Turkey Takes Iraqi-Kurds Out of Way


Turkey’s Army crossed the border into Iraq on Oct. 19, 2011 to fight Iraqi-Kurds, because they had attacked and killed 24 Turkish soldiers in a raid staged on behalf of the Turkish-Kurd minority.

Although we hear about Kurds and a place called Kurdistan, the UN has no country by that name, and very few of us are aware of who the Kurds are, where they come from, or what they want.

Turks, Arabs, Persians, and Kurds are ethnic groups in the Middle East, who share a common Islamic religion, though some are in the Sunni Muslim branch, and others belong to the Shiite school.

The ethnic Kurds live in an area that spreads across Eastern Turkey, Northern Iraq, Western Iran, and Northeastern Syria. Kurdistan was ruled by the Turkish Ottoman Empire (1453-1918), until Britain seized it in WWI, and drew new borders that severed the Kurdish people into four countries. The Kurds resisted, as they fought for autonomy (1919-23), but the British Empire prevailed.

In Turkey, Turkish-Kurds made an early attempt to secede, but failed (1925). In Iraq, the Kurds fell under the control of the majority Arabs of the Sunni and Shiite Islamic faith. Since Britain created Iraq, the Arabs have refused to allow a separate Kurdistan, because the Kurds occupy the lands that have most of the oil.

After Iraq overthrew their king, a new 1958 constitution made the Kurds and Arabs equal partners, under a law that was to allow for an autonomous Kurdistan, but the dominant Arab Baath Party failed to deliver, causing the Kurds to launch a full-scale revolt (1962-64). The uprising ended with another pledge to create a separate Kurdistan, but yet another broken promise.

The Iraqi-Kurds used mortar attacks against the City of Kirkuk in 1969 to renew their struggle, until an amended constitution (1970) once more promised autonomy, but no change came. Iran, which had its own Kurdish minority, then started a surrogate war against Iraq, by feeding an Iraqi-Kurd insurrection (1971-74), which escalated into an Iraqi-Kurdish War (1974-75). The Iraqi Army shelled mountainous Kurdish towns, causing the Shah of Iran to open his borders to 250,000 fleeing Iraqi-Kurds. That war ended when Iraq cleverly convinced Iran to sign a treaty in which they jointly agreed to oppose their respective Kurd minorities (1975).

When Saddam Hussein seized power in Iraq in 1979, he kept control over the oil fields of Kirkuk, by subduing the Iraqi-Kurds. As his fragile peace with Iran frayed, however, Iran encouraged Iraqi-Kurds to revolt, prompting the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88). During this conflict, 60,000 Iraqi-Kurd served as guerillas in the fight against Iraq, while demanding a separate state. Hussein once and for all decided to demolish 1,276 Kurd villages, and to exterminate the Kurds with poisonous gases (1987-88). Although most of those asphyxiated were non-combatants, Hussein claimed a right to kill any insurgents who had been allied with Iran.

Following the Gulf War (1991), when Iraq was pushed back out of Kuwait, the Kurds seized another opportunity to revolt. But 700,000 of them ended up fleeing into the mountains, where American aircraft were needed to drop relief, under Operation Provide Comfort (1991). The U.S. also protected the Kurds by imposing a No-Fly Zone against Iraq, north of the 36th parallel.

Turkey subsequently launched an offensive against the Kurds, and helped Iraq, in the Iraqi-Kurdish Civil War (1994-97), by keeping the beleaguered Iraqi-Kurds from crossing the Turkish border.

When President Bush invaded Iraq in the Iraq War (2003), the Iraqi-Kurd minority finally thought the day had come for an independent Kurdistan, but Bush did nothing to create a new state, since the Shiite-Sunni Iraqi Arab majority and Turkey objected.

So today, it appears the Kurds will never have an independent Kurdistan in Iraq, Turkey, Iran, or anywhere else, since the neighboring states will not agree, and the world will not intervene on the side of the Kurdish minorities. The best hope for the Kurds is for the Turks of Turkey, Arabs of Iraq, and Persians of Iran, to grant equality to their respective Kurdish minorities, so attacks by and against Kurds may finally come to an end.

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