An ethnic and linguistic minority in the Near East, the Kurds now live divided between Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, in a region unofficially known as Kurdistan, where they have always been the object of persecution and oppression. The Kurdish issue arose after World War I following the break-up of the Ottoman Empire.
Allies of the victorious countries, the Kurds waited in vain for the application of the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres which guaranteed them the right to a united state. But the division of the region of influence based on the economic and political requirements of the great powers led to the drafting of the Treaty of Lausanne, ratifying the partitioning of so-called Kurdistan between the various boarding states. As the “hinge” bordering with the Arab, Iranian, Turkish and Slav world, Kurdistan was at the centre of regional conflicts involving Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.
These conflicts influenced the Kurdish movement, fragmenting it into numerous political parties and inevitably compromising its compactness. It is no coincidence that Turkey, Iraq, Iran or Syria supported the activities of Kurdish political parties in bordering countries, with the intention of acquiring a predominant position in regions ruled by others. Since this is a territory rich in natural resources, especially water and oil, which support the fragile Arab and Turkish economies, the will of bordering countries to sponsor the birth of a Kurdish State has always clashed with economic and strategic needs. Another factor that greatly contributed to weaken this movement was the continuous diaspora of the Kurdish people, caused by the persecutions perpetrated in Kurdistan.
Furthermore, the extremism of the conflict resulted in the birth of real terrorist movements among which the most important is the PKK. The bitterness of the battle deteriorated over the years and at times became extremely cruel, as in 1980, when entire Kurdish villages in Northern Iraq were massacred using bacteriological weapons. The evolution of events, from the Treaty of Lausanne onwards, resulted in a final prohibition for the eventuality of a Kurdish state because since then deep rifts have occurred that would be difficult to overcome with an artificially created pan-Kurdish state. The issue therefore remains unresolved, as proven by the difficult situation in south-eastern Anatolia.
The Kurdish militant historian Darwish believes that it is necessary to “find a shared strategy for the whole of Kurdistan”, hence “the Kurdish national movement must be united around a political programme clearly indicating the movement’s national objectives, summarising the whole of the issue as one national problem of the Kurdish people. The international law scholar of Kurdish origin, Jasim, instead believes that to unravel this problem it is necessary to address the International Community, so the great powers assume responsibility for opening negotiations in the presence of all those concerned, both the Kurds and the States involved.
But the difficult equilibriums in the Middle Easter Region provide little space for UN intervention, a body more inclined to pose the question in terms of human rights. A number of Kurdish political organisations are aware of this, as stated by the former PDK leader, Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou: “A responsible political party must establish achievable objectives. In the current geopolitical situation experienced by the Kurds independence is unconceivable. Independence requires changing the borders of at least four states and in a region as sensitive as ours. The Kurds confuse dreams and politics. Every Kurd can dream of independence. We are asking for autonomy”.
Sources: www.storico.org; Dictionary of Islam, by Massimo Campanini, Ed. Bur, 2005.