Posted on July 11, 2016 by Dr. Sabah Salih in 1 Top News, Exclusive
KDP party leader Massoud Barzani. Photo: Rudaw
[size=11]Dr. Sabah Salih | Special to Ekurd.net[/size]
Thanks in large measure to the unintended consequences of America’s 2003 intervention in Iraq, the days of Kurdistan being an unknown or forbidden entity is long gone. The world over, Kurdistan today seldom needs a definition. This has given the people of Kurdistan—especially Southern [Iraq] Kurdistan—reason to be upbeat about their aspirations for independence.
Of course, Southern Kurdistan’s neighbors deeply miss those days when they felt it was their God-given right to do whatever they pleased with Kurdistan. Kurdish history records their gruesome accounts, including village burnings, mass executions, concentration camps, and decades and decades of assault on Kurdish language and culture. But now even these neighbors have come to realize, with a mixture of bitterness and resignation, that Southern Kurdistan’s independence is no longer a matter of if but of when.
Like many other regions of the world, Southern Kurdistan has never been a stranger to political paradoxes—except this time around the paradox could cause Kurdistan monumental harm. Internationally, militarily, and economically, this nation has never been in a stronger position—and yet it has never been so divided internally.
Historically, centrist Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has been the most popular, especially among the masses, and since 2003 it has become the most dominant politically. Whatever you think of him, this party’s leader, Massoud Barzani, has today become the de facto face of Kurdistan in the international arena. Its rivals—leftist Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and its splinter group Gorran (or Change) and several Islamist parties, understandably, resent that, and we all know what a powerful force for division resentment can be in human affairs. The drive for independence is led mainly by KDP. And that resentment has led PUK and Gorran to make a serious strategic blunder: They may not openly admitting it, but in reality they have thrown their support behind Tehran’s and Baghdad’s efforts to torpedo the independence drive by framing it, not as a legitimate national project, but rather as a strictly KDP project designed to simultaneously glorify its leader and deflect attention from economic and political difficulties. Taking their cues from their paymasters in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, the Islamists, likewise, have chosen to stand in opposition. The Islamist position is not surprising: Loyalty to Islamists has always meant loyalty to an Arab religion than to Kurdish nationalism and culture.
Though they don’t say so, it is obvious the other parties are trying to save a failed and artificial state—Iraq—at the expense of the people of Kurdistan. They never miss an opportunity to repeat the same lazy and outdated excuses (that Kurdistan is not ready for independence, that Iraq’s neighbors would oppose it, and that Kurdistan is part of Iraq). But they also try to put an intellectual face on their anti-independence stand—in my view, very wrong-headedly. Their reliance on the lofty vocabulary of post-nationalism—the idea that in the age of globalization nationalism has become obsolete—strikes me as hollow. The world over, it is still the national flag, the national anthem, the national sporting team, and the passport that define citizenry and national identity. The elites who put the European Union together in the seventies in the name of post-nationalism are only now beginning to realize that human beings by nature are nationalists, not post-nationalists, and that the days of post-nationalism may be centuries away.
What’s more, a nation must experience independence long enough before it can let go of it. Yes, globalization has been largely successful in making people in New York, Tokyo, Stockholm, and Erbil, more or less, dress alike; more or less, eat alike; and build and furnish their homes, more or less, in the same ways. But globalization has faced stiff resistance when it comes to issue of national sovereignty and national identity. The world may be on its way to becoming a global village, but that does not mean the end of nationhood is just around the corner. On the contrary, for generations to come, nationhood will continue to be a key factor in people’s self-definition.
Politics has always been a dirty business. America’s founding fathers said some terrible things about one another to advance their personal and party interests, just like politicians do today in democracies. But when it came to the vitally important question of independence, they had no problem speaking with one voice and presenting a steadfastly united front. They knew national interest had always to come before personal and party interests. Alas, some Kurdish politicians seem to have committed themselves to doing just the opposite. No matter how they try to justify or frame it, this is sure to go down in history as a clear case of national betrayal.