The Kurdish Globe
By Azad Amin
Amid the growing regional turmoil, a devastating civil war in Syria and the Iraqi army's advancement towards the Kurdistan Region, a critical approach to the internal Kurdish affairs is in order.
The war in Syria is not solely confined to an internal conflict within Syria or as narrated generally within the concept of "the Arab Spring" where in which Syrian people arose against their dictatorial regime for democracy, human rights etc. The war in Syria is much more complicated than that and encompasses global power struggles, regional influences and hegemonic struggles.
The war in Syria is not only between the regime forces against the Syrian opposition. It is a war between global powers; it is a war between regional forces for regional influence and it is a war between irreconcilable national, ethnic and religious groups for their dominancy, survival and rights. Because of such a complicated character, the outcome of the Syrian war will not be decisive, thus continuation of the conflict in a post-Assad period is a high probability.
Syrian conflict will not end so easily and the escalated military clashes in Damascus and Aleppo, the largest populated city and the economic hub of Syria, significantly indicate the protracted nature of the Syrian war. It also indicates that there will be no easy way to find a common ground to establish an inclusive government in post-Assad period.
Neither are the Syrian's Alawite ready to submit to Sunni Arab rule, nor do the Sunni Arabs display any traits that indicates they will share power with the Alawites or any other non-Sunni Arab components of the country. Syrian opposition failed to convince the non-Sunni Arabs components of the Syrian population that once they assume power that they will recognize their national and religious rights in a pluralistic and democratic system. In contrast, they portrayed a vision that resembles another anti-democratic regime with no niceties of democratic and human rights. This is the case with the Kurds as well. There is no convincing argument from the Syrian National Council (SNC) to assure the Kurds that their national rights will be secured in a post-Assad era.
The outcome of the war in Syria and the political shape that it takes after Assad will be indicative of the political shape of the entire Middle East and beyond. It thus will have serious impact on regional powers as well as on the Kurdistan region political entity. Failure of a federal political structure in post-Assad Syria or disintegration of Syria into separate independent states for the Kurds, Alawites and Sunni Arabs will be detrimental for the future of the Kurdistan Region, as well as for the entire Kurdish national liberation movement.
The statement of Abdulbasit Seyda, the head of the SNC, the main Syrian opposition movement, that in a post-Assad Syria, territorial integrity of Syria and Syrian national unity will be protected and preserved does not serve Kurdish national interests or serve in the democratization of the entire region. His affirmation that a new constitution will recognize the Kurdish identity does not provide any guarantee for the Kurds, as the experience in post-Saddam Iraq amply proves this.
The Kurdish national rights in Syria can only be guaranteed through a federal structure or territorial independence. A united Syria or any affirmation of Syria's territorial integrity can only bring further chaos and oppression to the millions of Kurds in Syria and jeopardize the future of the Kurdistan region.
Discourse on Kurdish unity
There is a consensus among various Kurdish political groups and public in general about the necessity of Kurdish unity in order to preserve and expand Kurdish national interests. It is indeed necessary for the Kurds to have a united position and stance in order to realize their national and democratic rights. However, unity cannot be established without coherent national strategic objectives. In other words, unity can be established on specific strategic principles and objectives in order to realize them.
A quick reading and observation of Kurdish politics, however, points to a rather confused and divided state of affair. There is no united position or objectives on the worrying developments that is engulfing Kurdistan and the entire Middle East.
Unity can be established among those who share common objectives and principles for a certain cause. A strategic objective and the way to reach there can be the basic grounds of a united position. Is there such a strategic objective among the various political groups in Kurdistan, Unfortunately there is not. The Kurdish house is deeply fragmented without any national guides to pursue.
Two political tendencies now dominate Kurdish politics. On the one hand, majority of Kurdish political groups in the entire Kurdistan pursue a course of minority politics and induce the Kurdish national question to a minority question within the framework of democratization of occupied states of Kurdistan.
In other words the solution to the Kurdish question is connected to the improvement of democracy and writing of a new constitution where in which the Kurdish cultural rights and identity is to be recognized. In minority politics, the Kurdish national question is neither a territorial question nor a question of sovereignty. This perspective does not aim or aspire for an independent Kurdistan or endeavor for the Kurds to have a sovereign entitlement over the territory of Kurdistan.
Apart from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), most of the major Kurdish political groups can be included within this paradigm of minority politics. The leading representatives of this minority politics are the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in north Kurdistan (Turkey), Democratic Union Party (PYD) in west Kurdistan (Syria), the Gorran Movement and other Islamic groups in south Kurdistan (Iraq) as well as PJAK in east Kurdistan (Iran).
Contrary to minority politics there is national politics that defines the Kurdish question as a national political question and an aspiration for Kurdish self-determination. In other words, it emphasizes on territorial control and the Kurdish sovereign rights and entitlement over the territory. Independence of Kurdistan or Kurdish statehood is the ultimate aim and the main tenet of national politics.
A united position of these two tendencies in Kurdistan is not possible and any unity will be pragmatic and temporary. The short lived Erbil Agreement of Syrian Kurdistan is testimony to this.
KDP is a leading actor in such national politics. However, it suffers ideological confusion, programmatic shortcomings and organizational incapability to take the burden of Kurdish national question in its entirety. Despite its chronic shortages, the KDP has historically played the major role in the Kurdish national liberation movement and so far is the only major political force within the Kurdish national movement to lead the nation towards self-determination and hopefully independence.
It is because of the historical character of KDP, despite the fact that it has been tarnished since it became one of the two ruling parties that runs Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that it has become the main target of minority politics or anti-Kurdish coalitions in the region.
The Gorran opposition movement's recent outburst against KDP and particularly against the Barzani family at such a sensitive period has to be considered within this context. While Kurdistan President, Massoud Barzani, is occupied with the development in Syrian Kurdistan and the growing threat of Baghdad against the Kurdistan Region, the Gorran movement attempts to create an artificial internal conflict to distract the Kurdish attention from Syrian Kurdistan.
Gorran's threat to withdraw from the political process, and in effect withdrawal from Kurdistan Parliament, and to return back to the street as a political means is nothing but an intention to escape from historical responsibilities that the nation is now facing and plays into the hands of those who aim to prevent the Kurdistan Region from been able to influence developments in Syrian Kurdistan. Implicitly or explicitly, any internal conflict in the Kurdistan Region at such critical period will tremendously dilute the Kurdish political role in the region.
KDP must play its historical role
As the leading Kurdish national political force, the KDP has to fight on two fronts: on the one hand it has to use all its resources for Syrian Kurdistan and support development of national politics in Syrian Kurdistan and thus support the Syrian Kurds demands for federalism. On the other hand it has to face regional powers including Iraq as well their attempt to prevent the Kurds from exploiting the turmoil in the region for the realization of Kurdish national self-determination.
In order to face such daunting pressures, the KDP has to further delineate its national politics from that of minority politics and explicitly defend Kurdish national independence or Kurdish sovereign and territorial rights. KDP can stand a chance if it exposes minority politics to the nation and relies and gets the support of the nation in its struggle for Kurdish self-determination.
KDP should realize that for national self-determination and national independence, confrontation with minority politics and its regional supporters is inevitable. However, for KDP to truly lead this struggle it has to carry out real and radical reforms within the Kurdistan Region in economic, political and social fields. Trust and confidence between the party and the nation has to be reestablished. Without such a bond of trust and confidence it would be almost impossible for KDP to carry out its historical duty to lead the nation to liberation.