What will happen to the democratic Kurds?

Hitchens expresses his solidarity with the Kurds.

I would prefer to leave out the whole rain-on-the-anti-war-parade part of the editorial for the purposes of this debate. I just wonder what will happen to the Kurdsish people, long-term, considering war, peace, whatever might happen geopolitically.

I’ve heard rumors about some deal with Turkey. Help me out here. My side, if I have one, is that we need to protect these people and their right to democratic self-government.

For Hitchens fans: I found this.

Turkey, for some reason, is demanding concessions to the U.S. that seem… well… most unfavorable to the Kurds. I don’t pretend to understand their motivations here, but what exactly is Turkey’s beef with the Kurds forming an official nation in northern Iraq (which is informally pretty much there already)?

Turkey is a culturally diverse country. Turkey does not want Kurdish refugees to stream into Turkey during or after an Iraqi invasion. Turkey does not want Iraqi Kurds to eventually set up a nation in Northern Iraq that neighbours much of Turkey’s Kurdish population. Turkey fears unrest. Some of the worst-ever dictatorships are in or around Turkey (Turkmenistan, Kurdistan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia).

Bush’s side, however, is that he needs to protect the American people and their democratic right to self-government and their right not to be bombed in their homes, streets and offices and their interest in a stable world economy.

If that means that he thinks he needs a stable Iraq which is not a disruptive influence in the region and which is governed by a secure regime which is well-disposed to the US and its allies, and if that means that a democratic Kurdish state would present a problem, well, that’s hard luck for the Kurds and their right to democratic self-government.

Tough, but that’s how it is. Protecting Kurdish independence and democracy is not one of the US’s objectives here. If it happens to be a useful way of acheiving the US’s objectives, well and good, but I don’t think that’s likely to be the case.

Fuck em if they can’t take a joke, eh?

—Some of the worst-ever dictatorships are in or around Turkey (Turkmenistan, Kurdistan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia).—

I still don’t get it: why wouldn’t they want a democracy that takes the place of Northern Iraq and is essentially a homeland for all the Kurds they’ve been trying to eradicate and expel for years? Isn’t a Kurdish state external to their own territory, a good thing? Again, I don’t know the politics in the region, and maybe I’m way off, but I’m just not clear on why Turkey would want to oppose this.

Well, possibly because it might give Kurds living in Turkey the dangerous notion that they, too, should have the right to enjoy self government without being required to leave their homes, families and communities to acheive that. And because an independent Kurdish state might actually support Turkish Kurds in this dangerous notion.

Given the apparently democratic ideals of the Kurds in Northern Iraq, wouldn’t they instead just incourage immigration of other Kurds?

It wouldn’t be bad to have another ally in that neck of the woods… maybe then we wouldn’t have to be so gentle with Israel all the time.

Any hope that the Kurds would let us have an airbase or somesuch if we help them out?

Are the Kurds muslim?

Here is a map of showing the areas in the region with Kurdish majorities, and the territorial claims made by Kurdish groups at various points in the last century. As you can see, a Kurdish state could potentially include a very large chunk of southeastern Turkey (note espeically the light purple line, the frontier claimed by Kurdish nationalists in 1945). The Turks have fought a bitter campaign against Kurdish separatists, with lots of ham-handed nastiness on the Turkish side: until recently, it was illegal to use the Kurdish language in Turkey, and the Turks even denied there were any such thing as “Kurds” in Turkey–the officially preferred designation was “mountain Turks”, which is historically and linguistically absurd. Of course, the Turks for their side could point to assorted atrocities carried out by Kurdish guerrillas. At any rate, the Turks fear that an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq, far from satisfying Kurdish national aspirations, would simply serve as a springboard to launch campaigns for a united Kurdistan in all Kurdish-inhabited territory, which could claim areas far beyond the relatively small enclave currently controlled by the Kurds in northern Iraq, and even beyond the larger area of Iraq in which Kurds are a majority of the population.

I don’t think the U.S. is in any way supporting an independent Kurdistan; I’m sure our policy would be to accomodate the national aspirations of Iraqi Kurds within the present borders of Iraq, through some sort of federalism. And I believe the current leadership of the autonomous Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq has been very careful to take a reasonable tack–autonomy for Iraqi Kurds within a federal Iraq, not total independence and unity for all Kurds, which would embroil the Kurds, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and probably Syria in a huge regional war. But there’s no question the Turks fear any greater recognition of Kurdish national apirations would be the thin end of the wedge. (It’s also worth pointing out that despite the strength of Kurdish nationalism the Kurds are not internally united; within Iraq, there are two main Kurdish nationalist movements–I believe they still have the Kurdish autonomous enclave divided into two essentially separate states, one under the control of each party, although I think there is freedom of movement between the two sectors and generally peaceful relations between them–and Iraqi Kurdish groups don’t necessarily get along with or trust Kurdish groups from Turkey.)

Let’s ask Googol about Turkey:

Wow & Hmm. Can we still trust Googol about Kurds?

I’d have thought they were Muslim - but then why are they “almost universally despised for asserting their identity.”

That’s a bad thing? :b

Most Kurds are Sunni Muslims. The Kurdish question is an ethnic dispute, not a religious one. Kurds aren’t Arabs and they aren’t Turks: they speak an Indo-European language, related to Farsi (Iranian) (and for that matter distantly related to English, Latin, and so on), whereas both Iraq and Syria are controlled by wings of the Baathist movement, which theoretically believes in a socialistic Pan-Arab national state which would unite all Arabs (ironically enough, the Syrian Baathists and the Iraqi Baathists hate each other); and Turkey is fiercely nationalist on behalf of the Turks, who have cultural and linguistic roots in Central Asia. (The predominant peoples of the former Soviet states of Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgzstan, and Azerbaijan are all speakers of Turkic languages; there are also Turkic peoples in several autonomous republics of Russia, and in parts of China, and various other pockets of Asia).

Well said, MEBuckner!

All folks you mentioned are Muslim.

(I didn’t know there were Baathists in Syria - but of course each wants to be King of Arabia)

I think I might rather like the Kurds.

It should be noted that the editorial stance of the paper he currently writes for is vehemently anti-war. So much so that their cut-out-and-send-petition has generated 2000,000 responses so far, including, yesterday, Jimmy Carter.

To avoid confusion I should say the tabloid (The Mirror) is ‘re-positioning’ itself as a serious, hard-news kinda paper and Hitchens has obviously been recruited to lend weight, or to be more exact, political counterweight.

Nic Cohen – a more unreconstructed Leftie than Hitchens – is equally critical of the Left’s position and the Stop The War coalition in The Guardian (the Left’s Sunday version of The Guardian).

On the wider point … muddle-headed, naïve … interesting; I find myself wondering if these Blair supporters (Hitchens, Cohen and more) are engaged in repositioning the Kurds as our new ‘Northern Alliance’, ‘cept this time we’ll, of course, have to do in on the ground and protect their ‘plucky fledgling democracy’ and similar phrases under our already established no-fly zones … anyone else getting a sniff of Stage One in the plan for ousting Saddam … I sense our perspectives are beginning to be tweaked … ?

Correction, this:

Nic Cohen – a more unreconstructed Leftie than Hitchens – is equally critical of the Left’s position and the Stop The War coalition in The Guardian (the Left’s Sunday version of The Guardian).

Should read:

Nic Cohen – a more unreconstructed Leftie than Hitchens – is equally critical of the Left’s position and the Stop The War coalition in The Observer (the Left’s Sunday version of The Guardian).

While this is absolutely correct ( along with the rest of MEBuckner’s very useful post ), I will add the slight caveat that a smallish minority of Kurds do belong to groups that have received their (un)fair share of religious persecution or at least mild hostility - In particular the Yazidis ( a syncretic religion whose adherents are often erroneously accused of being closet Satanists ) and the Alevis ( a rather heterodox sect of Shi’ism ).

Decent little factoid site: http://www.krds.net/kurds.htm

  • Tamerlane

Interesting, thanks everyone. I don’t have a Cunning Plan [sup]TM[/sup] for the Kurds London_Calling. I do know that we did not support their bid for independence in the 1990s. I heard that to get Turkey’s support we would sell out the democratic Kurds, what UDS and Apos suggested.

Personally, I don’t see any bonus to my domestic safety that is worth scrapping a whole people’s right to self-determination, if not actual independence. I find it hard to believe that the World’s Only Superpower could not cut a deal to protect a fuctioning democratic state that already exists. Maybe ‘US of Kurdistan’ (or whatever) has to be colored in on maps as part of a larger state, fine. But to let them get manumitted into the local tyrrany would make me sick.

If China can implement “one nation, two systems” other nations can try it before we green light the genocide, right?

Thought this article might be of interest…I saw it over someone’s shoulder on the train this morning. Gee, it must suck to be a Kurd these days.

I like “fuctioning,” it has a certain ring. Moreover, I like the redundancy of “fuctioning” and “already exists.” I guess that depends on your definition of “fuction.” Anyway, what I meant was:

There already exists a functioning democratic state in parts of the Kurdish areas. This state exists within other nation’s national boundaries. Fine. Only armys care about exact lines on maps. So, MEB has laid out a compelling case as to why independence in a strict nationalistic military sense might not be possible.

Autonomous self-government can be carried out under the flags of many nations. Lines on maps don’t change the facts on the ground. I don’t see this as an insoluble problem requiring some horrible Faustian deal where we let anyone gas the Kurds, again. The longer I live, the less I am willing to tolerate solutions which allow prolonged tyrrany and brutality. We, as a world, should be outgrowing that behavior.

Great news, if Turkey keeps its mitts off the Kurds. I don’t know much about the poor Kurds, but I knew enough to think exactly what Mr. Galbraith said in that last paragraph.

Perhaps this is something of a test. President Bush has tried to present the war as having a moral component. Some, including myself, doubt whether the moral imperative (of promoting democracy in Iraq) actually figures very highly in his thinking.

Perhaps his handling of the Kurds will prove me wrong. I hope so.