Turkey’s ‘Good Kurds, Bad Kurds’ Concept Still Lingers

November 18, 2013

Events of the last week and weekend in North Kurdistan (Turkey) and West Kurdistan (Syria) testify that the Kurds have moved to the next level in the Middle East: They are now interconnected and interdependent across the international boundaries that have created so much of their misfortune over the last century.

In Syria, the Kurds have declared a self-administered region. In Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan used the word “Kurdistan” and vowed to continue “the peace march.”

Both events were regarded by many as historic, and connected the Kurdish issues in Syria, Turkey and Iraq through the relationship between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The central figure in all of this was the president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and leader of the KDP, Mr Massoud Barzani. He supported Erdogan’s peace march by visiting Amed (Diyarbakir), a trip described by some as historic. That made Erdogan’s remarks also historic. At the same time, he opposed the declaration of autonomy in Syrian Kurdistan, which also was largely seen as historic.

Kamran Qaradaghy, a prominent Kurdish journalist and writer who has worked extensively on Kurdish-Turkish relations, wrote on the day of Barzani’s visit that the Kurds have moved from being “cards” in the hands of regional powers to “players” in the region.

The turbulent relations between the KDP and PKK and their differences over big issues could turn the Kurds into cards again. Turkey and the United States will suffer most if they do not accept some realities.

Barzani’s stature is very important, but he is not the one that Turkey needs to make peace: Turkey’s only peace interlocutor is the PKK, its jailed leaderAbdullah Ocalan and Qandil.

The Kurds of Syria should look at Iraqi Kurdistan’s experience in self-rule in the 90s and make a decision. The PYD will have to ask itself whether it can afford to fight the others, or should it find a workable relationship to govern together.

The situation today has clearly changed for some Kurds and is starting to change for others. The key reality in all of this is that we have two types of Kurds. One the one hand, Iraqi Kurds are under pressure to behave like a state because of their legal and constitutional obligations. On the other hand, there are still Kurds who must continue their cause, because they are still very far from realizing what the Kurds have in Iraq.

This is probably why the “good Kurds, bad Kurds” attitude still exists in the region. The value of events like those of the weekend will be different for each of these types of Kurds.

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