08 June 2007

Free Kurdistan?

Protestor with sign reading, 'Erdogan is another Saddam. Turkey, hands off Kurdistan. Free Kurdistan' [Credit: Leyla Zana]A Turkish invasion would, according to the IHT, "infuriate Arabs, who would resent any Turkish return to areas once ruled by the Ottoman Empire. It would finish off any remaining hope of Turkey joining the European Union. And it would put a huge strain on Turkey's fragile democratic politics. In short, it would be a disaster."

So, why is a huge military build-up already under way on the Turkish side of the border and why has Ankara been issuing a flurry of angry charges that the Iraqi Kurds are providing sanctuary to murderous anti-Turkish guerrillas? Quite simply, because should Iraq finally achieve a peaceful status in our lifetimes, it will probably involve a tripartite federal state and, with a Kurdish state on its borders, Turkey's 15 million-strong Kurdish minority may be emboldened to demand autonomy or independence. However, any pre-emptive Turkish incursion into Iraq now would pose a serious threat to the already unstable balance that America is holding in Iraq, so it is unlikely they are going to stand idly by and watch their already fragile work undone.

Media coverage may not currently make the Turkish-Kurdish conflict seem as live an issue as the hopes of Israelis and Palestinians, but the reality is that any peace deal in the Middle East is going to need to accommodate all those who have nursed historic grievances—which means that those who are negotiating peace deals and introducing democracy to the region need to possess a rounded understanding of history and involve all parties.