Bijî Kurdistan

For some time the Kurds have been a people whose fate I have pondered and reflected upon [1].  And there is good reason for that, several good reasons in fact.  For one, as someone who was born to a family from the hill country of Pennsylvania, I have a general sense of curiosity towards how other hill peoples fail, and in general around the world hill peoples do not fare very well and tend to be oppressed by neighboring empires.  The best case scenario is a situation like Andorra where hill peoples have their neutrality guaranteed by their two large neighbors who serve as joint ceremonial heads of state.  The worst case scenario is something like what has happened with the Kurds, where frequent oppression and massacres and even the denial of their identity–such as when Turkey refused to call them Kurds and instead called them Mountain Turks–have taken place for a long, long time.

On the surface, it would appear as if independence is the most obvious solution to the Kurds’ problems, but that would require carving out Kurdish territories from nations like Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq.  This is by no means an easy task, although cutting some of those nations down a bit in size would be immensely appealing.  But even if, let us say, such a thing could be done, it would only be the beginning and not the end.  First, an independent Kurdistan is not something that would come about peacefully.  The present de facto autonomy of Kurdish regions in Syria and Iraq has only come about as a result of years of internal conflict in which the Kurds have been able to develop their own militias (like the SDF in Syria) to defend their own territory, and even that has been done with a great deal of American help to counter aggressive nations like Turkey as well as the forces of the Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq.  To have a de jour independence would mean to reduce the territory of several nations in the Middle East that are not keen on having their own territory carved up like a ribeye steak.

I feel it necessary to stress, though, that independence for the Kurds would only be a beginning.  It is a beginning that would likely be conceived in blood and one that would require the Kurds themselves to work together in the face of hostile neighbors desiring their land and resources back and working to manage their water and oil resources in an equitable fashion despite disparate histories under the rule of various nations.  This unity is by no means a foregone conclusion.  The example of failed attempts at such states like South Sudan is a reminder that people can be more or less united against an oppressive nation like Sudan but not be united about how they are to be self-governed.  This is a lesson that Kurdistan would do well to remember, because even if it is able to gain some sense of independence it will still have a lot of problems to solve that will require trust as well as a certain amount of diplomatic skill in building a consensus for legitimate authority exercised by people of one clan or one particular background as opposed to others, and such consensus must be made and cannot be assumed.

Right now, of course, Kurdistan is in the news because Turkey has sought (and apparently received) permission to invade a part of Turkey that has been ruled over by Kurds who have been allied to the United States.  Our president has said that there are red lines which must be respected, but I must admit I do not know what those are.  While I have no personal enthusiasm in supporting an American military presence in the region to force Turkey to play nice I also feel it worthwhile to support the interests of the Kurds and Syrian Christians who are likely to be in harm’s way because of an Islamist Turkish government that appears unable to respect the dignity and rights of Kurds and Christians within Turkey and in neighboring countries apparently.  There is no question that a free Kurdistan bordering Turkey would be appealing and a source of internal turmoil within Turkey itself and its own substantial Kurdish minority.  After all, one of the problems about ruling over composite states in a harsh fashion towards minorities is that those minorities will seek support from abroad which will undermine statebuilding.  And since Turkey has decided that it is better to seek to destroy the potential of neighboring stable Kurdish regimes in other countries than to create a nation where Kurds could feel a sense of loyalty and that their own identity is respected and honored, we have yet more trouble in a region that cannot seem to get enough of it.

[1] See, for example:


About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in International Relations, Middle East, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Bijî Kurdistan

  1. Catharine Martin says:

    Yes, it is wise to consider that an independent Kurdistan would be the beginning rather than a triumphant result of a hard-fought war. A nation can only survive with the collaborate efforts of all peoples within its borders. This is very difficult when, within these confines, there are conflicting factions that no longer work together to defeat a common enemy.

    • I think I will do some kind of thought experiment on what this sort of things means and what it would involve, given that the state of the Kurds has excited such furor in the past few weeks.

  2. Pingback: On Civil Wars: A Thought Experiment | Edge Induced Cohesion

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