Profile: What’s Next for The Kurds?

Profile: What’s Next for The Kurds?

The Kurds constitute the largest ethnic group in the world without a state of their own. They have long been seeking some kind of recognition of their legitimacy as an autonomous group; they war in Turkey, fight alongside U.S. forces in Syria, and negotiate in Iraq.

For the first time because of ISIS, the central governments in Syria and Iraq are weak to prevent the Kurds from achieving what they want. Assad has turned a blind eye to the Syrian Kurds for reasons still disputed. Baghdad has recognized the Iraqi Kurds as partners in transnational issues. In 1991, the Iraqi Kurdistans formed an essentially autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. Peshmerga, the military forces of Iraqi Kurdistan, work closely with Washington’s ground forces in the fight against ISIS. There is talk of a formally recognized Kurdish state within united federal Iraq, but for now, the Kurds and Iraqis share power tenuously.

Kurds populate Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

Kurdish relations with Turkey have been long and bloody. The Kurdistan Worker’s Party (P.K.K.) has been dubbed a terrorist group by Turkey, but whole swaths of the country are Kurdish and support P.K.K. or vote for its legal counterpart, the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (H.D.P.) which shares similar ideology. Conflict has been on and off, but in December 2016 fighting broke out in half a dozen other Kurdish towns and districts on a collective scale not seen before in urban areas. Six months prior, government forces used the failed July 2016 coup to declare a state of emergency and crackdown on major Kurdish city Diyarbakir. Mr. Yilmaz, a resident of Sur (city of Diyarbakir), says “Nowadays we don’t even worry about arrest. We worry about death.” Many have “gone to the mountain,” which is what people say about joining P.K.K. in the rugged mountains of northern Iraq. P.K.K. believes that its success in combatting ISIS in Syria will bolster its legitimacy on the world stage, while Ankara believes that the West’s reliance on Turkey will always help outweigh the cries of P.K.K. or the Syrian Democratic Unity Party. “Europe needs Turkey for the refugee crisis, and the US needs Turkey to be able to fight ISIL more effectively,” says a Turkish expert. Most recently the U.S. has called for Y.P.G. (the Syrian-Kurdish militia allied with P.K.K.) to be included in the talks to combat ISIS. “Turkey’s allies are still providing weapons to the YPG,” Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak seethed. “And what business does a terror group have at the peace table?” Turkey argues that the weapons will fall into the hands of P.K.K. and be used to incite greater violence in Turkey.

P.K.K. believes that its success in combatting ISIS in Syria will bolster its legitimacy on the world stage, while Ankara believes that the West’s reliance on Turkey will always help outweigh the cries of P.K.K. or the Syrian Democratic Unity Party. “Europe needs Turkey for the refugee crisis, and the US needs Turkey to be able to fight ISIL more effectively,” says a Turkish expert. Most recently the U.S. has called for Y.P.G. (the Syrian-Kurdish militia allied with P.K.K.) to be included in the talks to combat ISIS. “Turkey’s allies are still providing weapons to the YPG,” Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak seethed. “And what business does a terror group have at the peace table?” Turkey argues that the weapons will fall into the hands of P.K.K. and be used to incite greater violence in Turkey.



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