Sunday,23 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1362, (28 September - 4 October 2017)
Sunday,23 September, 2018
Issue 1362, (28 September - 4 October 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Dreams of disintegration

Kurdish dreams of national independence can only lead to disasters for all, writes Bassel Oudat in Damascus


Dreams of disintegration
Dreams of disintegration

اقرأ باللغة العربية

The international community is of one mind about the territorial unity and integrity of Syria: it must not be divided or partitioned, and no portion of it should be cut off and handed to the Kurds as part of a hypothetical Kurdish state.

The Kurds in Syria make up no more than 10 per cent of the population, yet they are blind to everything but their vision of independence and have in large part decided to destroy the bonds that connect them with other Syrian people for the sake of a national Kurdish dream inconsistent with the ideals of equality, diversity and integration.

Now comes news of the referendum on the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, with only Israel and a handful of Arab intellectuals who have become apologists for separatism and the advocates of a “post-modern” conception of the state supporting it against almost total international condemnation.  

These intellectuals approach the issue through a reductionist, romantic lens and they have adopted their views of Kurdish self-determination from president of Iraqi Kurdistan Masoud Barzani’s arguments for holding the referendum at this time.

Barzani is trying to export a domestic crisis to the regional environment, and in the course of his heavy-handed approach towards the Kurdish opposition parties, such as the Movement for Change and the Kurdistan National Federation, he has turned against legitimacy and extended his term in office when it ended in 2015.

He has expelled the speaker of the Kurdish parliament, a member of the Movement for Change, and banned ministers from the same party from the regional capital in Erbil. At the economic level, the region has been gripped by economic straits since 2014, when oil prices plummeted and Baghdad introduced punitive measures against the region after it built pipelines to export oil to Turkey in the hope of obtaining economic independence.

Barzani has wanted to establish his absolute leadership of the Kurds and to play on their dreams of a national state. This fever has now spread to Syria.

Salih Muslim, the leader of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Federation Party, the Syrian wing of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that possesses militias in Syria made up of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) that make up the Kurdish Democratic Syrian Forces, is playing the same tune.

He, too, is firing up the dreams of the Syrian Kurds, deciding that they should have an autonomous government, a parliament and a cabinet with ministers, and taking steps to create a federal entity that for all practical purposes means secession from Syria.

Muslim’s military forces, until some weeks ago collaborating closely with Syrian regime forces and Iran, have developed cooperative relations with the Americans and have also turned to the Russians to obtain support.

Now they hope to establish a de facto secession of the Kurdish areas from the rest of Syria, in so doing succeeding in dividing the Syrian public between Arabs (about 90 per cent of the population) and Kurds (about 10 per cent), destroying the bond of a single people in exchange for a Kurdish national dream that no one believes has the potential to succeed on the ground.

The Syrian Kurds, like their Iraqi counterparts, like to speak of the “historic oppression of the Kurds.” But those same Kurds have had no compunction about ignoring Sunni Arab oppression as they watch the destruction, murder and displacement that have been inflicted on the Iraqis and the Syrians since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, through the Iranian-Russian invasion of Syria, to the war on terrorism.

The Kurds in Syria and Iraq have all but jettisoned their national affiliations with the environment in which they have lived for centuries. They have decided to take advantage of their “historic condition,” as they call it, to notch up their demands and to shirk the national bonds that have drawn Arabs and Kurds together for hundreds of years in both countries.

All this explains the Israeli position in support of the Kurds, with the Israelis hoping to ignite ethnic warfare in the region in order to preoccupy their Turkish and Iranian competitors and to complete the destruction of what remains of Syria and Iraq.

All this will confront the Kurds with the other countries and peoples of the region. If this confrontation is escalated militarily, the consequences will be disastrous for all.

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