DEFENDING SOUTHERN KURDISTAN
Now that Turkey’s Parliament has sanctioned military action against the Kurdish Autonomous Region there is an immediate need to address appropriate responses regarding international response to such actions. The political leadership of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is facing an historic moment in the history of the national project of the Kurdish peoples. It options in addressing the reality extend beyond simply military responses.
The response of Syria supporting the Turkish resolution is an unwarranted intrusion into the current situation. The Islamic Republic of Iran has notably opposed a military intervention by Turkey and this may represent a significant counterbalance for Kurdish forces in the region in dealing with this one particular issue. Internationally, the United States has issued a statement that is singularly disconnected from the very real threat of Turkish military actions. There is precedent to this in the US government’s actions after the Persian Gulf War when it stood by as Saddam Hussein murdered Kurds fighting for freedom. Recently, neo-con columnists in the US have been adamant in opposing the PKK’s presence within the Kurdistan Autonomous Region and posing it as a provocation to Turkey.
One does need to keep in mind that the long war within Turkey against the PKK has never been accompanied by ANY political concessions regarding Kurdish cultural rights or national autonomy by the Turkish government. One might give them some credit for repealing penal codes that had resulted in the imprisonment of thousands after they had been implemented following the military coup of 1980 in Turkey. One could even applaud the repeal of the 1983 law outlawing the Kurdish language. But what was given up in 1991 was taken back with the “Anti-Terror Law” in 1992.
Never has Turkey been called to task for the forced displacement of thousands of Kurdish villages in Turkey or its use of emergency rule against Kurdish provinces. Never has it acted to repeal Article 301 in the Turkish Constitution making it a crime to “insult Turkishness” that provides the legal pretext for subjugation of the Kurdish culture and political rights. Never has it addressed the disappearing of over 3,000 Kurds between 1992 and 1993 or the torture and murder of hundreds of PKK and other Kurds. Now, the Turkish military moves are removed from the context of its thirty years of military repression against Kurds in Turkey. Clearly, the US is focused more on Turkey’s role as a conduit for US military supplies to its occupation forces within Iraq than it is in the real impact of a few thousand guerillas in the mountains.
The issue at stake remains the sovereignty of the Kurdish Autonomous Region and its right to implement Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution through the Kirkuk Referendum. It is evident that Turkey has not succeeded in its attempt to manipulate the Turkmen population within Kirkuk in a manner that could successfully defeat the vote to include Kirkuk within the Kurdish Autonomous Region. Violations of the border appear to be as lightly considered as human rights to the Turkish governing party and the military elite.
Clearly, Turkey is presenting itself as a nation that is NOT prepared to join the EU as a full partner through its continued denial of human rights and its efforts to undermine the KRG. Turkey’s actions now will demonstrate whether it can ever adopt policies required to meet the standards established by the European Parliament for full membership in the European Union. There is no “clear-and-present danger” that can truly be documented in regards to the PKK that can justify a Turkish invasion.
But, what can the international community do now in the face of Turkish determination to intervene in the affairs of another nation? Security Council Resolution 688 stands as a precedent for recognition of Kurdish grievances. But the issue in this case is not the one addressed previously about refugees fleeing from Saddam Hussein. Now the issue is clearly one of whether a member state of the United Nations is entitled to violate the territorial boundaries of another nation. The issue needs to be posed in the context of the impact of this invasion on the right to vote on the inclusion of Kirkuk and not simply accept undocumented accusations regarding the role of the PKK’s forces within the Kurdish Autonomous Region in attacks within Turkey. It needs to be presented in the context of the fundamental denial of Kurdish rights within Turkey.
In its resolutions on the Armenian genocide and the support of a federal system within Iraq the US Congress has shown that it is willing to confront the “uncomfortable” issues within the region without the current administration’s prevarications acting as its guide. It would be advised that Turkey take note of this as well. It is all very well to be indignant when it comes to a non-binding resolution concerning a crime not committed under its government’s auspices. It is quite different to disregard international opinion regarding actions that would further de-stabilize the region and incite not only domestic opposition but profound international repercussions as well.
It needs to be said that such an incursion is by no means a first for Turkey into Iraq, including a 1992 bombing raid of President Barzani’s campaign office. The air attack within Turkey following the 1992 Newroz New Year Kurdish demonstrations shows the resolve by the Turkish General Staff to attack any and all signs of resistance, whether peaceful or violent, whether in their own country or outside of their national boundaries. The Turkish General Staff’s impulse to attack its political opposition is not simply reserved for the PKK.
The Iraqi government needs to come to grips with its responsibility towards the defense of its Kurdish residents if it is to continue to present itself as the legitimate government of the Kurdish peoples living in northern Iraq. There is too long a record of others within Iraq standing by in the face of mass murders of Kurds for anyone to accept the good intentions of a Baghdad government on faith. We should all pay attention to how President Talibani is personally delegated in addressing these matters, as well as how the refusal of Turkey to recognize the KRG and President Barzani is addressed in negotiations. How can a central government obscure or deny the right of elected representatives of an autonomous region to represent their people in any and all negotiations that involve the welfare and future of Kurdish people? And how can that central government ever earn the trust and loyalty of the Kurdish people by acting in a way as to sacrifice them in the face of threatened aggression from without?