By Dr. Rashid Karadaghi:
“How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever.”
From a speech by civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., after the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965
It’s been too long. The needless suffering of the Kurdish people in their divided and occupied homeland has gone on for far too long. They have suffered unbearable oppression for no reason other than their identity as Kurds and their desire to be left alone and live in freedom on their own ancestral homeland. Even though they haven’t been able yet to shake off the yoke of oppression, they have never accepted it. The countless uprisings and sacrifices they have made, especially in the last hundred years, are solid proof of their continuous struggle against injustice. The Kurds have been fighting heroically against their horrible condition for a long time. Now is the time the free world backed them up in their legitimate pursuit of freedom.
The Kurdish demand is very straightforward. This wronged-against nation became a victim of the division of its homeland after World War 1 by Britain and France, the colonial powers of the day, resulting in the death of hundreds of thousands of Kurds over the last century, not to mention billions of dollars wasted on wars to subjugate them. Even though the Kurds have proven over decades that they are the best friends of the West and Western values, and most recently have been fighting the ISIS savages valiantly on behalf of the free world, the Western governments’ irrational support for the so-called territorial integrity of the countries that oppress the Kurds has not changed. The Kurds now demand that the U.S. and other Western powers reset their policies and priorities and accord them the recognition they deserve by supporting their struggle for statehood like all other freedom-loving people in the world.
Since Britain and France divided Kurdistan and gave it as gift to nations with violent and inhuman imperial histories, the Kurds have not known a day of peace. They have been brutalized by those who were supposed to respect their rights as a people. It is time that a hundred years of genocide and slavery ended. While it is true that the Kurds must rely on themselves to attain their freedom, what is also true is that the free world must have the courage to back up the Kurds, not their oppressors, if it is to remain true to its declared principles. By not doing this, it would make a mockery of everything it believes in. The West must break the taboo that has put it on the wrong side of history. Now is the time.
Unlike some other people, the Kurds have never resorted to acts of terrorism to achieve their rights; neither would they ever resort to such acts even if they continue to be oppressed simply because it is against their nature. Their struggle against their oppressors has always been in the form of democratic mass movements aimed at gaining their freedom from domination and subjugation. Somehow, the world has not given them any credit for this noble way of pursuing their freedom.
In the current war against ISIS, the Kurds have been in the forefront of the fight on behalf of the world, and their Peshmerga have been the most effective fighting force against the terrorist organization. Yet, and despite all appearances and praise of the Peshmerga, the Kurds have not made any significant tangible gains in terms of recognition of their right to live as an independent, free nation. One wonders what else they must do for the U.S. and other Western countries to pay more than just lip service to their cause.
The Kurds are getting mixed signals from the U.S. on issues that imply recognition of them as separate from Iraq, an entity that exists only in the minds of those who are in denial of the facts on the ground. For instance, the U.S. House Armed Services Committee recently passed a Resolution by a vote of 60-2 to authorize providing the Peshmerga and Sunni tribes with arms and ammunitions directly instead of through Baghdad. (The Iraqi government has not delivered to the Peshmerga except a small portion of the arms and ammunitions intended for them even though they are doing the bulk of the fighting against ISIS because it views the Kurds as an enemy equal to ISIS and would rather see ISIS win the war than see the Kurds win victory and get credit for it.) However, the Obama Administration announced that it would not agree to this proposal “because it wants a unified Iraq and it sends everything to Iraq through Baghdad.”
While the Kurds applaud the courage and foresight of the Armed Services Committee members and express gratitude to them and to both Houses of Congress, they feel betrayed by the Administration’s response, which is contrary to the wishes of the Congress and shows a total lack of understanding of the suffering of the Kurds at the hands of their oppressors for the last one hundred years. It also shows a lack of any appreciation of the crucial role they have been playing in the fight against the ISIS terrorists and the sacrifices they have made in this war. The only way that the Administration’s response can be interpreted is that it stands with the oppressor against the oppressed, contrary to the ideals which America stands for.
Despite getting praise for their role in fighting ISIS and for the bravery of the Peshmerga, the Kurds are getting no tangible and real recognition in terms of being seen as a separate people from Iraq, which they are. The U.S. does not miss an opportunity to reiterate that it supports the Kurds only as part of a “democratic” Iraq. Sadly, other Western countries mimic the U.S. in the way they view the Kurds and deal with them. The Kurds reject this characterization.
Finally, one thing is certain. Whether Arab Iraq and all those who have made it their life’s obsession to oppress the Kurds throughout greater Kurdistan like it or not, the Kurdish people are getting stronger by the day. No power, no matter how strong, can enslave a nation that is determined to be free. And the Kurds are determined to do just that. I believe that the day of deliverance for the Kurds is near, for no lie can live forever.
Dr Rashid Karadaghi is the author of The Azadi English-Kurdish Dictionary, the most comprehensive English-Kurdish dictionary ever published. A retired teacher and translator living in the USA, he writes many articles on the Kurdish issue.