Kurds can be considered one of the most ancient peoples in the Middle East. But unlike Armenians, Assyrians (Aisors) or Jews (Jews), the Kurds were not lucky. Only in antiquity did the Persian-Kurdish state Media exist between the Persian Gulf and the Kurdish Highlands. Even today, Armenians and Kurds coexist in these lands, despite the genocide and other tragedies of the 20th century.
On one of the peaks of the Kurdish ridge is the famous Mount Ararat, where after the Flood the Noah's Ark landed. Experts believe that the Kurdish people consists of several subethnos, differing in language, culture and religion. By origin, they are more Iranians than Arabs or Turks. In total, there are more than 40 million in the world. In Turkey there are more than 15 million. There, the Kurds constitute the second largest ethnic group for which the Turkish authorities do not recognize their national rights.
Under the terms of the Treaty of Sevres and Lausanne imposed on Turkey, after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Kurds were granted the right to national autonomy. But promises remain promises. I had to wait for this almost 100 years. During this time, Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran managed to divide Kurdistan among themselves. Quasi-state education in the 21st century was managed to be acquired only in Iraqi Kurdistan. Many people know the lines from Mayakovsky's “Left March” “There is grief beyond the mountains - there is no end to the sunny land”. I have always associated them with the sunny country of the Kurds.
On the map of the Soviet Union, born in 1922, appeared such autonomy as “Red Kurdistan”. At the same time, in 1920, the Ararat Kurdish Republic existed in Turkish Kurdistan for three years. And in 1945, in Iran there was an attempt to proclaim the Mekhabad Republic, which existed for less than a year - from January 22 to December 16, 1946.
Among the Kurds, the idea of creating an independent state has always been popular in all the territories inhabited by Kurds - in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran. Ethnic-religious issues introduce additional difficulties in solving this problem. Some of the Kurds are Sunni and Shiite, and some preach Islam-Alevism, Yezidism and Christianity. Many Kurds withdrew from religion, adhering to the left, pro-communist views. As “infidels,” the local authorities constantly harassed and even repressed them.
History The Kurdish issue has much in common with the other longest (Palestinian) conflict in the Middle East. But the Kurdish problem has broader temporal and spatial dimensions. The participants of various international scientific forums and conferences constantly reminded about this. Kurdistan becomes not so much geographical as geopolitical "apple of discord."
I also had to participate in one of the forums held at the Kurdish Parliament meeting in Oslo in 1997. At a later-organized conference, the Russian Society of Solidarity and Cooperation of the Peoples of Asia and Africa (ROSSNAA) invited Ali Kazi, the son of the executed first president of the Kurdish Meghabad Republic, Kazi Mohammed, to Moscow. Growing up without a father, Ali Kazi became a famous Kurdish scholar and public figure. He is a descendant of the first and last president of the Makhabad Republic hanged in 1947. This gave him the right to call himself the same age as the Kurdish Republic in Iran.
His father, Kazi Mohammed, could leave Mekhabad following the Soviet troops leaving Iran at that time. Incidentally, Mustafa Barzani, the founder of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Iraq, did the same (in the 1946, he hurried to the aid of Mehabad from neighboring Iraq). Barzani emigrated to the Soviet Union, feeling responsible for the life of the fighters who came with him with their wives and children. Kazi Mohammed could not do that.
In the then proclaimed Iranian Azerbaijan with its capital in Tabriz, more than 30 thousand Azerbaijanis perished. Kazi did not want the Kurds to suffer the same fate. “My father,” said Ali, “having assumed all responsibility, saved thousands of his countrymen from death. The captain can not leave the sinking ship with passengers. By sacrificing himself and his relatives, his father was able to avoid such great sacrifices. ”
At that conference, much was said about the close connection between the fate of the Kurds and the peoples of the Caucasus. Therefore, I called my report at the on-site session of the “Kurdish Parliament” in Oslo: “Russia and Kurdistan are twinned with fate”. The report recalled that the beginning of the Cold War coincided with the birth of the Mekhabad Republic in Iran.
This was discussed in the preface to the collection “Kurds in the flame of war”, which I wrote. The collection includes fragments from the fundamental work of the well-known Russian Kurdish scientist Vladimir Nikitin, who lived in France, “Kurds”. The Russian scientist explained the essence of the Kurdish issue by the absence of the Kurdish state, the disunity of the Kurdish people themselves and last but not least by the competitive struggle of the great powers for their natural, primarily oil and water wealth. Something similar can happen again now, after the holding of a referendum in Iraq on the establishment of a Kurdish state.
Kurds lived a lot before the revolution and on the territory of the Russian Empire. Most of them were in the Caucasus. The Kurds and Armenians, who suffered most during the First World War (and in the following years) from the genocidal policy pursued by Ottoman and Kemalist Turkey, could be (and later became) allies in the struggle against the common enemy, including the Caliphates banned in Russia, the terrorist organization LIH.
Both in Turkey and in Iraq and Syria, the rights of the Kurds were also limited even in the use of their native language. Not surprisingly, the prohibitions on the lifestyle of the Kurds met with a response. This largely explains the phenomenon of the leftism of the Kurds.
In 1960-ies in Turkey, on the basis of the banned Communist Party, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) was created. After the arrest of its leader Abdullah Ocalan, she was declared terrorist. Before that, the underground Turkish Communist Party was half Kurdish. The Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet also told me about this.
The most numerous communist parties in Syria and Iraq in the Arab world were also led by the Kurds Khaled Bagdash and Mohammed Aziz. Kurd Jalal Talabani was elected the first president after the Iraq war. He was also the creator of the Democratic Union of Kurdistan (DSK), who previously competed with the KDP Mustafa Barzani. Then both parties collaborated in the composition of the general parliament of Kurdistan. But Mustafa’s son Masud Barzani headed the Kurdish autonomous region, and his nephew Nachirvan Barzani led the autonomy government. The autonomy authorities managed to temporarily establish business contacts not only with Turkey, but also with some other, including European, states. This was the case before the emergence in Iraq and Syria of the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” (ISIS, banned in Russia). First of all, it hastened to seize the oil fields of Iraq and Syria (in the area of Mosul and Deir-ez-Zor).
Recall Abdullah Ocalan was sentenced to death in Turkey in 1999 year. The foreign press explained at that time the decision taken by the Kurds to temporarily cease the struggle with the desire to save the life of their leader. This may have influenced the decision of the Turkish authorities to replace the death sentence with life imprisonment. In a defensive speech for the European Court of Human Rights, prepared in imprisonment, Ocalan tried to justify the willingness of Turkish Kurds to abandon the separatist goal of the struggle. He called on four states - Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran to solve the Kurdish problem by creating a Democratic Federation of the Middle East, within whose borders the Kurds agreed to be granted the status of self-governing autonomy.
Turkey has always opposed the recognition of the Kurdish right to national self-determination. In contrast to the Iraqi Kurds, from time to time seeking internal autonomy, the Kurds in Turkey were actually excluded from the number of local national minorities. Ankara has always adhered to the “National Vow” declared by Ataturk in 1920 year in the national question, which contained the conditions of peace with the allies and the requirement of complete independence of Turkey. The Kurds were called “mountain Turks” in it. Pan-Turkism was already a special hybrid of religion and Islamism in Turkey.
It is believed that during the armed struggle of the Kurds, at least a million were killed at the hands of punishers in 1920 and 1930 in the Kurdistan Region alone. Given the total losses in the two world wars, the total population of the Kurdish population could have exceeded more than 1960 million people in the 40-s. I remember this figure well from a letter to Nikita Khrushchev from Mustafa Barzani, who in 1963 was forwarded by me through Alexey Adjubei to Moscow. The letter was written by hand in Russian with many errors and funny expressions. For example, instead of "Russia is my second fatherland," it was written: "Russia is my second father."
The Kurdish member of the Syrian parliament, Fuad Kadri, who smuggled this message from Iraq to Damascus, smiled and then explained to me the hidden meaning of these words. Somewhere in the village near Ryazan, Barzani, it turns out, had a daughter from a Russian woman. Mustafa Barzani, naturally, through his fatherhood, felt a close relationship with Russia, as his second homeland ...
The division of Kurdistan's land among several states created extremely unfavorable conditions for the realization of the right to self-determination. Nevertheless, the Kurds were able to maintain their mentality, heightened national identity, rich culture and ancient traditions.
In recent years, Turkey has sought in various ways to reduce the urgency of the Kurdish problem, preventing the emergence of independent Kurdish entities both in Turkey itself and in neighboring countries. Ankara, in agreement with the leadership of Iran, Iraq and Syria, has repeatedly taken joint military, political and diplomatic steps against the Kurds living abroad. Already in the 1980-ies between Turkey and Iraq, an agreement was reached on granting the Turkish armed forces the right to pursue Kurdish rebels in Iraqi territory to a depth of 10 – 15 km from the border. But this was not all. The Turkish army has repeatedly and previously violated the Iraqi border, attacking Kurdish settlements, strongholds in northern Iraq, going deeper into 40 and more than a kilometer. So, even before the introduction of Turkish troops in the area of Mosul, there were plenty of such precedents.
After the Iraqi Kurds in 1991, using the “Desert Storm” operation, rebelled against Baghdad, the Turkish authorities decided to extend the state of emergency to much of East and Southeast Anatolia.
HARD ACTIONS OF ANKARA
Ocalan at one time proposed the idea of convening a regional Kurdish peace conference with the participation of representatives of Kurdistan, the government of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. He suggested inviting international observers. But Öcalan’s appeals did not find a response from either the Turkish authorities or other radical Islamist organizations.
The November 2009 2002 year after the Pan-Turkic Justice and Development Party (AKP), which won the Turkish elections in Turkey, the government of Recep Erdogan found itself in a very difficult situation. At first, it promised George Bush to support the American “Desert Storm” military operation in Iraq, but did not specify whether Ankara was ready to help solve the Kurdish problem.
From time to time, a ceasefire ensued between the central authorities and Kurdish militants. But the attacks in Ankara later served as a pretext for intensifying hostilities. Mass purges were carried out in Kurdish settlements - with the killing of civilians and the arrest of any suspected of involvement in the Kurdish movement. In response, the Kurdish troops resumed attacks against the Turkish security forces, whose victims were about two hundred police and military personnel. It came to the point that the Turkish aviation and artillery attacked the positions of the PKK and self-defense units in Syrian Kurdistan. In mid-January 2016, six Turkish fighters launched airstrikes on their positions in northern Iraq. In Syria, after an incident with a Russian aircraft shot down, Moscow deployed S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems, which is why the Turks could no longer bombard the Kurdish militia.
NEW FRONT OF FIGHT
In the ethno-geographical space of historical Kurdistan, the increasing role of the geo-economic and strategic components of a very complex Middle Eastern conflict node was clearly traced. This created a threat to the state integrity of not only Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, but also Turkey itself.
The geopolitical history of present-day Kurdistan is intertwined with the struggle of coalitions fighting not only against international terrorism in the form of ISIS or Dzhebkhat al-Nusra (both organizations are banned in the Russian Federation), but also among themselves.
In 2003, the son of Mustafa Barzani, Masud, visited Moscow. He discussed the development of business and cultural relations. Answering the question of what the Kurdish autonomous region in Iraq would officially become, Masood resorted to the Kurdish proverb: “There are five fingers on one hand, but the pain in each of them is one.” We decided that this hinted at the proposal of Abdullah Ocalan to create in the future in Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria a five-subject Federation consisting of the existing four states and a new republic of “Free Kurdistan” with a mixed population (Arabs, Kurds, Turkomans and others). Whether they all get along with each other is a big question!
Islamic groups of ISIL (as well as Junoud al-Islam, Al-Qaida of Iraq, Dzhebhat al-Nusra and other terrorist organizations banned in the Russian Federation) have always sought to paralyze the work of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the Kurdistan Patriotic Union (PUK ) and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) up to the physical elimination of their leaders.
In the conditions of the civil war in Syria, the local Kurds could not stand aside. At first they distanced themselves from the regime of Bashar al-Assad and from the opposition forces. Numerous parties and groups operating in the Kurdish areas soon merged into the Supreme Kurdish Council. Self-defense units managed to take control of a significant part of the Syrian-Turkish border.
In my opinion (as one of the members of the Society for Solidarity and Cooperation with the Kurdish People), it’s time to resume all-round cooperation, including military, with Kurdish forces. This would enable interaction with our groups of GRU special forces, which in one way or another are already involved in Syria. The same opinion is shared by the director of the Center for the Study of the Countries of the Middle East and Central Asia, Semyon Bagdasarov.
As for the Kurds themselves, they have repeatedly expressed a desire to continue our previous cooperation. Otherwise, the Kurds can finally reorient themselves to America and Israel.
Only about 3 million Kurds live near the border with Turkey in Syria. As our Syrian friend Salman Salame told me, already in the first year of the crisis, almost all Kurds from Damascus and other regions of Syria moved there. The “National Self-Defense Forces” of the Kurdish Autonomy of Syria (UAN) numbered at least 60 thousand fighters. UAN units took key positions near the Turkish border, including the cities of Kobani, Hasake and Tel-Abyad. Syrian Kurds have their own detachments - the Peshmerga, women's battalions and brigades in which teenage girls are fighting.
The CAS units form the basis of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PDS) created. It interacts with the troops of the Syrian Democratic Army (ATS) and the Syrian Free Army (SSA). These formations (together with the Turkish PKK and the Peshmerga troops in Iraqi Kurdistan), unfortunately, Ankara considers as its enemies, although the United States, on the contrary, is trying to interact with them. This partly explains the aggravation of relations not only between the Kurds themselves, but also between Ankara and Washington.
It is possible that Turkey actually wanted to participate in the creation of one or another caliphate under its auspices in order to oppose the Kurds, Alawites and Shiites in neighboring Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and in Eastern Turkey.
It can be assumed that Bashar Asad, giving evasive answers to journalists' questions about solving the Kurdish problem, hoped to use it in the future as a bargaining chip in the war with the rebels and the opposition. To this end, he may have allowed the Kurds to create popular squads in the north of Syria, which complement the official law enforcement agencies. The statement of the Kurdish leaders about their consent to internal autonomy without secession from Syria also speaks in favor of this option. True, the leadership of Syria does not currently have sufficient resources to simultaneously resist Kurdish separatism and fight the rebels.
Representatives of the Kurdish parties held a meeting in Erbil in June 2016, where they called for the creation of a Kurdish federal state (KFG). By July 2017, the Kurds controlled virtually all of the areas they challenged Baghdad and Damascus in power. Not allowing the Caliphate to move north and east, the Kurds paid with their blood for the liberation of Mosul and Aleppo. They are not going to leave their lands.
Political observers believe that the proclamation of any form of the Kurdish state in these circumstances can not arrange even Washington. If the Kurds have another national autonomy in Syria, this will be a response to the creation of "buffer zones", which are created by Ankara to invade the border areas of Syria.
WILL HAVE TO CHOOSE
It may also happen that the Kurdish state recognizes only Israel (not by chance after the referendum, the residents of Erbil were jubilant, waving the flags of Kurdistan and Israel). Even the President of Turkey pointed to the duality of the situation in northern Iraq. Nevertheless, some analysts admit that the issue of the formation of the Kurdish state may again become aggravated after the defeat of the Caliphate, for example, in northern Syria. Sooner or later, the international community will have to choose between respecting and protecting the integrity of existing states and the right of nations to self-determination. It is difficult to say whether the example of Kosovo will repeat in the Middle East or the Kurds will go the other way ...
With all the intricacies of the current situation, Turkey may lose much more than Syria. In addition, Ankara may add not only a problem region in neighboring Iraq, but also in northern Syria and eastern Turkey. Over time, this could be an example for the Kurds in Iran.
By the way, it was during the “Storm in the Desert” war that the Kurds in Iraq managed to achieve real recognition of their autonomy by Baghdad.
The September 25 2017 referendum on creating a Kurdish state (for the first time in history!) With undetermined borders (especially in the Kirkuk region) can completely change the political map of the entire Middle East. The world order in this region is still very far away. Especially, if we consider the frozen Arab-Israeli conflict with the unsolved problem of Palestine, the war of terror-antiterror that was not completed there (not only with ISIS). In such circumstances, the appearance in Iraq on the border with Turkey, Iran and Syria of the Kurdish state that they do not recognize clashes with the interests of Israel and the United States. Their support in the northern Syria of the opponents of the Assad regime (not only in the battles for Deir ez-Zor, but also on the other side of the Euphrates), in particular, the Syrian Democratic Army (SDA), is not accidental.
The new epic can be comparable to the protracted war in Afghanistan, in the Middle and Near East. Neither the Pashtunistan state in AFPAK (the region of Afghanistan-Pakistan with the Pashtun population is called this way), nor the Palestinian state in the Holy Land, nor Baluchistan or Kurdistan in Iran.
In general, the situation in the Greater Middle East resembles a well-known Russian proverb: “They pumped, swung (in this case, oil. - L.I.) and started again” ...