The Kurds in the New Middle East

Kamal Chomani

By Kamal Chomani:

Having dozens of supposed enemies and threats to the Kurdistan region is useful to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in helping them maintain their long-term power. Meantime, these two ruling parties do their best to prevent the revolution in the Middle East – known as the Arab Spring – from reaching the Kurdistan region, rather than opening their arms to embrace the democratic era.

Domestically, there are hundreds of serious problems. The longer we delay the solutions, the longer it will take to reach our dreams and have a Kurdish democratic region. It will be a big shame for us if the new evolving democracies go ahead of us. The current problems and the dogmatic mentality of the ruling parties are the main obstacles.

The opposition and ruling parties should have a mutual perspective on Kurdish foreign policy. The new developments in the region demand more unity amongst Kurds, in particular in making decisions about foreign affairs and relations with the Iraq central government. Unfortunately, still there is no hope of any real changes.

Meantime, any decision made by the Kurdish leadership will not have great potential unless it can satisfy the opposition parties and the public. We should have a national security strategy, which is very important for two reasons. First, we can all know how to work in terms of national interests and disadvantages. Second, the ruling parties cannot mislead the public and depict all demands by the people and opposition as threats to national security.

If you ask me why the Kurds have still not been able to regain the disputed areas, especially Kirkuk, I will definitely say it is because of our lack of unity and our lack of a strategy. Basically, the KDP is less concerned than the PUK and other parties about regaining Kirkuk because the KDP’s clout in Kirkuk is very weak. Hitherto, Kurds have had no united perspective on how Kirkuk will again become a part of the Kurdistan region.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) leadership has lacked the influential capacity to secure for the KRG a great role in the wider region. So far influence has been created only through their personal, partisan and family relations within the regional countries. We can easily figure out why the KDP is more likely to be close to Turkey and the PUK to Iran. The relations with these two countries are based, not on a strategic assessment of the interests of the KRG but rather on the interests of the two families and parties. The KRG’s relations with the regional countries are not based on mutual interests and respect.

Kurdistan has become a good market for the neighbouring countries’ exports, but they do not recognize us as a federal government even though our de facto status should oblige them to. The KRG’s discourse and media seems to be most cowardly towards Iran and Turkey. There is evidence that – in response to Iranian and Turkish pressure – the ruling parties have removed news reports about these countries from their websites. The KRG might have succeeded in making the region a good market for Iranian and Turkish products, but it has failed to pursue a successful plan to strengthen its role in the international arena.

The Kurdish leadership in Baghdad has not forced Kurdish demands on Baghdad: instead they have abandoned Kurdish demands even though the central government and the Sunni and Shiite parties have been weakened by their many doctrinal, sectarian and political conflicts.

I definitely agree with Nawshirwan Mustafa, Gorran Movement leader, that the Kurdish leadership in Baghdad has focused on money and positions rather than on  becoming a part of the decision-making process.

In Jalal Talabani’s and Hoshiyar Zebari’s attitude towards Syria, we see that they cannot practice politics according to Kurdish interests, and that they are controlled by the regional countries, Iran and Turkey.  Kurdish leaders should have done everything possible to make Iraq vote for sanctions against Syria – any regime that comes after Assad will be far better, especially for the Kurds in Syria – but Hoshiyar Zebari failed to do so. This was because of Iran’s interference in Iraq.

In the Middle East changes, Kurds should have a role. Unfortunately, Kurds from Iran have not uttered a word. They have not moved at all. It is really disastrous that they are not well organized. The bad thing is that some of them are completely against the Arab spring because of their Marxist ideology. In Turkey, the Kurds have already started the protests, yet it has not become a mass strike. But at least you can see the Kurdish Jum’a prayers in Diyarbekir which is because of the impact of the Tahreer Jum’a prayers. For Kurds in Turkey, it seems that they have not tried to use this weapon because hope for a peaceful, democratic and political solution is still alive.

Instead of building mutual relations, based on mutual respect and interests, with the new forces in the Middle East that emerged after the first flame of Arab Spring in Tunisia, through the Kurdish Islamic parties (which have the same roots and come from the same Islamic Brotherhood school), the KDP set the Islamic Union’s headquarters in Duhok on fire. The Islamic Union has strong relations with pro-Islamic Brotherhood forces across the region.

A scholar like Dr Ali Al Qaradaghi,  leader of the Islamic World Scholars, the organization that is supported by the Islamic Brotherhood, can play a role in promoting good relations between the Kurds and the new forces in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and the future Syria. He is a friend of all the new forces and leaders in the region.

The Kurdish leadership should not be afraid of the Arab Spring reaching Kurdistan. Instead, they should solve the problems and be part of the Spring. I was wondering how Kurds could mourn the Mubarak and Ghazafi regimes, as the KDP and PUK did. But sometimes I think that, whatever the opposition parties support, the ruling parties will oppose. Kurdish politics is so absurd: sometimes the ruling parties play the role of opposition to the opposition parties. Whatever the opposition supports, no matter whether it is good or not, the ruling parties confront.

Kurds should not be the audience in the New Middle East: they should become players. Those actors who are corrupt and non-democrats cannot become real players, so we first must become more democratic and transparent. It is true that stateless actors cannot play a vital role but, for Kurds in the Middle East, it is a different story.

Basically, we should understand that our strength in the Middle East is many-sided. The fact that the Kurds have been divided into four different Middle Eastern countries is our strength and not our weakness. If the Kurds, especially the KRG, use this we can play a vital role.

For this to happen the Kurds MUST now hold an National Conference with the participation of all political parties and forces, from leftist to rightist, from all four parts of Kurdistan, Europe, the US and the rest of the world. The KRG should support this to give it greater status.

A comprehensive agenda based on developing an overall strategy for the Kurds in the New Middle East is a must that Kurdish leaders everywhere should pursue. In my meetings with the PKK leaders and BDP leaders, they focused very much on this kind of approach.

Last summer, there were plans to hold a Kurdish National Conference and the Kurdish leadership from Turkey were the most interested in this. It was said that Masoud Barzani, the Kurdistan region’s president, would supervise but later everyone stopped talking about it.

Now is the time to have a Kurdish National Conference to agree on a strategy for our activities in the New Middle East.

Copyright © 2011

3 Responses to The Kurds in the New Middle East
  1. shivan
    January 10, 2012 | 01:37

    Great article. Perhaps the national conference can be followed with referendum for independence.

  2. mike b
    July 16, 2012 | 13:01

    It seems he missed 1975 when Gen. Barzani put all on KIRKUK and lost his revolution because of kirkuk.Today media of kurdish politic are selfish,otherwise it was Gen Barzani told saddam Hussain i will not give the ARAB an inch of kirkuk als said i do not want after my death the kurds will come to my grave and spit on me <why you gave kirkuk to the arabs.Only to let the writter be nief on history.

  3. Kawasaki
    July 16, 2012 | 19:36

    Mike b ,

    General who…….

Leave a Reply

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

Trackback URL