March 14, 2003
A few days ago a wire report from the no-fly zone in northern Iraq carried a story about a displaced man from Kirkuk. The man was a Kurd. Kirkuk is a city in the Iraqi controlled Kurdistan, better known as an oil-rich place contested, for years now, between its Kurdish majority and the Arabs rulers. Like many things in Iraq, Kirkuk has had a face job for the worse. The Kurdish majority has been forced to either adopt the Arab identity, or pack and leave to make room for the country’s Arab majority. The displaced Kurd, the reporter noted, was asked to call himself an Arab. The reporter went on to write, the Kurd had told the Arab official, “I am a Kurd; I am not a bastard.” For his honesty, he was forced to leave the place of his birth.
For those who care about the future of Middle East and its relations with the Occident, the hapless Kurd’s response is quite telling. The Middle Eastern states that control the Kurdish populations — i.e., the Turks, Arabs and Persians — force the Kurds to call themselves, literally, bastards. They also work around the clock to bury Kurdistan, the homeland of the Kurds, among themselves for good.
As a Kurdish activist with ten years of political experience in the political of the political cities, Washington, DC, I have yet to meet or read about an Arab leader that will cede the supremacy of Baghdad or Damascus to the Kurds over their affairs or lands. The Turks who control half of our land and its population are no different than the Arabs, if not worse. Twenty million Kurds of Turkey, the Turkish constitution declares, are Turks. The Persians, the people who have perfected the art of simulation, call us, you need to read this sitting down, “the true Iranians”.
These are the ways of our oppressors who don’t want 40 million Kurds in their midst to have a voice of their own. They have partitioned a Texas size Kurdistan among themselves and are using every trick in the book to hold on to their plunder. We resent them for their brutality and effrontery and they know it. What galls us these days though is to find our deplorable situation play differently in America and its media as the drums of war beat ever more loudly.
Our dead in Iraqi Kurdistan, for example, have found room in the diction of conservative commentators who are ready to “avenge” us by going to a war in Iraq. Listening to some of these apologists of war, I get the feeling that if it were not indecorous, they would be shedding tears on the talk shows for the hapless Kurds. The adage that politics makes strange bedfellows can now cite another odd example, the emergence of the Kurds as companions for the sympathetic and powerful warmongers.
With such blatant use of the Kurdish dead for war, you would think that the liberal media and the pacifist community would embrace the Kurdish cause of self-determination if only to outdo the war group. Nothing of the sort has happened. I have joined the placard-carrying thousands in Washington, and watched intently those marching in London, Berlin and Rome for a mere sign of support for the Kurds. Mine has been the lone one. The indifference of activists has sometimes even taken a flight into the absurd when some have claimed that the no fly zone in northern Iraq is illegitimate. To my question, was the gassing of the Kurds by Saddam Hussein legitimate, no one has bothered to even respond to it?
This business of using the Kurdish dead for a war on Iraq or remaining indifferent to our aspirations took a turn for the bizarre when the Turkish parliament voted against the stationing of the American troops in the Turkish-occupied Kurdistan last week. The warmongers pointing to Turkey’s underbelly, half of our captive population, urged the White House to support, the rebels, with money, guns and ammo. But the Bush people want a recount from behind the closed doors. It fell on the comedians to note that the word recount, a dirty word in Florida, has made a remarkable comeback to the vocabulary of the people now occupying the White House.
Two-plus years ago, the fate of presidency was at stake in the Florida recount and now that of four million Kurds is at stake in Ankara. If the recount takes place and the Turks deliver on the second try, the Americans may have their Baghdad with ease, but the Kurdish experiment in self rule will come to an end by the Turks because the US could not be bothered with the Kurdish trifle and the Turks were too eager to devour it.
Some 2000 years ago, Tacitus, a Roman historian noted that, “Those who attend mere trifles [do] not disguise their responsibility for important affairs.” It is still not too late to stoop to the Kurdish trifle if President Bush wants to give a lasting push to freedom’s call in the Middle East and far more important to his own standing in the world today as well as in the future.