Iraqi Kurds hold a candlelight vigil to express their opposition to the Turkish offensive in northeastern Syria, in Erbil, the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region, on October 28, 2019. (SAFIN HAMED / AFP via Getty Images)

The Fate of the Kurdish People

Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 25

I get filled with sadness every time I think about the Kurds: a people spread over several countries, part in Iraq, part in Turkey, part in Iran, part in Armenia and part in Syria. No one sees the prospect of establishing an independent Kurdish state, which would be the homeland for over 26 million Kurdish people spread over more than five countries. Kurds make up varying portions of the countries in which they live: 8% of the total population in Syria, 12% in Iraq, 6% in Iran and 15% in Armenia. In Turkey, Kurds constitute a significant portion of the population, estimated at about 20%. This helps explain why Turkey is so wary of any armed Kurdish military, let alone of the establishment of a Kurdish state – both, in [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s view, would mean the collapse of the Turkish state we know it today. Turkey’s war on the Kurds is a longstanding issue. During Ataturk’s era, the Turks not only prevented Kurds from expressing their nationalism or political ambitions, but Turkish law prohibited the use of the Kurdish language in education, literature and all forms of culture. The aim of the law was to kill the Kurdish language and consequently erase the Kurdish identity. Unfortunately for the Turks, the modern Turkish state was created on the concept of nationalism. Thus, the Arabs and the Kurds split, and the latter decided to establish a state based on their nationality. But the Kurds’ misfortune is that they are divided among different nations, making the establishment of a Kurdish state almost impossible. This reality has rendered the Kurdish people exploitable by many powers, including Israel, which has used the Kurds against Iraq; Syria, which has used them against Turkey; and the US, which has used them against ISIS. In all of these instances, the Kurds emerged as losers in these battles. If you read history, you will discover that the peoples of the Middle East are the most vulnerable to conflict, displacement and wars. You will notice that the region has been in an everlasting state of battles, with a major war breaking out every few years. There is absolutely no doubt that the greatest victims of this reality have been the Palestinian and Kurdish peoples, and it is clear that they have been exploited and dragged to serve as pawns in other countries’ games of chess. Thankfully, history also teaches us that those who persevere eventually win, and the Kurdish and Palestinian peoples are a living example of perseverance. The day will come when the descendants of these two peoples will tell the story of their ancestors and how they overcame persecution and hardships. They, too, shall prevail. – Abdullah Bin Bakhit (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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