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Two Kurdistans? Two possible scenarios

Reader comment on item: The Case for a Unified Kurdistan

Submitted by Zahra (United Kingdom), Mar 6, 2016 at 14:48

Dear Daniel Pipes,

You wrote that "those living in the majority-Kurdish regions vote whether to remain part of the Republic of Turkey or to secede. Such a vote would undoubtedly endorse secession."

On a first note, only Diyarbakir, Van, Sirnak, Hakkari and Batman have clear majority of Kurds, and retain a significant (>40%) population of Turks and other groups. The rest of the >30% states are "swing states" in at least two senses: firstly, the grand majority are not Kurds; and secondly, the Kurds themselves are divided on the issue of secession. The tiny >50% region in the Southeasternmost corner of Turkey is itself divided by the provinces of Mardin, Siirt and Bitlis, which cut out the corner from Diyarbakir, the largest Kurdish state in Turkey.

Geopolitically securing the entire corner for an independent Kurdistan would potentially require massive displacements of non-Kurds.

On a second note and as you also well know, Turkey has long been pursuing a divide & conquer policy by forcibly relocating Kurds to other provinces, and resettling Turks in Kurdish dominated provinces. The recent developments in Turkey suggest that this is again the intention of Erdogan, and he will do the best he can to keep those corner provinces populated by Turks. By the time any such referendum would be held, Erdogan would have already "gerrymandered" the region through forcible relocations and resettlements. He's already doing that.

No matter how much I would love to see Turkey to agree to a federal system, let alone to a Scottish-type referendum, it is very unlikely to happen. Turkey has geopolitical interests to hold onto those provinces, and that will not change.

In this sense, the proposal by another commenter in this thread suggests a unique potential avenue: a KRG-Turkey merger. If KRG merges into Turkey with conditions for federal autonomy, this would avoid needless war and displacement, and in essence solve the Kurdish question.

The merger would allow Turkey to benefit from the oil and other strategic interests in the region, while increasing its own territory.

However, the benefits for KRG are less obvious, and they might not like the idea. Despite KRG's good cooperation and trade with Turkey, an endorsement for merger would go against the wishes of a sizeable Kurdish population and most probably the KRG government itself (and their oil interests); and it would be a de facto declaration of war against Federal Iraq.

Meanwhile on the Western front, the Rojava creators are unlikely to hold any interest in merging with Turkey, especially now that their regional autonomy is being supported by Assad. If Assad stays in power, and even if Syria found peace again, Rojava would always be there to curb sympathies for a Turko-KRG merger. And if Syria falls, Rojava will simply secede and declare its own state, again inviting other Kurds to either merge with Rojava or secede themselves. In both scenarios, the likelihood of a Turko-KRG merger is pretty small, and whatever happens in Rojava will greatly impact any such prospects.

So if Turkish Kurds can't vote for their own secession; if they can't merge with KRG through a Turko-KRG union; and if they can't accumulate resources to displace large non-Kurdish populations by force from the Southeast (= civil war).... then we're essentially seeing the status quo continuing for a little while longer.

The best hope is in the next post-Erdogan government and significant democratic reforms; lowering of the 10% electoral threshold; and a referendum for devolution into a federal system with heavy federal investments to the development of Kurdish Turkey (these are the current demands from PKK as well).

Meanwhile in Syria, if Syria falls, Rojava and KRG could consider merging, perhaps under a confederate or bilateral agreement with Iraq to appease escalation with Iraq over oil resources. Now's a good time, as Iraq is not in a position to resist, and a Rojava-KRG federation would gain a lot of international support to oppose Iraq's possible military reaction.

In conclusion, it seems possible that the four corners of Kurdistan will indeed unite in one way or another, but most probably there will eventually be 2 separate Kurdish entities, each affiliated bilaterally/con-federally with Syria, Iraq and/or Turkey.

The two possible scenarios for two coexisting Kurdistans are: a) North<->South & West; or b) West<->South & North<->Federal Turkey.

Iran, the East, would likely retain its Kurdish minority for a long while.

These are just some potential scenarios. Perhaps you have a penny of thought on this?

Submitting....

Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

Daniel Pipes replies:

Very interesting analysis. Does not need comments from me.

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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