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The Kurds in Modern Iraq Research Paper

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Updated: May 22nd, 2019

Introduction

Kurds are people who originated from Indian and European races. They reside in the hilly regions of the borders between Iraq, Turkey, and Iran. This region where the Kurds live is referred to as Kurdistan. They have a different culture from their neighboring people in Iraq.

They also have a different language of their own. Their language is quite related to Persia, although it differs by some two dialects. Their main religion is Sunni Muslim although they accommodate some Christian, Jewish, and Yazidis religious groups among them. Their total population by the 1987 census was 19.7 million people in the Kurdistan region.

Their population in the entire world numbers at 25-35 million people, although their estimated population usually varies. They are spread out especially in Russia and Europe. Kurdis policies of nationalism have continued to worry Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran. During Saddam Hussein’s regime, the Kurds suffered atrocities under this administration. Their independence was minimized especially during the Gulf war of 1991.

Their good relationship with Iraq became questionable when Saddam Hussein was overthrown in the year 2003. They have since been making several attempts to self govern themselves. Currently, they have around eight political parties that are actively involved in all political issues. These political parties are the major machines they use to drive them to their homelands.

As we speak, the Kurds are ruled by one government called the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). This government began to reign in 1991 and is still operational to date. Their success story made a major leap forward by the death of former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein.

Since then, the United States has been helping the Kurds in reconstruction and ensuring their security is guaranteed. It is also purported that should the security of Kurds be threatened by bloodshed and destruction from Iraq, the United States will gear up in support for an independent Kurdish state.

Recent History of Kurds

The Kurds are sometimes referred to as a people without a nation because they are unarguably the largest ethnic group without a country of their own. From the time the modern state of Iraq was created, the Kurd’s history has been characterized with instances of underdevelopment, political turmoil and cultural repression, destruction, revolutionary revolts and ethnic cleansing. Genocide has also characterized the Kurd’s society.

Iraq has been engaged in major campaigns to obliterate the Kurd’s synergetic approach towards gaining independence. Many people have been killed and scores injured when Saddam’s administration ear marked the Kurdish society for destruction. The main aim of these attacks was to thwart any efforts by the Kurds to arise against the national government. Thus, resistance movements were countered with rigorous military operations by the Iraqi government.

In post-Saddam Iraq, many political and ethnic issues have arisen in relation to Kurd’s assimilation into the Iraqi state. Many opinions have been given concerning how this issue should be dealt with. Some people have been supporting the formation of five-state Iraq with the region occupied by the Kurd’s forming one of the states. Another option includes the northern self governing section organized not on ethnic basis but on regional basis.

It is quite important to note that some of the neighboring countries have not been in support of an independent Kurd state. Turkey as an example has been strongly opposing this fight for freedom[1].

The modern history of the Kurdish people is therefore examined in two phases. The first one is the phases of the fight between the Kurdish populace and the governments, which they are subject for control. The second involves the struggle of the Kurds to become a sound community[2].

The Kurds during Saddam’s Reign

The contemporary Kurd’s history during Saddam Hussein’s reign can only discuss the events that happened during Saddam Hussein’s last years of dictatorship. These are the years 2000 up to 2003 in Iraqi’s history. Saddam’s reign was characterized by Kurd’s repression. There were secret police tortures, murders, forced disappearance and the use of chemical weapons. Assassinations were also common during this period.

Saddam’s methods of eliminating Kurd’s resistance included gassing. Up to the year of his death, there were still many widespread imprisonments. Political participation was only allowed to those politicians who belonged to the Baath Party. It is amazing that this political party consisted of only 8% of the total population of Iraq. Hussein’s administration had also made numerous torture centers where citizens considered resistant to the national government use to be tortured.

The Kurds in Post-Saddam Iraq

The Kurds have been the most pro-US group in Iraq since time immemorial. They welcomed the U.S invasion of Iraq thereafter cooperating with the U.S political and military officials. In return to this, the Kurds have been expecting the U.S to support them in their fight for self governance.

This is the reason as to why they do not want the United States to leave Iraq without proper arrangement so that the United States does not abandon Iraq and the Kurds[3]. Turkey refused to support the U.S invasion from the beginning. However, the country has expressed her support in the withdrawal project that will end in the year 2011.

Since the invasion of the U.S led troops to Iraq, the Kurds entered into active post-Saddam national politics on equal footing with Iraq’s Arabs. They did this by participating in a U.S-led occupation administration. This government operated under a ‘Transition Administrative Law’.

The constitution also preserved the Kurds’ self-governing ‘Kurdistan (Religion) Government’ and its supremacy to modify the application of some (national) laws. Another provision of this constitution permitted the Kurds to continue to field their militia numbering close to one hundred thousand.

The Kurds continued their support of the constitution (in the year 2005) for the reason that this charter seemed to fulfill their momentous demands. The endorsement of this constitution by the Kurds was also because it also included the Kurd’s insistence on federalism. This allowed for the formal creation of regions that had their own regional governments. The constitution recognized the presence of three Kurdish regions which are Dohuk, Irbil, and Sulaymaniyah as legal regions.

This constitution appears to have given the Kurds more strength in relation to politics. Many controversies arose concerning the political assertion of the Kurds and the system of governance by the central government. Thus, Iraqi minority groups would later protest at this excessive assertion of demands by the Kurds arguing that it threatened Iraqi’s integrity. On the other hand, the Kurd’s believed that the central government’s system of leadership is not living up to its promises to build a diverse multi ethnic democracy[4].

Political Orientation of the Kurds

A short history of the Kurdish political parties shows that the mainstream Shiite Islamic parties are the main parties that boast a huge membership of the Kurds.

The main reason as to why Kurds have been politically oriented in these parties is because they seemed to be yielding to their demands. However, in the year 2008, the Kurds began to break with Da’wa party headed by Maliki. This was because he failed to accede to their main demands. The main demands that were not redressed were issues concerning terrorist activities in the northern parts of Iraq[5].

Maliki offset by reproving the Kurds that they were trying to practice issues that were unconstitutional[6] outside their protective limits and setting up Kurds envoy offices in alien nations. For these reasons, the Kurds representative and the Iraqi prime minister stayed for more than a year before meeting in 2009.

Since then, it has been reported by observers that the main Kurdish factions are no longer king makers in central government politics. This was evident when the number of seats held by the two main factions was reduced from 53 to 43, between the year 2006 and 2010. Currently, there has been a lot of political bickering within the Kurdish factions.

This is why up until now; there has been no executive branch that has been chosen among the main parties seven months after the elections. The effect of this relationship is that it has reduced the straggle for self governance by the Kurds. Thus, Kurdish independence is not an active source of friction between the two factions. However, the issue still remains to be of topical concern to Iraqi’s neighbors that have Kurds minorities.

The Betrayal of the Kurds

There have been many instances by both the local government of Iraq and foreign governments have done that have been taken as acts of betrayal of the Kurds. The Kurds have been considered as a vulnerable ethnic group existing in many countries neighboring Iraq and beyond. The U.S has been involved in major operations aimed at guaranteeing security to this marginalized community. From the time of President George W. Bush senior through the Obama administration, things have been taking different twists and turns for the Kurds.

When the United States declared her mission to topple Saddam, the Kurds expressed their willingness to join in the exercise. They encouraged the United States in this operation thereby advising them to send notes in major Iraqi cities that announced that the United States were coming as liberators. In this action, the Kurds were fighting against the repression that was being propagated by the Iraqi regime and the Turkish authorities[7].

The Kurds also experienced some acts of betrayal from the Palestinian people. The argument goes this way. The Palestinian people have been strongly opposing the idea of formation of a state for the Kurdish people.

Yet, as a matter of fact, the Palestinians have been in a strong demand for their autonomy in Israeli soil. Taking into consideration that the Kurdish people outnumber the Palestinians in population, the double mouthed Palestinians ought to either support the autonomy of the Kurds or they stop demanding for their autonomy from the Israeli’s.

Thus the betrayals have arisen due to the souring deal between the Kurds and the U.S.A, and between the Kurds and the Turkish administration. The Kurds expected the United States to act in favor of their demand for autonomy as a way of reciprocating. Also the United States has been accused by the Kurds of supporting the establishment of an antidemocratic leadership in Iraq. The U.S.A has also been accused further, of supporting Turkish administration in anti autonomous Kurds campaign.

The Unknown Oppression of the Kurds

The Kurds are reported to be treated not quite well in all the surrounding countries that they occupy. Some of the nations have been treating them badly because the Kurds have been resisting the efforts their host countries have been making in trying to assimilate them into their citizenry. The Kurds do not want to be called Arabs.

They are therefore treated as second class citizens. In Iraq, the situation has seemingly subsided. However, in neighboring countries such as Turkey, the situation is worse because the Turkish administration has denied the existence of the Kurdish nation. Thus, these states have been trying to force Kurds out of Kurdish lands because they cannot put up with the truth that the states themselves are occupying Kurdish lands.

The other unknown oppression comes in form of a place called Kurdistan. Kurdistan is that part of the country between Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq that does not have a border[8]. According to these countries, it is that mountainous region with basic natural features such as canyons. It remains unclear whether Kurdistan will revive as was the case with Poland (after two world wars)[9].

This is a fact that has been enhanced by the enactment of policies in the host countries to make the Kurds feel at home. Although the American and the British governments have been trying to protect the Kurds from such oppression, this has only been limited to human rights issues[10]. This is because military force is out of question since the action could be an infringement of the sovereignty of the states.

Future Prospects of the Kurds

It has become more and more difficult for the Kurds to gain complete self governance. The project has been rendered almost not feasible. Following the consequences of its effects, the Kurds would rather seek to improve and strengthen their position in relation to their autonomy within their regions.

The restrictions from the international community especially, the European Union have worsened the situation. Worse still, the Kurds are found in other independent states like Turkey which appear to obliterate any attempts by their leaders that are geared at pushing for their autonomy[11].

However, they have been receiving support from human right activists and European Union programs that promote reforms. These programs have been pushing for the awarding of citizenship to Kurds who reside in Syria and Iran. However, the program is being slowed by the fragility of the European Union and the internal problems within the Syrian administration. The problem is also worsened by the issue of the United States troops in Iraq.

The instability and murders on the Iraqi soil seem to put the future direction of Iraqi’s perspective on the Kurds quite uncertain. It is extremely hard for there to be a peaceful multicultural administrative and political coexistence in the recently formed Iraqi government while at the same time recalling the unforgettable truths of the mass graves of the minority Kurds.

It will also be difficult to oversee the raising Shia attempts, coupled with the strongly rebellious Iraqi accommodate this multicultural approach. However, should this phenomenon become feasible, it would offer a good example for Turkey, Iran and Syria to internalize this idea within their systems. By doing this, the Kurds in these countries will be saved.

The Fight for Self Governance by the Kurds

The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) is currently ruling the northern regions of Iraq occupied by the Kurds. The KRG is however not completely autonomous because it depends on financial support from Baghdad. The KRG controls the three provinces dominated by the Kurds namely, Dahuk, Irbil and Sulaymaniya[12].

This government however has a share of its own troubles. There have been some cases of corruption and poor governance within the KRG. This government does not have its own resources. It has thus been forced to depend entirely on Baghdad’s economy for its survival.

The KGR has a large measure of autonomy in these three regions. It is responsible for the primary legislative, budgetary and administrative authority. It is worth noting that the Kurdish Regional Government is still drafting a constitution even as we speak. The constitution will be tabled in the regional parliament for amendments and approval. The regional parliament is the supreme authority of the KRG. It has been in operation since the year 1992 when Saddam’s forces were largely forced out of the Kurdish region.

The Kurdish Regional Government still has a weak parliament that is however, gradually growing stronger by and by. Its strength has been exemplified when in 2007, for the first time, the parliament summoned some cabinet ministers for questioning on many occasions. In early 2008, the parliament received a detailed current government budget with just enough lead time to allow some real debate.

This was also the first time such an instance ever happened since the formation of the KRG[13]. It should also be noted that the parliament and the executive perform their functions under a form of joint management by the two top traditional Iraqi Kurdish political parties. These parties are the KDP, led by the president of KRG, and the PUK, led by the Iraqi president.

Conclusion

Kurds are people who originated from Indian and European races. They reside in the hilly regions of the borders between Iraq, Turkey, and Iran. This region where the Kurds live is referred to as Kurdistan. They have a different culture from their neighboring people in Iraq and other neighboring countries.

From the time the modern state of Iraq was created, the Kurd’s history has been punctuated with instances of underdevelopment, political turmoil and cultural repression, destruction, revolutionary revolts and ethnic cleansing. Assassinations were also common during this period. Saddam’s methods of eliminating Kurd’s resistance included gassing. Up to the year of his death, there were still many widespread imprisonments.

The future of the Kurds seems to be oblique in relation to their fight for their autonomy. Kurds would rather seek to improve and strengthen their position in relation to their autonomy within their regions due to internal and external factors. Internal factors include instances of corruption and other malpractices in public offices. External factors include foreign government policies that are against the formation of an autonomous Kurdish state.

Bibliography

Cagaptay, Soner. The Future of the Iraqi Kurds. The Washington Institute Of Near East Policy. Policy focus#85. July 2008.

Carkoglu, Ali. Turkey’s November 2002 Elections: A New Beginning. Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol, 6 No. 4 – December 2002

Gasper, Phil. “The Betrayal of the Kurds.” Third World Traveler, April 2003, .

Izardy, Mehrdad. A Concise Handbook: The Kurds. Washington D.C: Taylor & Francis, Inc, 1992.

Katzman, Kenneth. The Kurds in Post-Saddam Iraq. Congressional Research Service. CRS Report for Congress. October 1, 2010.

McDowall, David. A Modern History of the Kurds, 3rd Edition. London: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 2007.

Natalie, Denis. The Kurds and the State: Evolving National Identity in Iraq, Turkey, And Iran. Ed.1. New York: Syracuse University Press, 2005.

O’Leary, Brendah, McGarry, John & Salih, Khaled. The Future of Kurdistan in Iraq. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005.

Students institute for international & global affairs. Kurds: the history of oppression and future prospects. Articles and Interviews, March 15, 2009.

Footnotes

  1. Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol, 6 No. 4 – December 2002.
  2. McDowall, David. P. 1
  3. Katzman, Kenneth. P 5
  4. The multi ethnic democracy allowed the Kurds full rights and redresses the perceived abuses of the Saddam era.
  5. This rift widened so much that one of the Kurd,s leaders would be seen on a local television program accusing Maliki of trying to monopolize power.
  6. These are the Kurds militia
  7. Gasper, Phil
  8. Izady, Mehrdad, p. 3
  9. O’Leary, Brendah, McGarry, John & Salih, Khaled. p. 7
  10. Natalie, Denis, p. 175
  11. Students institute for international & global affairs.
  12. Cagaptay, Soner, p 2
  13. Cagaptay, Soner, p. 4
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IvyPanda. 2019. "The Kurds in Modern Iraq." May 22, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-kurds-in-modern-iraq/.

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