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Conflicts in the Middle East: the Kurdish national question.

THE Kurds are the largest minority in the Middle East which has been subjected to national oppression in countries where they reside. The Kurdish struggle for autonomy has been a most explosive component of the national liberation struggle in the Middle East. The Kurds have been fighting for autonomy in their respective countries since the First World War. Kurdish nationalist thinking has defined the Kurdish movement: |The Kurds constitute a single nation which has occupied its present habitat for at least three thousand years. They have outlived the rise and fall of many imperial races: Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Mongols, Turks. They have their own history, language and culture. Their homeland has been unjustly partitioned. But they are the original owners, not strangers to be tolerated as minorities with limited concessions granted at the whim of usurpers'.(1) The overwhelming majority of the Kurds live in Turkey, Iraq and Iran and their struggle against national oppression and for autonomy in one country has contributed to the development of the struggle in the other country.

The Kurds are a distinct ethno-linguistic community residing primarily in Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria as well as Lebanon and the former Soviet Union. There are no precise data to show the exact number of the Kurdish population. The Kurds claim that there are approximately 20 million Kurds in the Middle East but a conservative estimate in 1980 indicates that there are approximately 16,320,000 Kurds. The following table shows population distribution of the Kurdish communities in 1980.
Country Total Population Kurds Percentage
Turkey 44,500,000 8,455,000 19
Iraq 13,500,000 3,105,000 23
Iran 37,700,000 3,701,000 10
Syria 9,200,000 734,000 8
Lebanon 2,981,000(*) 60,000 2.1
USSR/CIS 264,519,000(*) 265,000 0.12
 Total 16,320,000
Sources: David McDowell. The Kurds (London: The Minority Rights Group, 1985),
P-7; (*) CIA. National Basic intelligence Factbook (Washington, DC. 1980),
pp. 111-201.

The majority of the Kurds are Sunni Muslim and speak their own language -- Kurdi. Although the Kurds do not have an independent nation of their own, they have always aspired for an independent nation -- Kurdistan. Prior to the First World War the Kurds were divided between the Ottoman and Persian empires. In the post-war Treaty of Sevres, the Allied powers promised to create an independent homeland for the Kurds.(2) The Sevres Treaty was signed by representatives of both the Allied and the Turkish government in August 1920 but it was not endorsed by the Turkish National Assembly. In November 1922 the Turkish monarchy was overthrown and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk seized power and suppressed the Kurds' struggle for self-determination. In the post-war period the Kurds were further divided. Small enclaves were incorporated into French dominated Syria and the Ottoman province of Mosul, occupied by the British as the war ended, annexed to the British dominated Iraq.

The Kurds enjoyed a measure of freedom in the Soviet Union. They had their own schools, textbooks, press and a radio station broadcasting programmes in Kurdish language for the entire Kurdish community in the Middle East. The Kurdish population is relatively small in Syria and Lebanon. They had effectively been assimilated into the dominant Arab culture. However, most Kurds may speak their own language, they are |either half or wholly arabicized, that is they feel they belong now to the local Arab culture.'(3) The Kurds had been subjected to national oppression in Turkey, Iraq and Iran. The Kurdish struggle against national oppression has held sway across the Kurdistan landscape in these countries. In the past such struggles had flared up and retreated only to suddenly erupt again. In 1925 the Turkish government brutally suppressed the Kurdish uprising, killing approximately 250,000 people and executing their leader, Shaikh Sayed. After suppressing the Kurdish struggle the Turkish government embarked upon radical nationalist programmes intended toward turkicization of the Kurds. Everything that symbolized Kurdish identity was eliminated. The words |Kurds' and |Kurdistan' were crossed out of dictionaries, textbooks and official documents. The Kurds were referred to as |Mountain Turks'.(4) In 1932 the Turkish government passed a law which legalized the evacuation of Kurdish people from certain areas in eastern Turkey including the Anatolian region and transformed Anatolia into a military zone because of its proximity to the Soviet Union. The Kurds opposed the government evacuation policy which led to Kurdish armed struggle and lasted until 1938. Although the Turkish government succeeded in suppressing the Kurdish movement, the Kurdish struggle continued unabated until the outbreak of World War II.

The Kurds waged a similar struggle in Iraq in the immediate post-world War I period. The Kurdish tribal chief, Shaikh Mahmud Barzinji rebelled against British rule and declared himself King of the Kurdish community but was defeated and sent into exile in India. In 1922 the British brought him back to Iraq to use his influence to contain the growing Kurdish uprising. After helping the British, Barzinji began negotiating with them on the future of the Kurds. When the two parties did not reach an agreement, Barzinji led another Kurdish uprising. The British bombed Kurdish villages and towns in order to force them into submission. When Britain signed the Anglo-Iraq treaty in 1930, recognizing Iraq's independence and its control of the Kurdish region, another round of struggle broke out in the Kurdisb settled areas. In Spring 1931 Barzinji and his tribe rebelled against Baghdad which lasted until 1934. After Barzinji's defeat another Kurdish tribal chief, Mullah Mustafa Barazani led the Kurdish struggle and became a well-known leader in 1945.

The condition of the Kurds in Iran was similar to those of the Kurds elsewhere in the Middle East. Their aspiration for autonomy and the Kurdish struggle in the neighbouring countries motivated the Kurdish tribal chiefs to fight for self-determination. The first Kurdish uprising against Shah Reza, founder of the Pahlevi dynasty, was led by the Kurdish tribal chief, Ismail Shakkak Simko in 1922. Reza tried to reach an accommodation with him by offering him a limited autonomy. Simko demanded complete autonomy. The Shah led a successful expedition against Simko, defeated him and drove him into exile in Iraq. To consolidate his rule Reza ruthlessly supressed the Kurdish struggle for autonomy in the 1930s and early 1940s.(5)

In 1945 a number of middle-class Kurdish intellectuals formed the Kurdish Democratic Party-Iran (KDP-I). The party mobilized and directed the Kurdish struggle for autonomy and had succeeded in establishing the Mahabad Kurdish Autonomous Republic on 11 January 1946. During the founding celebration of the Republic, the Kurdish nationalist leader, Qazi Mohammad delivered a speech which revealed the nationalist ideology guiding the Kurdish movement. He said: |A salute to you, Flag, You who symbolize justice and law, we give our word that we shall live in unity and do away with strife forever. Flag, now you fly over only one part of Kurdistan. Tomorrow you fly over all parts, you will sweep away oppression and injustice'.(6) A great number of Kurdish nationalists and revolutionaries from Turkey, Iraq and Syria went to Mahabad to participate in the construction and development of the new Kurdish state. In early 1946 the Iraqi Kurdish leader, Mullah Mustafa Barazani, known as the Red Mullah, went to Mahabad and succeeded in forming the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iraq (KDP-Iraq) to direct the Kurdish struggle from exile.(7) In December 1946, Reza launched an offensive on the independent Republic of Mahabad and brutally suppressed the Kurdish resistance fighters, executed their leader Qazi Mohammad and eliminated a year-old Kurdish independent experiment. Barazani escaped the onslaught and sought refuge in the Soviet Union and remained there until 1958.(8) Reza imposed a strict surveillance on the Kurds, destroyed their printing presses and literatures, and prohibited the teaching of the Kurdish language.

In Iraq the monarchy was overthrown on 14 July 1958 and the country was declared a republic. The nationalist government of General Abdul Karim Qasim announced that it would carry out social, economic and political reforms and grant autonomy to the Kurds. Barazani and his supporters welcomed the change in Iraq and returned home after 11 years of exile from the Soviet Union. General Qasim allowed publications of books and newspapers in the Kurdish language. Barazani supported Qasim against his enemies, the monarchists. In doing so he earned the full trust and confidence of the Iraqi leadership and was rewarded with the restoration of his property and the legalization of the Kurdish Democratic Party KDP-Iraq). Barazani began to consolidate his authority by eliminating his Kurdish opponents. The Iraqi leadership perceived Barazani's growing strength as a threat to political stability in the country and began to

cultivate a counterbalance within the Kurdish community. Relations between Qasim and Barazani deteriorated when Qasim began deporting the Kurds from the oil producing region of Kirkuk. The Kurds resisted government deportation policies and rebelled against Baghdad. On 11 September 1961, the Iraqi army launched a full-scale war on the Kurds which lasted until Qasim was overthrown in 1963. The war took a heavy toll on the Kurds. It is estimated that 40,000 Kurdish houses were destroyed in 700 villages and approximately 300,000 people had been displaced.(9)

The failure of the Kurdish uprising caused a split in the KDP-Iraq in 1964. A new organization called the Kurdish Revolutionary Party (KRP-Iraq) was established and remained supportive of the Iraqi government. The KRP did not enjoy popular support and most of its rank and file members rejoined the KDP in 1970. In 1963 Qasim was overthrown in a military coup staged by the Baathist Party. The new government promised to consider Kurdish autonomy. After consolidating its base, the government ignored the Kurdish question, imprisoned their leaders, and suppressed the Kurdish movement. Kurdish defiance continued until the Second Baathist coup in 1968. The then Premier Saddam Hussein concluded a fifteen point agreement with the Kurds aimed at giving them greater local autonomy. When the government did not honour its agreement the Kurds resumed their struggle against Baghdad.

To maintain their power some Kurdish tribal chiefs increasingly sought outside support. Foreign powers supported Kurdish tribal chiefs for their own reasons. Since the 1960s the Iranian and Israeli intelligence agencies, SAVAK and Mossad, supported Mustafa Barazani and provided him with arms and ammunition in return for gathering intelligence reports on Iraq and its armed forces. For this reason alone Barazani did not allow the Iranian Kurdish hardliners to engage in anti-Shah activities from their bases in Iraq. In 1968 Barazani executed Sulaiman Maini, an Iranian Kurd in exile and handed over his body to the Iranian authorities. The Shah publicly displayed Maini's body in many Kurdish towns in order to turn Kurdish sentiment against the Iranian Kurds in Iraq. When Iraq concluded a treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union in 1972, the United States, Iran and Israel supported the Kurds against Baghdad. Mossad provided Barazani a monthly subvention of $50,000 to enable him to wage a war against Baghdad. Although the US, Iran and Israel supported Barazani, they did not want the Kurds to win a war but to be a debilitating factor against the Baathist regime. In 1975 the US permitted Mustafa Barazani's son Idris to open an office in Washington to propagate the Kurdish cause.(10) Mustafa Barazani was accused of being a CIA front after his death in Washington in 1979. Iran and Iraq ceased supporting the Kurds when they signed the Algiers Agreement in March 1975 and normalized relations between the two countries. As a result Barazani co-operated with Baghdad. Both the Iranian and Iraqi governments not only utilized Kurdish tribal differences to advance their position by pitting one Kurdish tribe against the other but also alternately supported and suppressed them as a tool against each other. In order to keep the flame of Kurdish nationalism ablaze, the Kurdish revolutionaries founded the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in 1975. Barazani opposed the formation of the PUK and its branch organization, the Komela Rajendaran headed by Dr. Aram and harrassed, terrorized, and jailed their supporters on the pretext that their radical politics and activities were harmful to the Kurdish national cause.(11)

The Kurdish struggle against national oppression in Turkey, like the struggle of the Kurds elsewhere, was growing in Turkish Kurdistan. In July 1943, the Kurdish tribal chief, Sayed Biroki and his followers rebelled against the government but was defeated because the movement lacked organization and political strategy. Since then the Kurdish nationalists struggled to keep the Kurdish cause alive by conducting meetings, publishing leaflets, etc. In order to pacify the Kurdish nationalists the government co-opted some of the Kurdish tribal chiefs and promoted them into high government posts and developed policies aimed at integrating the Kurdish communities. The Kurds enjoyed relative freedom when the Democratic Party of Turkey (DPT) gained power in the first free general election in 1950. The government of the new prime minister, Adnan Menderes allowed Kurdish leaders to return home from their exile and appointed a number of Kurdish intellectuals to high government posts. After the military coup on 27 May 1960, the new government embarked upon de-kurdicization programmes which led to the suppression of the Kurdish movement and the arrest of some 485 Kurdish activists. In May 1961 the newly emergent Kurdish middle class protested against the government's policy of turkicization of the Kurds. They organized rallies and protest demonstrations carrying placards inscribed with slogans: |We are not Turks, We are Kurds, down with Guersel and Inonu ... all Tyrants'.(12)

In 1965 a number of middle-class Kurdish nationalists succeeded in forming the Kurdish Democratic Party-Turkey (KDP-T). The party was led by Faik Bucak, a Kurdish lawyer from Urfa and a member of the Turkish parliament. The KDP-T agitated for cultural rights and economic equality for the Kurds within the Turkish framework. Bucak was murdered in the late 1960s and the party split into several factions. A radical organization emerged which agitated for Kurdish autonomy. It began to make plans for an armed uprising but was suppressed by the Turkish government. Key leaders of the organization, Dr. Shivan and others, escaped to Iraq. When Shivan was assassinated in 1971 the activities of the organization ended and the Kurdish Left emerged in the guise of the Turkish Workers Party (TWP). The TWP pursued a reconciliatory and reformist policy maintaining that it would be able to transform the country through increasing involvement of its members in the state bureaucracy. During the 1965 parliamentary election the TWP won 15 seats.(13) The party acknowledged the rights of the Kurds and condemned the government policy of turkicization. The party was dissolved by the government in June 1971 on the grounds that it advocated pro-Kurdish and separatist activities. Although the government banned political parties, radical Kurds continued to band together in their struggle for autonomy. In the 1970s several radical organizations were established. They were Rizgari (Liberation), opposed Soviet and Chinese political orientation; Al Rizgari (Flag of Liberation), supported alliance with other democratic parties; Kurdish Workers' Party (KWP) and the pro-Soviet Kurdish Vanguard Workers' Party (KVWP).

In Iran the Kurdish nationalists remained underground after the collapse of Mahabad Kurdish Autonomous Republic in 1946. They resumed their political activities during the short period of Mohammad Mossadeq's premiership (1951-53). Kurdish leaders supported Mossadeq and even joined Mossadeq's National Front. After the downfall of Mossadeq and the restoration of the monarchy on 19 August 1953, the Shah of Iran ruthlessly suppressed the Mossadeqist and other opposition parties and ruled the country with an iron fist. A new struggle for Kurdish autonomy erupted in 1959. After suppressing the uprising the government arrested approximately 250 Kurdish activists and forced many others to flee to the neighbouring countries. Members of the KDP-I established their base in Iraq and received substantial aid from Barazani which enabled them to continue their struggle against the Shah. In return the KDP-I supported Barazani's struggle against Baghdad. The friendly relations between the KDP-I and Barazani ended when the latter co-operated with the Shah of Iran.

The KDP-I failed to enlist radical Kurds to support their policies. The radical Kurds who were dismayed with the KDP-I's reformist and its conciliatory politics succeeded in forming a radical organization, the Komela in 1969. The organization accused the KDP-I of being a bourgeois-nationalist party that does not support class struggle within the Kurdish communities as well as in Iran. Komela also took position vis-a-vis the Soviet Union and China, dismissing their politics and ideology as revisionist. The organization supported revolutionary armed struggle and the establishment of a democratic society based on popular participation in the decision-making posts within the state apparatuses, nationalization of banking systems, distribution of land to local popular committees, freedom of speech, of assembly, etc. To defuse the Kurdish movement, the Shah co-opted some of the Kurdish intellectuals and tribal chiefs and appointed them to high government Posts.

When the monarchy was overthrown in Iran in January 1979 political instability and uncertainty which prevailed at the beginning of the revolution motivated the Kurds to fight for autonomy. The Kurds were divided with regard to the political change in the country. A number of Kurdish tribal chiefs whose interests were closely tied to those of the Shah's regime and who held high administrative posts in the government opposed the revolution while some Kurdish tribal chiefs supported the Islamic regime of Ayatollah Khomeini in order to carve a place for themselves in the new government. The Kurdish nationalists and revolutionaries espousing different political and ideological orientations opposed the Islamic regime and fought for Kurdish autonomy.

The radical Kurdish organization, Komela (The Organization of Toilers of the Kurdistan-Iran) headed by Kak Fuad Soltani began mobilizing the Kurds in Sanadaj and Merivan, Iran. The Iranian government pursued two distinct policies: (a) it resorted to the policy of divide and conquer by using pro-government Shiite landlord Kurds headed by Ayatollah Safdari as well as the Iraqi Kurdish leader, Mustafa Barazani against the Kurdish revolutionaries; and (b) used its standing army to suppress the Kurdish resistance. Sporadic clashes between the Iranian army and the Kurdish fighters occurred in the spring and summer of 1979. The Kurds dealt a heavy blow to the government forces and succeeded in liberating more areas in Western Iran.

In order to divide and pacify the Kurds the Iranian government attempted a negotiated settlement with moderate Kurdish leaders and sent a delegation to Mahabad to discuss the details of the political settlement with Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou, head of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDP-I) and the moderate Kurdish cleric, Izzedin Hussaini. The government proposed to allow the Kurds the right to self-administration. The proposal was rejected by Kurdish leaders because it did not relinquish government control over the Kurdish areas. In February 1980 Ghassemlou met President Abul Hasan Bani Sadr and submitted a proposal concerning the Kurdish autonomy based on popular votes in areas where the Kurds reside and also agreed that the government could be in charge of economic planning, national defence and foreign policy matters in the Kurdish autonomous regions. President Bani Sadr refused to negotiate until the Kurds laid down their arms. The armed struggle continued unabated. Many Iranian leftists went to Kurdish regions in Western Iran and battled the regime of Ayatollah Khomeini. As the war intensified Khomeini declared a Jihad (holy war) on Kurdistan on the grounds that it had been transformed into bases for anti-Islamic elements. Following his declaration the army conducted a military operation using helicopter gunships, phantom jets, tanks and artillery and raided Kurdish villages and towns which resulted in the deaths of approximately 27,000 people of whom only 2,500 were fighters.(14) Kak Fuad Soltani and many other revolutionary Kurds died in battle and many others were forced to flee to the neighbouring countries.(15)

The Turkish Kurds not only supported the struggle in Iran, but also fought the repressive military government in Turkey. After the military coup in September 1980, the government of prime minister Ulusu intensified its efforts to suppress the growing Kurdish nationalism. The army raided Kurdish villages and arrested thousands of people and shot a number of leftists associated with the Kurdish Workers' Party (KWP). The military regime imposed a strict surveillance on Kurdish cities in eastern Turkey because of NATO and US intelligence installations in the region monitoring developments in the Soviet Union, Iran and Afghanistan. In May 1983, the Turkish government with the consent of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein conducted a military operation against the Kurdish guerrillas deep into Iraqi territory, inflicting heavy casualties on the Kurdish fighters and arresting more than 200 men, most of whom were civilians. Although the Kurds suffered a setback, their struggle for autonomy and their support for the Iranian and Iraqi Kurdish fighters continued as before.

During the Iran-Iraq war the government of Iraq was fearful of an Iranian military advance and the possibility that the Kurds might fight government forces. This situation compelled the Iraqi leadership to make a deal with Komela Rajendaran, a branch of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) headed by Jelal Talabani. The government proposed that it would withdraw its troops from the Kurdish region and would provide arms to the Kurds to defend the area against an Iranian advance. The PUK demanded that Baghdad: (1). grant autonomy to Kurdish regions of Kirkuk, Mandali, Khanaqin, Jabal Sinjar; (2). discontinue the arabization of Kurdish people and repatriate displaced Kurds; (3). abolish the cordon sanitaire along Iranian and Turkish borders; (4). establish autonomous powers for the Kurds in all areas except foreign affairs, the economy and defence; (5). allow the Kurdish legislature to elect members of the Executive; (6). reinstate cultural life, with Kurdish language designated as the official language of the region, and establish a University of Kurdistan at Sulaymania; (7). recognize the pesh mergas of the PUK as the main force safeguarding the Kurdish autonomy; (8). create a regional security zone; and (9). designate 25% of oil revenues for the development of the Kurdish regions.(16)

The Iraqi government was not willing to relinquish its control of the oil rich region of Kirkuk. The talks failed to produce any results and the two parties resumed fighting. In February 1985 the PUK claimed that its forces had re-established its control of the region between Kirkuk and Sulaymania. The growing victory of the Kurdish revolutionaries on the one hand, and the Iranian advance toward Iraqi territories and the support it received from some of the Kurdish people of Iraq on the other, forced the Iraqi leadership to suppress the resistance. In 1988 the Iraqi army used poison gas against the inhabitants of the town of Halabja, killing 5,000 Kurds and destroying thousands of villages.(17) In doing so the Iraqi leadership not only punished the Kurdish people of Halabja for supporting Iran but also intended to teach a lesson to other Kurdish communities.

The eight year Iran-Iraq war destroyed Iraq's economy to the extent that in 1989 Iraq's war damage was estimated to be $250 billion and its foreign debts $80 billion. With its oil revenue of $13 billion a year Iraq was unable to pay its debts or to reconstruct its national economy. Saddam's fear of the resumption of hostility between Iran and Iraq and the possibility of a military strike by Israel was reflected in his letter to the Iranian leadership in which he wrote: |there are forces, who try to revive the old hostility between our two countries. You are aware of the threat and intimidation against Iraq by Zionist and some major powers.. they have every means to achieve this objective'.(18)

The US and its Arab Allies in the Middle East wanted to reduce Iraq's military might. In mid-June 1990, Saudi Arabia in concert with Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (EUA) increased their oil production which led to a reduction in the price of oil. Relations between Iraq and Kuwait had deteriorated to the extent that on 17 July 1990 Saddam Hussein accused Kuwait of stealing $2.4 billion in Iraqi oil from wells in the Rumaila oil fields located on the disputed border between the two countries. The refusal of the Emir of Kuwait to accede to Hussein's demand led the latter to invade Kuwait on 2 August 1990. On 9 August Iraq annexed Kuwait on the pretext that historically Kuwait was part of Iraq. On the day Iraq invaded Kuwait the United Nations Security Council convened a meeting and passed a resolution which condemned the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and called for its immediate and unconditional withdrawal. The UN Security Council again met on 9 August and passed another resolution rejecting Iraqi annexation of Kuwait.

On 16 January the US and its Allies launched their military assaults and continually bombed Iraq for 43 days. The war destroyed Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear facilities, crippled its military strength, damaged the country's economy and killed more than 100,000 Iraqi people.(19) To hasten the collapse of the Baathist regime the US also encouraged the swelling public dismay of the Shiite and Kurdish people against the Iraqi leadership. In a speech President George Bush called upon |the Iraqi military and the Iraqi people to take matters into their own hands' and force Saddam to |step aside'.(20)

The US did not wish to involve its troops deep in Iraqi territories to overthrow Saddam Hussein but rather chose to accomplish this strategic objective by aiding the Shiite people in Basra and the Kurdish people in the North. In the South the Shiite people rebelled against the Iraqi government. The Iranian leadership subtly encouraged the Shiites to fight Saddam's defeated army. Saddam dispatched two divisions of his Republican Guards to crush the Shiite insurgents. The Shiite rebels were defeated and escaped toward the southern sector occupied by the US army. In the north the Kurdish people defied the Iraqi government. On 4 March a fight broke out in the town of Rania and spread to Mosul and other Kurdish towns and the Kurdish resistance fighters--pesh margas--succeeded in seizing the city of Kirkuk.(21)

The Iraqi army brutally suppressed the Kurdish resistance by unleashing an indiscriminate barrage from tanks to helicopter gunships, and heavy artillery against one million inhabitants of Kirkuk, which claimed the lives of approximately 100,000 women and children. In a week the Iraqi army suppressed the siege of Mosul, Kirkuk, Erbil, Sulaymania, Zakhu, and other Kurdish areas. The Kurdish resistance forces were defeated and compelled to abandon their positions and seek refuge on the mountains. The Iraqi army continued to attack the retreating Kurdish fighters and civilians. The continuing Iraqi military attack on the Kurdish villages and towns forced approximately three million Kurds to flee to Iran and Turkey.

During his rule Saddam Hussein had effectively eliminated his opponents to the extent that there was no organized opposition force to challenge his leadership. Iraqi dissident intellectuals both at home and abroad were so isolated that they could not pose an immediate threat to the regime in Baghdad. The Iraqi military defeat in the Persian Gulf War on the one hand, and the US call on the Iraqi people to overthrow Saddam Hussein on the other, encouraged the Shiite and the Kurds to fight Saddam's forces. Both the Shiites and the Kurds naively counted on President Bush to support their struggle against Baghdad. Seeing the Iraqi army in a state of disarray, the Shiites in Basra were quick to launch their offensive on government forces with the hope of being able to gain a swift victory, but they were defeated and suffered enormous casualties.

Although the Kurds experienced the brutal suppression of the Shiite people and the failure of the US to support them, they also took up arms and fought the Baathist regime still believing that the US would support them. The result was a bloody suppression of the Kurdish people and the exodus of approximately three million Kurds to the neighbouring countries of Iran and Turkey where they did receive some Western aid. The Kurdish movement failed because their tribal leaders' narrow interests and political perspectives not only were not consistent with those of various elements within the Kurdish movement but also were unacceptable to the states of the ruling nations. These states at different times exploited differences within the traditional Kurdish leadership and manoeuvred to grant |partial autonomy', |cultural autonomy', etc., in order to split the Kurdish movement. The Kurdish leaders failed to resolve their political and personal differences and establish a united leadership to lead the Kurdish struggle. Nor could they comprehend the national and international implications of a free Kurdistan. Yet their long struggle will continue to be a powerful factor in the Middle East.


(1.) C. J. Edmonds. |Kurdish Nationalism.' Journal of Contemporary History, 6 (1971): pp87-107. (2.) David McDowall. The Kurds (London: The Minority Rights Group, Report No. 23, 1985), p.11. (3.) Ibid. p.25. (4.) Michael Gunter. The Kurds in Turkey (Boulder: Westview Press, 1990), p.12. (5.) Richard W. Cottam. Nationalism in Iran (Boulder: Westview Press, 1979), p.70. (6.) Nejimeh Siavush, |Kurdistan and Prospects for Red Political Power'. A World to Win 5 (February, 1986): pp5-13 and pp57-73. (7.) Richard W. Cottam. op. cit. pp.70-74. (8.) Ibid. p.73. (9.) Martin Short and Anthony McDermott. The Kurds (London: The Minority Rights Group, Report No. 23, 1977), p. 11. (10.) Nejimeh Siavush. op. cit. p.9. (11.) Ibid. p.8. (12.) Michael Gunter. op. cit. p.15. (13.) Ibid. p.16. (14.) David McDowall. op. cit. p.24. (15.) Nejimeh Siavush, op. cit. p.11. (16.) David McDowall. op. cit. p.24. (17.) Time 15 April 1991, pp.24-25. (18.) Iran. Matni Namaha-e-Mubadilashuda Bayni Rausayi Jamhuri-e-Islami Iran Wa Jamhuri-e-Iraq [Content of letters exchanged between presidents of Islamic Republic of Iran and Republic of Iraq). (Tehran: Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS)), 1369 [1990). (19.) Time 11 March 1991, p.24. (20.) Newsweek 25 February 1991, p.17. (21.) Newsweek 1 April 1991, p.14.
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Title Annotation:Kurdish fight for independence
Author:Emadi, Hafizullah
Publication:Contemporary Review
Date:Aug 1, 1992
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