The Kurdish crisis in Iraq and Syria


IMAGE/Duck Duck Go

The Kurdish struggle in Syria and Iraq has witnessed number of recent changes, with clear contrasts in each country. The broad victory of the “yes” in the Iraqi autonomous Kurdistan region’s independence referendum on September 25 was rooted in the long historical will of the Kurdish people to establish a state. It was also the consequence of a violent history of oppression inflicted upon the Iraqi-Kurdish population by various previous Iraqi nationalist authoritarian regimes.

The massacre by chemical weapons against the Kurdish population of Halabja in 1988 by Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime [then supported by the U.S. and other Western governments — ed.] is particularly remembered. About 5000 Kurds perished in this massacre. This attack was part of Operation Anfal launched by the authorities in Baghdad during this period, which killed 182,000 people and destroyed more than 90% of the Kurdish villages.

The Iraqi referendum also demonstrated, once again, the failure of the models of the capitalist, chauvinist and centralized nation-states of the region, which have consistently repressed, erased, and/or denied the plurality of their societies by affirming the supremacy and/or domination of an ethnic group over others, a religious sect over others, or both at the same time.

In Syria, no solution for the Kurdish issue and an inclusive Syria can be found without recognizing the Kurds as a proper “people” or “nation” and providing unconditional support to the self-determination of the Kurdish people in the country and elsewhere.

The destiny of the Kurdish people in Syria was and remains intrinsically linked to the dynamics of the Syrian uprising and therefore its future is in danger, just as with the rest of the protest movement. This is why we should not isolate the struggle for self-determination of the Kurdish people from the dynamics of the Syrian revolution.

Any possibility of self-determination of the Kurdish people in Syria, as well as in Iran and in Turkey, has to go through common struggle with the popular classes of these countries against the various fractions of the bourgeoisie that dominate these states, whether they are from reactionary Islamic fundamentalism or nationalist chauvinism, or a mix of both.

That is why we must support the right of self-determination for the between 28 and 35 million Kurdish people in Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran. We need to denounce these authoritarian regimes, foreign international and regional measures and pressures that prevent Kurdish populations from deciding their own future.

Iraqi Kurds’ initial enthusiasm following the massive victory of the “yes” vote at over 92% in favor of independence on September 25 quickly gave way to multiple threats and military offensives against the autonomous territories under the control of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) since 1992.

Composed of three provinces of northern Iraq, this broad swath of land stretching from the Iranian to the Syrian border with Kirkuk at its center — and claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad — was lost in mid-October. The loss included the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

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