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The Possibility of a Kurdish State

Saturday, January 29, 2005

(SNN) Many Americans know "of" the Kurds, but how many really know "about" the Kurds. Everyone in the US knows they were gassed by Saddam Hussein. A few Americans even understand that they are somehow our allies and live in a section of Northern Iraq. Today marks the eve of the Iraqi election and it is quite possible that after this election, the Kurds will no longer be a group to be ignored.

Kurds are an ethnic group than spans western Iran, northern Iraq, part of Syria and Southern Turkey.

To start out, let’s examine exactly who the Kurds are. Kurdistan existed as a country from after World War I until 1923. Kurds are an ethnic group than spans western Iran, northern Iraq, part of Syria and Southern Turkey. They are predominately Sunni, but also have Shiites among their members. There is a large population of Kurds that have moved to Western Europe and have been campaigning for a Kurdish state.

So why is it so bad if there is once again a Kurdish state? Well, while it seems like an ideal situation for Iraq, there is fear from Turkey, Iran and Syria that they may lose some of their Kurdish territories to the new Kurdistan. This would especially damage Turkey whose richest oilfields are in Kurdish territory. And Turkey has made it clear that they will consider military action to solidify its border if they catch a hint of Kurdish sovereignty.

This brings us to Iraq’s elections. The few pollsters that have been able to get out in southern Iraq are predicting a low turnout. They say that people are well meaning and almost two thirds of Iraqis want to vote, but pollsters feel that they are too intimidated. There is not really a clear picture though as most pollsters were brutally beaten or imprisoned before they could put together an accurate sample. "In Iraqi society they're not used to seeing people knocking on doors, asking people what they think about politics and the government," said one pollster.

It is expected the Kurds will show up to vote in vast numbers.

But in the relatively autonomous Kurdish North, things are pretty stable. And it is expected that the Kurds will show up to vote in vast numbers, especially as they have been streaming across the borders from Iran, Syria and Turkey, to register to vote. The Kurds negotiated the return of some of the 12,000 Kurds that were forcedly expelled during Saddam’s reign. Since then, several hundred thousand of the twelve thousand have returned. One Kurdish official claimed that the hundreds of thousands of Kurds in Kirkuk is merely a coincidence, and that they had merely stopped by to say “Hi”.

So if the Kurds have a strong showing in the new government, will they take into account that their region is stable and quiet, the rest of the country is plagued with insurgency, they have been horribly mistreated by other Iraqis, and they have the desire to have their own state, and attempt to break away? Or will they be more worried about a Turkish invasion?

While Turkey has threatened to attack Iraq if the Kurdish state looks like a possibility, Kurdish officials have told Turkey that they best way to promote the stability of its borders is to leave the Kurds alone. But Kurds should think twice about challenging Turkey. The last time the two faced off, the Kurds were subjugated for over 400 years.

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