For many years Turkey’s recipe for combating Kurdish nationalism was to pretend that Kurds did not exist. Even as Turkish troops battled the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), government propaganda maintained that Kurds were a subgroup of Turks and that their language, banned from official use, was a dialect of Turkish, The Economist notes:
To his credit, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, has never indulged in such fantasies. His Justice and Development (AK) party pursued peace negotiations with Abdullah Ocalan, the founder of the PKK, and moderate Kurds. Alas, in recent months, as the world has focused on the tragedy taking place in Iraq and Syria, Mr Erdogan has thrown those achievements away, relaunching Turkey’s war on Kurdish militants with a deadly new ferocity….By playing on Turkish nationalism, he propelled his troubled AK party back to victory in the election in November. But the repercussions are dire for Turkey as a whole. Its democracy is under attack.
Kurdish fighters are among the most trusted allies of the international coalition in the fight against ISIL in Iraq, but they are also being accused of deliberately destroying thousands of Arab homes, Al Jazeera notes:
In another sign that the diverse society in Iraq is breaking down, Amnesty International said Kurdish forces have campaigned to forcibly displace Arab communities; bulldozing and blowing up Arab villages recaptured from ISIL. The destruction’s being seen as revenge for perceived Arab support for ISIL. Amnesty said the Kurdish actions could amount to war crimes.
Such events provide confirmation that Iraq is a failed state, said Rahman Aljebouri, a Senior Program Officer for the Middle East and North Africa at the National Endowment for Democracy. Revenge is endemic to the region, he told Al Jazeera, but the Kurds’ actions are about the future rather than the past. Kurds, Sunni and Shia alike feel vulnerable and each group is fighting for their own future space and influence.
Kirkuk – ‘Iraq’s Jerusalem’ – could hold the keys to the Middle East’s problems, argues Luay Al Khatteeb, Nonresident Foreign Policy Fellow at the Brookings Doha Center. A town of almost one million people in a province that jabs into the heart of the Iraqi Kurdish territory, it was once a staging area for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s campaigns against the Kurds, he writes for Foreign Affairs:
That fight was briefly joined by one Kurdish party, the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), in its bitter battle with the other, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). And before Saddam came to power, Kirkuk’s oil refineries were attacked by Kurdish insurgents.
No wonder, then, that the Kurdish former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani famously described the apparently doomed city as “our Jerusalem”—a town claimed by many. And these days, the number of claimants has expanded. There’s still the KDP and PUK, which both field the peshmerga, but now there are also the Shia Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) and holdouts from the so-called Islamic State (also known as ISIS). Yet through it all, Kirkuk has been surprisingly resilient. RTWT