Patrick Granet

Kurds, between Islamist attacks and political developments

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Since the beginning of July, the jihadists of the Islamic State launched a major offensive against the city of Ayn al-Arab (Kobanê in Kurdish), besieging several villages in the canton of Syrian Kurdistan, on the border with Turkey. Fighting rages and caused dozens of deaths in each camp. Kurds mobilize to resist this wave of extremely violent assaults launched by jihadists galvanized and better equipped for their recent victories in Iraq.
Hundreds of Kurdish fighters have recently crossed the Turkish border to help the defense Kobanê and repel the attackers. On the night of July 21, Turkish soldiers opened fire on fighters YPG, the Kurdish militia self-defense countered, showing once again which side is Turkey.
A recent article takes stock of the situation and regional upheavals underway.

Kurds, between Islamist attacks and political developments

Syrian Kurdistan, alone against the onslaught jihadist calls for international solidarity.

Elisenda Panadés / Diagonal (Spanish State)

Any Saturday in July, Place de la Republique in Paris. Tenth arrondissement of the French capital, dubbed by the media “Little Kurdistan” for the social and community epicenter of the Kurdish community in the Paris region, one of the largest in Europe. On one side of the crowded square, under the gaze of the statue of Marianne, we see a sign denouncing the involvement of Turkey in attacks against Kurdish Islamist groups in Syria. “We are not Arabs or Persians or Turks, or Islamists. We ask the Kurds and international solidarity as Palestinians, “exclaimed a young girl of the Federation of Associations of Kurds in France showing a rally that takes place in the last few meters against Israeli bombing of Gaza, while distributing leaflets on the tragic history of Kurdistan. A people of the Middle East butchered between four states (Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria) from the secret agreements signed between England and France in 1916, following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the region. Approximately 40 million people whose fate is generally not particularly attracted the attention of major media.

In recent weeks, we again heard the Kurds. This time, it happened after the Islamist advance in Iraq disintegrating with the conquest of Mosul by Sunni radical group, renamed the Islamic State, fighting in Syria. And given by the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Iraq defensive response. A response which consisted, firstly, by taking Kirkuk oil-rich, known as the Kurdish Jerusalem and which should have been a referendum for its integration in the Kurdish region, according to the Iraqi constitution established in 2005. and in a second time, with the announcement of the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Massoud Barzani, to conduct a referendum on independence, which Baghdad and Washington are immediately opposite.

Rojava only against Islamists

However, the Islamist assault, stemming from the war in Syria, is not new information for the Kurds. Thus, Rojava (literally “west” or “where the sun sets”), as is called the predominantly Kurdish region of northern Syria, resisted for months attacks by jihadists fighting in the Syrian conflict, supported by the Gulf countries, among others. Islamists accuse Kurds of being unfaithful, but that alone does not explain their attacks.
Behind them, there is the desire to conquer a strategic oil-rich territory. Kurds have so far defended with popular militias, YPG, in which notice a strong presence of women. And they do, unlike the Islamists, without the media spotlight or outside assistance, except the same Kurds located on the other side of the border with Turkey. Indeed, since they are declared autonomous region in 2013, outside the Syrian military conflict (they are not with Bashar al-Assad or with the opposition), little has been said about them and their autonomy a political project for all peoples of the region inspired by the “democratic confederalism” Abdullah Ocalan, the Kurdish icon on both sides of the Turkish-Syrian border that separated for decades.
Islamist attacks they suffer from the end of 2011 (despite the condemnation of the European Parliament), with dozens of Kurdish civilians killed, including cases of beheadings and crucifixions, hundreds of civilians abducted and hands of Islamists, or the recent attacks with chemical weapons, have received little attention. This was denounced in a statement this July, the self-coordination of Rojava with renewed fighting in the Kurdish Township Kobanê to the Turkish border, after taking Mosul (Iraq) by Islamic State (which allowed the Islamists to recover more money and weapons). Kurds are not immune to the regionalization of the conflict in Syria.

Front of the headquarters of the Islamist Rojava requires urgent international assistance to cope with the lack of ammunition and food. At the same time, she denounces Turkey not to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Syrian Kurdistan, keeping its border closed, and directly support the “obscurantist forces” attacking its population, as explained there a few months ago during a visit to Paris, one of the main Syrian Kurdish leaders, Muslim Sahlem, co-chairman of the Party of the Democratic Union, an ally of the PKK.

Turkey, a game in three bands

It is a fact that, for better or for worse, for the Kurds in Turkey is an essential piece in this puzzle called the Middle East. And conversely, the Kurds – and oil – are for a Turkey that wants to regain the lost in the region influence. This probably explains why the Turkish state has come to recognize. It was last year that, for the first time, a leader of the Turkish state, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, officially pronounced the word “Kurdistan” in Turkey. He did in the Kurdish stronghold of Diyarkbakir during a visit of Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani.

Ankara plays three bands with the Kurds in Turkey, Syria and Iraq. On the one hand, Turkey, which is not seen favorably alliance of Syrian Kurds with the PKK or its autonomist project would support the Islamist groups that attack the Kurdish autonomous zone Rojava. At the same time, Erdoğan campaigning for president this coming August, maintains the Kurds of Turkey spellbound with a peace process that some denounce as electioneering (seek the support of the electorate in Kurdish) initiated last year with the cease-fire the PKK guerrillas and far more moribund than real, but unthinkable there is little time yet in a country of deep Turkish nationalism. Finally, Turkey has become an ally of the Kurds in Iraq, without regional partners and no outlet to the sea, need to export their oil via Turkey. This is why Massoud Barzani, president of Iraq’s Kurdish region, was again received with open arms by Ankara this week, after announcing the path of independence of Iraqi Kurdistan.

A key regional player

Agree as several experts of the Kurdish question, as Hamit Bozarlsan (Professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris), the Kurds have become a key regional player, with increasing force since the 2000s, through the conquest of power to act of its growing population, which has led to significant policy successes such as autonomy recognized in Iraqi Kurdistan (2005), the new self-proclaimed autonomy in Syria (2013) or the strength of the Kurdish party in Turkey from the PKK and present in Parliament in Ankara after his landslide election victory in the Kurdish region (which represents 20% of the population). That said, the Kurdish movement is far from being a unified force and act together. This is explained by the fact of belonging to four different states with stories of struggle and distinct repression and the imposition of official languages ​​(Arabic, Turkish and Persian) against the common language, Kurdish. A language systematically hunted with two major dialects very different, two different alphabets (Latin alphabet in Turkey and Arab Iraq, Iran and Syria) and that most Kurds can not write. But his lack of unity also reflects a history of disunity and infighting among the Kurds themselves, a legacy exploited by ancient empires and current states tribal past.

Between autonomy and independence

Product of this history, the Kurdish movement is now politically divided into two main political actors. On the one hand, that represented the regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani with the head, which govern themselves in the north of the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein and the occupation of Iraq. An actor who now aspires to independence, leaving behind a particularly tragic story, with sad chapters like the massacre perpetrated by the Iraqi state, with chemical weapons against the Kurdish population of Halabja in 1988, in the midst of the Iran-Iraq war, at a time when Saddam Hussein was an ally of the West. After decades of guerrilla warfare, the Iraqi Kurds have implemented a realpolitik and using oil diplomacy, gained partners in Europe, Turkey and Israel.

The other major player is led by the guerrillas of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), created in 1979 and led since then by Abdullah Öcalan, imprisoned for life on an island in the Sea of ​​Marmara, but charismatic leader of the Kurds in Turkey , which announced a cease-fire March 21, 2013. PKK has the support of the majority of the Kurds in Turkey and Syria, although its headquarters is located in the mountainous region of Qandil in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The orbit of the PKK, with parties related to it (the BDP in Turkey, the PYD in Syria or Iran PJAK) defends the proposal “democratic confederalism.” It is a project of political decentralization and participatory democracy, claiming the right of minorities and gender equality, among others. Critical with the model of nation-states, it does not bind the immediate objective of national independence and even less if it is for only part of Kurdistan.

Different political views and many rivalries separate the Kurds, but many other issues the closer, starting with their long history of resistance and the fact that now more than ever, they are a key regional player in the Middle East despite the many questions that remain open in a geopolitical space fragile borders, oil-rich and incessant conflicts. Indeed, the immediate uncertainty for the Kurds are Turkey, the outcome of the presidential elections in August (where the Kurdish party BDP is in abbreviations of the new HDP party, created to capture the support of the Turkish minority left with a proposal policy within Turkey), as well as the progress of the peace process between the PKK and the Turkish state. In Iraq, the biggest question revolves around the possible disintegration of the country caused by the sectarian conflict between Shiites and Sunnis and the consequent (or not) independence of Kurdistan. Meanwhile, in Iran, the Kurdish situation is linked to the political and democratic development of the country (which continues to prohibit, with the death penalty, any Kurdish political activity); and finally, in Syria, it remains to see the outcome of the present war, and with it the future of Rojava.

In all cases, and knowing that, beyond borders, what happens in a Kurdish area will necessarily have repercussions in another, it remains to be seen whether the regional map that will result from the ruins of the current conflicts in the ancient Mesopotamia will advance the rights of the people looking to start another story, its own history. With over borders or without them.

Elisenda Panadés – Paris

Published July 19, 2014 by Diagonalperió

Source: here

Translation: XYZ OCLibertaire

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