September 22, 2003


With a Grain of Salt: The Kurds' fight for Kurdistan (Dr Bhaskar Dasgupta, September 19, 2003, Hindustan Times)

Three main factors lead to Kurdish Nationalism. First was the introduction of the concept of private property. For nomadic people, the fact that public rangeland was actually to be split up and "owned" would have been a deep shock, something akin to what the American-Indians felt after the arrival of the American settlers. Second was the rise in the concept of states. Late in the 1890s and early 1900s, states were being formed rapidly around that area, partially because of the dissolution and slow disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, and additionally because of the British/French colonial process. Since everybody was clamouring for their own state, the Kurds got into the act as well. Finally, all those years of having no land, not belonging anywhere specific, not being integrated into any society, being scattered in so many different states, being shoved around all the time and abused by the different governments made them desire their own homeland with a vengeance. [...]

The Kurds know that their single chance of a statelet is to prove that they can have a peaceful state and manage it, too. Coalition force soldiers are getting ambushed and shot at in the other regions, but nary a peep in the northern region. The de-facto Kurdish state, which has been in existence for the past 12 odd years in northern Iraq, is getting well established. If things pan out, the Kurds will have a place to call home. It has been a long time coming, after betrayal by everybody, to let them to make a state of their own. The United Nations should look at the Kurds and their desire for a state very carefully and try to help them get one, which the UN's predecessor, the League of Nations promised and miserably failed to deliver.

Unfortunately, this pious hope won't get anywhere given the opposition of the other countries. So if the Kurds want their own state, they have to work on it themselves. If they manage to carve out an autonomous statelet in northern Iraq, that would be a brilliant first step. The chances of Iraq imploding are high, and I will not be surprised if these statelets (Kurdistan, Shiastan, Sunnistan and some other bits and bobs) are all what is left of Iraq once it is left alone. See Bosnia and Serbia, for example. Anyway, good for the Iraqi Kurds, but what about the other 70 per cent of Kurds still living and being oppressed in other contiguous countries? What are their chances of having a nation-state of their own? What are the chances of further Kurdish rebellions breaking out in these countries? Now that there is an autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, still protected by the coalition troops, just what will Iran, Syria and Turkey do if their respective Kurd populations take up the sword for their rights and use Iraqi Kurdistan as a base? Hot pursuit, a la Israel? What will the world say to these people asking for their own state? Will it again forget these poor, benighted, oppressed people or make promises and not deliver or betray them again or finally allow them a land, even if only a crowded one, but one to call their own?

One of the best things to come of the Iraq War, besides getting rid of the Ba'athist regime, will be an independent Kurdistan, but one Kurdish state seems enough.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 22, 2003 1:36 PM

We should offer the Kurds a sovereign state
with boundaries acceptable to us. In return
we will help them defend it. However we will use force if they try to play fast and loose with the
Turkish border.

Posted by: J.H. at September 22, 2003 3:50 PM

One suspects the border problem will come from the Turks, not the Kurds.

Posted by: oj at September 22, 2003 4:00 PM

It goes without saying that we would give a
parallel threat to the Kurds to stay the hell

Posted by: J.H. at September 22, 2003 4:23 PM

If the Kurds are smart, they'll keep a de facto state and not do anything else. An attempt to claim status for Kurdistan will pretty much provoke a Turkish invasion. No one will go to war for the Kurds. And even if Turkey leaves NATO and abandon their goal of EU membership because of it, they'll probably think it worth it.

The Kurds better have excellent leaders right now. This is their best shot in decades, but a lot could go wrong.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at September 23, 2003 1:46 PM

There needs to be some oil within those boundaries.

Posted by: genecis at September 23, 2003 3:07 PM