The Struggle for Kurdish Independence

December 5, 2017

CAMERA Fellow Danielle Adler.

During the Kurdish referendum in September 2017, Israeli flags flew high alongside Kurdish national flags. It isn’t a common image for Israeli flags to be seen in Iraqi territory. As the Kurdish people continue to fight for sovereignty, it parallels a similar story that played out several decades prior: the creation of the state of Israel.

The Kurdish independence movement is a long and complicated history. I am presenting a broad overview of some of the more recent events and in no way do I seek to undermine the long withstanding plight of the Kurdish nation.

The year 2005 marked the first major unofficial referendum for Kurdish independence and gave a near 98% favorability. Fast-forward to 2014 when an official national referendum was to take place, but was delayed due to on setting threats from ISIS.

Ensuing years of fighting united Iraqi and Kurdish forces in pushing Islamic State forces out of the region. Liberating Iraqi stronghold Mosul enabled Kurdish officials to refocus attention toward the referendum.

September 25, 2017 was declared the official voting date by Kurdish President Masoud Barzani and other Kurdish leaders and results flooded in with a 93% favorability. Kurds celebrated across the Middle East as the right to return finally became a near reality.

Yet three months later, it seems just as far away.

Photo: Ivor Prickett for NYT.

During the Kurdish referendum in September 2017, Israeli flags flew high alongside Kurdish national flags. It isn’t a common image for Israeli flags to be seen in Iraqi territory. As the Kurdish people continue to fight for sovereignty, it parallels a similar story that played out several decades prior: the creation of the state of Israel.

The Kurdish independence movement is a long and complicated history. I am presenting a broad overview of some of the more recent events and in no way do I seek to undermine the long withstanding plight of the Kurdish nation.

The year 2005 marked the first major unofficial referendum for Kurdish independence and gave a near 98% favorability. Fast-forward to 2014 when an official national referendum was to take place, but was delayed due to on setting threats from ISIS.

Ensuing years of fighting united Iraqi and Kurdish forces in pushing Islamic State forces out of the region. Liberating Iraqi stronghold Mosul enabled Kurdish officials to refocus attention toward the referendum.

September 25, 2017 was declared the official voting date by Kurdish President Masoud Barzani and other Kurdish leaders and results flooded in with a 93% favorability. Kurds celebrated across the Middle East as the right to return finally became a near reality.

Yet two months later, it seems just as far away.

National Iraqi military presence has since been increased in Kurdish, strategic cities near Mosul and Dahuk. Kurds were mandated to handover their two international airports. Iran has stationed military tanks and closed its open borders with the Kurds. This rapid military mobilization from opponents proves their unsettling fear of Kurdish sovereignty.

Kurds migrating into this new nation from across the region could spur mass political and economic destabilization. However, the right of return is not a foreign concept to the Middle East. Nearly seven decades ago, the Jewish people found their refuge by establishing Israel.

Throughout modern history, the Jewish people witnessed horrific genocide, persecution, and alienation around the world. In 1948, the United Nations spearheaded efforts for acknowledging a Jewish homeland and establishing the state of Israel. Israel has proven resilient in the face of neighborly unrest, whether it is through war or terrorism. Israel has defied many of the odds stacked against it.

Amid geopolitical tension, Israel remains an innovation and technology hub, advances its military capabilities, promotes international humanitarian work, and prospers as a thriving democracy.

Israel’s strength is a living testimony to the classic David and Goliath story. Its success can be a guide to a viable future for a Kurdish state. Efforts for Kurdish sovereignty are a clear indication of the continued right to self-determination and nation state building.

Contributed by University of North Carolina CAMERA Fellow and member of CAMERA-supported group Heels for Israel Danielle Adler.

 

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