Iraq: Coexistence, Dissolution or Mayhem?

Aras Ahmed

By Aras Ahmed Mhamad:

The first thought that comes to mind when mentioning America for a typical Iraqi Arab, be they Sunni or Shia, is that Americans are occupiers, liars, or even Kufar (disbelievers). This should not be seen as an accusation but rather based on personal experiences with Iraqi Arab acquaintances and Kurdish relatives who lived for two decades in Arab areas. Yet, for a typical Kurd, the USA is still seen as an ally who (jointly with the UK) imposed on Iraq a “no-fly zone” in 1991 following the Gulf War to allow the Kurds to return to their homes without fear of being attacked.

Kurdish people still dream of an independent Great Kurdistan – although it seems unattainable under the current circumstances – where the official language is Kurdish and Kurds are not arrested, terrorized, or imprisoned due to their Kurdish identity. Kurds have undergone a lot of suffering, persecution and displacement because of their only “crime” of being Kurds. The long-standing issue with Iraq’s successive leaders has a historical root.

Saddam’s Baath regime changed the demographics of Kirkuk and pursued ethnic cleansing of the Kurds. Saddam, for example, would encourage or rather force people to give their newborns Arabic names to change their Kurdish identity. Saddam implanted around 10 million mines in the Kurdistan region. In addition, in 1991 Saddam hit the State of Israel with no fewer than 35 missiles. Furthermore, 8000 Barzanis were ‘anfalized’ (buried alive) in 1982 – plus 182,000 people were subjected to genocide and 5000 innocent children and women were murdered with internationally outlawed weapons of mass destruction.

The current situation of Iraq calls for multiple interpretations as the international attention has swung from disputes between Hawler (Erbil) and Baghdad over oil exports to international market to the sudden takeover of Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, by the Islamic State (also known as ISIS – Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and Nouri Maliki’s, accusation that the Kurdistan Presidency is harboring terrorists. Some Kurds on social media and other religious and ethnic minorities hold campaigns and consider this as an excellent opportunity to return the Kurdish areas outside the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) administration, i.e. the “Disputed territories”, while some others embrace the importance of an independent Kurdish state provided Kurds resolve their disagreements with Iraqi (Sunni/Shia) Arabs.

Kurds avoid attributing the disputes to successive individuals ruling Baghdad; instead they see the disputes through institutional and systematic lenses. Maliki, for instance, cut the Kurdish share of the national budget lately. Despite constitutional rights that ensure 17% of the national budget to be allocated to the KRG, Kurds have been receiving a less than 10% share of the national budget since 2004. Furthermore, although Kurds did played no part in the Kuwait invasion in 1990,  Kurds are obliged to contribute, from its share of the budget, towards the Kuwait compensation scheme that Baghdad agreed to.

Official Shia members blame the Kurdish nation for betrayal, as if it was the Kurds’ fault when Mosul fell into the hands of the Sunni rebels. Whoever comes to power will surely deny the Kurdish right to independence and, so far, Americans have played a negative role in endorsing that denial. The USA takes everything for granted that is done by the Kurds. For the record, no one single American soldier has been killed in Kurdistan since 2003. If it was not for the Peshmarga, American troops’ expenditures would have been doubled during the Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Shia and Sunni sectarian conflict has a very long history and the USA must stop blaming the Kurds in between. It is not a nationalist war rather a profoundly rooted religious incongruity going back to the time of Hussein, son of Caliph Ali, grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Successive Arab Sunni and Shia rulers oppressed each other and the Kurds. The Arab leaders came and went, but not the mentality of seeing Kurds as second-class citizens. Neither the secular Sunni role in the past nor the Shia religious role today has safeguarded the Kurdish rights. Both have oppressed Kurdish society and that should be enough to reject the repetition of going under yet another bitter experience.

On the internal level and to secure the future of Kurdish statehood, Kurdistan officials, in order to garner other minorities’ votes, should provide more services and support equal values and rights for Turkmen, Assyrian Christians and Arabs so that they would vote in favor of incorporating Kirkuk to theKurdistan region in the expected referendum, and not abandon them to be ruled under the defeated Iraqi army or under the mercy of other fanatic groups.

What has blinded the USA is they concentrate more on results, not the factors. The USA cannot undo a century of wrongs in a matter of a month or two. Until Saddam was deposed in 2003, Shias and Kurds were oppressed. The Shia-led majority government in the last ten years has oppressed the Sunnis and threatened the Kurds. Both have proved to the USA that Iraq unity is a myth, a myth only the USA believes to be true. In an incorrectly polarized country like Iraq with different sects and political entities, practically, extreme centralization under the slogan of unity would bring more insecurity and war.

The USA can impose neither democracy nor dictatorship. Kurdish depiction of the USA will eventually be changed, if it continues to force Kurds to care for the never unified fake “Iraq Unity”. In short, Kurds do not feel attached to Arab soil and identity and whoever comes to power will either abuse it or fail to make all the components sit around a table.

Aras Ahmed Mhamad is a freelancer. He is the Founder and Deputy Editor of SMART magazine, an independent English magazine that focuses on ‘Literature, Language, Society’‌. He is the Top Student of College of Languages at the Department of English/ University of Human Development, 2012. He is a columnist for the Kurdistan Tribune.

3 Responses to Iraq: Coexistence, Dissolution or Mayhem?
  1. Baqi
    August 1, 2014 | 01:53

    Coexistence has failed for a century. Mayhem has exacerbated since last dacade. Definitely dissolution! Can happen in maximum one year period.

  2. […] the Kurdistan region, language was – and to a certain degree still is – a tool to protect the Kurdish identity and safeguard the political and social entity of the Kurds against the […]

  3. […] experienced the Baath regime’s brutality, oppression and displacement and spent months in camps in Iran in 1991, seen chemical attacks on Halabja, and the calamities of […]

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