A Time for Kurdish Voices

June 11, 2004 Off By leigh

A number of near simultaneous events have thrown the plight of the Kurdish people into the spotlight.

A number of near simultaneous events have thrown the plight of the Kurdish people into the spotlight.

Layla Zana, a Turkish Kurd elected to the Turkish parliament was finally released after 10 years imprisonment. She was released early after imprisonment on trumped-up charges after she created an uproar by giving her induction speech partially in Kurdish. The Kurdish language was banned in Turkey, until literally the same day she was released, Turkish state television began it’s first broadcast in the Kurdish language.

Kurdistan is a casualty of the first world war, a region and people that were divided during the League of Nations carve up of the Ottoman Turkish empire after WWI. The mountainous region was split between the foreign mandates (in all practicality colonies with “Arab facades”) of French Syria, Attaturks Turkey, British Mesopotamia (later Iraq) and Persia (later Iran).

The positive signs of loosening of Turkish control of their Kurdish population comes due to pressure from the EU before Turkey can join that organisation.

At the same time, Juan Cole has updates on the Iraqi Kurdish outrage at the lack of support for the transitional administrative law which recognises a federal character of Iraq, giving the semi-autonomous Kurdish north strong representation. This is all the Bush administrations doing, purposefully removing reference to the TAL to appease the Shi’ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Several threats have been made by the two main Kurdish parties to seek secession from Iraq.

If you are aware of the plight of the Kurds, wonderfully expressed in the first Kurdish language film “A Time for Drunken Horses” and the principle of self-determination enshrined in the U.N Charter, it is now time for the Kurds to press for their right of self government in international forums.

They have long been persecuted by the many countries that have fought with and against them, including the U.S, which allowed sales of gas precursors to Saddam while he gassed them at Halabja, encouraged their uprising (accompanied by the Shi’ites and marsh Arabs) while the Iraq military was in retreat in 1991, then stopped the attack on Saddam and allowed mass killings against the uprising. Their plight is no different from the Jewish call for self-determination and formation of the state of Israel in 1948, however with history, the international community can prevent the ethnic cleansing that occurred then.

The matter pivots on the capability of Western leaders and peoples to recognise and press the issue with some principle and humanity. That the oil rich city of Kirkuk is part of the negotiations of the border of Iraqi Kurdistan is no co-incidence.