An image of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein printed on copper..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Kurdish students in Germany that Kurds do not deserve a state because it would not “serve peace in the region,” according to an article in DW News in Arabic.
Merkel told the students in Lower Saxony that while Kurds deserve “fair conditions” and autonomy in Iraq, they don’t deserve independence. The Kurdistan region in northern Iraq is currently an autonomous region. “I do not think the existence of a Kurdish state would serve peace in the region,” she said, according to Kurdish news outlet Rudaw.
The German leader was traveling to the hometown of the Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel. Although Kurds voted overwhelming for independence in 2017 the regional government did not pursue independence from Baghdad. Instead the region was subjected to a blockade of its airports by the central government and Baghdad sent tanks into Kirkuk, a city disputed between Baghdad and the Kurdistan region.
Germany has been generally supportive of the Kurdistan Regional Government. It supported training the Kurdish Peshmerga, the armed forces of the region, to fight Islamic State. It has hosted Kurdish leaders.
However the response to the questions about Kurdish rights to independence reveals Germany’s own checkered record when it comes to Iraq and the Kurds. In the 1980s, German companies and engineers helped build Saddam Hussein’s bunkers, according to a 2003 account at Wired. 27 German firms helped Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, according to The Independent.
Even more disturbing, considering Germany’s role in the Holocaust, the report notes that “during the period to 1991, the German authorities permitted weapons co-operation with Iraq” and German assistance was allegedly “given to Iraq for the development of poison gas used in the 1988 massacre of Kurds.” A chemical warfare facility was designed by a German company according to The Christian Science Monitor. A 2013 article in the Berkeley Journal of International Law accuses Germany of “complicity in the Kurdish genocide,” referring to how Saddam gassed the Kurds.
The murky role Germany played in Saddam’s regime and the gas attacks on Kurds casts a shadow over Merkel’s claim that it is Kurdish aspirations that could harm peace. Her comments about “peace in the region” also come in the context of Germany’s own role in the 20th century when it started two world wars, committed genocide in one of its colonies in southern Africa that is today Namibia, and carried out the Holocaust. Germany returned skulls of genocide victims to Namibia in 2018. They had been sent to Germany in the 20th century to be part of “racial superiority research” carried out in Europe, according to the BBC. The Kurdish students did not ask Merkel about Germany’s role in supplying Saddam, or the genocides and wars Germany perpetrated in the 20th century.
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