KURDISH SUPPORTERS of the PDK party from Rojava in Syria serving in a peshmerga unit in The Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq. The YPG in Syria doesn’t allow PDK units to operate there, one of many examples of how divided politics exists in the shadow of support for independence.
(photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)
This year has been one of great surprises on the international scene.
First the Brexit vote and then the results of the presidential elections in the United States, both with an impact extending far beyond the countries where these two major events occurred.
Many uncertainties and equally important surprises await us in the Middle East. Great upheavals are under way: borders are disappearing, states are collapsing and the hot spots are multiplying.
The world’s major powers are militarily involved in eradicating Islamic State (ISIS) – a terrorist organization that poses a threat to the entire world.
In this struggle of the free world against barbarous, cross-border terrorism the Kurds play a key role, both in Iraq and Syria. On this Middle East chessboard with its complexity of conflicts where religious, ethnic and hydro-petroleum factors are intertwined, the Kurds play a decisive role.
The Kurds are not pawns but knights, with their own kingly ambitions. Not only does the central position of the Kurdish region invite them to play this role, lying exactly on the fault line which separates the Shi’ite and Sunni worlds, but also the fact that they have proved to be the most effective and credible option open to the West in its efforts to fight this barbarism.
Several factors argue for support a Kurdish state: This is a tolerant society, where different religions and denominations coexist peacefully, and where women are not relegated to the background but both fight on the front line and are political leaders. Religious minorities, murdered and persecuted elsewhere, have found refuge in Kurdistan. Aramaic, a biblical language that enjoys official status, is taught in schools.
Battle-hardened by their tragic history and marked by the numerous revolts against repressive states that have been trampling their rights, the Kurds have proven to be formidable warriors. They are inflicting setbacks on and defeating the terrorists, playing a leading role in the battles to retake Mosul in Iraq and Raqa in Syria.
Known as the region’s breadbasket because of its fertile lands watered by the Tigris and the Euphrates, Kurdistan is also sitting on a sea of oil and natural gas. Political maturity and extensive natural resources are the structural factors guaranteeing the establishment of institutions that can evolve toward state structures. This is taking place.
Many oil giants and major international companies are now established in Iraqi Kurdistan. In the few years following the fall of Saddam Hussein Iraqi Kurdistan has rebuilt, developed and imposed itself as a major economic player in the region.
Is it necessary to recall that the Kurdish nation, divided between Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, and numbering over 40 million people, is the largest nation in the world without a state? Given the oppression endured by the Kurdish people and in the name of the free world facing terrorism, it is today a moral imperative for the international community to support the Kurdish people’s desire for independence.
The great English historian Eric Hobsbawm wrote brilliantly about the most decisive, influential and pivotal periods of history. He would certainly have written about this transition from the 20th to the 21st century as the age of possibilities. This emerging state – Kurdistan – is one such possibility. Let us collectively make all the other possibilities in this highly strategic and historically rich region positive.
We are entering this century by a narrow door, with too much suffering and sacrifice. Let us walk through this door holding each other by the hand.The author is a researcher and former director of the Representation of the Regional Government of Iraqi Kurdistan in Paris.