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Los Kurdos: un pueblo sin nación a la que considerar suya

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Los Kurdos: un pueblo sin nación a la que considerar suya

Mensaje por ivan_077 el Diciembre 4th 2014, 22:53

Bueno, este articulo no trata estrictamente sobre Irak, pero en el dudoso caso que les interese saber mas sobre la situación del Partido para la liberación del Turkestan o PKK les recomiendo que lo lean.
O si quieren saber el porque los turco se niegan ayudar a los kurdos en kobane.

Initiatives for Solving the Kurdish Question: A Contradiction or “an Ideological Consistency” of AKP?

Author: Nikos Moudouros, Lecturer, University of Cyprus Date: Sep 25, 2013 Domestic Policy
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Initiatives for Solving the Kurdish Question:
A Contradiction or “an Ideological Consistency” of AKP?


After almost eleven years of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) rule a comprehensive hegemonic strategy in Turkey can be elucidated. This strategy, which leads to the build-up of a “new Turkey,” extends across the entire spectrum of social, economic, and political cleavages. In this sense, we could also speak of a comprehensive “Kurdish policy” by the ruling party. Under the current circumstances, the analysis of the AKP’s policy concerning the Kurdish question is of particular importance because of the staggering developments regarding the matter that greatly affect the course of the broader Middle East. In order for the ideological background of the AKP’s policy on the Kurdish problem to be decoded, it must first be seen in relation to a broader hegemonic strategy. That is, the policy of the Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, regarding the Kurdish question should be treated as a specific part of the party’s whole ideological platform and its hegemonic position in the current Turkish political system.

Prior to the analysis of the Kurdish policy it would be necessary to identify the stages of the overall ideological and political hegemony of the ruling party. Thereby analyzing not only the AKP’s identity, but also the impact it has on the process of resolving the Kurdish issue. For example, the policies followed by the ruling party toward the European Union as well as the Turkish neoliberalism as it is expressed by the AKP constitute axes which have to be addressed in order to understand the initiatives for solving the Kurdish question. At the same time, questions regarding the specific policies around the Kurdish question that today is analyzed only in the light of some “contradictions” of the Turkish government itself, will be answered. For example, is it a contradiction or an ideological consistency the fact that the AKP proceeds to the recognition of the Kurdish identity but at the same time advocated for “one flag, one nation, one state”? Therefore this article aims to highlight the AKP’s policy toward the Kurdish question as “an aspect of the whole” and to interpret the apparent contradictions not as coincidental choices but as consistent “internal procedures” of the hegemony of the new political Islam in Turkey.

The European Union and the Social Alliance: The First Stage of the AKP’s Hegemony

The turbulent decade of the 1990s, which reached its peak with the financial crisis of 2001, had almost completely delegitimized all political currents in Turkey, the Democratic Left Party (DSP) of Bulent Ecevit, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) of Devlet Bahçeli and the Motherland Party (ANAP) of Mesut Yılmaz. The elections of November 2002 actually sealed the public discontent, leaving out of the parliament the three parties of the former government, and a total of 500 Members of Parliament (MPs) previously elected[1]. The political gap that was created was successfully filled by the newly established AKP, which within a few months from its creation became a one-party government[2]. At the same period it was clear that the social dynamics that were expressed thought political Islam and the Kurdish movement, maintained their intensity and their oppositional ability against the Kemalist establishment. The 1997 coup against the leader of the National Outlook Movement, Necmettin Erbakan, or the 1999 arrest of Abdullah Öcalan of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party prevented the long-term influence of these two leaders and their parties.

Within this framework, the AKP decided to adapt better to the international environment, to adopt the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) in an integrated way, and to incorporate its Islamic references into the neoliberal framework. Thus and by building upon Erdoğan’s charismatic personality and the traditional, strong organizational structures of Islam in the country, the AKP succeeded in creating a wider social alliance which along with the European Union’s (EU) contribution would work as a legitimization shield for the party and its protection against the internal pressures coming from the Kemalist establishment.

The poor masses in the periphery, the shopkeepers, the largest part of the religious population, the Kurds and a large part of the Turkish capital, regrouped around the AKP thus helping it to decisively expand its hegemonic strategy, focusing on the European perspective of the country. In short, the EU was presented as the remedy for all diseases. It could satisfy the need of the poorest layers for higher living standards, and help the businessmen integrate into the global neoliberal policies. It could ensure, for the Kurds and the Islamists, everything that the authoritarian Kemalist regime had deprived them from for decades. This regrouping around the AKP was essentially an important “social alliance” with reinforcing dynamics and upward tendencies during the 2002-2011 period. For example the AKP’s vote share raised from 34 per cent in 2002 to 47 per cent in 2007 and to a surprising near 50 per cent in 2011. The party’s rising electoral fortunes had first been signalled in the 2004 municipal elections, where it secured about 42 per cent of the vote (13.5 million votes). In the 2007 national elections the AKP secured 16.3 million votes, with the net increase of nearly three million votes coming from all over the country[3]. In the 2011 national elections the AKP secured approximately 21.4 million votes. An important element is that comparing the AKP’s performance in the 2002 and 2007 national elections we see that about one-quarter of its vote gain comes from the region where the Kurdish political leadership lost nearly one-tenth of its electoral support. Another characteristic data shows that in the 2011 national elections, out of the 81 provincial districts, the AKP came in first in 71 provinces[4].

Very soon, Turkey’s accession to the EU became the main point of reference of the AKP’s social and political vision. Having experienced the 1997 “post-modern” coup firsthand, AKP leaders were aware that democracy was not the name of the game in the Turkish political scene[5]. So starting from its first electoral victory AKP based its demilitarization efforts on two axes. The first was the limitation of the army’s authority in the framework of a wide-scale democratization drive and integration with the European Union. Participation in the EU project boosted AKP’s political clout both vis-a-vis the military elite and in the international arena[6]. The second important step which enabled AKP to hold the military accountable was the demilitarization of the Kurdish question and the first steps towards its resolution within the framework of civilian politics[7]. Additionally, highlighting the European prospect, it gave to the ruling party a number of advantages: it showed that it was cut off from the “extreme” traditions of the Islamic National Outlook Movement and that it would reign within the European frameworks. The democratization process could strengthen the party against the military establishment that was “waiting around the corner.” Furthermore, the AKP could build stronger ties with the business elite, while on the base of the accession process it could make several openings towards the temporal demands of the Kurds and the Islamists[8]. The “European” protection of the individual rights could include the right for religious faith (Islam) and the ethnic-cultural diversity (Kurds).

Nevertheless, the EU alone was not enough in order for the AKP to establish its strategy for hegemony. The liberal concept of human rights and freedoms, the Turkish government’s efforts for reform and the steps taken to widen the democratic field of the country, could ensure for the AKP the support of the international framework. They could also expand the support of its social alliance. But they could not account for the whole of the hegemony of the new political Islam, nor could they forever absorb the centrifugal dynamics that were created by the deepening of neoliberalism. In the same context, the continuously rising course of the AKP and its foundation, as the one and only representative of the Turkish conservative right-wing, cannot be explained solely by the need of filling-up of the political vacuum or its legitimization due to the European prospect of the country[9].

Populism, Family and Millet: Aspects of Turkish Neoliberalism

Even though the AKP follows the implementation of a neoliberal program with “religious devotion,” it manages to stabilize, and in some occasions even to broaden, the support of the poorest segments of the population[10]. The neoliberal, market-based approach that dominates party identity in economic preferences has been symbolized by the emphasis on a massive privatization process, by creating incentives for foreign investment and compliance with the criteria determined by the IMF especially during the first years of AKP rule[11]. But still the party’s electoral support was reinforced during these years. So, at a first glance this fact constitutes a contradiction. A deeper analysis of the ruling party’s strategy though, which also influences in a decisive way the policy followed in the Kurdish question, shows that the AKP’s ideological identity can consistently serve the economic transformation, by absorbing any reactions and by incorporating broader masses of the population.

This is perhaps the AKP’s biggest difference from any previous parties that had tried to implement neoliberal policies. The ruling party seems to offer solutions to the immediate needs of the poorest groups of the population, without necessarily ensuring the long-term development of their living standards. The transport of services, and the organization of the Islamic type of charity and social assistance, constitute the key pillars of the AKP’s populism, and also contribute to the strengthening of the party’s ties with broad masses. The party handles the cultural values of the average conservative citizen, while through the social assistance services and charity networks wins the public consensus for its policy, and gradually turns it in a complete and comprehensive ideological hegemony.

Erdoğan’s government, on the one hand ensures cheaper health for the poorest segments of the population, while on the other hand guides the public sources towards the profitability of the private hospitals. It follows policies of low interest rates for housing, and in this way fulfils the basic dream of a poor large family for property ownership, while at the same time grants private construction groups the rights to reconstruction enormous slums[12]. At the same time it must be noted that the increase in “social assistance” by the state during the AKP’s governance, is related to transferring resources to various Islamic organizations and associations, which reproduce the consent of the lower income groups in a strict neoliberal framework[13].

This environment is completed by the decisive presence of the Prime Minister’s personality, the government officials and the party. The relationship of “gratitude” that the AKP developed with the masses is enhanced by the conversion of Erdoğan’s conservative lifestyle into a political model. The Prime Minister prevails as “one of us,” as a personality that abolishes the distance of an alienated secular power from the religious conservative majority of the people. He appears as a man who can better understand the needs and problems of the people exactly because he comes from the same framework of traditional values. This attitude of the AKP, with respect to the economic transformation of the country, it is equally important for decoding the policy parameters that it follows into the Kurdish question.

But beyond that, the analysis of the party’s hegemony in relation to the steps taken regarding the Kurdish problem should also include its ideological positioning in the Right, a space which the AKP admittedly represents exclusively in the recent years. In this context it could be said that the AKP includes the “three forms” of the Turkish Right in the way that Tanıl Bora[14]had analyzed: nationalism, conservatism and Islamism. Many analyses that address the Turkish government’s policy towards the Kurdish problem, by simply placing it in the above axis, easily end up to the conclusion that the AKP occasionally stresses either the one or the other form of its right-wing identity, depending on the circumstances. Therefore, they end up dealing with the policy towards the Kurdish problem as one full of contradictions and detached from the broader hegemonic strategy. A closer study of the AKP’s ideological background and strategy shows that the party goes far beyond a mere expression of the composition of the three forms of the right-wing. Conservatism and Islamism in the AKP seem not only to be influencing but also determining the meaning and content of nationalism. So, at this point we can no longer talk about a “classical nationalism,” which is inspired by racial or ethnic identity, but something that goes far beyond that, and which plays an important role in the policy of Erdoğan’s government towards the Kurdish problem.

Beyond Islam, conservatism is admittedly one of the dominant elements of the ruling party’s ideological background. The essential particularity of conservatism is that it seeks to defend social homogeneity, in terms of economic and political differences, and to use it as a tool to the end of achieving social cohesion. The AKP’s conservatism seeks to strengthen social institutions such as family, and to elevate the traditional values, the customs and traditions, as elements of strategic importance in the process of the country’s modernization. It seeks to prove that modernisation does not come in contrast to the traditional values of the nation. A nation, however, that is mainly reflected through the reproduction of the millet concept. Islam works both towards maintaining the social system and at the same time determining the personal identity. Prime Minister Erdoğan has many times argued that “secular can be the states, not the people.” In this way Islamic religion is highlighted as an integral part of the identity and lifestyle of the individual.

On another level of conservatism and Islam, the family acquires a leading role. The traditional religious family does not act only as a family model but rather as a model for the nation-millet itself. The nation-millet itself should have the image and content of a traditional Islamic family. In the AKP’s 2002 program of elections it was emphasized that “The Turkish society is a big family that shares the same fate in this geography and that unites together the bitter-sweet memories. All the possibilities will be prepared so that the values creating the identity of this family will be continued, derived anew in the light of new developments”[15].

The strategic importance of this statement lies in the fact that the AKP faces society as an undifferentiated whole. The homogenization of society on the basis of cultural values, and especially of the Islamic religion, delegitimizes any other variations and at the same time seeks to prevent them from gaining any political significance or public support. Any political power that attempts to disturb the “peace and quiet of the family,” that is, the traditional nation-millet, cannot have a place for expression; it is regarded as an enemy of the nation-millet.

In a parallel process, the activation of conservatism and Islam by the AKP has the task of neutralizing and completely erasing the distance that separates the state from the nation-millet. According to a traditional view of Islamic parties and the National Outlook Movement which is continued through the AKP, Turkey was for years under the rule of western, and therefore foreign to the Muslim millet, secular elite. That means that the Turkish secular state was under the occupation of “foreigners”, a situation that bred hostility between the state and the Muslim nation-millet. In this framework, the aim of the Islamic tradition was the “reunion of the state with its own nation,” the prevalence of a historic reconciliation and the embracement of authority with the Muslim millet.

In short, that is the transition of power into the hands of the “true representatives” of the nation-millet. Today, the AKP seems to be encouraging the perception of a conflict between the state and nation, modernizing it according to the new socioeconomic framework. Numan Kurtulmuş, one of the AKP’s Vice Presidents, stated that: “There will be no turning back. After two centuries of struggles, Turkey has been reunited with its roots. This nation has brought back to power its own children, and has now come to its own power and it won’t step back from power ever again”[16].

The above perception, adapted to the Kurdish policy of Erdoğan’s government, is of great importance since it seeks to integrate the Kurds in the broader context of the nation-millet on the basis of a “common Islamic culture.” In a nutshell, it aims to include the Kurdish population in the overall hegemony strategy, marginalizing the Kemalist version of nationalism and remodelling the concept of nation so that it will not only be “friendly” towards the Kurds, but also a symbol of rebirth of “belonging”.

The “Kurdish Dimension” of AKP’s Hegemony

It is a fact that the AKP has greatly diversified itself from any previous ruling parties as far as it concerns the Kurdish question. It has recognized the existence of a separate Kurdish identity, denounced any previous oppressive policies of the Turkish state, while it has even created a Kurdish television channel. The culmination of its efforts came with the beginning of talks with the Kurdish leader, Abdullah Öcalan, to the end of resolving the problem. One could argue that the AKP’s effort for reform and the admittedly historic opening towards the Kurdish movement are elements that do not classify the ruling party as right-wing or, to be more precise, as politically Islamic. Nevertheless, based on the hegemonic strategy of Erdoğan’s government, the reform policy with regard to the Kurdish question does not constitute a contradiction; it rather constitutes an organic component of the overall ideological foundation of the party. Nor can the general policy to resolve the problem be treated as simply coincidental or “communicational”. That is because the PKK and the Kurdish movement are generally challenging the hegemonic conception of the “nation-family”. The PKK and the Kurdish movement constitute centrifugal dynamics which cannot be part of the AKP’s broader vision for Turkey. In reality they are an obstacle to its own ideological hegemony.

The Turkish government is distinguished for its efforts to bring economic development into the Kurdish regions. It seeks to increase the infrastructure projects and at the same time tries to increase the transference of social assistance and Islamic charity to Turkey’s southeaster region; i.e. Kurdish territories. The policy for economic development could also be seen as a continuation of the Turkish state’s traditional attitude, which used to face the Kurdish question as one of underdevelopment. However, the simultaneous recognition of the Kurdish identity by the new political Islam and the intensification of the presence of the Islamic movement in the Kurdish regions under various forms, are elements of the efforts to integrate the Kurds, and a way to claim their consensus with the AKP’s general hegemony project. This policy of Erdoğan’s government not only does it aim to accomplish the integration of the Kurds into the state, but much more so to integrate them into the ruling party’s electoral body. At this point, we should mention that the tension of confrontation caused at times with the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), aims to prove that the AKP can represent the Kurdish population in the same way as – if not better than – the organized Kurdish movement. In 2009, during the campaign for the municipal elections, Erdoğan, in his speech in Diyarbakır, noted: “You are not doomed to municipalities without any quality. You mustn’t be doomed to closed rural roads. Within six years we provided water to 1571 villages…These cannot be done with the help of ideologies, but with the help of people who have knowledge on the local administration”[17].

On another level, the AKP treats the Kurds as its allies in an effort to completely eliminate the Kemalists’ power centres. The recognition of the Kurdish identity, the recognition of the Kurdish rights and the pursuit of economic development in the Kurdish region, as part of the government’s hegemony strategy, seek to prove that the Kurds are just like the Islamists, victims of the “Kemalist authoritarianism.” Then, since the Kurds and the Islamists shared the same fate, they can also share the same claims under the hegemony that AKP is building.

The Kurds are an integral part of the AKP’s perception regarding the nation-millet. Their common Islamic culture as well as the Ottoman past, within the ideological context of Erdoğan’s party, includes the Kurds in the broader view of the “family-millet”. Therefore, the Kurdish identity is not recognized as a separate political existence. The Kurds in this case are not recognized as an independent political entity or as a separate race who can assert their collective rights. Rather, the AKP recognizes the Kurds in terms of their religious and cultural characteristics; that is, as a folkloric type, thus enriching the meaning of the traditional millets, and enhancing the historical ties between the Turks and the Kurds. So at the same time that the AKP seeks to integrate the Kurds into its own wider vision of Turkey, it simultaneously excludes and tries to delegitimize the modern Kurdish nationalism or any other centrifugal dynamics. In turn, the AKP aims to remove political power from the PKK, as well as its political program. Through the “Islamic inclusion” of the Kurds, it is sought the exclusion of Kurdish nationalism and all elements that spoil the meaning of the “family-millet”.

The initiative to solve the Kurdish question, regardless of the final result, should be dealt with as a comprehensive policy that constitutes a part of the AKP’s hegemonic strategy. The importance of the place of the organized Kurdish movement amongst the Kurdish population, demonstrates the different aspects of its continuous influence. With this in mind, the Kurdish movement itself and more specifically the PKK constitute organized barriers to the final ideological hegemony of the ruling party; yet, this remains to be seen and it will depend on the extent to which the Kurds will finally be integrated into the AKP’s vision for Turkish society. In short, the final outcome of the efforts for a resolution of the Kurdish question, at least with regard to the interior of Turkey, depends on the controversy generated between the Islamic concept of the nation-millet and the collective Kurdish national demands.


This article tried to investigate the AKP’s strategies vis a vis the Kurdish question in Turkey through an effort to underline the party’s position within the universe of the Turkish centre-right political spectrum. In order to better understand the policies of the ruling AKP toward the Kurdish question we have first to decode the party’s specific ideological position and its place within the traditions of the Turkish centre-right politics. In this respect the article tried to analyze the AKP’s politics concerning the Kurdish question through the party’s hegemonic strategy and through its social vision. The main argument at this point is that the coexistence of the AKP’s tendency to recognize the presence of the Kurds and/or the Kurdish identity and its discourses like the “one state, one nation and one flag” is not a contradiction created by the party’s electoral strategy but a basic component of its political and ideological orientation. That is also why the Kurdish population is “positioned” by the ruling AKP as a part of the nation-millet that is a part of the whole social vision which is based on a cultural and religious “partnership”. In such a framework the Kurdish identity recognized by the AKP does not constitute a political identity but rather a “folkloric” one. In any case and under the current circumstances, the analysis of the AKP’s policy concerning the Kurdish question and a comprehensive debate on this issue are of particular importance because of the staggering developments regarding the matter that greatly affect the course of the broader Middle East.

Nikos Moudouros, Lecturer, Department of Turkish and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cyprus

Please cite this publication as follows:

Moudouros, Nikos (September, 2013), “Initiatives for Solving the Kurdish Question: A Contradiction or “an Ideological Consistency” of AKP?”, Vol. II, Issue 7, pp.44-54, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, Research Turkey. (

[1] Nikos Moudouros, Turkey’s Transformation. From the Kemalist Domination to ‘Islamic’ Neoliberalism, Aleksantria Publications, Athens 2012, p. 261 [in Greek].

[2] Alev Özkazanç “3 Kasım Seçimi ve Sonuçlarına Dair”, Ankara Üniversitesi SBF Dergisi, Vol. 57 (4), (2002), p. 209.

[3] Ali Çarkoğlu, “A New Electoral Victory for the ‘Pro-Islamists’ or the ‘New Centre-Right’? The Justice and Development Party Phenomenon in the July 2007 Parliamentary Elections in Turkey”, South European Society and Politics, Vol. 12 (4), 2009, p. 512.

[4] [Tienes que estar registrado y conectado para ver este vínculo] [entrance on 23 August 2013].

[5] [Tienes que estar registrado y conectado para ver este vínculo] [entrance 23 August 2013].

[6] For further information, see Ali Resul Usul, “The Justice and Development Party and the European Union: From Euro-skepticisim to Euro-enthusiasm and Euro-fatigue,” Ümit Cizre (ed.) Secular and Islamic Politics in Turkey. The Making of the Justice and Development Party. Routledge London and New York 2008, pp: 175–97

[7] [Tienes que estar registrado y conectado para ver este vínculo] [entrance 23 August 2013]

[8] Menderes Çınar, “Turkey’s Transformation Under the AKP Rule”, Muslim World, Vol. 96 (3), 2006, p. 470.

[9] Ümit Kurt, AKP: Yeni Merkez Sağı mı?, Dipnot, Ankara 2009, p. 8.

[10] William Hale & Ergun Özbudun, Islamism, Democracy and Liberalism in Turkey, Routledge, London 2010, pp. 36-38.

[11] Simten Coşar, Aylın Özman, “Centre-right politics in Turkey after the November 2002 general election: neo-liberalism with a Muslim face”, Contemporary Politics, Vol. 10 (1), 2004, p. 63.

[12] Deniz Yıldırım, “AKP ve Neoliberal Popülizm”, İlhan Uzgel & Bülent Duru (ed.), AKP Kitabı: Bir Dönemin Bilançosu, Phonenix Yayınevi, Ankara 2009, pp. 81-82.

[13] Pinar Bedirhanoğlu, “Türkiye’de Neoliberal Otoriter Devletin AKP’li Yüzü”, İlhan Uzgel & Bülent Duru (ed.), AKP Kitabı: Bir Dönemin Bilançosu, Phonenix Yayınevi, Ankara 2009, p. 51.

[14] Tanıl Bora, Türk Sağının Üç Hali, Birikim Yayınları, İstanbul 1998.

[15] Cenk Saraçoğlu,“İslami-Muhafazakâr Milliyetçiliğin Millet Tasarımı: AKP Döneminde Kürt Politikası”, Praksis, Vol. 26, Issue 2, 2011, p. 41.

[16] Extract from Numan Kurtulmuş’ speech in an AKP’s gathering of officials in Adana on 27th April 2013. “Kurtulmuş başkanlık sistemi için ne dedi?”, [Tienes que estar registrado y conectado para ver este vínculo] [entrance on 27th April 2013].

[17] Cenk Saraçoğlu,“İslami-Muhafazakâr Milliyetçiliğin Millet Tasarımı: AKP Döneminde Kürt Politikası”, Praksis, Vol. 26, Issue 2, 2011, p. 49.

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Re: Los Kurdos: un pueblo sin nación a la que considerar suya

Mensaje por ivan_077 el Diciembre 9th 2014, 03:12

Kurdish problem can redraw the map of Middle East
By Anant Mishra
Issue Net Edition | Date : 04 Dec , 2014

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The 30 million or so Kurds are large ethnic minorities in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, but have no sovereign state of their own. This status quo is a continuing source of instability in the region, and a recurring theme throughout the 20th century was the significant conflicts between the various Kurdish populations and their de facto governments. Kurdish nationalists of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers‟ Party) have fought a long-running guerrilla war against the Turkish government, Iraqi Kurds have fought many conflicts with the Saddam regime in Iraq, and Syrian Kurds are currently major combatants in the Syrian Civil War. This is a multifaceted issue, with overarching principles such as the right to self- determination and national sovereignty at stake, as well as more practical issues such as refugee crises and self-government.

Kurds have played a central role in the reconstruction of Iraq, and have secured considerable rights and safeguards from the central government.

The situation is made more complex by the differences in political representation and status of Kurds in the various countries, with discussions and working papers having to reference and consider the differences between the various regions. The events discussed are very current – there are active negotiations in Turkey, shifting political dynamics in Iraq, and an on-going civil war in Syria, and a postponed pan-Kurdish conference.


The Kurdish people have lived in the upper reaches of the Euphrates and Eastern Anatolia for thousands of years. While their exact origins are unclear, with some sources suggesting the existence of a group of people closely related to Persians fighting the Sassanid Empire in the 4th century AD. References to Kurds and Kurdish states were relatively few, but sources attest that independent Kurdish principalities were established in eastern Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia starting from the 10th century, many of these surviving well into the 15th before being conquered by the Ottoman Empire.

The height of Kurdish power and influence came in the 12th century, when, under the leadership of Nur-al-Din and Saladin, they defeated several crusades (most famously Richard the Lionheart’s Third Crusade), crushed the Crusader states, and established the Ayyubid dynasty. This dynasty would rule much of the Middle East until Mamluk revolts in Egypt in the 13th century, and the Mongol invasions of the 13th and 14th century. While the Kurds, as a people, have had a long, rich history, modern Kurdish nationalism dates back to the 19th century, where growing national awareness gave rise to dreams of an independent Kurdistan. Several attempts were suppressed by the ruling Ottoman Empire with particularly brutal efficiency.

Most of what is now Kurdistan was within the borders of the Ottoman Empire, with particularly large populations in Eastern Anatolia. In the aftermath of the First World War, the Entente initially attempted to carve out a Kurdish state from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire during the Treaty of Sevres. However, the Turkish victory in the War of Turkish Independence tore out a large chunk of the proposed state (now the Turkish portion of Kurdistan), and the other regions were instead absorbed into the French mandate of Syria and British mandate of Iraq. From then, Kurdish history diverged, as the various ruling governments took differing approaches to their Kurdish minorities, and therefore they will be treated individually.

Some Kurds want nothing less than a pan- Kurdish state to be carved out from Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey, while other Kurds wish for more autonomy and for their rights to be recognized.

Kurds in Iraq

During Iraq’s early years, a combination of weak central governance from Baghdad and continuing British interference meant the Kurds were granted considerable autonomy, and were able to run much of their own affairs and have their own laws. The post-Second World War withdrawal of British troops and the rise of a pan-Arab identity as the 20th century progressed meant successive governments began restricting and limiting Kurdish autonomy and rights. Kurds rose up several times against the Iraqi government, especially in 1963. In all these cases, the rebellions were brutally suppressed.

The suppression reached a pinnacle in the 1980s, where during the Iran-Iraq War; Saddam Hussein’s ruling Baathist party viewed the Kurds as potential traitors, due to their ethnic differences and propensity to revolt against the central government. The Iraqi military engaged in brutal campaigns against Kurdish independence movements and, on multiple occasions, used chemical weapons on Kurdish cities.

The First Gulf war saw drastic improvements in the Kurdish political position, and considerable autonomy was granted to Iraq’s Kurdish provinces as part of the peace agreement. UNSC Resolution 688 saw the enforcement of a no-fly zone over most of Northern Iraq, in order to stop further crackdowns and bombings from Baghdad. A three year civil war, however, soon emerged where rival Kurdish factions, the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan fought each other in a three year civil war, before Turkish intervention prompted an armistice and eventual reconciliation. Kurds played a significant role during Operation Iraqi Freedom, helping the American-led coalition to secure much of northern Iraq. Kurds have played a central role in the reconstruction of Iraq, and have secured considerable rights and safeguards from the central government.

While there are still considerable political divides between the central Iraqi government and the Kurds, Iraqi Kurdistan is the best example of a successful and peaceful Kurdish region. Even during the worst of the Iraqi insurgency, terrorism in the northeast was rare, with Kurds mostly responsible for their own internal security, and key allies of the coalition during American counter-insurgency operations in the unstable Sunni Northwest. Helped by oil wealth, the region is growing increasingly prosperous, assertive and is a prime example of a stable Kurdish proto-state. The Iraqi Kurds are even getting along with Turkey – their new-found oil wealth and common interests (particularly their mistrust of Iran, and pro-Iranian elements in the Iraqi government) have made Turkish companies big investors in Iraqi Kurdistan, with trade booming – Iraqi Kurdistan looks set to displace Germany as Turkey’s biggest trading partner.

Syria has the smallest Kurdish population of the major countries in the region, but, is also the most current issue.

Kurds in Syria

The history of Kurds in Syria is similar to those of Kurds in Iraq. Initially granted considerable autonomy by the French colonial authorities, the Syrian Kurds found their minority rights and autonomy increasingly restricted by the pan-Arab nationalist governments that came to dominate Syria in the 1950s and 60s, particularly during the years of Syria’s political union with Egypt. The Kurdish language was, and still is, legally banned in Syria, and Kurdish culture is generally suppressed. Many Kurds were also stripped of their citizenship in the 1960s, entailing loss of political and property rights.

Throughout the rest of the 20th century, Kurds were often displaced from their homes by Syrian policies encouraging Arab settlement in predominantly-Kurdish areas, alongside repression of Kurdish culture and languages. Crackdowns and disappearances of particularly outspoken individuals were common, and Kurds were marginalized and ostracized by the central government in Damascus. In a sudden reversal of previous policy, however, in 2011, Syrian Kurds were granted a degree of limited autonomy by the Assad regime, and repressions were eased, with many Kurds stripped of their citizenship in the 60s offered Syrian citizenship again (according to some, this was done cynically, to destabilise the Turkish-PK peace process). The Syrian Civil War, however, has disrupted central government control over Kurdish regions.

Kurds in Turkey

The Kurds are the dominant ethnic group in Eastern Anatolia (though, due to migration, Kurdish pockets exist throughout all of Turkey), and form up to a fifth of the population of Turkey, though the exact proportion of the population is uncertain. While ostensibly protected and treated equally to Turks in the constitution, throughout the 20th century, many Turkish governments have attempted to force Kurds to assimilate more closely into Turkish society – a stance long resisted by the Kurds. Indeed, Turkish non -recognition of Kurdish cultural and linguistic rights is a major barrier to Turkish accession to the European Union, a long-term goal of successive Turkish governments, as these policies violate several EU requirements on minority rights. There were many revolts against Turkish rule throughout the 20th century, but the longest- running revolt has been waged, with interruptions, since 1984 by the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party). This is a particularly controversial organization, with communist-leanings, that has been classified by Turkey, the EU, the US and NATO as a terrorist organization.

There is also a growing refugee crisis, as Kurds fleeing from the civil war will attempt to cross the border into more ―stable regions such as Iraqi or Turkish Kurdistan.

Kurds are not united behind the PKK, with significant numbers of Kurds wishing to remain part of Turkey, and forming a large part of many pro-Turkish paramilitaries (called ―Village Guards) created by the Turkish Army to fight the PKK in the Kurdish southeast. The conflict itself caused significant devastation to South-eastern Turkey, particularly the countryside, with mass Kurdish migration (and forced removal by the Turkish Army) to larger urban areas. The PKK has also operated from relative safe havens in Iraqi Kurdistan, particularly since the First Gulf War, and, on several occasions, Turkey has sent military forces directly into Kurdish territory – first, in 1996, as an intervention force in the Kurdish civil war, and, in a more limited fashion, throughout the 2000s against PKK groups. However, since then, Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey have found common cause in many matters – primarily economic, but also political – both have reservations about Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki and his close ties to Iran.

A long, tortuous peace process between Turkish Kurds and the government has been in the works for many years. Many ceasefires have been declared – the longest was a unilateral ceasefire declared by the PKK in 1999 was rescinded in 2004, and was then followed by numerous bombings in Ankara and Istanbul, and attacks on military bases across South- eastern Turkey. Further ceasefires were declared, and then broken. 2011-12 was particularly bloody for both sides, with renewed Kurdish attacks on Turkish bases and serious Turkish counterinsurgency operations leading to hundreds of deaths. Recently, however, negotiations have been optimistic – the PKK has toned down its demands from full independence towards cultural recognition, political rights and local autonomy, and have rescinded armed conflict. On December 28th 2012, Turkey announced that it had begun full negotiations with Abdullah Ocalan, jailed founder and leader of the PKK. While many members of the PKK support these talks, there have been conflicts within the PKK, with more militant fighters clashing with those in favour of talks. Pro-Ocalan Kurdish activists, in particular, have been targeted, culminating with a brutal murder of Kurdish activists in Paris.

Kurds in Iran

Unlike Iraqi, Syrian and Turkish Kurdistan, Iranian Kurdistan was never supposed to be part of the post-Ottoman Kurdish state, and had long been under Iranian rule. Iranian Kurds, like Kurds in other countries, have faced cultural repression from the central government in Tehran. Rebellions against the Iranian government have occurred at multiple points throughout the 20th century, particularly the Simko rebellion of 1918-22, which ended with Kurdish leaders being forced into exile by Imperial Iranian forces.

the relative success of neighbouring Iraqi Kurdistan has inspired many Iranian Kurds to speak up and call for greater representation and political rights…

The Kurds had continued conflicts with the Iranian/Persian governments throughout the 20th century. During the Second World War, Iran was occupied by the Soviet Union and the Western Allies, in order to remove a government deemed to be unreliable. The Soviet occupation allowed Kurdish groups in the northwest of Iran to establish a Republic of Kurdistan centred around the town of Mahabad. This received the implicit approval of the Soviets, who viewed them as a potential future ally to help their interests in the region. However, following the Soviet withdrawal from Persia post-war, the Iranian government moved in to crush the fledgling republic and retook control of the region, ending the only independent Kurdish state in recent history. They were enthusiastic supporters of the revolution in 1979, which initially promised to be a liberal revolution to remove the tyrannical Shah, but was quickly dominated by the return of Ayatollah Khomeini and the establishment of a Shi’a Islamic state. Their former revolutionary allies turned on the Kurds, with violent crackdowns on Kurdish towns and villages. Long- running civil unrest caused by elements of Kurdish independence movements continues to this day, while other Kurdish groups have moved on towards more peaceful action.

Unlike in Syria and Turkey, however, Kurdish is a recognized minority language in Iran, and basic Kurdish cultural rights are recognized. However, reports by Amnesty International have highlighted the systematic discrimination against Kurds by the Iranian government, noting that their political, social and economic rights are heavily repressed, and many Iranian Kurds live in poverty. Many are also discriminated against because of their religion – most Kurds are Sunni Muslim, as opposed to the Shi’a theocracy. The relative success of neighbouring Iraqi Kurdistan has inspired many Iranian Kurds to speak up and call for greater representation and political rights, but many of these groups have faced repression and members have often been imprisoned by Iranian authorities and charged with treason.

Discussion of the Problem

The problems faced by Kurds in Iraq are different to those faced by Kurds in Syria, or in Turkey or in Iran. It is important to emphasize that there are many groups with many different objectives – the Kurds do not present a united front with a clear objective. Some Kurds want nothing less than a pan- Kurdish state to be carved out from Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey, while other Kurds wish for more autonomy and for their rights to be recognized.

Iraqi Kurdistan officially only consists of 3 provinces in the country’s northeast, but Kurdish inhabited areas stretch well beyond that region.


Currently, Kurdish rights in Iraq are very well developed. Kurds are well represented throughout Iraqi politics and society, with Iraq’s ceremonial president, Jalal Talabani, being a Kurd, though recent arguments with the central government in Baghdad, as well as Mr. Talabani’s stroke, have begun to strain relations between the two, with many Kurdish ministers and MPs resigning over a budget considered unfavourable. Iraqi Kurdistan officially only consists of 3 provinces in the country’s northeast, but Kurdish inhabited areas (and indeed, de facto control by the Kurdish Regional Government) stretch well beyond that region. Kirkuk, for example, has a large Kurdish population, but control is currently disputed between the Kurdish regional authorities and the Iraqi federal government.

The Iraqi Kurdish region, however, is viewed as a threat by many of the nations around it – a semi-autonomous Kurdish state is seen by the Syrian government in particular as a potential lightning rod for their own Kurds, Arab Iraqi politicians are resentful of Kurdish demands, and particularly of de facto Kurdish independence – the Kurds even have their own army, the Peshmerga militias, which, while not as lavishly equipped as the American-supplied Iraqi army, still remains a formidable fighting force. Iraqi Kurdistan’s main problem, therefore, is primarily political – the jostling of power between the central government in Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional government in Erbil, and particularly dealing with boundaries and budgets. There is also the elephant in the room – the question of full independence from Baghdad. This possibility may be particularly acute if relations between Kurdish Regional Government and the Iraqi government were to deteriorate further.


Syria has the smallest Kurdish population of the major countries in the region, but, is also the most current issue. Though initially relatively uninvolved in the Syrian Civil war, Kurds began revolting in 2012. Kurdish militias are engaged in fighting Assad, but there are also growing signs of conflict between generally more secular minded Kurds and more religiously inclined other rebels (particularly al-Qaeda related groups). Currently, the Kurds are in control of the north-eastern, Kurdish-majority area in the country, but recent counteroffensives by the Syrian Army, as well as attacks by other anti-Assad rebels, have made the position more tenuous.

…some groups threatening to halt the on-going withdrawal of Kurdish fighters, due to perceptions that the Turkish government has not made sufficient progress towards safeguarding Kurdish rights.

There is also a growing refugee crisis, as Kurds fleeing from the civil war will attempt to cross the border into more ―stable regions such as Iraqi or Turkish Kurdistan. Iraq received over 40,000 refugees in the first two weeks of August 2013, and this has the potential to accelerate, given the increasing use of brutal chemical weapons and the growing conflicts between the various rebel groups. While other countries have shut their doors to these refugees, they have been welcomed by the Kurds in Iraq. This, however, has the potential to overwhelm the government; even now the Iraqi Kurds are straining under the influx of more refugees than initially imagined.

Further action in Syria would have to look at reconciling Kurdish separatists with the government in power – either the rebels of the Syrian National Army, or, more likely, Assad’s Baathist regime. Again, this will depend heavily on the events of September and October – whether or not a planned American-led intervention goes ahead, or how the civil war will develop. Beyond the civil war, Kurds still face many political obstacles – the victor of the civil war may not necessarily support increased political participation for Kurds, particularly if the victor is Assad, but also, to a lesser extent, if the victors are some of the more extremist Islamic factions.


The situation in Turkey is perhaps the most dynamic, as on-going negotiations between the Turkish government and elements of the PKK have yielded dividends. A new ceasefire has been declared in March, and PKK fighters have agreed to disarm and leave Turkey for Iraqi Kurdistan. Talks about legal and constitutional reforms to recognize the Kurdish minority, as well as the Kurdish language and Kurdish culture, have begun. Even now, however, the peace-process is fragile, with many Kurds being unhappy with the pace of change, and some groups threatening to halt the on-going withdrawal of Kurdish fighters, due to perceptions that the Turkish government has not made sufficient progress towards safeguarding Kurdish rights.

Talks on Turkey should focus on the continuing attempts at a lasting peace, particularly at dealing with elements of the PKK and other Kurdish groups dissatisfied with the current arrangements. It should also, however, look into rebuilding South Eastern Turkey, and at cementing the minority rights of Kurds in a multicultural Turkey. South Eastern Turkey has suffered from years of uncertainty and underinvestment due to the continuing conflict, and many towns are full of slums which Kurds fled to during the worst years of the conflict. Kurdish rights would also have to be cemented – Turkey still bans political parties based along ethnic lines, and a Kurdish mayor has faced persecution for wishing a Happy New Year to his constituents in Kurdish, as it violates laws on Turkish being the national language. Steps have been made to launch Kurdish-language TV and radio channels, but these are still controlled by the Turkish state.

Most attempts by the Iranian government to deal with them have been ruthless suppression, rather than negotiation.

As recently as 2009, Turkey jailed Kurdish politicians, particularly prominent Kurdish MP Layla Zena, a former winner of the Sakharov Prize, and banned others from for politics for extended periods of time due to their supposed links to the PKK. Turkey also banned a political party, the Democratic Society Party, with significant numbers of Kurdish politicians. In the 2011 elections, the Democratic Society Party’s successor, the Peace and Democracy Party, boycotted Parliament for several months after several of its MPs were jailed under Turkish anti-terror laws. The full legalization and amnesty for ex-PKK members will likely be a vital part in securing a lasting peace under the peace process.


Dealing with problems in Iran will mostly concern economic, cultural and political discrimination against the Kurdish people in Iran. . Kurds are underrepresented in Iranian society, with no Kurdish party sitting in the Iranian consultative assembly, partly due to the requirement for candidates to be ―vetted by the Guardian Council. This is a continuing source of instability in certain areas, as many Kurds continue to feel disenfranchised. Armed rebel groups (such as the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan) persist. Most attempts by the Iranian government to deal with them have been ruthless suppression, rather than negotiation.

Current situation

The Syrian civil war, which began in March 2011, led to an unprecedented exodus of international refugees, including hundreds of thousands of Kurds fleeing to Turkey and northern Iraq. This massive movement presents a problem for Iraq and Turkey. The problem is especially acute for Iraq, where Kurdish-Sunni-Shia’ites sectarian warfare never fully ended after the American withdrawal in December 2011. The civil war has increased Kurdish arming and development of Kurdish militias. Those who have managed to remain in Syria are gaining increasing control of their territory, reducing the influence of the Alawits-dominated government of Bashar al Assad in the east of the country. Fawzia Yusuf, a Kurdish politician spoke for many Kurds when he said ―Our main goal will be to unify Kurdish opinion.

The Kurds are the last military force standing between ISIS and all-out civil war.

The second goal is to form a Kurdish national organization to take charge of diplomacy with the rest of the world. And the third goal is to make decisions on a set of common principles for all the Kurdish people. A prominent effort to unify and organize Kurdish opinion is the organization of a Kurdistan National Conference. Long proposed, major Kurdish political parties are hesitant, worried about antagonizing regional governments. On 4 September 2013, the conference was postponed and rescheduled for 25 November 2013, which is still on hold. The conference might help unify the Kurdish people from all four countries. Taking this step towards unity could ultimately be the starting point towards the unified nation that the Kurds have dreamt of for decades. But disagreements between Kurdish factions make this difficult. Parties are concerned with over representation by some parties while others are insisting on better representation to account for their influence across the region, or even representation overall.

ISIS and the new challenges

ISIS is qualitatively different from the jihadists of the past, who fought against either the ―near enemy of authoritarian Arab regimes or the ―far enemy of the United States and the West. Different from Al-Qaeda, from which it was recently disowned, ISIS heralds a new chapter in the evolution of extreme jihadist. They actively use social networking services such as Twitter, publish financial reports like a profit-seeking company, and release manifestos and narrated videos in fluent English to reach a global audience. Its fighters hail from all over the world, including Europeans, Americans, Central Asians, and even Uyghurs.

While Al-Qaeda recruited foreign fighters to help them in their global jihad against the West, ISIS remains—at least for the time being— firmly focused on sectarian cleansing in Iraq and Syria. It has no qualms about using foreigners as suicide bombers in even minor tactical operations. Years of sectarian policies pursued by the Iraqi government of Nouri Al-Maliki have severely marginalized Iraq’s Sunni community, creating a fertile breeding ground for militancy and insurgency. These groups, which include tribal militias, secular Baathist from the old regime, and radical Sunni Islamists, have a range of grievances against the current government. The battlefield success of ISIS is due to this broad coalition of Sunni groups. Their capture of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in June set off a major humanitarian crisis as hundreds of thousands of Iraqis of all religious and ethnic backgrounds fled the ISIS onslaught.

Ultimately an independent Iraqi Kurdistan is likely to change not only its own borders, but the entire map of the Middle East.

ISIS and the Kurds

Unlike the Iraqi central government on which the U.S. spent tremendous amounts of money without success, the KRG possesses a more professionalized military, institutional capacity, and political accountability. As ISIS forces approached, thousands of Iraqi troops fled Mosul and other northern cities, leaving behind their American-pro- voided weapons, uniforms, and vehicles, not to mention hundreds of thousands of civilians. However, the professionalism of the peshmerga, the Kurdish military forces, has been in stark contrast to the collapse of the Iraqi army. If ISIS is able to conquer Iraqi Kurdistan, it will only be a matter of time before its forces once again turn to Baghdad and further south, potentially leading to the total breakdown of Iraq as a state. The Kurds are the last military force standing between ISIS and all-out civil war.

Indeed, over the past decade, the Kurds have successfully governed their region even as the rest of Iraq slide into sectarianism and civil war, proudly pointing out that not a single coalition soldier died in Kurdistan during the war, nor was a single foreigner kidnapped. Also, in a part of the world where democracy remains rare, the Kurds strive towards political representation and inclusive government. The people are secular yet religiously tolerant, with Muslims, Christians and many other denominations living side-by- side. In addition, their economic potential is also significant, with estimates that Iraqi Kurdistan could possess up to 45billion barrels of oiling mostly untapped oil fields. To summarise, the success of a viable Kurdistan is thus crucial to the future of Iraq as a whole. Ultimately an independent Iraqi Kurdistan is likely to change not only its own borders, but the entire map of the Middle East.

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Buen artículo +1

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