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The Kirkuk Referendum

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The prospect for the independence of Kurdistan remains the only bright spot in the future of South West Asia. The fall of Saddam has opened a window of opportunity for the Kurdish people to establish their own state that is secular and democratic. Against them lies the theocratic interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the military dominated Turkey and the Baathist regime of Syria.

The first step is in Iraq. No people deserve the chance to self-rule more then the Kurds. Trying to maintain a centralized government in Iraq will be as elusive as trying to make a ball of water. The fragmentation that has resulted is the result of the partition of the Ottoman Empire after its defeat in World War 1. The Kurds were left out of that settlement despite promises to the contrary. There is that option, or there is the option for the expansion of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its linkage with its own sponsored private armies in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq.

At the present time there is a coalescing of Kurdish forces as has not been seen before in recent history. The PUK, KDP, PJAK, and Kongra-GEL are working together as never before. The issue of Kirkuk has arisen because of the displacement of Kurds by Saddam and the resettlement by Arabs from other parts of the region. The referendum is significant and worthy of support by the US government.
There are many who will oppose it, but they are not voices that deserve any right to have a decisive voice in the matter of the Kurdish right of self-determination. Even Turkmen in Kirkuk recognize the obnoxious role of Turkey in this debate regarding the right of return for Kurds to Kirkuk.
The Kurds have demonstrated their ability to self-govern. They have worked to promote democratic and secular rule. They have sought to resolve the issue of Kirkuk in a reasonable and democratic manner.

Let's recognize that and recognize the evolving Kurdish nation and its people who are seeking to be free. Is there any more just solution for a people who have endured so much suffering at the hands of both the Sunni and Shi'a? Is there a people who have endured a more oppressive occupation by the Syrians, the Turks, the Persians and the Arabs for so long?

The issue is what good we can do while we are someplace we don't belong. Empowering the Kurds is just about the only thing constructive that could come out of this war. There is no reason that Turkey should have the right to veto any decision that affects the Kurdish people. It has already demonstrated its animosity in its campaigns internally to deny Kurds their fundamental political and national rights. It continues to seek to divert the right of the Kurdish people to self-determination.

This referendum in December amounts to the ability to self-govern by Kurds and provides them with the ability to incorporate Kirkuk with the rest of southern Kurdistan. Now that Kurdish resettlement is taking place to alter the displacement of Kurds from Kirkuk by Saddam Hussein, there is a window of opportunity for Kurds. "According to Human Rights Watch, from the 1991 Gulf War until 2003, the former Iraqi government systematically expelled an estimated 120,000 Kurds, Turkmens, and Assyrians from Kirkuk and other towns and villages in this oil-rich region."

Remembering the poison gas attack at Halabja in 1988 let us compensate the survivors through recognition, not platitudes or apologies. "Independent sources estimate 50,000 to more than 100,000 deaths; the Kurds claim about 182,000 people were killed. Amnesty International collected the names of more than 17,000 people who had "disappeared" during 1988. [2] The campaign has been characterized as genocidal in nature, notably before a court in The Hague. It is also characterized as gendercidal, because "battle-age" men were the primary targets, according to Human Rights Watch/Middle East (hereafter, HRW/ME)."

The referendum will concretize an effort to remedy the crimes against the Kurdish people and demonstrate the willingness of the Transition Government of Iraq to make good on its commitments. "According to the Kurds, the conquerors of Kurdistan have tried to destroy the numerous Kurdish emirates one after the other. Apart from their historical claim for Kirkuk, the Kurds invoke Article 58 of the Administration for the state of Iraq for the transitional period, also known as Administrative Law of March 8, 2004 which is considered the interim constitution of Iraq by the now-dissolved Iraqi Governing Council. Article 58 states in part: The Iraqi Transitional Government shall act expeditious measures to remedy the injustice caused by the previous regime's practice in the demographic character of certain regions, including Kirkuk, by deporting and expelling them from their place of residence and forcing migration in and out of the region."

Justice for the Kurdish people is a prerequisite for Americans whose military has caused such chaos and destruction. Kuristan remain a blossom that is flowering amidst the devastation.
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Martin Zehr is an American political writer in the San Francisco area. He spent 8 years working as a volunteer water planner for the Middle Rio Grande region. His article on the Kirkuk Referendum has been printed by the Kurdish Regional Government, Another article was reprinted in its entirety by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) He is a Contributing Writer to Kurdish Aspect more...)

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