The Kurdistan Independence Referendum and Insincerity of the Free World

After the First World War, the Kurds have been divided in the Middle East. The countries that ruled Kurds denied their basic rights for a century. The Kurds in have been subject of extermination and annihilation in all parts of divided Kurdistan.

The Iraqi regimes were more extreme towards Kurds and they have used forces whenever it was possible for them and exploited Kurds from basic rights. Only during Saddam Hussein, more than 200,000 Kurds were killed. However, the international community and human right organizations were kept silent. Personally, I lost 55 members of my family during the Anfal genocide and they were buried alive. We never even found their remaining.

As Iraq committed all forms of crimes and repression against Kurds, the countries have done nothing to protect Kurds. However, when it comes to the right of self-determination, the United Nations and some other countries are intervening and criticizing the process.

A Kurdish man walks between coffins draped with Kurdish flag containing the remains of victims during a burial ceremony in Sulaymaniyah, northeast of Baghdad, 28 May 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Stringer)
A Kurdish man walks between coffins draped with Kurdish flag containing the remains of victims during a burial ceremony in Sulaymaniyah, northeast of Baghdad, 28 May 2012. (Photo: Reuters – Stringer)

The independence referendum in Kurdistan Region of Iraq is scheduled to be held on 25 September 2017. Right after the announcement by the Kurdish authorities, there have been some reactions towards the process. Some of the reactions were lenient and other were harsh exclusively Iran. Surprisingly, the U.S. and Iran for the first time aligned against the expected independence referendum in Kurdistan Region; the Economist wrote “for once, American and Iran agree”. Other countries like Germany, Arab League, and UK requested from Kurdish leadership to postpone the referendum and restart negotiation with Baghdad. The United Nations that supposed to be neutral in such process and bide by its charter and declarations of human rights, demands from Kurdish authorities to postpone the independent referendum and it’s unfortunate since they should not take a side.

People celebrate to support Kurdistan Independence Referendum, Zakho Stadium/Kurdistan Region
People celebrate to support Kurdistan Independence Referendum, Zakho Stadium/Kurdistan Region

Actually, the right of the self-determination denotes the legal right to the nations in order to decide on their own destiny. It gives the right to every nation to decide their political status and form their own social and political life without interference of other nations. This right is also seen to be a fundamental instrument to protect nations from hostility of other nation states. It’s also a central principle of international law. Chapter 1, article 1, part 2 of the Charter of the United Nations clearly supports the right of self-determination for the nations. The resolution of the United Nations Charter as stated is “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.”

The article 15 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the other hand states that “everyone has the right to a nationality and that no one should be arbitrarily deprived of a nationality or denied the right to change nationality.”

Under the conditions of the United Nations Charter and Declaration of Human Rights, Kurds have an absolute rights to practice their freedom and right of self-determination. Therefore, Kurds struggled to practice the aforementioned rights for almost a century and always denied by the governments. If nothing united the authoritarian regimes of the Middle East and Western so called democratic governments, avoiding the right of the Kurds did.

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Houari Boumediène and Saddam Hussein in Algeria at 1975 for register 1975 Algiers Agreement.
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Houari Boumediène and Saddam Hussein in Algeria at 1975 for register 1975 Algiers Agreement.

The Kurds hoped for the support of the United States government more than others. They expected a very lenient reaction from the United States since Kurds led the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq fulfills U.S. interests in the region, but their current stands is really upsets Kurds as a reliable partner in the Middle East. The United States is believed to lead free world and promote human rights and global democracy; but, their current position towards expected independence referendum in Kurdistan is apprehensive. It’s not rational to petition democracy somewhere, and position against a nation to practice their natural rights. The liberty and human rights is not proportional but it’s a conclusive process. Once you call for democracy, you need to abide by its principles. The US government did not position against Scottish Independence Referendum on 18 September 2014, but when it comes to Kurds, they ask to postpone! I don’t understand this controversy.

The United Kingdom on the other hand allows Scottish people to held independent referendum, but when it comes to Kurds, they ask to postpone! My question here is, how it’s possible for a country to allow its citizens to practice their rights of self-determination, but rejects the same right for other nations elsewhere? Its really a charlatan democracy.

The German and French government, the long standing partners of the Kurds, also expressed their concern towards the upcoming independence referendum and believe its not the right time for Kurds to held independent referendum, but to resolve the issues with central government of Iraq. Actually, they are either misunderstood or they don’t want to understand the root of the issue between Iraqi government and the Kurds. The problem could be resolved only if the Kurds practice their rights of self-determination. The Iraq government could not be trusted and the Kurds have a century of experience with all their hollow promises. The Kurds already understood that the issue will not be resolved unless to separate from the country that committed genocide against its people and do not hesitate to repeat the history whenever possible. I also wonder why these countries don’t comment on incoming Catalan Independence Referendum scheduled on 1 October 2017.

Rallies in Support of Catalan Independence Referendum
Rallies in Support of Catalan Independence Referendum

The free world should stand by the principles of democracy and freedom. They should understand and support the right of suppressed nation. Unfortunately, their position towards Kurds is very unlikely and contradicts basic principles of human rights, covenants and agreements they signed. The double standard policy of the international community extends the issues and creates more chaos and political instability in the region. Thus, Kurds should be allowed to form their own country and enjoy their freedom. By virtue of United Nation Charter and the United Nations Universal Charter of Human Rights, we have the right to determine our destiny and practice our freedom. We expect respect and support from free world.

About the Author
Nabaz is a lecturer at Lebanese French University. He obtained PhD. and Master degree in Public Management, UUM. He also holds a bachelor degree in Politics & International Relations, UKH. Nabaz is more interested to write on current political, economic and financial issues in the Middle East.
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