Kurdistan – a viable state (part 3)

By Mufid Abdulla:

Developments in Kurdistan and Iraq

The Kurdish issue has been a central question confronting Iraqi governments ever since the state of Iraq was established in 1920. This problem has had both internal and external aspects. On the basis of our history, our Kurdish nation is differentiated from the Arab nation – linguistically, ethnically and by religion. This is justification enough for our right to our own state. We have never had a genuine offer from any of the previous governments in Iraq, despite their assertions. Most recently, considering the events of 1970, 1974 and 1984 – all these agreements and ceasefires were doomed to failure. All previous Iraqi regimes only took to the negotiating table when they were weak and wanted to buy time.

In the past, the standards of the Kurdish national movement did not meet the requirements or demands of the Kurdish people. The stage of economic development of Kurdistan was clearly reflected in the approach and manifestos of these Kurdish movements. In their calculations, the Kurdish bourgeoisie have never understood the driving forces underpinning the need to unify Kurdistan. The civil war in Kurdistan reflected a dispute between two clans, rather than two political parties. Why has the bourgeoisie in Europe striven to unify their economies and currency? It is because they understand the value and benefits of big production and market domination.

In an unprecedented speech in 2005, the president of Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, surprised everybody by announcing that he was bringing down the old flag of the Saddamist era. He also clearly told the Iraqi government that they should be grateful that we had accepted federalism, that we can declare our independence whenever the people wanted and that we are not frightened of intimidation and threats.

Back in 2005 the referendum movement held a poll which showed that 98% of Kurdish people want their own state. The separation of our nation is inevitable after what has happened to our people, in recent decades, at the hands of Arab nationalism and chauvinism. To date not one Iraqi politician or public figure has admitted the atrocities of the previous regime. The central government is still defiant about the unity of Iraq, but it has never been apologetic about what happened to our people in the past. If that wasn’t proof enough of the attitude of Arab chauvinism…!

There are two main schools of thought in respect of the Kurdish state. The first believes that the current geopolitical borders are an obstacle to a united Kurdistan, and so we should wait and see if the other parts of Kurdistan will reach the same economic and political level. It thinks the enemies surrounding Kurdistan are all-powerful and can intervene in Kurdistan at will.

The second school believes that we could do better if we participate in a confederate Iraq or stay within a federal state, developing and building our constitution in preparation for the bigger demands the people will surely make.

Proponents of the first theory don’t appreciate that we already have a de-facto state! Why abort it for the sake of a long struggle whilst waiting for economic progress?

As for the second theory, it is over-optimistic because Arab nationalism in Iraq is 50 years behind, in terms of the economic and cultural progress seen in Europe.

 Newly created states


Estonia is a former USSR Baltic state. The Soviet Union always considered Estonia to be an inseparable part of the Soviet empire. The nationalist movement had adopted the idea of the restoration of independence. Moscow wanted a federate state, Estonia wanted confederate status – strongly opposed by Moscow – which would give them the right to secede.

In the initial years of Perestroika, the relationship between the Estonian SSR (Soviet Socialist Republic) and the central power of the USSR remained practically unchanged. In an attempt to maintain control over the growing nationalism in Estonia, the Soviet authorities took steps to ‘improve’ the Constitution of Estonia (under the auspices of Perestroika).

In November 1988, the Soviet Union told the Estonian SSR that relations between the central power and the ‘union’ of republics had to be based on a federal system.

That decision turned Estonia’s problem into a matter of international policy. In January 1989, the language-law was adopted, which gave Estonian the status of official language.

The 24th of February was declared Independence Day. The flag of the Estonian SSR was lowered from the Pikk Hermann tower in Tallinn, and at dawn, the tricolour was hoisted. These events met with strong protest from supporters of the Soviet Union.

Political disagreements became sharper. The domestic policy of the Estonian SSR evolved in the midst of conflict and confrontation. As the crisis deepened and became more serious, nationalism became stronger, weakening the power of the ‘Empire’.

In March 1990, elections to the Estonian Congress took place. More than 520,000 registered citizens (and more than 34,000 applicants for citizenship) voted.

On the anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact – 23 August 1989 – popular fronts in the Baltic countries had organised a unique protest action: an unbroken human chain was formed, reaching from Vilnius to Tallinn. The length of the Baltic chain was 600 Kilometres and about 2 million people participated. The action of the Baltic chain essentially contributed to world-wide recognition of the problems of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Estonia was threatened with an economic blockade and the introduction of a state of emergency. Pressure was tightened on the Baltic states to accept a federal settlement. By January 1991, the Soviet government still vainly kept up the hope that the Soviet Union would remain intact. The Baltic states carried out a referendum in March 1991. In Estonia, the question, “are you for the restoration of independence and sovereignty of the Estonian Republic?” was answered in the affirmative by 77.8 per cent of people voting. Even around one -third of the Russian -speaking population supported an independent Estonia. The results of the referendum prevented any negotiations with the central powers on the issue of a federation.

On 20th August 1991 State committees of the Estonian Republic declared Independence. The Soviet Union sent their tanks and soldiers to crush the rebellion but they could not act when they saw the mass of people coming onto the streets. On 21st August Moscow failed to control the flames of the independence movement. Estonia’s independence received international recognition within a couple of weeks. On 6th September 1991 the USSR recognised the total independence of the Baltic States. On 17th September 1991 Estonia and the other Baltic states were accepted into the United Nations. The Estonian Republic appeared on the map of the world as an independent and sovereign state once again.


In 2006 Catalonia’s vote for devolution from Spain reveals a mature attitude to democracy that we as Kurds would do well to emulate.

In the new era in European politics, it enshrines Catalonia’s “national identity” in a regional context. It offers the Catalans a measure of legislative, judicial and linguistic separatism in both a federal Spanish state and a wider European confederation. Education, health, housing and roads are firmly localised, and the booming city of Barcelona can regulate its commerce and even regional migration. The vote was a political success for the charismatic Catalan leader, Pasqual Margall. A city-state, Barcelona, bartered power with a nation-state, Spain, and reached a compromise balancing the aspirations of both with the disciplines of global economy.


An independent Montenegro was the last nail in the coffin of the former Yugoslavia. The unity of that state was held together by Tito through power and struggle . Even Euro-sceptics accept the need for some sort of new ‘European Treaty’ for the coming century – with formal respect of the tiers of national and sub-national identity that make up a modern state.

Southern Sudan

In July 2011 the world’s newest state came into existence following a referendum in which the independence option secured the backing of 98 per cent of Southern Sudanese voters. This followed decades of conflict between the north and the south of Sudan, whose borders had been drawn up by colonial powers in the 1950s with little regard for the cultural realities of these distinct areas. Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir said that the southern region had a right to choose to secede, acknowledging that unity “could not be forced by power.”

What is lacking in our state nationhood?

By May 2003, the international and economic cul-de-sac of Iraq was obvious. Therefore, the re-formation and restructuring of the Iraqi state has become inevitable. In this damaged country the people need partition in order to escape the permanent cycle of crises. In Kurdistan, we have our parliament and some institutions. We all shared the same childhood with the Arab people, we planned together.That is a big part of reality here. But it is as if some people have a wall in their heads. Paul Bremer stated in his diary that, during the drafting of the new Iraqi constitution, the Shia group very much opposed the right of veto for the Kurdish people. Sistani and his followers commented, ironically, on the possibilities of black and Spanish Americans having the right of veto in the USA!

We can clearly see that Arab nationalism is 50 years behind the times: otherwise, how is it possible – in the age of globalisation – not to understand the transformative impact of the transfer of capital and labour through the whole world?

From the above historical background of the history of nation-states we can consider several recommendations, to facilitate and speed-up the process of establishing an independent state.

1. Strategies for National Security:

As a Kurd, I have never seen any concrete strategy from the Kurdish nationalist movement to protect our land in the event of attacks such as those we see today from Turkey and Iran. We need an effective ‘Department of Defence’ and grassroots recruitment to safeguard the Kurdish homeland. Training a national army – not party militias – should be a priority for our de facto state, due to the sophisticated enemies we face. We need to inculcate pride in our people to show to our friends – and enemies – that we are able to defend ourselves to meet any threat from our neighbours.

2. The role of the Kurdistan Parliament and a democratic constitution:

The only way to build a constitutional state is through our Kurdistan parliament, and the elected representatives of the mass of the people. We also need a constitution, laying the foundations for a modern democratic state that upholds the rule of law.

3. We need a charismatic leader:

To meet the present stage of our political development in Kurdistan, we need a charismatic and courageous leader to convey the message of our nation to the whole world. When Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1992 by the government of F W De Klerk, the whole world watched him deliver his speech in Capetown that night. His speech started a little later than scheduled, but the South African intelligence services led by F W De Klerk were listening. The very first speech he made – to tens of thousands of people (millions were watching the world over) – began: “We should not give up the armed struggle until the abolishment of the Apartheid system in South Africa”. From his Presidential Palace, F W De Klerk told his followers that the white rule is finished, and he elaborated further that Mandela is adamant about his ‘slogan’ and is not prepared to make concessions. After the elections, white rule was finished and black Africans took control. We need a leader who thinks and breathes with their people.

4. The transition to a market economy:

The transition to a market economy is the precondition for the transition to building institutions required for the state infrastructure. An open economy, and integration with the regional economy is the process we cannot stop. Privatisation, the development of a banking system, property reform and the restructuring of agriculture are the processes required to give impetus to the development of a robust economy.

 5. The role of the media:

The media in general has a responsibility to educate and develop ideas for an independent Kurdistan. The press should invite more readers to contribute to the subject – to encourage, facilitate and enable more people to have a say in the ‘conversation’ about the necessity for an independent Kurdistan. The independent media must be allowed to operate without systematic and deadly harassment by the ruling parties.

6. The role of the KRG Opposition:

Given the failings of the KRG ruling parties, the Opposition has a crucial role to play: (1) in championing human and democratic rights; and (2) in fostering nationalist zeal among Kurdish citizens – raising the prospect of an independent Kurdish state in the near future.

In conclusion:

We can lay claim to a right to independence even preceding that of the Arab nations. In any event, Kurdistan has a ‘natural’ right to exist as a state. The break-up of Iraq is inevitable. Iraq was ‘united’ by the force of tyranny for the last 40 years. Arab nationalism should now pay homage to the de facto Kurdish state.

The Kurdish people are never interested in revenge, despite all the atrocities they have suffered. However, the Kurdish people need an apology from those responsible, so that we can go forward.

We have some institutions, but we have yet to build a National Security Strategy, which is the backbone of our future. The enemies of the Kurds should finally realise that they cannot eradicate 6 million people.

Bibliography and References

Maesalu, Ain. et. al. 1997, History of Estonia. 2nd ed. Avita

Randall, Jonathan. C. 1998, Kurdistan: after such knowledge, what forgiveness? Bloomsbury

Niblock, Tim. 1982, Iraq: the contemporary state. Croom Helm and Centre for Arab Gulf Studies, Exeter

Bremer, L. Paul. 2006, My year in Iraq: the struggle to build a future of hope. Simon & Schuster

Shergo, B. 1990, The Kurdish matter 

Harwar, M.R. 1990, The leader Sheik Mehmood and Southern State of Kurdistan. Jaf Press

Ahmad, Kamal Madhhar. 1978, Tegayishtni Rastee, and its place in Kurdish journalism. Kurdish Academy Press, Baghdad

Ahmad, Kamal Madhhar. 1977, Kurdistan in the years of the First World War. Kurdish Academy Press, Baghdad

O’Leary, Brendan, McGarry, John, Salih, Khaled (eds.) 2005, The future of Kurdistan in Iraq. University of Philadelphia Press

Galbraith, Peter W. 2006, The end of Iraq: how American incompetence created a war without end. Simon & Schuster

Bar-Kochva, Bezale. 1976, The Seleucid Army: Organization and Tactics in the Great Campaigns. Cambridge University Press

Elphinston, T. W. 1946, The Kurdish Question, Journal of International Affairs, Royal Institute of International Affairs

Glenn, H. Patrick. 2004, Legal traditions of the world.: sustainable diversity in law. 2nd ed. Oxford University Press


There are no comments yet. Be the first and leave a response!

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL https://kurdistantribune.com/kurdistan-viable-state-part-3/trackback/