The Task of the Kurdistan People on the Hundredth Anniversary of the Sykes-Picot Agreement (16 May 1916)

By the Executive Council of the Kurdistan National Congress / KNK:

Kurdistan is a rich and a fertile land. Therefore, it has been subjected to aggressions and occupations. The richness of Kurdistan has always attracted both neighboring countries and other countries far away in a colonial-interest manner. They all have exploited Kurdistan and have tried to continue their dominance and occupation against the will of the Kurdistan people. These aggressors have always harmed the people of Kurdistan and have caused them bloodshed and suffering. Thus, Kurdistan has been a battlefield and a field for imposing the hegemony of outsiders. Kurdistan lost its national unity for the first time in history due to the Qesri Shirin Agreement in 1639. The agreement was a result of war between the Ottomans and the Safavids. In the aftermath of the Qesri Shirin agreement, Kurdistan was divided into two parts. This condition continued to the beginning of the 20th century.

The 20th century was a century of war and inconvenience for Kurds and Kurdistan people. First, there was the Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916), and then the Sévres Agreement (10 August 1920) and the last agreement, which harmed Kurdish national unity to destruction, was the Lausanne Agreement (24 July 1923). Kurdistan was no longer two parts, but rather it became four parts. Establishing a barbaric, exploitative and manipulative colonial system on the soil of Kurdistan became an imposed reality.

In the beginning of the Sykes-Picot agreement Kurdistan was under the mandate of powerful regional empires of the Ottomans and Safavids, but soon it went to be under the mandate of more powerful emperors from far away: Great Britain and France. Great Britain and France arbitrarily made artificial Arabic countries and gave a part of Kurdistan to the Arabs. Now the Arabs too became a part of the colonial rule in Kurdistan. The Russians exploited the political situation of that time and came from the north part of Kurdistan, occupying the area between the Caucasus to the Hakkari area.

In very early stages of the Sykes-Picot it was clear that the agreement would not survive long, specifically in the conditions of the First World War. The Sykes-Picot agreement was a political design that some powerful western states had to use as a tool to implement their political interests in the area for the forthcoming 20th century. The United States of America then was still a young country. Great Britain was the main political actor behind the design and implementation of the agreement. France had its colonial disagreements with Great Britain. In the end, France and Great Britain chose to divide the area between them, as they had agreed behind closed curtains far from indigenous people of the area. Even though the USA was not a part of this agreement, it was nevertheless supportive of France and Great Britain.

However, the Sykes-Picot agreement by Sir Mark Sykes of England and Francois Georges-Picot of France did not continue as they had thought. Directly after the end of WW1 and the birth of the Soviet Union, the Russians retreated. The agreement became in practice a political project of France and Great Britain. The Turks at that time succeeded in pressing Great Britain, France and their allies, with the assistance of the Soviet Union, and obviously by cheating and misleading the Kurds, to make a package deal. After these concessions neither Sykes-Picot nor Sévres nor other agreements became that deal which Great Britain and France was at first hoping for. Thus, their political mandate in the area became shorter lived. But Great Britain and France became the winners both in destroying the Ottoman Empire and also in establishing new Arabic entities. As the Lausanne Agreement in 1923 became a factor, Kurdistan´s divisions became a reality as it became a part of four different countries of Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria. Hence, these new artificial states became the new colonialists of Kurdistan.

In a similar way, the Second World War brought about a new political era. The balance of power in the Middle East was changed and reshaped. From the WW1 there was first Russia and then the Soviet Union. The Soviets did support the Kurdistan Democratic Republic in the aftermath of WW2, but they withdrew when it was no longer in their interests. The Russians left the Kurds alone. Unfortunately, the Kurdistan Democratic Republic did not survive under the enmity it was facing.

History must not be repeated in the same manner. The political actors who played major roles in the 19th century´s political reshaping of the Middle East area are more or less the same actors who now have the desire to reshape the area and are playing the old game. The only actual change that has taken place is the fact the USA and Great Britain have changed places. Then it was Great Britain, today it is the US.

Obviously Great Britain is playing the same role now as the USA was playing then. The Russians have made a comeback, showing muscles and engaging in practical military operations with a clear role in the process. The Western world continues, under the leadership of the USA, making efforts to defend their interests in the area and to have a major say in redesigning the Middle East. The rearranging of the political map is much harder today than it was then. The dynamics of the Middle East societies have changed significantly and therefore the balance of political power has changed too.

In the past, the Kurds and Kurdistan people were not active players; they were not organized and lacked power. The people of Kurdistan today are organized, have political tools and power and therefore are playing an active role. They represent the struggle for freedom, social and gender equality, democracy, pluralism and progress.

In the process of liberating and rebuilding Iraq, the people of Kurdistan has played an active and a constructive role and contributed to giving Iraq a federal democratic model and themselves enjoy a federal status. Now the people of Kurdistan are playing the same active and constructive role in Rojava and Syria. They have shown great administration and protection skills and have gained international acknowledgement and are an international partner against terrorism and dictatorship. The building and the protection of the Cantons-system required great sacrifices, but succeeded. With announcing the “Federal status of Rojava and Northern Syria”, the people of Kurdistan have taken an even a greater step forward toward a system of pluralistic and peaceful coexistence.

There is not only the Western world, but also Turkey, Iran and Russia and others are players in the Syrian conflict. There is a lot that goes on and every player is fighting for their own specific interests which has to do with the reshaping of Syria. In this framework we are witnessing that those states which have Kurdistan as a colony are using all of their military, political and diplomatic power, and that in a very hostile manner, against people of Kurdistan. They try hard to keep the current status-quo as it has been and to keep Kurdistan as suppressed and as colonized as before.

Their aim is to keep Kurdistan under their own national hegemony. Baghdad is still, despite all positive efforts by the Kurds, not in favor of a federal Iraqi system and not seeing Kurds as equal to Arabs. Damascus shows much anger in seeing the people of Rojava making progress in building a workable pluralistic and democratic system. Ankara and Tehran have lost political tolerance since the very beginning of the liberating process and are doing everything they can to bring the progress to halt. They both have strong national interests to stop any Kurdish progress that might happen and rather have a dream for rebuilding own old empires. Their main aim though, by attacking Rojava and Bashur, is to stop Kurdish people in Turkey and in Iran to getting the same national and democratic rights and political status. The people of Kurdistan are not accepting such a dominance and hegemony as they have refused it before and will resist it in future too. They must get their national-, democratic- and human rights.

The Kurdish people are now powerful, enjoying great will of resistance and self-confidence. They struggle everywhere in the area and on an international level to make their voice be heard and to represent the interests of Kurdistan. Due to the current situation reflected by dictatorship, totalitarianism and authoritarianism and ultra-nationalistic governance of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria and due to the Kurdish political gains and also the will of the Kurdistan people in Rojhelat (Iran) and in Bakur (Turkey) to struggle for peace and democracy, despite the hardship, the level of the liberation struggle has arisen to a peak. This great versatile struggle has struck against this Sykes-Picot agreement and will leave it weak-willed, apathetic and functionless. On the eve of this bad omen the people of Kurdistan believe in a free will, sisterhood, peace and love.

Unfortunately, there are weak links among the Kurdish people. In this very moment which requires great awareness, togetherness and conciliation, we are not as united as we should be. We need to be united. In these very conflicts, in the middle of political- and religious confusion and uncivilized behaviors; the colonial states and other dark forces can see our weaknesses and discord and they will use it against us. On the eve of this curse of Sykes-Picot which caused Kurdistan division, as it loses its legitimacy and enforcement, the new form of the Middle East must grant the people of Kurdistan the national and democratic rights they deserves. It is otherwise impossible for the Kurds to accept it.

The people of Kurdistan are very determined to struggle for her indigenous rights and will never compromise. At the same time there are always those who think rationally and try to solve the issues by dialogs and giving the other side the right to be a part of a political and peaceful negotiation according to the political issues which matter today. These efforts must be respected and given an opportunity. The Kurds can absolutely, with the support and solidarity of other suppressed nations in Kurdistan, decide on their own destiny and the right of self-determination. The most important thing is that the people of Kurdistan have the right to choose their own destiny by practicing the right of self-determination and have the right to call it anything they find suitable.

On the hundredth anniversary of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the main task on our shoulders is to strengthen fraternity at any cost. We, the people of Kurdistan, must find a political form which is best suitable for our national unity. Every step towards national unity is a step forward to confront the will of the colonialists. It is the step which in the end stops colonial policies against Kurdish people. At the same time, it shortens the way to our liberation and to realize our values.

Not only Sykes-Picot but also the Lausanne agreement must be discarded. There is a great opportunity ahead of us to establish a genuine national unity which we have already started.

The existence of two different political statuses in Iraq and Syria, based on a federal system, make a physical platform available for our national unity. Through internal peaceful dialogue and discussion, the process of national unity that we need happens easier. The people of Kurdistan must put the internal dialogue on the agenda.

On the hundredth anniversary of the Sykes-Picot agreement, which has become meaningless and a source of disgust to the people, the Kurdistan National Congress sees strengthening national unity as the main and the highest priority task. This national unity will with no doubt affect the course of the developments. The Kurds and other nationalities in Kurdistan have gained national and patriotic awareness that they will not let themselves down and will struggle to the end.

In the beginning of this agreement some international powers gave a specific shape to the Middle East in which the people of Kurdistan, not only were excluded, but sadly got divided too. Today, with the beginning of the 21st century, while there are efforts to reshape the area again, the people of Kurdistan must get their fair share that satisfies. We, as the people of Kurdistan, have much to say about this. There is an alternative to the yesterday’s colonial agreements such as Sykes-Picot, Sévres and Lausanne. We have to abolish these agreements and their practical meanings.

The people of Kurdistan have the ability to stand against regional and international aggressors and put their own demands on the agenda. This is the way to abrogate this harmful and pernicious agreement which has cost our people much pain and loss. We can make our gains bigger and at the same time protect them. Today, probably for the first time in history, we see democratic political conditions on the international level that can be in the favor of our just cause. We have to seize this opportunity. We as the people of Kurdistan must do more than ever and perform our best and show the world that we will stay put and demand our just rights.

The geographical lines between Iraq and Syria have already disappeared. The geographical lines between the Bashur (Iraqi Kurdistan) and Rojava (Kurdistan of Syria) no longer exist. There is a de facto of two Kurdish federal entities on both sides. We are not obliged and not in debt and for sure not bound to protect these lines of fake territories for others. We do not have to accept them. We as the people of Kurdistan must in practice abolish these colonial territories between Bashur and Rojava. In this way we unite two parts of Kurdistan. On the hundredth anniversary of the Sykes-Picot agreement, the Kurdistan National Congress, first and foremost, calls on the administrations of Bashur and Rojava and on every organization and political parties in Kurdistan, to put working towards abolishing the Sykes-Picot agreement at the top of their agendas. We all together have to discard this agreement to the dustbin of history. This is our first and top priority, a priority that must be everywhere we find us!

The Executive Council of the Kurdistan National Congress/KNK
06.05.2016 Brussels

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