Good Kurds, bad Kurds

Good Kurds, bad Kurds

Ironically, the “good” and “bad” Kurds for the Turkish establishment are the same Kurds who have the same ethnic sentiments and strategic goals but different ideas about reaching the same goals: The good Kurds are the darlings of Ankara; the bad Kurds are traitors. Ironically, also, today’s “good” Kurds were the “bad” Kurds two decades ago. But with a little bit of luck and $$$$$ pouring in across the border, today’s “bad” Kurds could become the darlings of the establishment in Ankara in two decades – if not much sooner.

The region called the Middle East is like a big chessboard on which a couple of dozen players play chess at the same time – on the same chessboard. Occasionally banging their fists on the board and rolling the dice in the hopes of a double six, the Turks play it differently: backgammon on the chessboard. Banging their fists on the board as well and also rolling the dice for a double six, the Kurds have also played backgammon on the chessboard – until recently. The Kurds have learned to play chess on the chessboard while the Turks are still playing backgammon. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called it “treason” after the Peoples’ Democratic Party’s co-chair, Selahattin Demirtaş, recommended the establishment of self-governing regions in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish areas. Was it treason to establish the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in predominantly Kurdish Iraq? No. 

As part of the backgammon game, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has opened an investigation into Mr. Demirtaş’s remarks on autonomy “as part of articles regarding crimes against the constitutional order and its operation in Turkish criminal law.” Under investigation, Mr. Demirtaş allegedly “broached the possibility of building an independent Kurdistan.” A grave offense. Or pure hypocrisy. 

Again, ironically, more or less around the same dates as Mr. Demirtaş committed the crime of treason, Masoud Barzani, the head of the KRG [and the “tribal gang leader” in the eyes of Ankara two decades ago] received red-carpet treatment in the Turkish capital, meeting with every possible dignitary including the president and prime minister. Shortly afterwards, Mr. Barzani’s prime minister, Nechirvan Barzani, enjoyed the same Turkish pleasantries in Ankara. 

More or less on the same days as Turkish prosecutors indicted Mr. Demirtaş for his remarks on Kurdish autonomy, the KRG’s representative to the United States, Sami Abdul Rahman, told Cansu Çamlıbel of Hürriyet that “we must take into account what our people want … The Kurdish people want to determine their own fate and they have a right to do so like every other nation … [As for independence], we want to achieve this at the right time and by means of dialogue … [Independence] is our final goal … We shall attain our goal.” (This author’s translation from the Turkish text, Hürriyet, Dec. 28.) 

So, two decades ago, Iraqi Kurdish tribal gang leaders were just a bunch of Iraqi Kurdish tribal gang leaders. Today, they are honorable statesmen and foreign dignitaries. They and their officials, including their representative to the U.S., speak of “Kurdish independence” and they and their “independence talk” are welcome in Ankara. In all reality, Kurdish autonomy in Iraq was taboo in Ankara two decades ago. Today, it is just “friendship/alliance/partnership.” 

Meanwhile, Kurdish autonomy in Syria or in Turkey is still taboo in Ankara today. We just do not know how soon we shall be friends/allies/partners with the Turkish or Syrian Kurdish regional governments. Just wait for the Turkish recalibration of policy. If Turkey can ally with a Kurdish entity whose U.S. representative speaks of Kurdish independence (to be declared at the right time), trust that it can ally with Kurdish entities inside Turkey or Syria, one day, that fight for the same homeland called Kurdistan.