Kurdish unity can no longer be postponed, say Kurdish politicians

Politicians across the Kurdish-oriented political spectrum say the main reason behind the Kurdish tragedy in the region was a lack of unity.

There are dozens of Kurdish political factions divided between Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. For decades, most of these political groups have fought each other to gain the upper hand over local politics.

Against the Turkish offensive in northeastern Syria launched on Oct. 9, Kurds across the world protested Ankara by setting aside all political disputes among themselves.

Kurds, the world’s largest stateless nation, have divided into four parts in their lands. Estimates indicate that there are 20 and 40 million Kurdish people live in the Middle East, France 24 reported. There is also a sizeable and influential Kurdish diaspora community in Europe.

Kurdish parties and institutions denounced Turkey’s offensive against Syrian Kurds, calling it an invasion. 

While Turkey’s military action has drawn sharp international criticism against Ankara, it has provided the Kurds with the sympathy and support of the global public opinion. The U.S. Congress, the European Union, and regional powers have harshly condemned Turkey for its Syria offence. Media outlets across the globe published articles revealing atrocities committed against the Kurds by Turkey-backed jihadi groups. Tens of thousands of people in the Western cities rallied to protest Ankara. 

The rising global awareness regarding the Kurdish tragedy in the region was proof of the importance of unity among the Kurds, according to Kurdish politicians. 

Kurdish political gains, which have been achieved at hefty prices, have been sacrificed to interstate interests. That is why Kurdish politicians see national unity as a must that cannot be postponed after what has happened in Kirkuk, Kobane, Afrin, and very recently in northeast Syria, also known as Rojava.  

Kurdish parties and movements have been in a struggle for joint action for forming a Kurdish National Alliance to overcome hardships posed by lacking a state, fragmentation, oppression, and assimilation policies since the past.

The Kurdish National Congress (KNK), the most comprehensive project in this regard, was held in Erbil in 2013 with participation of representatives across the Kurdish dominated regions in the Middle East and the Kurdish diaspora in Europe upon the invitation of Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Jalal Talabani, the late president of Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) and Massoud Barzani, the head of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

However, decisions taken at the congress could not be implemented due to the discomfort felt by states with the agreements reached among the Kurdish Parties. 

“The recent developments in northeastern Syria oblige Kurds to establish national unity. We are experiencing similar things that happened in Iraqi Kurdistan which has taken away Kirkuk and other ‘disputed territories’ from the Kurds and hand them over to the Iraqi regime,” Sinan Çiftyürek, the leader of the Kurdistan Communist Party, who was detained because he criticised the Turkish incursion in Syria, told Ahval.

In a referendum for independence in Kirkuk and other disputed territories held by Barzani’s KRG in September 2017, an overwhelming majority of voters supported secession. 

Bagdad, Ankara, and Tehran fiercely rejected the vote. The United States also objected to the decision, Associated Press reported. The intense political and military pressure posed by the opposing powers forced Barzani to step down and reversing the Kurds’ territorial gains before the referendum. 

“The fragmented structure is the Kurds’ historical tragedy. Kurdistan, which is among the four states, was split a century ago. Not only geographically, but it was also split culturally, economically, and politically. The only way to overcome the trauma this historical tragedy has created is realising the national unity,” Çiftyürek added.

Kurdistan, the unofficial name of the region in which the Kurdish people constitute a significant portion of the population, was divided up among Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran after World War I. Kurds have been subject to continuous atrocities and cultural, economic, and social denial from all sides over the past century. 

For Çiftyürek, it is important that the 14 Kurdish parties run in the 2020 elections in the KRG on a single list for the national alliance.

As for Turkey, the Kurdish parties have issued a declaration of intention, and a permanent alliance will be realised in any case, he says.

Major Kurdish parties in Iraq announced last month to run the April 2020 provincial elections in disputed Iraqi territories under a joint list to consolidate Kurdish votes, Rudaw reported.

Dersim Dağ, Diyarbakir deputy for Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said Turkey did not only assaulted Rojava in Syria but also targeted the political gains all across Kurdistan.

“The Kurds in the four parts of Kurdistan and across the globe took the streets to protest the invasion and massacres in northeast Syria, and protect the gains achieved in Rojava,’’ Dağ said. “A common stance by the Kurds across the world against the invasion is a rare circumstance we have experienced”.

The Kurdish people showed that they want national unity by taking to the streets, according to Diyarbakır deputy.

However, Dağ maintains having unity in the streets is not enough. In the following process, the responsibility lies with the politicians. They all must do their best to provide the Kurdish national unity regardless of political affiliation. This will make the Kurds powerful at the diplomacy table, Dağ told Ahval.

Sertaç Bucak, the Chairperson of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), maintains Kurdish national unity can be achieved through inclusion.

“The global outrage against Turkey shows the importance of Kurdish unity once again. The thing that we can do is to form the Kurdish national alliance by considering other experiences across the world,’’ Bucak said.

“Initially, each divided part in Kurdistan should form its local alliance. Then, if the required conditions can be created, a national congress may be established. But, ensuring unity of each part is on the agenda now. Therefore, as political parties across Kurdistan, we must adopt a common approach,” the KDP chair added.