By Paul Iddon – Digital Journalist
This article first appeared on the Digital Journal
The present ongoing crisis in Iraq has seen to the Iraqi Kurds assert their dominance in their region and even presented them with a chance for independence. But how much do we in fact know about the Kurds and their dreams of statehood?
Rauf Naqishbendi is a Kurd from the Kurdish city of Halabja which is situated in Iraqi Kurdistan.
He has written extensively in many articles why as a Kurd he yearns to see an independent Kurdish nation realized.
He writes for many Kurdish websites about Kurdish affairs and politics, many of these articles are collected in a book simply entitled ‘My Articles’ which consists of his past commentary on Kurdish affairs dating from 2002 up until the books publication in 2013.
He was kind enough to answer some questions I had for him about the history and future of the Kurdish people.
Note: The usage of the term ‘Kurdistani’ in the title of this post refers to what the Kurdish people in the Kurdish regions in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria would likely be collectively referred to if a Kurdish state becomes a reality.]
i) First of all, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
My name is Rauf Naqishbendi. I am a Kurd from the city of Halabja who writes extensively on Kurdish affairs. I have written a column between 2003 and 2011 for Kurdish Media and often contribute commentary on Kurdish affairs for Independent Kurdistan Journalism, Kurdistan Tribune and ekurd.net. My work has also been published on the Op/Ed pages of the Los Angeles Times.
My memoir is called ‘The Garden Of The Poets’ and it depicts life in my hometown and the infamous 1988 gassing of it by the Saddam Hussein regime. It is about my peoples suffering but also gives outsiders an insight into Kurdish culture and history.
I also work as a software engineer and reside in the San Francisco Bay Area.
ii) Following the breakout of the present turmoil gripping Iraq you wrote that the time has come for Kurdish independence, you have went as far as to say that the present is an ample moment for independence that will not be seen for generations to come if not seized upon now.
Could you briefly surmise for us why you see this to be so?
The great opportunity in the life of subjugated nations are rare. For thousands of year we revolted against occupation but with no avail because the circumstances weren’t right. The only other favorable opportunity we have had was right after American invasion of Iraq. But our leaders were cowards, corrupted and they put their own personal interest above that of their people, therefore we Kurds were left empty handed.
Now, the current chaos has created an ample opportunity for Kurds to pursue their sovereignty. Turkey, Syria and Iran has always being considered as reviled obstacle, and most Kurds believed that as long as Turks exist Kurds will not be free. The same is true about Iran. But now Kurds has thrown a bone to Turks through major economic cooperation between Kurds and Turkey. The deal is profitable for Turks and that has softened their hearts toward Kurds.
Iran on the other hand, now more than ever before needs Kurds, and given threats faced Iraqi Shiites and Syria, the last thing Iran want will be confrontation with Kurds. As far as Iraq is concerned, Shiites and Sunnis are on each others throats and this will continue for many years to come. This should keep Arabs busy with themselves and not to mind Kurds.
In a nutshell, Kurds’ main fear has been their neighbors, but not anymore. So, the situation is ripe and the road is paved away for Independent Kurdistan.
ii) Do you see a day when all of Kurdish regions in the Middle East will be part of the same contiguous independent Kurdish nation state?
You have said that personally as a Kurd when you are asked “Which part of Kurdistan are you from?” or which Kurdish region you feel heartbroken. This to me implies you yearn to see Kurdistan as one polity in the Middle East.
When I was a little boy, my family used to vacation in a village named Byra near Iranian border. There was a little stream on a mountainside which used to be the borderline between Iraq and Iran. One could spot Iranian border solders from the other side.
In 1972, before I left Kurdistan to Tehran, I revisited Byra, I sat with few friends talking politics and we were all expressed our frustration toward that little stream which originated in Kurdistan, yet it was a borderline divided our people. It’s sad that our occupiers has drawn their borders in the heart of land. That frustration has been with us for thousands of years. Our forefathers for many generation took arms and fought that injustice.
Greater Kurdistan that unifies all its parts under the name “United Kurdistan” has been the dream and aspiration of my people. At present, in a short run, statehood for Kurds in Iraq is our goal, but in a long run, and in a larger sense “United Kurdistan” is our dream. It’s not if but when. It will happen, it mightn’t be in my lifetime, but I am sure it has to happen for it’s the will of the nation.
iv) You are from the Kurdish city of Halabja – a place which in a sense epitomizes Kurdish suffering due to the horrific gas attack which took place there. What in your view would be the most appropriate way for Kurds to commemorate those dark years of the Al-Anfal campaign in the Kurdish people’s history?
Halabja is a sad story. That as I recall it used to be the ground for dancing and singing, now is a town with fearful people who have not seen the remedy of their past.
Not only that, now more than two and a half decades afterward, the aftershock blows its debris, and by all accounts it is the capital of world’s birth defects and a common place for fatal diseases unknown to the scientific community.
I must submit to you that not even one single family in the town was left exempt of tragedy, thus tears of sorrow and despair rain down for generations to come, and legacy of calamity to record yet another chapter of our misery as the consequences of occupation.
The commemoration of Halabja’s tragedy and other parts of Kurdistan will be a flag of sovereign Kurdistan posted on the graveyard where the victims are buried. Thus to indicate that there will be no another Halabja in a future; and to tell the living and dead we are free at last.
v) Just how important is the city of Kirkuk to the Kurdish nation in your view?
Kirkuk to me is just like any other part of Kurdistan, I feel obligated to defend the integrity of the United Kurdistan. How can Kirkuk be an Arab or Turk’s while it’s surrounded by Kurdish land and Kurdish population from its entirety. To me, it’s not about oil, but about land and we shall not allow annexation of any part of Kurdistan. It’s not only Kirkuk but also Mosul which has been a part of Kurdistan for thousands of year, and that city we should revisit and take control of it.
vi) It is has been said of the Kurds that others can count on them but they cannot count on others. Your writings indicate that this indeed seems to be so.
Do you therefore see events of 1975 [when the U.S. Ford Administration and the then Shah of Iran supported Kurdish guerillas fighting against the Baathist regime in Iraq only to have that support withdrawn when the Shah decided to make a deal with Iraq] as a watershed moment in modern Kurdish history.
Furthermore are these events and intra-Kurdish conflict between Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani in the mid-1990’s and other such similarly dire episodes shape your distrust of these two men and the Kurdish Regional Government in general?
The world would have been a better place to live should all nations were to be devoted to justice and human dignity; but, it isn’t so for economics, politics, corporate profits and insatiable greed are factors in world’s peace and war. You talk about Kurds being betrayed by America, sure America has been the United Snakes of America toward Kurds for it has a long standing denial toward Kurds freedom and their independence. I hope that will change.
True Kurds cannot count on others; put that a side, that doesn’t disappoint me as much as our corrupted leaders who Instead of unifying the nation and directing its resources toward a common good, they divided Kurdistan into two separate regions, each governed by an opposing political party, each with their own armed force, separate budget, and inconsistency in governance.
Kurds have endured this heinous phenomena of multiple leaders whose tyranny has crippled their choices, that same leaders who never came in term with their past atrocities.
vii) Are you hopeful about the future of the Kurdish people?
I hope I will be proven wrong. But I tell you as I have written in the past, I should not be sanguine that any good to come from Talabani or Barzani. These leaders their visages are colored with indelible mark, the blood of their people form 1960’s and 1990’s civil war. They have made themselves one of the richest men in the world on expenses of their impoverished people.
However, they can reform, unite and restore back to the public domain what they have stolen; until then Kurds should not expect glory from the wicked. Notwithstanding, I am vesting all my hope in my people for they determined to draw their destiny, and in a process they can enhance the image of the nation by toppling these corrupt leaders and replace them with a young and modern leaders.
Paul Iddon is a freelance journalist who primarily write news articles pertaining to Middle Eastern politics and the various developments and situations in that region. Website: http://www.pauliddon.net/ Email: email@example.com