Obstacles to an independent Kurdish state
RUŞEN ÇAKIRThe division of Iraq, and in parallel with this, the possibility of the formation of an independent Kurdish state, is increasing every day, as I wrote the other day. I also suggested that Ankara, having understood that this development is impossible to prevent, is setting itself up as the protectorate of the Kurdish state be born. Indeed, this was originally former President Turgut Özal’s dream, I wrote.
The Kurds, who have been defined all along as a population without a state, will finally have an independent state and this will undoubtedly be a historic development. For just this reason, it will be difficult and problematic as well. Here are the problems, in a nutshell, that could arise as the Kurdish nation evolves toward statehood Turkish nationalism
In Turkey, the “official” and the “civilian” and also the “mixed” (or semi-official) nationalist discourse is essentially built on the foundation of the continuation of the state. The sine qua non of the continuation of the state is the “inseparable integrity” of the country. In other words, the biggest concern of Turkish nationalists is the physical separation of the country, more specifically, a Kurdish breakaway. For this reason, Turkish nationalists have for a long time denied the existence of the Kurds as a separate. Since it is inevitable that the declaration of a state of Kurdistan in Iraq will change the status of Kurds of Turkey, the Turkish nationalists will oppose this loudly.
Under normal circumstances, supporting an independent Kurdish state in Iraq, or even tolerating it, would have seriously strained the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. However, it is possible for it to overcome this difficulty because the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) has largely lost its power to set the agenda, and also the AKP has transformed and dampened down Turkish nationalism to a certain extent in the past 10 years. In order to achieve a balance on the Kurdish issue internally, it has to convince non-Kurdish segments of the population that a separation will never be an issue, and at the same time offer such a satisfying status to the Kurds that they stop prioritizing the idea of independence. But before anything else, it has to end, in one way or another, the armed presence of the PKK.
The breakaway of the Iraqi Kurds will undoubtedly enrage the Arab majority of the country. The Sunni Arabs, who are a minority, in parallel with the Kurds, may keep silent in return for a privileged status, but the majority Shiite Arabs will do whatever they can to prevent the partition.
It should also not be expected that other Arab people and countries will tolerate the partition of a country where Arabs are in the majority. Maybe at this stage, there does not exist a powerful and organized enough Arab nationalist front to prevent the formation of an independent Kurdish state, but an independent Kurdistan will cause further deterioration in Kurdish-Arab relations and plant the seeds of great hatred and hostility.
There are many reasons for the Tehran regime to be uncomfortable with an independent Kurdish state in Iraq. First, such a state will definite be a center of attraction for Iranian Kurds, and separatist ideas among them will gain strength. Secondly, Iraqi Shiite Arabs are essentially allied with Iran. In the case of a hot clash in Iraq’s north, the south will receive very strong support from Tehran.
The declaration of an independent Kurdistan in Iraq will be a historic development likely to change the equilibrium entirely in our country and our region. It is certain that states and regimes that are able to harmonize with the new situation will gain in strength, while those that cannot will be eliminated. In the end, we are facing a tough situation, in which risks and opportunities for everyone exist together.
*Ruşen Çakır is a columnist for daily Vatan, in which this piece was published on April 25. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.