What does ISIS mean for Kurds?

By Evan Mamand:

Kurdish pershmarga defend Kirkuk

Kurdish pershmarga defend Kirkuk

Over the past two weeks, the world has once again turned its attention on the unfolding events in Iraq. As global media outlets scurry to invite political analysts to share their perspectives on the situation (airing interesting analyses with viable outcomes to the situation), the Kurds have inadvertently gained centre stage as the world watches the battle for who controls Iraq revived once again.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIS), a Sunni militant group, have returned to their motherland and have begun to rapidly gain control across major cities in Iraq. Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq was captured and put firmly under the control of the militant group, who have already enforced strict Islamic laws on the citizens of Mosul, and have also begun to extend their control to Fallujah, Hawija, Tikrit and sections of the Anbar province west of Baghdad, with Baghdad being the next city to be attacked. This infiltration of the Jihadist militant group into the major cities of Iraq has meant that the historical religious war has once again erupted onto the already vulnerable streets of Iraq; as once more the country serves as a battlefield for the Islamic schism known as the Shi’a and Sunni divide.

So, what about the Kurds?

Following the abandonment of Mosul by the Iraqi Army, the Kurdish Peshmerga emerged as the nation’s beacon of hope after being deployed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to protect the citizens of the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq and those of the disputed Kurdish areas, which crucially includes Kirkuk. This oil-rich city, which is home to Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and Assyrians, has historically been a disputed territory by all its ethnic inhabitants who claim the city belongs to them; and as the city sits on large barrels of crude oil, it’s not hard to see why Kirkuk still remains a disputed terroritory. With a majority of a Kurdish population, however, Kirkuk remains undoubtedly a Kurdish city which awaits its imminent fate to return back to Kurdistan through Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution which specifies three phases of its implementation: the stabilisation of the city, a census, and a referendum on Kirkuk and other disputed areas to either return to Kurdistan or be part of Iraq.

Why is this important now?

Despite being described as the “Kurdish Jerusalem” and the “jewel to our crown”, Kirkuk was until now under the full control of the Iraqi federal government with the Kurdish Peshmerga forces previously denied all access and control of the city. After the Iraqi Army fled its post, the Kurdish Peshmerga extended its territorial control to Kirkuk and all other disputed areas to rightfully protect its citizens from any possible threat posed by any force. This was greatly welcomed by the citizens of Kirkuk and has not been challenged by the Iraqi Federal Government. With all eyes on Kurdish forces to help push back ISIL militants from the Kurdish areas, what does this mean for the Kurdish autonomous region of Iraq?

The immediate question which is posed to the Kurds is: how long can the Kurdish Peshmerga maintain their stand against ISIL? So far, the Kurdish Peshmerga has been able to stand their ground against the militant group and have firmly said that they don’t intend to leave the disputed Kurdish areas and will fight to the death to protect the citizens of Kurdistan and its borders.

As Iraq spirals into chaotic religious conflict, and with Kirkuk firmly in the grasp of the Kurdish Peshmerga, the upcoming decisions made by the KRG are fundamental in the possible solution to the Kurdish issue in the region. Kurdish leaders in the region must seize this golden opportunity and act strategically to keep hold of Kirkuk and other disputed areas and take huge strides towards its path of independence.

Evan Mamand is a British Kurd, studying a BA in International Relations and Political Science, and founder of the group One Voice-Kurdish Youth which can be found on twitter @OneVoiceKurdish 

One Response to What does ISIS mean for Kurds?
  1. rawand
    June 18, 2014 | 22:06

    It’s well written Evan, i also believe that it’s a golden opportunity for Kurds to move forward and declare their independence but this kind of decision should be studied well and make sure the there’s a support from national community.

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