could not defeat it? Or was the Turkish government trying to use the Turkmen card to strengthen the Turkmen base in the region? Turkey is taking advantage of the current US economy, the US’s loss of credibility in the Middle East, and the War on Terror to pressure the US and the KRG to attack the PKK bases in the Qandil Mountains. It is interesting that Turkey and Iran compete for Islamic leadership in the Middle East, so that it is the first time that Iran has openly supported Turkey in fighting against the PKK and the PJAK.[v]

One cannot rule the world without keeping one’s own nation under control, so it is essential for Turkey to solve the Kurdish problem. Keeping Kurdish people from becoming a united front in promoting intelligence and in what is called “fair minded” political or economical reforms has always been a fundamental game that has been played on the Kurds. We all know--Kurds know and Turks know--there can be no military solution to this problem. Then why is the Turkish government not willing to solve this problem in a civil way? It has always blamed the Kurds, but why can they not take just one moment to ask themselves what they have done wrong and how they can correct it? The crisis of the Kurds did not just come into existence today; it is not the reverberation of the problems that are sweeping the Middle East and North Africa. The crisis of the Kurds is not a product of any of these factors. Its cause and the game are indeed older.  Still, the current crisis is a new greater Middle Eastern project, and it is a deep and comprehensive undertaking that has political, economical, social, and cultural components. Despite these dimensions, the Turkish government has yet to come even close to identifying the causes of the problems and thereby to begin to find the solutions. The AKP administration announced the Kurdish initiative a couple of years ago.  The main goal of the initiative was to give incentives to the PKK to lay down their arms and to give democratic, social, and political rights to the Kurdish people. This plan was considered a positive process. However, as the AKP accrued more power and consolidated the power it had, the more it wanted to solve the Kurdish problem in its own way, not asking what the Kurds wanted, but instead determining what the AKP wanted for the Kurds. The AKP’s policy for the Kurds, as of now, is to take revenge on the PKK and thoroughly to discredit the BDP by not talking to the Party.  The AKP fails to understand that the BDP should be considered as an opportunity to solve the Kurdish problem. Also, the AKP and its cohorts, the Gulen movement, are trying to instate someone who fits their agenda to represent the Kurds or to be the Kurdish representative. The Kurds must raise up their own spokespersons. 

It is true that the Kurds have long been the object of the imperial superpowers’ interests in the Middle East, but the Kurdish people have been divided throughout the history of the Kurds and have faced the incontrovertible fact of real politics: they have no trustworthy allies in the region. For this reason Kurds always look for help from the outside and try to make alliances with the West; for example, in the past they asked help from the Soviet Union, Great Britain, the USA, and the European Union; they even asked help from the regional players who have severely oppressed them. Frequently these alliances used the Kurds and then decided it was in their interest to drop them in favor of a new regime or government that they were opposing, but the Kurds never learned the lessons gleaned from having been abandoned by their false friends and from having suffered the worst defeat in the history of their struggle for life. 

History teaches everything including the future, but if Kurds are to understand history, they need to observe it from the beginning and how it developed, not just ignore their past. Kurdish leaders are making the same mistake and getting lost in the repeated shuffle for regional power called the new Middle East projects. History can best be understood by using the rule that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Turkey made alliances with Iran and Iraq to fight against the PKK, but since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Turkey has supported the Iranian Kurdish rebels. Iran has backed the Iraqi Kurds since 1960.  Middle Eastern countries, including Israel, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and even Russia have played the Kurdish card. Israel has supported both Iranian and Iraq Kurds with arms and perhaps intelligence and at the same time has been a friend of Turkey.[vi] No wonder major powers have been involved in Kurdish politics.  Possibly this maneuvering to assist the Kurds has been because the Kurds own huge oil fields and water resources. 

History repeats itself again because Kurds ignore the outcomes. Kurds are not makers of history, but they are made by history. For example, after  World War I, the British supported the Kurds in Turkey and made alliances with Iraqi Kurds to keep Turkey out of the oil rich region. But later the British abandoned their Kurdish friends and gave their exclusive support for the new state to the Arabs. Even Russia supported the independence of the Kurds in Iran and the Azeri Turks in Iran, but Russia used the Kurdish card in the 1994- 1996 war in Chechnya.  Turkey was supporting Chechnya, thinking that Muslim brothers should support its Muslim brotherhood. Russia asked the PKK to have a place in Russia and asked Turkey to stop Chechnya from fighting. Turkey argued that the influential Western powers in the Middle East in the early 1960s and on into today’s US policy and strategy in the Middle East were intended to make Iran a bulwark of the Western interest in the Middle East. However, there was a threat to the Shah’s regime in Baghdad, so the USA wanted to offer help to the Shah by using the Kurdish card and supporting Iraqi Kurds to rebel against Saddam.  After Iran achieved its desired territory in1975 in the Algiers Accord, the USA once again abandoned the Kurds. The US and other alliances have always betrayed the Kurds in pursuance of their longer-term objectives. Their long-term aim is to dominate and exploit the region resulting in the same card’s being played and the same scenario that was played in 1990 after the Gulf War I. At that time Father Bush asked the Kurds to rebel against Saddam, but when Saddam turned its forces against them in March 1991 and used heavy machinery to kill Kurds again, America and the West failed to give them help and support. Most of Kurds were forced to seek refuge in Turkey and Iran. Today the USA continues to lend support to a new strategic priority in the region. Turkey’s recent invasion of Northern Iraq in pursuit of the PKK has been supported by the USA, the KRG, Iraq, and Iran.

If the Kurds unite in one voice, if the KRG stops making behind the scene alliances, if the Kurds act on the historical lessons of past betrayals, and if sovereign nations listen to the grievances of their minorities and Turkey specifically works with the BDP, then the internal and external players will cease to use the Kurdish card against the Kurds in their foreign policies. The Kurdish leaders need to be prudent in their decision-making at this critical time. I urge both sides to cease all military activity and to pursue dialogue that will protect the rights of the Kurdish people and will insure lasting peace with lasting peace meaning the strongest admonition to Turkey. Not wanting to bring statehood to the attention of the Kurds, Turkey did not treat the Kurdish question as important in the Palestinian issue mainly because the Arab and Muslim countries stand for Palestinians and lobby the West for the creation of a Palestinian state.[vii] Turkey always sees the Kurdish problem as a security issue rather than as a social, political and cultural one. Some also believe that after the Palestinian issue is settled, the Kurds are going to be the next global agenda. I believe the Kurdish question will be important in the near future, and the West will continue to use the Kurdish card in its foreign policy. It is up to the Kurdish leaders whether the Western powers use or do not use the card for the same reasons that the Kurds so easily forget. It is up to the Kurds; if they play their own cards right, they may be able to hold all the aces. And the situation will not become another house of cards. 

  [i][i] Debkafile webpage. www.debka.com   [ii]Lale Kemal (2011, Aug. 24). Is the government being trapped? Today’s Zaman. http://www.todayszaman.com/columnist-254853- is-the-government-being-trapped.html  [iii] ABD Askeri Kandil yolunda. 04 Eylül 2011. Haber Diyarbakir. http://www.haberdiyarbakir.com/news_detail.php?id=463955   [iv] Leyla Zana sends letter to key powers about Turkey’s shelling. Aug. 28, 2011 http://www.kurdsat.tv/news.php?id=164&type=kurdistan   [v] Mumtazer Turkone. (2011, Sept. 4). The PKK has lost the war. http://www.todayszaman.com/columnistDetail_getNewsById. action?newsId=255647   [vi]Report: Israel may offer military aid to PKK to punish Turkey. (2011, Sept. 9). Today’s Zaman.http://www.todayszaman.com/news-256246- report-israel-may-offer-military-aid-to-pkk-to-punish-turkey.html   [vii] War fever mounts as Erdogan pushes into E. Mediterranean. Turkish war ships sent to challenge Israel. Debka-Net-Weekly. Vol. 11 No. 508. http://www.debka.com/weekly/508/References

ABD Askeri Kandil yolunda. (2011, 04 Eylül).. Haber Diyarbakir.     http://www.haberdiyarbakir.com/news_detail.php?id=463955

Debkafile webpage. http://www.debka.com. Kemal, L. (2011, Aug. 24). Is the government being trapped? Today’s Zaman.     http://www.todayszaman.com/columnist-254853-is-the- government-being-trapped.html

Other articles by Dr. Aland Mizell 

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