Sunday, October 08, 2017

Kurdistan's Evolution to Nationhood

"Even as the world lines up against Kurdish aspirations for sovereignty following Monday’s referendum, President Barzani has already indicated a vote to secede does not imply a unilateral declaration of independence, but will rather begin a process to afford Kurdish leaders a democratic mandate to enter into peaceful negotiations with Baghdad. As a practical matter, an independent Kurdistan bedecked in the full rights and symbols of sovereign statehood is likely to still be many years away."
"At the moment, however, we must lack no moral clarity in affirming where our allegiances lie. The West should support the mandate the Kurdish people are bestowing upon their leaders: to guide the peaceful emergence of a confident Kurdistan, rather than the reinforcement of a bad marriage destined to fail. The cause of Kurdish freedom is right and just, and it is overdue that the West should say so."
Shuvaloy Majumdar, Munk Senior Fellow, Macdonald Laurier Institute
"Kurdistan is not ready because economically, it is a mess."
"I don't see independence happening. It's all about capability, not desire."
Joost Hiltermann, Middle East specialist, International Crisis group
Iraqi Kurds wave the Kurdish flag as they celebrate in the streets of the northern city of Arbil on September 25, 2017 following a referendum on independence.SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images

The Kurdish passion for nationhood lent an air of excited urgency to the call-up to the September 25 referendum to test the peoples' will to surmount anticipated difficulties to accomplishing that long-held dream of independence. A large, but not totally overwhelming proportion of those eligible to vote in Kurdistan turned out for the referendum, while others, uncertain, held back. Those who did venture to vote represented an overwhelming "yes" of 90 percent.

The wish is there, the will is there but the practical opportunity remains elusive. No one wants to contemplate the need for an armed struggle, essentially a civil war between Kurdistan and the country in whose geography is still sits, Iraq. The irony here is that socially, politically, even economically and institutionally, Kurdistan represents a model of fortitude, efficiency and tolerance, unique to the region. While Iraq represents the very opposite; without the intervention of NATO forces to support Iraq it would have dissolved entirely.

The competition between Iraq and Kurdistan to claim ownership of Kirkuk with its oil and gas resources represents an issue of huge uncertainty. That the Peshmerga forces of Kurdistan succeeded in routing Islamic State from Kirkuk is undeniable, just as it is without controversy to recognize that Iraqi forces melted in disarray when it was imperative that they stand and fight when ISIL marched its way first into Mosul then a good portion of the country to establish its Caliphate.

Only Kurdistan stood firm, opposing ISIL, rescuing the minorities, ethnic and religious that the ISIL forces threatened, persecuted and slaughtered, raped and enslaved. For their fighting courage and perseverance Kurds felt that at long last their need for total autonomy as a sovereign nation within their own heritage geography should be recognized. Kurdish political leaders anticipated the need for diplomacy and negotiations, but it is doubtful they might have predicted between them the depth of animosity their initiative aroused internationally with few exceptions.

The initial emotional euphoria after the referendum vote gave way to the reality of vociferous denials of their goals globally. Only one nation whose own struggle reflected that of the Kurds, supported their aspiration; Israel. Itself embattled in the region, surrounded by Islamist terrorist groups dedicated to the Jewish state's annihilation made it impossible for anything more than emotional, diplomatic support to be rendered.

Appealing to Baghdad, Kurdistan's President Massoud Barzani was rebuffed in his efforts for reasonable debate to come to a working agreement in recognizing a sovereign Kurdistan. Supporting Iraq's refusal to surrender a third of its territory along with oil revenues, are regional powers like Iran and Turkey, aided by Russia, which has faintly supported Kurdish ambitions, but stands in solidarity with Iraq, Iran and Turkey.

Iraq has called up the international community to help isolate Kurdistan by refusing to fly into its international airports; the closing of land crossings linking Kurdistan to the rest of Iraq is also threatened. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has been urged by Iraq's Parliament to send troops into the contested areas, while Turkey is threatening border crossing closings, halting the supply of goods and food.

Sudan and South Sudan present as a somewhat similar situation. One Muslim the other mostly Christian and Animist, and both riven with ethnic and tribal animosities. Arab-led Sudan has persecuted its Black Sudanese citizens; the atrocities committed by the government of Sudan against Darfurians a case in point. The world recognized South Sudan's independence as the world's newest 'nation'. One that has been beset with civil strife of a nature no less divisive and brutal than its former relations with Sudan.

Kurds have far too long suffered demeaning attacks against their right to human dignity and human rights. The violence levelled against Kurdish communities by previous Iraqi government forces, particularly under Saddam Hussein's Baathist military was horrendous, sweeping the land with fire and destruction, where chemical weapons were used to destroy countless lives. There is no humane reason why Kurds should continue to suffer assaults against their right to nationhood.

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