On the concepts of War and Peace and how relevant they are to the Kurdish Question

An Interview with Dr Wayne Lavender by Aras Ahmed Mhamad:

Wayne Lavender

Wayne Lavender

Dr Wayne Lavender is a university professor who taught for 18 months in Slemani.

AA: Through history people have become victims of war, corruption and violence.  What do you think is the source of war?

WL: I think there are multiple causes/sources for war.  The leading two are greed and grievance.  Think of Kirkuk: it is at the center of great conflict between the KRG and the Iraqi government because of the tremendous oil reserves located there (greed) and because of the perception that it is important to both governments (grievance).

I believe in my heart that Kirkuk is a Kurdish region, historically speaking. But I think there are Arabs who deny that claim and say it is an Arab region. This is at the heart of conflict. Who knows for sure? Who decides these issues? My experience in the Kurdish Region of Iraq is that all of the Kurdish people think of Kirkuk as clearly Kurdish – this is what you are taught, understand and believe. But this is a reinforced view based on everyone saying it.

Greed and grievance can be found in nearly every war – from the civil war in Syria to the conflict between the PDK and PUK, to the US – led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, to the Iran – Iraq War and more.  Greed is related to economics and the competition over scarce resources, while grievance is often social or political and is concerned with what the other side has done that is offensive and needs to be corrected.

Religion is often used as a reason for war but I believe it is more accurate to say that religion has been used to help stir up persons of faith to enlist God / Allah on your side in the listing of grievances.  I do not believe that God / Allah ever wants humans to wage war, and that God / Allah does not take sides in war but is always working for peace.

AA: People say that there has to be war to have peace. The repercussions of any kind of war: be it between two persons, two religious groups, political parties, or countries can be devastating physically and emotionally. How would you comment on that paradox?

WL: I have never heard anyone say you need to have war in order to have peace – this is not a phrase or concept we use in the US.  But it is true that conflict is a natural part of life.  The issue is how we deal with conflict.

I would say this: war and the use of violence are the failure of human beings to negotiate conflict and resolve issues in a mature and grown-up manner.  The existence of war here in the 21st Century is an indictment on humanity to act in reasonable and competent ways. War is barbaric: it is resorting to who is stronger rather than who is morally right.

And because humanity continues to create deadlier and more destructive weapons, from nuclear to chemical and biological, it is imperative that we learn how to negotiate and solve conflict through non-violent means.  Only thus will humanity be able to save itself from the dystrophic future we are mindlessly approaching.

AA: Kurdistan has been conquered and Kurdish people have been oppressed and are still subjugated in Iran, Syria, and Turkey. What do you think is the best solution and choice in establishing a peaceful Kurdistan?

WL: The Kurdish people are victims of history and circumstances.  The Kurds are the largest ethnic group in the world today without their own nation and exist in four separate nations, divided by the victorious British Empire at the end of the First World War.  Your struggles for independence in these four nations is now approaching 100 years and have all met with failure, with the exception of the recent semi-autonomy the Kurdish Region of Iraq has gained in the past 20 years as the unintended result of the US initiatives against Saddam Hussein.

The level of freedom and independence in the Kurdistan Regional Government is impressive but also tentative: like other interested persons I am watching closely how the complex relationship between Iraq and its Kurds develops in the coming years and decades.

The Kurdish people in Turkey, Syria and Iran have not been as fortunate in the past twenty years as the Kurds in Iraq.  They are still trapped, oppressed and living under occupation by stronger and more powerful nations.

I am convinced that the best pathway to independence and a unified Kurdistan is through non-violent resistance.  This is the path Gandhi used the British in India and it is the method Dr. Martin Luther King used in the US to gain civil rights for ethnic minorities and it is the way the citizens of South Africa used to break free of apartheid and create a free democracy for all of its people.

Non-violent resistance is not passive: it takes courage, it takes discipline, it takes self-control and patience.  But it can win international support and in the end create an independent nation at peace with its neighbors (Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey).

Further, the Kurds must develop a robust civil society.  There is a great need for social capital – i.e. independent newspapers and magazines, public debates, transparency with government and volunteer-based activities.  These will provide the foundation from which a Kurdish state can be constructed.

Will this be easy?  No.  But I defy anyone to suggest an alternative road map to independence that will be successful given the tremendous power advantage these governments have over the Kurdish people.

Wayne Lavender is a United Methodist pastor dedicated to creating a world of peace and justice for all people.  He is an author and has published “Counting Ants While the Elephants March By,” “Evelyn and Damon: A Story of Love and Peace” (his newly published children’s book) and soon to be published “Worldview and Public Policy: From American Exceptionalism to American Empire.”  He is a teacher – this past year working as a professor at the University of Human Development in the Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah in Northern Iraq, and the director of the Foundation 4 Orphans (F4O), an international, interfaith and intergenerational organization whose mission is to serve the emotional, educational, physical and spiritual needs of the orphan.  He holds a Ph.D. from the School of Public Policy at George Mason University.

Aras Ahmed Mhamad is a freelance writer and translator. He is the Founder and Deputy Editor of SMART magazine, an independent English magazine that focuses on ‘Literature, Language, Society’. He is the Top Student of College of Languages at the Department of English/ University of Human Development, 2012.

4 Responses to On the concepts of War and Peace and how relevant they are to the Kurdish Question
  1. HR Activist
    August 9, 2013 | 22:06

    A Human Right Group in Iraq is filing charges against the US president Bararck Obama for: 1) His failure to tackle corruption in Iraq 2) His administration support for dictators in Iraqi Kurdistan. A large number of US citizens are also cited in the report.

  2. Delovan
    August 9, 2013 | 23:21

    Another CIA agent.

  3. Turkey Media Roundup (August 13)
    August 13, 2013 | 15:21

    […] On The Concepts of War and Peace and How Relevant They Are to the Kurdish Question Aras Ahmed Mhamad interviews Wayne Lavender about war and peace in the context of the “Kurdish question,” who says that “the Kurdish people in Turkey, Syria and Iran have not been as fortunate in the past twenty years as the Kurds in Iraq. They are still trapped, oppressed and living under occupation by stronger and more powerful nations.” […]

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