Kurdish Nationalism

What are the prospects for an independent Kurdish state to form out of the wreckage of Iraq? How likely is it that Kurds who live in 5 separate states will set aside their differences long enough to coalesce around the common goal of creating a state for the Kurdish people? As we now know, the Kurdish territory in northern Iraq has enjoyed a high degree of autonomy since the establishment by Great Britain, France, and the United States of the “no-fly zones” in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War. (Interestingly, the no-fly zones were established by these three states for putatively humanitarian purposes and had not received official sanction by the United Nations Security Council. For more, click here.)

Following the war-induced collapse of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime in 2003, the Kurds of Iraq have enjoyed de facto independence in northern Iraq, with a temporary “capital” at Irbil (though the Kurds wish to reclaim the city of Kirkuk, located in the middle of an oil-rich region, as the capital of any independent state in northern Iraq). In IS 309, we read Michael Ignatieff’s chapter on Kurdistan, from his 1993 book, Blood and Belonging, which provides a snap-shot of the situation of the Iraqi Kurds some two years following the establishment of the no-fly zones. Ignatieff addresses the potential for greater autonomy of the Iraqi Kurdish region from the Iraqi state/regime of Hussein and finds skepticism on the part of most Kurds. Fast-forward almost twenty years (has it been that long!!) and we find the situation on the ground has changed substantially. The difficulties, though, seem to remain and the prospects for Kurdish independence are no less clear today than they were some twenty years ago, particularly given the Turkish state’s response to Kurdish separatist sentiment on the territory of eastern Turkey. Here are a couple of interesting short documentaries on the current state of the Kurdish independence movement in Iraq and Turkey.

Here’s a video on the Kurdish situation in Turkey.

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One thought on “Kurdish Nationalism

  1. In my research so far for my term paper I’ve discovered that historically there has been differing policy in regards to the Kurdish populations in Iraq and Turkey. However, it appears as though this may be changing – as Turkey continues its attempt at ascension into the EU it must align its policies regarding ethnic minorities with EU standards.

    While the Kurdish region of Iraq shows some promise in regards to its push for an independent state, I find it hard to envision a series of circumstances under which the 5 states which currently contain a large Kurdish population would be willing to secede territory to create the state of Kurdistan that many today hope for. Economic concerns alone (the Kurdish region of Iraq is a region with rich oil deposits) would be enough for some states to deny such actions from taking place, and the political ramifications of a new state in the Middle East are significant, particularly when one considers the current environment – a fragile Iraq state, a continued international military presence in Afghanistan and the current wave of protests and uprisings against dictatorships in the region. Whether the international community would support the creation of an independent Kurdistan in the midst of these conditions I feel would be extremely unlikely.

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