Michael Arizanti
Passionate about Kurdish affairs and human rights

A story about Norway’s and Kurdistan’s fight for freedom


A story about Norway’s and Kurdistan’s fight for freedom. From Norwegian renaissance for peasant culture over Sykes-Picot to a defense of Kurdistan’s freedom and independence. The Norwegian and Kurdish nationalisms have in common that they lack connotations of jingoism and xenophobia. The core lies in love for the country, the people and the language and the dream of self-determination.

From time to time I am asked why on earth I spend so much time and energy on Kurds, and activism for a free Kurdistan. My own side of the family indirectly thinks I’m ludicrous for not using my talents and abilities for other things, my wife’s side of the family is naturally proud that according to their statement she is married to a non-Kurd who is more Kurdish than most Kurds.

But if you look at my roots, it is perhaps not so strange that I have such a great fondness for Kurds and Kurdistan.

You see I grew up in Norway, and with it Norwegian nationalism. You see the word nationalism has a completely different meaning in Norway and Kurdistan than it has in Europe. Norway is a country with strong nationalist feelings, feelings that are very similar to the feelings of the Kurds who seek a free Kurdistan. Norwegian like Kurdish nationalism is associated with historical pride and has absolutely no smell of right wing extremism, as normal in other European countries. Norway was a colony of Denmark for a full 400 years, but it was only when Sweden had power over Norway that Norway’s struggle for independence really began, even if it started a little earlier in Norway during the 19th century. During the 19th century Norwegians started the work to create a Norwegian national identity based on the Norwegian peasant culture. This cultural nationalism had its sights set on Denmark, not Sweden. It was first and foremost a linguistic and cultural nationalism.

For the Norwegians, after solidifying their political aspirations for independence in 1814, the question of a distinct Norwegian identity became important. When urban culture gained prominence in the countryside as well, the rich cultural heritage of the Norwegian countryside was threatened. As a result, a number of individuals set out to collect artifacts from the distinctly Norwegian culture, hoping thereby to preserve and promote a sense of Norwegian identity, which they did.

Similar attempts to create a national identity based on language and culture were also made in Kurdistan at the end of the 19th century and until after the First World War. Kurdistan at the end of the 19th century and until after the First World War.

Kurdistan is a nation that consists of areas in northern Iraq, southeastern Turkey, northwestern Iran, northeastern Syria and formerly also southwestern Armenia – now Azerbaijan.

Kurds, who are the world’s largest ethnic group without their own nation, however, did not manage to create the national unity required to become free. Perhaps as a consequence of colonialism. You see a majority of the armed conflicts and wars of the last hundred years can be directly linked back to the Sykes Picot Agreement.

Drafted in the final years of World War I, the Sykes Picot Agreement was a secret agreement negotiated by British officer Mark Sykes and French diplomat François Georges-Picot. The agreement was ratified by France and Britain in 1916, dividing the Levant region into two spheres of influence after the end of World War I and changing the map of the Middle East forever. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the boundaries of the Sykes Picot Agreement were signed into law with the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920. This treaty originally set aside part of Turkey as Kurdish territory, but this decision was aggressively protested by Turkish nationalists, who went so far as to relocate thousands of Turks to parts of Kurdish-majority Turkey.

Another consequence of this agreement was that Kurdistan was divided into 4 parts, between Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

In 1923 the Treaty of Lausanne was signed by the Allied Powers which amended the earlier treaty. Lausanne formed present-day Turkey and set the northern borders of Syria and Iraq, separating ethnic groups and effectively crushing the Kurdish dream of forming a sovereign Kurdistan. But Kurds as a people have not given up their dream of freedom and self-determination, even if the major Kurdish parties now have a more pragmatic approach and seek self-determination in the form of federalism under the countries that occupy Kurdistan.

PRINCE MIR JALADET ALI BEDIR KHAN, 26 April 1893 | July 15, 1951. Public domain/Kurdish exile museum Stockholm

The best example of Kurdish linguistic and cultural nationalism is perhaps Celadet Alî Bedirxan, who, like the Norwegians, intended to use the Kurdish language as a tool to create a national identity and unity.

Mir Celadet is known to have been the first modern linguist to compile and organize the grammar of the modern form of the northern Kurdish language, Kurmanji, and to have created the Latin-based Hawar alphabet, which is now the formal alphabet of Kurmanji and is sometimes also used for the other dialects of the Kurdish language, having replaced the Arabic, Cyrillic, Persian and Armenian alphabets previously used for Kurmanji.

PAK Female Peshmerga Forces Photo Private

Kurds as a people are, for historical and religious reasons, largely a humanitarian people, and even though they have suffered countless genocides, massacres, terrorism like no other, they believe in peace and peaceful solutions. Just like the Norwegians, they wish to use peaceful and democratic methods first and foremost to achieve independence.

Although they are an extremely peaceful people, it can be added that Kurds do not hesitate to defend themselves if the situation calls for it, of which they have their self-defense forces called the Peshmerga (those who face death), the history of their Peshmerga stretches a full 300 years ago.

Since the days of Western colonialism, the West has always been on the wrong side of history when it comes to the Kurds.

It has consistently chosen to support rogue states such as Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran – partly because it has benefited the West, and partly because it has feared that Russia would gain more power and influence in these regions.

So when Kurds have been attacked with chemical weapons, when Saddam committed genocide against them, when Assad oppressed them in a way that belongs to the Middle Ages, when Turkey and Iran have committed mass murders of the Kurdish civilian population – the Kurds have never received that help and support they so need. And during the war against ISIS, a policy was designed by the West that would prevent the clients from becoming so strong that they could declare independence – not only by allying with the Kurdish Peshmerga, but also with their enemies. Kurdish Peshmerga were ultimately just used as mercenaries in a similar way that Russia uses its Wagner group (with the difference that the Peshmerga have never ever committed an act of terrorism and have never intentionally harmed civilians). That’s not how allies should treat each other. Although Syria and Iraq would most likely be under ISIS today, if it weren’t for the Kurdish Peshmerga.

All the injustices that the Kurds are subjected to, they have partly create themselves (due to decades of oppression have led them to be 100-200 years behind the modern world – politically), is what motivates me to continue standing up for Kurds and Kurdistan . The similarities between Norway’s resistance struggle between the 16th century and the beginning of the 20th century and not least during the Second World War and the Kurds’ struggle for independence means that I personally do not compromise with a free Kurdistan.

Michael Arizanti with the President of Kurdistan Freedom Party(PAK), General Commander of Kurdistan National Army(S.M.K) Hussein Yazdanpana. Photo Private

Defending the Kurds is defending humanity

As I said, I grew up in Norway. Norway is a country with a strong identity, with a clear Norwegian culture, a country that is proud of its history. Norway is also a country that fought long and hard for independence, mainly by peaceful means. That is the main reason why I love Kurds and Kurdistan so much. Kurdistan’s struggle against occupying powers reminds me a lot of Norway’s struggle, not least during modern history such as during the Second World War. In many ways, the Kurdish Peshmerga can be compared to the Norwegian resistance against Nazi Germany during World War II. All these similarities create a great admiration in me. So the moral way for me, is to defend the Kurds as they defending humanity, in the same way the Norwegian heroes during the Second World War not only fought for their motherland but also for humanity.

I am not just a human rights activist who stands up for Kurds who are oppressed by different regimes and powers. Today I am also active within Kurdish politics. I am now Kurdistan’s Freedom Party (Parti Azadi Kurdistan – PAK) – based in Rojhelat (northwest Iran) spokesman for Scandinavia.

A newspaper with a cover picture of Mahsa Amini, a woman who died after being arrested by the Islamic republic’s “morality police” is seen in Tehran, Iran September 18, 2022. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency)

We will not accept what has happened to the Kurds. Kurds see what happened to Mahsa Amini (Kurdish name Jina Amini) as an insult to their dignity and their honor. And the Kurdistan Freedom Party has for that reason participated and been driving the rebellion against the Iranian regime, and indirectly the Iranian state.

We are doing our best to help the people to continue and expand the protests. This is what we are working on. What is happening now should not be perceived as criticism of the Iranian regime. No, we wish to see the Iranian regime dead and buried. Iran’s bombardment of us (Iran has bombed PAK with over 35 ballistic missiles and countless kamikaze drones) only motivates us more.

Some wonder if the Kurdistan Freedom Party will start an armed conflict against Iran, or Irans attacks will be avenged. But we, for our part, although we are not afraid of the Iranian regime, want the protests to continue and expand. This is what we are working on. We will continue and expand the civil way, with peaceful democratic methods. But are also prepared and do not hesitate to protect ourselves, our nation and people.

Courtesy of PAK

Our Peshmerga fought ISIS. Like the Ukrainians, we are friends of the United States, and right now we are under Iranian bombardment and being killed. How can the international community remain silent? Remember when Hezbollah bombed Israel? How come they have such weapons? It is not Hezbollah, it is Iran that is the source. You must deal with the source of the weapons, Iran. We do not live in the era of imperialism, but Iran is an imperialist state. Iran wants to control the Sinjar mountains to place its missiles within range of Tel Aviv. It has bombed Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It has destroyed Yemen. So how can we keep quiet?

If Israel did not have a state of its own, there would be another holocaust. So having a state is the only way to guarantee the nation’s security and sovereignty. The Kurdistan Freedom Party wants a free and independent Kurdish state. How else are you supposed to survive in the long run the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism – Iran? How else can you cope in the long run against rogue states like Turkey?

It should come as little surprise that many Iranian Kurds would like to be able to govern themselves – either in an autonomous Kurdish region with its own governance and laws, similar to Iraqi Kurdistan, or in an independent new nation. In the same way that 92% of the population voted yes to an independent Kurdistan Region of Iraq in 2017.

Kurds continue to sing the unofficial national anthem of Greater Kurdistan at protests in Iran – a fact largely ignored by the wider Iranian movement. No wonder, given that the lyrics go:

Oh foes who watch us, the nation whose language is Kurdish is alive
It cannot be defeated by makers of weapons of any time
Let no one say the Kurds are dead, the Kurds are alive
The Kurds are alive and their flag will never fall
We are the sons of the red colour of revolution
Our history is one filled with blood
Let no one say the Kurds are dead, the Kurds are alive
The Kurds are alive and our flag will never fall

We are the sons of the Medes and Kai Khosrow
Our homeland is our faith and religion
Let no one say the Kurds are dead, the Kurds are alive
The Kurds are alive and our flag will never fall

The Kurdish youth has risen like noble warriors
To draw the crown of life with blood
Let no one say the Kurds are dead, the Kurds are alive
The Kurds are alive and our flag will never fall

I am concerned that the Kurdish protests have been hijacked. Western media gives more attention to famous Persian diaspora activists like Masih Alinejad, who have cozied up to Pahlavis, than the minorities who are most at risk and are killed every day.

PAK has 3,000 Peshmerga (“Those who face death” in Kurdish) soldiers. A third of them are women. Our Peshmerga have received training from, among others, the American and German forces that are part of the international coalition against the Islamic State.

We have also been fighting IRGC-backed Shiite militias operating on Iraqi soil, and have been in arms against the IRGC since 2016.

But the fight against Iran must be peaceful. The protest will only be successful if the free world openly supports the people and takes action against the Islamic Republic.

PAK considers itself a national liberation freedom party. PAK Peshmerga is fighting to achieve national sovereignty and security for all Kurds.

PAK is a centre-left political party. Their political program is based on visions of equality, democratic rule of law, peace and coexistence with other minorities living in the Kurdistan regions. We are a democratic, secular, pluralistic and parliamentary party that stands for human rights. Even though we are very secular, we believe in a parliamentary system that will respect all ethnicities and religious diversity within Kurdish society, based on the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Kurds are one of the most oppressed ethnic groups in the world. Israel has been a cause of instability in the region, leads to the question is whether a free and sovereign Kurdish state would lead to stability or instability. PAK believes that a reunification of Kurdistan in a peaceful matter will not only bring justice to the Kurds, but will be an important tool for creating stability and balance in the region. For example, nothing would weaken the Iranian regime more than an independent Kurdistan.

PAK sees Kurdish autonomy in Iraqi Kurdistan as a historic national and democratic victory for Kurds, a building block for a future independent Kurdistan.

Although the history of PAK is relatively short in the Kurdish context, PAK’s roots stretch all the way back to the Kurds battle against the Qajar Dynasty and the Kurdistan Republic of Mahabad. To date, PAK is the only Kurdish party that openly states that a free Kurdistan is their goal, and naturally they are the party for me.

Michael Arizanti honored with the patch of Kurdistan National Army by President of Kurdistan Freedom Party(PAK),General Commander of Kurdistan National Army(S.M.K) Hussein Yazdanpana. Photo Private
About the Author
As a seasoned writer and expert on Middle East Affairs, Michael Arizanti has dedicated his career to shedding light on the complex political and social issues that shape in the Middle East. With a particular focus on Kurdish Affairs and human rights, Michael Arizanti has become a leading voice in the field, offering insightful analysis and commentary on the most pressing topics of the day. Throughout his career, Michael Arizanti has demonstrated a deep commitment to promoting justice and equality for all, advocating tirelessly for the rights of marginalized communities and challenging the status quo. His work has been published in a wide range of prestigious outlets, and he have been recognized for his contributions to the field with numerous accolades. Whether writing about the latest developments in the Middle East or speaking out against human rights abuses, Michael Arizanti is a passionate and dedicated advocate for positive change. With a unique perspective and wealth of experience, he continue to be a driving force in shaping the conversation around some of the most important issues of our time.
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