A man casts his vote during Kurds independence referendum in Erbil, Iraq September 25, 2017, beside a picture of Kurds showing their support for the Kurdish independence referendum..
(photo credit: AHMED JADALLAH / REUTERS)
Every human is entitled to be free. Also, every human has the right to live and associate in a land of their choosing.
As the melting pot of the United States has presented to the world, lands of the free are possible. Though some groups of people won’t be as blessed as we are in America to have such a society of pluralistic and enriching diversity, they are entitled to the rights of freedom and conscience endowed by international institutions and nature.
Take the scenario of Iraqi Kurdistan and the recent vote for independence from the federal government of greater Iraq as an example. The Kurdish people represent one of the largest ethnic groups in the Middle East – and probably the world – lacking the freedom of a homeland to call their own. However, citing concerns that the balance of the region is about to fall apart due to the vote for independence, the government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad has declared retribution.
Other states, like Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s dictatorial Turkey and Hassan Rouhani’s repressively theocratic Iran, are also declaring absolute opposition to the concept of a free Kurdistan. Thus, this leads us to consider the question of why our leader, Donald Trump, is throwing his support behind regimes that are notorious for human rights violations in the case of Kurdish independence.
Despite being smack-dab in the middle of the geopolitical quagmire that is the Middle East, the Kurdish regional capital of Erbil remains one of the freest cities in the area. People of all creeds are free to move as they wish and the technologically co-dependent can surf a nearly free Internet. Plus, with the alignment Kurdish Peshmerga militias have made with US military units to counter Islamic State (ISIS), the Kurds are reserved as the next foothold of peace and balance in the Middle East if independence is recognized.
It should be in the best interests of the US foreign policy in the region to support freer states that wish to install their unique version democracy willingly over states that are divided and repressed by religious clerics, cast false narratives of differing Islamic nationalisms, and have unaccountable governments.
With this argument, I submit to our nation’s leaders in foreign policy to consider that it is incumbent upon the United States to support the Kurds. No, we don’t need to intervene in how they run their democracy and we don’t need to make them dependent on foreign aid; however, establishing official relationships will allow for a transitional period that will bring Kurdistan into the international community and, thus, establish a new component in the dynamic ranks of the global economy.
And, given the market-oriented policies and economic liberalization within Iraqi Kurdistan, the population have an understanding of the impact of free market principles and limited involvement of government on economic growth. Why wouldn’t we establish formal commerce relationships with an independent Kurdistan? The liberalized (as in freer) economy has reflected on the region’s population, as well. The state of living is among the highest in Iraq, and the level of poverty in Iraqi Kurdistan is among the lowest in the country. The Kurdish regional government has also allowed the exploitation of the area’s abundant natural resources by foreign and domestic oil companies, bringing new wealth, job creation, and higher levels of prosperity to the area.
The KRG affirms that it wishes to protect the “people’s freedom to practice their religion and [promote] inter-faith tolerance.” Plus, it states through an official channel that “thousands of Christian families have fled violence and threats in other parts of Iraq and found refuge in the Kurdistan Region.”
Yes, the Kurdish government – and any government at that – isn’t perfect. However, the region would make a freer state than any of the fundamentalist or secularist autocratic governments surrounding it.
If these weren’t enough reasons for the US and its allies to support a free Kurdistan, we should turn our attention to our brothers and sisters in the Israeli government voicing their support for the independence movement.
Why is it “irrational” to consider this concept of a new country ruled by the Kurds? They’ve become a self-reliant people, and started on the path toward adopting civil and economic liberties. That is more than the Iranian Kurds have received. I stand with a free Kurdistan. Do you? The author is executive director of McGrady Policy Research, an American political consultation firm.