by Andy Braham
The Kurdish people, the largest oppressed ethnic group without a nation of their own, live throughout northern Iraq, southeastern Turkey, the very tip of Syria, and northwestern Iran. Kurds speak their own languages – three sub-dialects of Arabic – practice their own forms of religion, and have historically faced oppression by Sunni and Shiite governments alike.
On Sept. 25, Iraqi Kurdistan, a semiautonomous region of northern Iraq, held an independence referendum. With seventy percent turnout, over ninety percent of Kurdish voters supported for independence. Immediately following the vote, the Kurdish Regional Government called the allegedly non-binding plebiscite binding and declared independence.
The Turkish government, fearing that the Kurds might push for independence, restricted some trade with the Iraqi Kurdistan and threatened to cut off oil sales. A large portion of Iraqi oil flows through the Kurdish region and a heavy concentration of Iraqi oil wealth resides in the disputed city of Kirkuk. The Iraqi government then invaded portions of the disputed territory and took, with little military push-back from the Kurdish army, the Peshmerga. The Iraqi army most importantly took Kirkuk. The economic sanctions placed by the Iraqi and Turkish people have hurt Kurdish businesses, who rely heavily on imports.
The leader of Turkey, Tayyip Erdogan, met with Russian leader Vladimir Putin to discuss the Kurdish Crisis. Erdogan ominously stated that the Kurdish government “made a big mistake by holding the referendum” and must be prevented from “bigger mistakes.” Issues regarding this move for independence will probably not subside for some time due to the complex historical precedence of the vote. Not only is the first real possible move for Kurdish independence, it comes right after record amounts of political violence in the area, from the continued onslaught of ISIS to skirmishes with the Iraqi national government.
(Sources: CNN, Associated Press, Foreign Policy, Reuters)