Hugh Surdeau
May 24, 2010

Resolving the Issue of Violence in Kurdistan
Kurdistan is an area between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. Kurdistan’s terrain ranges from grassy plains to mountainous regions. Kurdistan is stretched over Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. This area is inhabited by a group of people called the Kurds; the Kurds are the largest ethnic group in the world not to have their own state. In 2005 there were an estimated 25 million Kurds. The majority of the Kurds are Sunni Muslim however there are examples from most major religions. Under the Ottoman Empire the Kurds enjoyed a semi-autonomous rule which lasted until the end of World War I. After WWI the Kurds where promised a nations but it’s more powerful neighbours took over the land.
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A map of Kurdistan and the surrounding areas

In the 1960’s, when many Turks had radical new ideas, many Kurdish Independence groups were formed, chief among which are the KDP, the PKK and the PUK. Between these groups there were many conflicts however the KDP and PUK became the most successful and currently organise some territory with Kurds in it. After this the PKK became primarily a terrorist group using violence to protest their cause. Within Turkey the PKK had been fighting for freedom until the 1980’s when the PKK where driven out of Turkey and had to hide in Syria. When the Syrian government accepted and encouraged the PKK the Turkish government pressured Syria to drive them out. After this many conflicts broke out involving the PKK. Many rationalized the killing of the PKK and many innocent Kurds by stating that the PKK were a radical terrorist group who should be destroyed; in response the PKK pledged to never hurt civilians in the 1990’s.
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PKK rebels in Iraq

In 1991 after the first Gulf War the Kurds mad a massive uprising in an attempt to overthrow the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein hoping that the US would support them. The rebellion failed and was quickly put down. Saddam Hussein proceeded to bomb the Kurds with poison gasses; one incident resulted in over 5,000 deaths, until the US created a no fly-zone which was used as a safe haven for the Kurds. With many civilians in one place this was an ideal opportunity for the PUK and the KDP to rulethe Kurds; this led to more violence which lasted until 1996 when a ceasefire agreement was created.
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The no fly zone where many Kurds live


By 2002 the Kurdish groups in Iraq started to work together towards a functional regional parliament within the no-fly zone. After Saddam Hussiens forced removal from power in to the Kurds took a big step towards political freedom and peace by winning 25 percent of the temporary parliament, yet tension still remained between the Kurds and Iraqi's. In 2005 Iraq elected its first Kurdish president, Jalal Talabani.
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Jalal Talabani addressing the public

Meanwhile the PKK continued to launch attacks into Turkey and in 2007 the Turkish military began bombing PKK camps in Iraq. These bombing continued and in 2008 Turkey sent ground soldiers into Iraq for an eight day ground attack. In early 2009 hopes of peace and diplomacy began as representatives of Iraq, the Iraqi-Kurdish community and Turkey for peace talks and negotiations. Turkey hoped to persuade the Kurdish government to pressure the PKK into ceasing its attacks and raids. Peace was established however no Kurdish nation was created as both sides insisted that they control Kirkuk, an oil rich region in Iraq. In 2009 Turkey attempted to boost Kurdish rights and was praised for it. In January 2010 Iranian police clashed with Kurdish rebels in the most recent violence which has caused more complications as negotiations continue.
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Turkish bombing planes attacking the PKK

Although relations with the Kurds and neighbour countries where improving greatly the Kurds still don't have the nation they want and some tension remains. Currently there are negotiations over Kurdish independence but it is unlikely that they will produce results.


The situation comes down to three sides:
Those who don't want Kurdish independence and strongly appose the Kurdish people.
Those who don't want Kurdish independence because they believe it would cause unnecessary instability in the area but support the Kurdish people.
Those who want Kurdish independence and strongly back the Kurdish group (or are Kurds)
Turkey, Iraq and Iran and their close allies are the countries who strongly oppose the creation of a Kurdish state and who dislike the Kurdish people. This is mainly due to the Kurdish claim to the Kirkuk oil fields and the major conflicts in the past which have ruined relations.
The countries that don't support Kurdish independence as they believe it would lead to instability in the area are mostly countries not located in the area such as the US. The claims behind this theory are that without a stable economy and government a Kurdish nation would take years and billions of dollars to stabilize.
The Kurds and Syria are the main supporters of the formation of a Kurdish nation.

Questions to consider:
1. How could this issue be solved with all sides in agreement?
2. Is violence necessary to solve this issue?
3. Should the UN violate any of their core ideas, such as state sovereignty, to solve this issue?


Kurdistan PSA









Works Cited

“Breaking a Turkish taboo and a lawLawmaker delivers speech in Parliament in native Kurdish.” International Herald Tribune: n. pag. Global Issues in Context. Web. 19 May 2010.
Encyclopedia of War Crimes and Genocide. Modern World History Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2010.
“Hussein, Saddam.”
Modern World History Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2010.
“Kurdish resistance against Iraq.”
Modern World History Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2010.
“Kurdistan Overview.”
Global Issues in Context. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 May 2010.
“Kurdistan Workers’ Party.”
Modern World History Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2010.
“With US support, a brighter future beckons for the Kurds.”
Independant: n. pag. Global Issues in Context. Web. 19 May 2010.