When Will Our Turn Come?
Kurdishaspect.com - By Dr. Rashid Karadaghi
On 9 July, South Sudan declared its independence from Sudan to become the 193rd member of the United Nations. While we Kurds express our heart-felt congratulations and admiration for the Southern Sudanese for their glorious achievement, we also wonder if our turn will ever come.
This great achievement hasn’t come easy, for the people of South Sudan have, over the decades, made great sacrifices in order to see their deliverance from the oppressor. But we, too, have made great sacrifices in all four parts of occupied Kurdistan, yet we have little to show for it as fruit of our sacrifice. Our lot seems to be simply to watch and congratulate other nations on getting their freedom one after another, while we just march in place and wonder what might be wrong with us.
We can’t but wonder why freedom has remained so elusive in our case, for, God knows, we have made great sacrifices to achieve it. We, too, have fought our oppressors heroically throughout our history and rejected their brutal rule over us, but we have yet to see any signs of the promised land. We have to wonder if, perhaps, something might be missing in the formula that would enable us to win our freedom.
Albert Camus, the great French-Algerian writer-philosopher, says that the minute the slave says “NO” to his oppressor, he becomes free. Despite all our efforts in all parts of occupied Kurdistan, we --- the leaders and the led --- have not yet said our “NO” convincingly enough, unequivocally enough, and loudly enough for the oppressor to believe us and the world to hear us. We have not burnt all our bridges yet, for we still call for living with our oppressor, be it in the form of autonomy or federalism, instead of an outright end of a condition that was not of our own choosing but imposed on us by force.
Not only are we not saying “NO” to our oppression, but we have all but forgotten what the oppressor has done to us for the last century, not to mention the hundreds of years of oppression before that. In Iraqi-occupied Kurdistan alone, let alone what our people have been subjected to in the other three parts of occupied Kurdistan, a quarter million of our brethren were buried alive in Saddam’s Anfal campaign of the late 1980’s and thousands more died as a result of chemical attacks on Halabja and elsewhere. Since the liberation of Iraq in 2003, countless mass graves have been uncovered, mostly in middle and southern Iraq, containing the remains of thousands of Kurds who perished in the infamous Anfal. In fact, it was revealed this week in the news media that another mass grave was discovered in the province of Diwaniyya, southern Iraq, containing the remains of 900 (nine hundred) Kurds murdered by the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. And according to a spokesman for the Iraqi Human Rights Ministry, there are still hundreds of other mass graves which are waiting to be uncovered. The vast majority of these mass graves contain remains of Kurdish victims.
Had we been willing to say “NO” to our oppressors, we would have walked out of the constitutional convention, following Iraq’s liberation in 2003, when the Iraqi Arab representatives rejected the Kurdish demand to enshrine in the constitution an article recognizing the Kurdish people’s right to hold a referendum in 2012, just like the one held earlier this year in South Sudan, to decide whether they wanted to remain as part of Iraq or form their own independent country. Even though at the time the Kurds were in a strong bargaining position and the Arabs were weaker than ever before, the oppressor refused to agree to the Kurds’ modest demand. Even though this stance was a clear indication of the true nature of Saddam’s heirs, still we were unwilling to say our “NO” and be free. Not only that, but, contrary to all logic, we worked hard to rebuild the “new” Iraq from its ashes and walked of our own free will back into the Iraqi prison, instead of making sure that we would never again be part of that hell again.
We seem to be the instrument of our own undoing. The results of the 2005 unofficial referendum in Iraqi-occupied Kurdistan were unambiguous: over 98% of the people of Kurdistan wanted to form their own independent country and wanted to have nothing to do with Arab Iraq, a state that has carried a genocidal war in one form or another against them for almost a century. And what did those who speak in our name and are supposed to lead us into freedom do with the referendum results? They shoved it under the rug and declared, contrary to their people’s will, that the Kurds had chosen to remain within a unified Iraq! I am sure the people of South Sudan would never have accepted this from their leaders, which is why they are independent today and we are not.
If those of us who are supposed to be the strongest advocates of an independent Kurdistan consider Kurdish independence a pipe dream, how are we supposed to ever become independent? Calling the Kurdish quest for independence a “pipe dream” nullifies all that our struggle has been about for the last one hundred years. “I think my lawyer is against me,” as a friend used to say. This mentality is, unfortunately, our reality, which is standing between us and freedom. Unless we change this reality by changing our perception of our condition and of the world, we will continue to live under the mercy of our merciless oppressors. We must tell the emperor that he has no clothes on because he doesn’t. The oppressor has nothing on which to base his occupation of our land and oppression of our people. In the twenty-first century, when almost all the oppressed have become free, nothing should be able to hold forty million Kurds captive any longer.
I believe that until and unless we make the big leap and declare with conviction that under no circumstances will we ever accept living with our oppressors any more, we will not be free. This we can do peacefully and without violence. The sole requirement is determination and belief in our just cause. We have a just cause, our enemy doesn’t. This is the core of our strength. This is the age of freedom, not slavery. Humanity has been on the freedom march in the last twenty years and the proof is the many newly-independent countries all around us. If the Berlin wall can fall, then it is possible for all walls, real or imaginary, to fall. Our people are no less capable and deserving of freedom than the many nations that have realized their dream of independence. Our time has come. It is up to us to seize the moment.