The Kurdish question: have the regional underdogs had the last laugh?
The Kurds were promised a state by Britain during the Great War. But unlike the Jews, they shared a common fate with the Palestinians — dispossessed of an imagined homeland promised them by the world’s only superpower.
After decades of rebellion, insurgency and campaigning, the Kurds may be closer than ever to achieving their goal of a nation-state. Despite intermittent bombings puncturing the relative calm of Iraqi Kurdistan, the region remains the most stable area of the country. The devolution of powers to Erbil from Baghdad means Kurds have control over several facets of statehood, including limited security powers.
The Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq is perched above oceans of untapped oil reserves, which foreign companies are keen to exploit. Even a tense standoff with Baghdad over the contracts is unlikely to change the situation on the ground. Support from the West is too valuable to throw away, and Iraq must fear isolation if it acted on its threats.
In Syria, the 22-month civil conflict has been exploited by the Kurds, who have managed to position themselves well for a future statelet on the Syria-Turkey border. Washington too seems to favor Kurdish independence.
With help from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey, dreams of an autonomous state on the border might not be too far fetched. Turkey, however, will do its utmost to stymie the loss of its territory and with Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan still in jail, it’s unlikely a settlement can be reached.
The most recent assassinations of Kurdish activists - this time in France - has stirred even more support for the Kurds. Even in northwest Iran, where a small population of Kurds resides, a ceasefire has been signed, and pressure from the West on Tehran could see them claim more rights if the Iranian regime is further weakened.
Given all of this, many Kurds must be asking the question: could this be the year the Kurdish quest for self deterimination, yielding a nation, becomes a reality?
Could Kurdistan ever really exist? What would it mean for the Middle East? Tell us what you think below.