Historical Narrative and Geopolitics:
Let the current situation alone, the conflict in Syria initiated as a major revolution in which the Syrians from all walks of life and age had taken part in. Grownups, young men, children, men, and women, from all sects, including the Christian and Alawite sects, regardless of the position they took afterward. A revolution that spanned all nationalities, the Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Dagestan, Chechnya, and the Circassians. The Syrians, just like the rest of the Arab Spring revolutionary peoples, equally went upraising for their political demands, freedom, decent living, and overthrowing corrupt tyrannical political regimes. The depth of bestial and criminal baseness of these regimes have triggered them to conspire with external and internal dark, and separatist clouts to further turn the peoples’ plight in the region, inevitably resulting from tyranny, into religious, ethnic, and sectarian wars. A move meant to put the uprisings in a civil war mold and make an attempt to win more time in power. One of those chang- turning attempts was the issue of the Kurdish minority in northeastern Syria.
It is difficult to understand the Kurdish problem and the demands raised by the PKK branch; claiming representation of the Syrian Kurds and yet resort to shooting bullets. A manner according to which the PKK sought to make its fulfillment separate from the overall major Kurdish question, in the context of its history, physical and political geography, the aspirations of the Kurds, and their in-built differences and similarities. A question that also has to do with the issue of the national resurgence among the Kurds at the beginning of the modern era, and understanding the nature of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK); the most politically and military effective party related to the Kurds.
The term Kurdistan was first used in the nineteenth century during the Ottomans' rule. They used it to refer to an administrative region inhabited by the Kurds and is currently stretched through Iran, Turkey, and Iraq, with limited extensions inside Syria, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. To be honest, it was difficult for me to lay hands on an agreed-upon map for Kurdistan, even among the Kurds themselves. Many of the maps I came across agree that the region extends over the above-said countries. However, other maps connect it to the Persian Gulf through the Iran-occupied Arabistan, while some claim that it has an inlet to the Mediterranean in the south-central region of Turkey, connected with northwestern Syria; an area with no Kurd's inhabitants and only Arabs are living in. Still, others claim that it has access to both of the seas. However, reliable geographical references confirm that Kurdistan has no sea borders outlets; a fact that will remain more like a geographically economic hanging sword over its region, if it may reach an emerging Kurdish state with hostility towards the surrounding nations.
The Europeans, especially the British and the French, divided and shared the Middle East after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. First among the partition treaties was Sykes-Picot, then the Treaty of sèvres, and finally the Treaty of Lausanne. The latter of which came as a result of the Turkish national movement struggle led by Ataturk. They were able to amend the two previous agreements to take hold of a large part of the natural northern Syria lands and a substantial area inhabited by the Kurds adding it up to the territory that had previously been decided by the two earlier treaties and thus formed the Turkey of today. Accordingly, the national Kurdish dream of a nation-state approved under the Sèvres treaty was gone with the wind. Should the Syrians at that time had the same spirit and determination as the Turks and stood behind the officer-in-command Yusef al-Azmeh in Maysalun fighting against the French, as the Turks did with Ataturk, the current Syrian geography would have entirely changed all over the Taurus Mountains to the Sinai, but they were preoccupied with their internal fears!
Noting that, the majority of the Turkish Kurds fought with the Turkish national movement to remain part of the Muslim Turkish state for fear of Christian colonialism. Given the fact that the majority of the Kurds are Sunni Muslims, and this provides evidence that political loyalties can transcend national and ethnic identities!
Eventually, the eastern Mediterranean bank and Mesopotamia fell in the destiny and become the WWI post countries they, fixed up by an act of colonialism, consisting of states with an Arab national majority, multiple national minorities, a Sunni majority, and sectarian minorities. Any historical narrative failing to consider this objective fact, whatever its national standpoint may be, will just be attempting to create a false national and sectarian contradiction. Furthermore, contemporary politics and national rights cannot be founded on basis of historical narratives a certain group may uphold whatever it may be, at a time when the Arab region’s geopolitics had its far-reaching role to play in the current formation, under the will of external world powers?
The Kurdish national consciousness triggered in Iraq
With the 1958 revolution that overthrew the monarchy in Iraq, its leadership brought Mustafa Barzani back from exile in the Soviet Union. He however could not come in terms with the revolution leaders in Baghdad; so he declared a rebellion against the revolution, in the hunt for realizing self-governance. When the Iraqi Baath Party came to power in 1963, a military unification with the Syrian Baath party revolutionaries coup was declared. Following which the later rushed military aid to the Iraq Baath to silence the Barzani uprising, according to the Kuwaiti newspaper, Alrai’ Al-Aam in its edition on 2nd of July 1963, quoting the New York Times report from Beirut. The news said that a Syrian army regiment was participating with the Iraqi forces in the fight against the Kurds and that the Syrian MiG warplanes had been placed at the Iraqi Air Force disposal.” Thus the first mission of the announced military unification between the Baathist coup in the two countries was the official announcement that the (Yarmouk Brigade) led by Colonel Fahd Al-Shaer was dispatch and which took control of the villages of Dohuk. Notwithstanding the fact that Kurdish personalities had held high key positions in the national Syrian government before the Ba'ath coup. !
The first instance in which the United States intervened in the Kurdish issue was believed to have taken place following the 1961’s war outbreak in the "Kurdistan" of Iraq. With its allies in the region, the US, Israel, and Iran during the Shah's rule, the three contributed to financing the Kurdish rebellion. The Iranian goal was to keep the Iraqi regime captive to its internal problem with the Kurds and to keep its ambitions away from Arabistan. As for Israel, it sought to ensure that the Iraqi forces would not be deployed in the event that a war broke out with its Arab neighbors; it indeed reaped the fruits of its support for the Kurds. In the 1967 and 1973 wars, the Iraqis could not deploy large forces on the Arab front, which suffered a shameful loss in the two wars.
Saddam Hussein, the ambitious young man at the time, met Barzani and in 1970 agreed to the demands of Kurdish autonomy according to an agreement to be implemented in 1974. However, a war broke out before its implementation date, the reason behind which both sides exchanged accusations. Again, with the US patronage. The American goal was to destabilize the Soviet’s influence in Iraq; and used it as a card in the cold war between them, by keeping the Iraqi government stuck with the internal Kurdish problem. This is while not allowing the division of Iraq, given that a region with no free window to liberate its economy from the control of the surrounding hostile countries would not be economically feasible to take advantage of. Despite Barzani’s visiting the Shah of Iran to request support against the Baghdad forces, the Shah, fearing the Iranian Kurds’ ambitions, froze his support. Following which Saddam Hussein penetrated into the Kurdish mountains, as the Kurds lost their courage, and as their allies threw them under the wheels of the train.
On the heels of the Iranian war’s outbreak, the Kurds once again found it an opportunity to declare their rebellion against Baghdad. It seems that Kurdish politicians have a tendency to exploit the chaos in search of the realization of their ambitions. Just like what happened following the Syrian revolution in 2011!! Consequently, the Iraqi army led a horrific disciplinary campaign in which it used chemicals. The Kurdish allies, including America, did not step in to defend them. They had hopes that a balanced war between Iraq and Iran would last as long as possible.
Notwithstanding this, the US urged the Kurds to revolt against Saddam’s rule after the Kuwait invasion. Once more, by the end of the war, Bush Sr. threw them into neglect. However, after one year, he changed his mind and granted them a no-fly zone umbrella to relax under. Thus with the US coalition and under its protection, the Iraqi Kurds formed the first Self-governing administration in 1992.
Kurdistan Workers Party
A marginalized group of Turkish Kurd Marxist students contrived a secret organization called the "Kurdistan Workers Party". Based in the Qandil Mountains, they selected Abdullah Ocalan as its president in 1978. The goal of the party is: Separating Kurdistan from the countries in which it is located and the pursuit of establishing a Marxist-Leninist state by the hammer of force. The party espoused Soviet support in the context of the Cold War against Turkey, the American next-door ally to its territories. This was along with direct support from Hafez Al-Assad, who dumped Ocalan in 1998 after a direct Turkish threat, resulting in the arrest of Ocalan. This was a severe blow to the party after its mounting strength had gone up and its members reached some ten thousand.
The party carried out terrorist operations inside the Turkish territory and against its interests, causing the death of about forty thousand Turks. It, therefore, was classified as a terrorist organization under the US, Britain, the European Union, Turkey, Iran, and Syria’s regulations. An off-spring affiliated with the PKK is the Kurdistan Free Life Party operating in Iran, which started carrying out its operations against Tehran at the beginning of this century. Noting that the Kurds of Iran reject separation. Among the party’s affiliates is the Democratic Solution of Iraqi Kurdistan, the Democratic Union Party, the Syrian Democratic Forces, and the People’s Protection Units. All of which are armed groups. However, one can learn the true links between these Kurdish parties from an interview conducted by The Wall Street Journal with a Kurdish fighter, who said: “Sometimes I am from the Turkish Kurdistan Workers' Party, sometimes I am from the Kurdistan Free Life Party in Iran, and sometimes I am from the People's Protection Units in Syria. It does not really matter. We are all members of the PKK. For this reason, the targeted governments in the region considered the acts taking place as mercenary attacks and not Kurdish uprisings!
Accordingly, in front of us, we have two Kurdish models seeking revolution, the Barzani and the Ocalani, at odds and conflicting while sometimes in agreement. I’ll leave it to Aldar Khalil, the founder and member of the co-presidency of the Democratic Union Party in Syria, to explain the differences between both :
The Modern Kurdish groups root their political philosophies in one of two founding personalities: Mustafa Barzani or Abdullah Ocalan. The main difference between the two is that Barzani, the father of the current president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government, Massoud Barzani, called for the building of a Kurdish national state based on aristocracy and oligarchy, while Ocalan called for a socialist state ... The Kurdistan Democratic Party in Iraq originates from the Barzani school of thought. As a result, the Regional Kurdistan Government is dominated by a minority, with the power and wealth concentrated in the hands of the Barzani family and their friends. On the other hand, Ocalan's school of thought extends to the Democratic Union Party, the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party in Turkey, and the Kurdistan Workers' Party, as well as other groups in Iraq and Iran. Across the board, these groups applied Ocalan's ideas in a way or another, pursuing different goals, and interacting (dealing) with different geopolitical players.
Mustafa Barzani was not a corrupt aristocrat as portrayed by Aldar Khalil. History portrayed him as a tribal folks leader who led a revolution but failed to deliver on his project in breathing life into a Kurdish state due to complex regional/international factors. Something that gave rise to a belief that Ocalan, a progressive socialist, would outshine the traditional backward Barzani in bringing the dream of the state into fulfillment. This paradox is perhaps similar to the Baathists saying that Shukri al-Quwatli’s rule is backward and the Ba’ath regime is a progressive socialist one! It goes without saying that the kind of catastrophic achievements which the Baath had brought into Syria stand in comparison to the disasters that Ocalan's style dragged the Kurdish issue into. This was when he dragged it into the international conflict bazaars and turned it into a plaything in the hands of the powerful West against the oppressed peoples of the East!
The reader will have noticed as I did that the most dominant factor in this problem are the maps that the European imperialists drew according to their short and long term interests: occupying, dominating, and making undying interference by creating permanent conflicts to frustrate achieving stability and growth for the peoples of the region! Those maps turned the miserable peoples into fighting each other instead of seeking to break themselves free out from the spiral that the colonialists forced them into. Would it have been better for the East becoming more stable, if the borders had been drawn better? I do not have the answer and no one does, but the reality is bad.
Several factors supported the formation of the Kurdish national consciousness, the most important of which were: The grievances built-up in the absence of a social contract, with no political contract that guarantees citizenship for all residents of the region. The Workers Party took advantage of this situation and endorsed the issue into its account as if it were a purely Kurdish grievance, rather than an-all-plight affecting the people of the region experiencing its hell. The conflict and turmoil, as in Iraq and Syria, strengthened the Kurdish separatist demands. This is while these demands are feeble in more stable regions, such as in Turkey, wherein the Kurds have given their electoral votes to the Justice and Development Party and have representatives in the Turkish Parliament, as well as in Iran, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Another important factor is the organization and tireless activity of the Workers Party members. An effort that made them powerful ambassadors for their cause. I noticed their spreading in many public squares in Europe, provoking passersbys’ with pictures of the massacres and giving details about their case as they wish! Fourth: the international patronage for a staying deadly prolonged conflict in terms of the no winner or loser principle.
As for the Kurdish-Arab conflict on the Syrian lands over the last ten years, its causes, its complications, the kind of attitude towards it, and the possibility of mitigating its severity and interactions, I believe it is a subject far beyond and more richer in substance to be accommodated into the space of today's article. Therefore, I would rather leave it for another article to address next week. This is in order to enable the reader be informed, much as to make it possible shaping an opinion and make a decision about the conflict.