Why We Should Support Kurdish Independence

Kurds in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region of Iraq, show their support for an independent Kurdistan
Kurds in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region of Iraq, show their support for an independent Kurdistan (Photo: SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)

 

By Helmet Maroufi

Talking and writing about human right maybe simple, but when you are talking or writing about the human rights of a forgotten nation, it is completely different. The Kurds, the largest nation in the world without a state, numbers 45 million people divided between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

The Kurds have experienced every kind of death — in prisons, by bombs, while fighting for freedom and dying fighting against terrorism on behalf of the entire world.

But the world looks upon the Kurds like they are watching a movie — like Spartacus, not more. The world needs two things above all else – oil and money.

Humans rights are beautiful words but worthless.

The Kurdistan areas are rich. They are replete with oil, gold, aluminum, mercury, iron, gas and more. Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria have no intention of giving up such wealth.

 

How It Began: the Sykes-Picot Agreement

The Sykes-Picot Agreement, officially known as the Asia Minor Agreement, was a secret deal brokered in 1916 between the United Kingdom and France to which the Russian empire assented.

Sykes-Picot defined their mutually-agreed spheres of influence and control in southwest Asia and was based on the premise that these parties (known as the Triple Entente) would succeed in defeating the Ottoman Empire in World War I.

The agreement profoundly influenced the Kurds — perhaps even more than all the other peoples who were negatively affected by the agreement. It left them scattered over parts of Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria – countries in which the Kurds are treated, to this day, as if they never belonged.

All things Kurdish are forbidden – to have a flag, to support liberal causes, to be a Peshmerga freedom fighter. Even trying to talk in Kurdish with your students as a teacher in school…all is forbidden.

The fate of Kurdish leaders and civilians in recent history is even worse:

  • Abdulrahman Ghasemlou, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) from 1973, was assassinated in 1989 by agents suspected to be from the Iranian regime.
  • Said Sharafkandi, a Kurdish political activist and secretary-general of the (KDPI), was assassinated in Berlin in 1992 also by agents suspected to be from the Iranian regime
  • Abdullah Ojalan, a Kurdish nationalist leader and one of the founding members of the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), was arrested in 1999 by Turkish agents. Ojalan now says he has abandoned military solutions and believes the conflict should be solved through political means.
  • More than 220 of East Kurdistan’s Peshmerga fighters and party members were assassinated in Iraqi Kurdistan between 1985-2000.
  • The Halabja chemical attack (also known as the Halabja Massacre or Bloody Friday), was a massacre against the Kurdish people by Saddam Hussein in 1988. The attack took place during the closing days of the Iran-Iraq War in the Kurdish city of Halabja in southern Kurdistan just 48 hours after the town fell to the Iranian army. It killed 3,200-5,000 people and injured 7,000 to 10,000, most of them civilians. The Halabja attack is the largest chemical weapons attack directed against a civilian-populated area in history.
  • Al-Anfal Genocide, a campaign by Saddam Hussein that killed between 50-182,000 Kurds in northern Iraq between 1986-89. (The Halabja chemical attack was part of this campaign.)

And the list continues in Iran. In Gharna, Ghalatan, Serchinar, Pawe, Sanandaj, Mariwan, Indirqash, more than 20,000 Kurdish men, women and children were killed by the Iranian regime. Just a couple of details:

  • In Ghalatan, West Azerbaijan Province, Iran (on Sept. 2, 1979), 59 young people were “disappeared” by Iranian authorities never to be heard from again.
  • In Sardasht, West Azerbaijan (June 28, 1987), Iraq dropped what Iranian authorities believed to be mustard gas in two separate bombing runs on four residential areas.

This is the story of a nation without land, without a government, without international rights – a nation that is now fighting for democracy, for liberalism, for freedom; a nation that fights international terrorism (in fact, the Kurds have been the most successful fighting force in Iraq against ISIS to date).

In Syria, more than 50 percent of the Kurds live without an ID card. The Syrian regime says they are not from Syria and want to have the option to throw them out whenever they want.

In Turkey, more than 213 Kurds have been arrested by the regime of Islamist strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In Iran, Kurds are imprisoned: Mohammad Nazari (sentenced to 25 years in jail), Omar Faghipur (20 years in jail), Loqman and Zanyar Moradi (brothers waiting to be executed), Khalid Faraiduni, Said Shirzad, Sahar Faizi, Asrin Aminzade, Hajar Piri, Najibe Salehzade, Ferzaneh Almasi and Truske Waisi are some of the more well-known names among the 2,000-plus Kurds sitting in Iran’s jails.

Now a part of Kurdistan (in Iraq) wants to be independent. The Kurds are a true friend of America and the free world. They are committed to democracy, human rights and gender equality. They are a foil to Iranian and Turkish hegemony in the region.

It is time that the free world finally helps the Kurds in their legitimate bid for independence.

Helmet Maroufi is the manager of Rojhelat, a Kurdish human right organization. He has a master’s degree from Tehran university and currently lives in Switzerland.

 

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