If we were to make a list of oppressed nations currently living under the yoke of injustice during the 21st century, we could not disregard the Kurds—who have suffered severe oppression, persecution, murder and destruction across their territories. Unfortunately, those behind their suffering are the ones who belong to same religion and ancestors as them. It is hypocritical that those who talk about human rights, justice, freedom and independence remain silent over the historical injustices Kurdish people have endured for decades. And it is all the more ironic when those who champion peace and justice are the ones who have deprived the Kurds of their rights and freedom.
Kurds have been denied their freedom and independence for a very long time. Post World War-II they were prevented from establishing an independent Kurdish state, and Kurds were spread across Iran, Iraq, Syria, Armenia and Turkey. This divide tore the Kurdish people apart, and the victorious wartime powers used it—like Palestine—to create a crisis in order to drain the resources and exhaust the energies of the people. The colonial powers not only succeeded in exploiting the Kurds but also in spreading hatred, resentment and mutual animosity between Kurds and Arabs; Kurds and Turks; and Kurds and Iranians.
Kurdistan straddles the borders of Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Armenia and Syria. The Kurds have a history of suffering at the hands of Arabs, Iranians and Turks, and now they are suffering at the hands of ISIS (Daesh), too—which is trying to control their villages in north-east Syria. At the same time, they are also targeted by Turkish land and air strikes in an attempt to prevent the establishment of an independent Kurdish state or region in Syria.
The founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, tried to turn the Kurds away from their culture by force as he made it illegal for Kurds to speak Kurdish; they had to abandon their religion, language and culture in favour of the dominant Turkish culture. In addition to that, the mainly Sunni-Muslim Kurds were oppressed by the Iraqi regime and denied many of their basic human rights. In March 1988, the Iraqi warplanes and artillery pounded the Kurdish town of Halabja in northern Iraq with mustard gas and the deadly nerve agent sarin, killing over 5,000 people—mainly women and children—in a single day.
Similarly, Iran has also played its part in the systematic genocide of Kurds by destroying many of their villages in the north-west and west of Iran. Now, on the fringe of the wider Syrian conflict, Turkey is threatening the Kurds and has deployed its armed forces along the border with Syria; the government in Ankara has openly declared that it will take serious actions if there are any attempts to establish a Kurdish entity in north-east Syria.
Whether Erdogan has really done something for Syrians is a debatable issue; however, it is highly ironic that Turkey calls for democracy in Syria, but it does not grant democratic rights to the Kurds and continues to oppress them.
Whereas Iran talks about liberating Palestine and also about the suffering of Rohingyas at the hand of the Burmese regime, but it never talks about liberating the Iranian Kurds. Iraq and Syria are no different to other countries which fall into moral contradictions.
Whether Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence vote leads to statehood remains to be seen but what is really surprising is that Iran, Turkey and Iraq—despite their conflicts over different issues—have all allied against the freedom of Kurds.
Ankara today stands together with Tehran and Baghdad—the same neighbours it had slammed for “Persian expansionism” and sectarian policies not very long ago. The Turks are hailing this trilateral front of Iraq, Iran and Turkey as a new Saadabad Pact—referring to the 1937 nonaggression treaty between the three neighbours plus Afghanistan.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi—who was previously told to “know his place” because he was below Erdogan’s “quality” and “level”—is now Ankara’s No. 1 partner against Iraqi Kurdistan. The Iraqi soldiers have now joined Turkish military in drills in fear of anything that leads to the creation of an independent Iraqi Kurdistan.
Besides these developments, Iran has once again tried its best to manipulate facts by referring to Iraqi Kurdistan as the ‘creation of second Israel.’ It is true that Iraqi Kurdistan might weaken Iran’s position in the region and allow Israel and others to create difficulties for Iran, but what exactly has Iran done to protect the Kurds who have closest ethnic, cultural, historical and linguistic ties to them?
Regardless of how strong or weak, this strange alliance might be, the international community must condemn the oppression of Kurds as well as supporting them in their struggle for independence. If a tiny state like Andorra can exist as an independent landlocked country with only a few thousand people, then why can the Kurds not have a land of their own? The Kurds have the right to live with freedom and establish their own entity—like any other nation in the world—as they are a people with a distinct culture and language. They have the right to assert themselves, manage their affairs and enjoy the rights and privileges enjoyed by other nations in the world.
Neither Arabs and Iranians nor Turks have the right to oppress the Kurds or to prevent them from achieving their freedom. It is an obligation for the Muslim world to do whatever possible to put an end to the suffering of Kurds. How can those who call for the liberation of Palestine from Zionist occupation leave Kurds as prey for Zionists and Americans to manipulate them as they please?
We as Muslims and moral human beings must support the Kurds in their struggle for self-determination—the same way we support Palestine and Kashmir.