Kurds Continue To Push For A Nation Of Their Own
They are a people without a home, or at least without an internationally recognized country. They bore the brunt of Saddam Hussein’s rage after the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, victims of chemical weapon attacks. They were the reason for the no-fly zone above the 36th parallel in Iraq after the first Gulf war. They are the Kurds.
The Kurds are traditionally a nomadic people, the bulk of who live in the mountainous area around the borders of Armenia, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. The Kurds call this area Kurdistan. Approximately 5 million Kurds live in northern Iraq. They are non-arabs and the majority of them are Sunni Muslim.
According to an October 2010 Congressional Research Service report, northern Iraq has seen stability since the end of Hussein’s reign, however officials remain concerned about what may happen once U.S. troops leave the country at the end of the year.
Kurds currently have some autonomy, but not independence, in northern Iraq known as the Kurdistan Regional Government. They also participate in the Iraq’s political process, having representation in the central government. Many Kurds relish the power they have in choosing the country’s leaders, however recent fissures within their own parties resulted in the main Kurdish faction loosing seats in the 2010 parliamentary elections
Kurdish leaders are not actively seeking independence from Iraq at the moment even though independence is something many of the Kurdish people want. It is not because Kurdish leaders do not wish for independence, but rather because the leaders understand the politics behind independence. Surrounding nations would likely not recognize an independent Kurdish state. Neighbors Iran, Turkey and Syria would not recognize an independent Kurdish state because of the large population of Kurds in their own countries. Recognition of by other nations is a key component in the definition of independence. Turkey, with a population of 8 million Kurds, is the most vocal opponent of an independent Kurdish state.
While there is not currently friction between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government regarding independence, there remain some problems about what areas fall under control of the Kurdistan Regional Government. The Kurds say Kirkuk and parts of Diyala and Nineveh provinces should be a part of their government. This dispute remains contentious and is still unresolved.
No one knows what will happen in Iraq, more specifically in northern Iraq and with the Kurdistan Regional Government, once U.S. troops leave. Though an independent Kurdish state is not currently on the agenda in Iraq, history suggests the debate is temporarily stayed and not over.