By Joel D. Joseph. Mr. Joseph is an attorney who has litigated international treaties including the Panama Canal Treaty (representing 60 members of Congress), and enforced the Hague Convention in the
Hungarian Gold Train case.
To compensate the Kurds for our disloyalty to them and for allowing Turkey to invade their land, we should now support an independent Kurdish state.
Kurdistan contains more of the basic elements of a nation than Switzerland. The Kurds are one people, speaking one language. The Swiss have four national languages. The Swiss are divided roughly equally between Catholics and Protestants. In sharp contrast, the vast majority of the Kurds are Sunni Muslims. In addition, the Kurds were promised nationhood nearly one hundred years ago by the Treaty of Sèvres. Thirty-five million Kurds live in northern Iraq, North Eastern Syria, Southern Turkey and Northwestern Iran. Now is the time to recognize an independent Kurdistan.
More than 92% of the three million people who cast ballots in a recent Northern Iraq plebiscite voted "yes" to independence, according to official results announced by the Kurdish electoral commission. In addition, the Kurds have shown that they have the will to protect their homeland by helping to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Historic Role of United States in Supporting Self-Determination and Popular Sovereignty
Historically, the United States has supported independence and self-determination in South Sudan, Kosovo, East Timor, former British and French colonies, East Germany, Eastern Europe, Tibet, South Africa and Cuba. The U.N. enshrined the principle of "equal rights and self-determination of peoples" in its charter. Former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson emphasized these values in a speech to a meeting of the Community of Democracies in Washington. "We must support emerging democracies in the struggle to become nations that respect human rights regardless of ethnicity," he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to achieve their own state." Eliot Engel (D., N.Y), Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, came out in strong support of the Kurdistan region's "right to self-determination." U.S. Congressman Trent Franks (R. Arizona) said that now is the time to support Kurdish aspirations for independence. "While the Obama administration dithered and fought efforts to arm and support the Kurds, the Trump administration now has the opportunity to stand with a noble people in their time of need. A free and independent Kurdistan can represent hope for peace in the Middle East," wrote Franks.
A One-Hundred-Year-Old Promise
In 1920, the Treaty of Sèvres promised a Kurdish state that would have mirrored the boundaries of the present-day state envisaged by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The Kurdistan region was scheduled to have a referendum in the 1920s to decide its fate according to Articles 6264 of the Treaty of Sèvres. The Ottoman Empire, predecessor of Turkey, Russia, the United States, France and the United Kingdom, were all signatories of the Treaty of Sèvres. Unfortunately, the Treaty of Sèvres was never implemented. But it is not too late. The treaty can be implemented now to protect the Kurdish people and prevent a massive genocide.
Nation States are a Relatively Modern Development
Nation states are a relatively recent phenomenon. Italy and Germany did not become unified states until the middle of the nineteenth century. At the time of the 1789 French Revolution, only half of the people living in France spoke French. During the Italian unification, the number of people speaking the Italian language was even lower. In contrast, nearly all the residents of the Kurdish regions speak Kurdish.