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The Kurds and Their Legacy

Kurdistan has a long and turbulent history. Today, it faces a future branching in directions that could lead it towards success or disaster, freedom, or renewed oppression.”

Davan Yahya Khalil, Kurdistan: The Road to Independence

The largest ethnic group in the world without a home or a country, fighting for their identity and autonomy until this day, these are considered the most ancient people in the history by the experts they are even older than Persians and Arabs. Kurds are mainly of Indo-European descent, with a total population of 30-40 million all across the globe. According to many experts, the city center of Erbil, the capital, is considered to be the oldest human settlement to be continuously inhabited by humans on the planet until this day. Most of the Kurds are Sunni-Muslims with un-protected minority status. The majority of Kurds reside in turkey, making the 15-20% of the country’s population. The rest of the Kurds are dispersed in Iran, Iraq, and Syria, with 8-12 million in Iran and 5.5-8.5 million in Iraq, the rest of 1 million in Syria.

Kurds have been fighting for their rights and independence since the 20th century up until now. Kurdistan workers party or PKK has played a significant role in this war. The pursuit of autonomy plays a role in Middle East conflicts. 10% of the Iraqi oil is in Kirkuk province, which helped them make allies with countries like the US. As the military campaign against the Islamic State winds down, the United States and its allies’ enthusiasm for using the Kurds as their proxies against the jihadi organization has not translated into the long-term military or diplomatic backing and certainly not into support for statehood. Turkey thinks of Kurds as terrorist groups that might be a threat to the nation. Kurds are the largest ethnic society but are not given citizenship and rights to own land in Syria.

A 2010 US report, written before the instability in Syria and Iraq that exists as of 2014, attested that “Kurdistan may exist by 2030.”

September 25, 2017, was a historical moment for the five million Kurds living in the north of Iraq, as the regional government of Kurdistan organized a referendum.

“This is the first time in history that the people of Kurdistan will freely decide their future. After that, we will start talks with Baghdad to reach an agreement over borders, water, and oil.”

Mr. Barzani, President of Iraqi Kurdistan.

7 out of 10 Kurds came out to vote for a separate state, that later was counted as 3.1 million votes in total. The referendum turned out to be a massive success, as 93.27% of the votes favored independence, unfortunately the referendum of September back-fired. Turkey, a Barzani ally, was concerned that secessionist sentiment could spread to its own Kurdish population. It threatened to close its critical border along the Kurdish region and stood aside as Iran brokered a deal that allowed the Baghdad government to push back against the Kurds. Kurdistan has its own army of 200,000 and is a close ally to the US. Israel is the only country supporting its independence until now. There’s a better way for the Kurds to pursue independence than relying on outside powers and escalating repression at home.