The opportunity to choose independence is coming, and it is important that we take it, for ourselves, for the wider region, and for the world beyond it.
We have existed here for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. There have been Kurds in parts of what is now Iraq under a succession of countries, and a succession of different outside rulers. For the last few centuries, we have had no state, and been ruled from afar by people who have had little understanding about, or concern for, our needs and lifestyle. Attempts to break free of such control in the past have met with hostility, and even violence.
Finally, a chance has come to craft borders for ourselves, around lands that are already outside the control of other states in every sense that matters. This is not about stealing lands locked into another state by time and tradition, but about giving formal recognition to an arrangement that already exists on the ground in every other sense.
It will not be easy, negotiating with Baghdad afterwards. It would be foolish to pretend otherwise, when their instinct will be to try to hold on to Kurdistan as tightly as possible, and other powers will apply pressure in order to manage their own domestic situations. The creation of a new country is inevitably a complex undertaking, with no short cuts to making it work.
We must get out of Iraq’s artificial system though, because, almost since its inception as a post-World War I project by the Great Powers, it has done little but fuel conflict in the region.
From domestic instability to the terrors of genocide, the forcing together of disparate groups within a nation that has only ever existed as a cartographer’s fantasy has cost many thousands of lives and contributed to wider conflicts that continue to tear the world apart today.
Forcing that shattered whole back together again is not the answer. Indeed, the pressures required to make it work would be as likely to explode as to achieve anything useful, reigniting conflict at exactly the moment when we all most want it to stop. A stable, independent Kurdistan is a more natural option, and one that is likely to contribute more to the peace of the surrounding region.
It would be good for Kurdistan people, obviously, allowing us the country that we have wanted for so long. It would also be good for Iraq, though, because it would take away one of the fault lines that was inherent in its construction a century ago. It should even be good for the region around Kurdistan, taking away the pressures of many local conflicts by giving Kurdish minorities a country that they could call their own.
There are those who argue against Kurdistan on the basis that a new country might destabilise the situation around it exactly at the point when it is settling down. Instead, isn’t it more likely that it would bring peace, soothing one of the core conflicts in the region while providing a safe place for at least some of those affected by them? In that sense, an independent Kurdistan is not just a desirable thing for its inhabitants, but an essential thing for the world as a whole.
By Davan Yahya Khalil