It’s time for a Kurdish state


It is perhaps the greatest travesty of the Middle Eastern geo-politics, if not the international geo-politics, that the Kurds don’t have their own state.

It is a travesty because apart from the Jews there are just about the only other population in the region that actually deserve a state of their own. And I’m thinking about most of the existing Middle Eastern states as well as stateless populations like the Palestinian Arabs.

Kurdish statehood is perhaps the last great unfinished business of the post-World War One settlement and President Wilson’s 14 Points, which promised various constituents ethnic groups of fallen empires their own homelands. While the Poles have the distinction of being the only nationality expressly mentioned in Wilson’s blueprint for international peace (point 13) as deserving an independent state, the preceding point (number 12) proclaims that “The Turkish portion of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development.”

That most certainly includes the Kurdish people. In two years’ time we will be celebrating the centenary of the end of the Great War, as well as of the 14 Points. The international community owes the Kurds a safe home of their own, and it would be a powerful closure as well as a great gesture of commemoration to assist them realise the dream of self-determination.

Over the past nearly hundred years since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and its carve-up into the modern Turkey as well as a multitude of Arab states, the Kurds have endured being divided among many countries – where they constitute minorities – and screwed by all of them. They have been persecuted by the Sunni Turks, Shia Persians, Sunni Iraqi Arabs, as well as Alawite Syrian Arabs; they have repeatedly rose up and been supressed, they have been gassed by Saddam and murdered by the Ayatollahs, and in recent years, being non-Arabs, they have borne the brunt of Islamist jihadism in Iraq and Syria. They have also been the most consistently successful force in fighting against Islamic extremism throughout the region – without much outside support.

The Kurds’ interests have always been sacrificed for the sake of a bigger regional game – not to annoy Turkey, the longstanding NATO member and Western ally, or not to further destabilise unstable countries like Iraq and Syria. Despite this, the Kurds have tried to make the best under the most difficult circumstances, and often succeeded, with the northern Iraq having been a comparative oasis of peace and stability in the sea of chaos, since the first Gulf War and the imposition of the northern no-fly zone.

Despite a litany of disappointments, the Kurds have remained perhaps the most pro-Western group in the Middle East (again, next to the Israelis). It’s not that common vices of violence or corruption are alien to the Kurdish people and their politics, but by and large they have proven to be refreshingly modern, normal, reasonable, progressive, and resistant to religious extremism in a region where otherwise all these qualities are preciously hard to come by. I don’t know what a Kurdish state would be like – perhaps free of outside oppression and control, and free to do as they please, the Kurds would disappoint. Terrorists acts by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) do a discredit and disservice to the broader Kurdish cause, but the PKK does not represent all Kurds, not even all Kurds in Turkey. Regardless, the Kurds across the region deserve a chance that has been given to pretty everyone else – to forge their own future.

That there exists a strong communist undercurrent through the community (hence the PKK, for example) worries me not in the least. This is a legacy of the Cold War and the Cold War is no more. I’m not concerned that the Kurds could build a new Communist International with North Korea and Nepal, where Marxist parties often rule. Jihadism and extremism are a much bigger threat and challenge to the Middle East – spilling over to the rest of the world – than any vestigial longing for Lenin might be. It might be that the Kurds are by and large temperamentally leftie, but they are our lefties – and the danger is that the longer the West prevaricates the chances increase that they might out of disappointment and desperation become someone else’s lefties, for example Russia’s.

Kurdistan – it’s time.