30/11/2013

The Kurdish Mosaic, from emancipation to emancipation, worries the region

By Anas El Baye, MEDEA Institute

Kurds are nearly 40 million worldwide, without their own state, and distributed mainly between Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. If the news often refers to the fate of the Kurds through their identity claims and their desire for emancipation from the States to whom they depend (Turkey and Syria), it also evokes increasingly the situation where they won their independence in Iraqi Kurdistan, recognized by the Iraqi state since 1991 and by the international community. Strong political parties like the KDP* and the PUK*  Iraq are directly responsible for its birth and have also worked extensively in the political reconstruction of Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Kurds even gave the country a president, Jalal Talabani, who is still in power today.

The Kurds have also achieved a new step in Syria with the recent birth of Western Kurdistan. The civil war in Syria for more than two years has served the Kurdish interests. Last week, they « took off », in the words of journalist Christophe Ayad of « Le Monde » [1] . Now they have their own independent administration, independent from Damascus. The PYD, the Syrian Kurdish Workers party directly linked to the Abdullah Ocalan’s PKK in Turkey, claims authorship of the birth of the « Western Kurdistan. » There’s also not enough talking about  some Kurds who reside in what is today Azerbaijan in the former Red Kurdistan located in the Nagorno-Karabakh, currently under Armenian occupation, and which are characterized by their belonging to Shiism unlike other Kurds in the region. They are about 6000.

Kurds between 4 states in the Middle East in 2002

(Source: Documentation photographique n°8027 : Du Maghreb au Moyen-Orient, un arc de crises, auteur : Georges Mutin)

We can therefore truly speak of a Kurdish mosaic that exploded on the region and is beginning to worry some powers in crisis. Because the Kurds are a very important minority in number and for their political force in each country where they live, regional instability could encourage other national causes, such as in Iran for example.

However, the Kurdish minority in Iran is very strong and it founds itself close to the borders with Iraq and Turkey, so in west of the country. « In Iran, the Kurdish issue is seen increasingly under a security perspective because these minorities are near the country’s borders: it doesn’t matter if they are Baluchis, Azeris, or Kurds, they worry the central government, » said Clément Therme, researcher at the faculty of theology of Geneva. [2] Their situation is strategic and widely monitored by the capital, taking into account what is happening in neighboring countries, including Syria. « The Iranian Kurds are (indeed) nearly 8 million members , or 10% of the population.  » And the powers organize themselves in their own way: Ankara has locked up the PKK leader Ocalan, for nearly fifteen years, and has established a system of cooperation between the Turkish state and Iran since the 2000s to control the Kurdish question. Some gestures were granted by Turkey, for example, the recognition of a national TV channel, but, with its 12 million components (16 % of the Turkish population), the Kurdish community still does not feel to exist in what Turkey still calls the Anatolia region of Southeast. Because of what happens in Syria, Turkey and Iraq, there is a fear of balkanization of Iran territory, although unlikely, and that is why the policies of Iran were applied through a security approach for several months, to avoid emancipation in the region that could inevitably cause instability in the country.

Although Iran has been one of the most stable countries in the region for decades, like Ankara, Tehran prefers to ensure the supervision of the Kurdish ambitions. Its advantage: there is again a strong Iranian national sentiment, old state oblige, unlike in the Syrian government and the Iraqi of newest ethos and therefore more fragile towards wars that ravaged both for years.

 [1] http://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2013/11/27/en-syrie-les-kurdes-prennent-le-large_3521025_3210.html

[2] http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x17gfjr_les-kurdes-iraniens-entre-integration-et-revendications-ethniques_news?start=5

* Kurdistan Democratic Party / * Patriotic Union of Kurdistan