What is Mine is Mine; What is Yours is Negotiable
Kurdishaspect.com - By Dr. Rashid Karadaghi
The late Howard K. Smith, the ABC Television News anchor and commentator, used to remind us often of one of his favorite quotations, which he attributed to the communists: “What is mine is mine; what is yours is negotiable.” What he forgot to do was to also attribute the saying to the occupiers of Kurdistan – Arabs, Turks, and Persians. While no one can deny that other occupiers throughout history have been guilty of horrible crimes against the occupied nations, what concerns us as Kurds most, naturally, is how the occupiers have viewed and dealt with our homeland and our people.
The Arabs have managed to carve out twenty-two states for themselves (we don’t want to get into how and with what brutalities and trickeries they did it), but when a Kurd talks about the right of his people to establish an independent state on their own ancestral land, they are quick to accuse him of “separatism,” which, to them, is high treason. They keep emphasizing the “Arab identity” of each of their twenty-two states on every occasion and deny all ethnic groups within those states their human and national rights. They think that it is their right to be ultra-nationalistic and be proud of their Arab identity and enjoy all the privileges of nationhood, but deny others a fraction of those same rights.
The Kurds have had the misfortune of being ruled over for too long by the twisted mentality which the late Howard K. Smith was talking about. One of the most flagrant and serious practical applications of this mentality was carried out by Saddam Hussein in Iraqi-occupied Kurdistan. To change the demography of Kurdistan, Saddam expelled hundreds of thousands of Kurds from their ancestral homes in the majority-Kurdish Karkuk province and other Kurdish areas while bringing in an equal or larger number of Ba’thists and other Arabs from southern and central Iraq and settling them in their place in order to Arabize these areas. To the tyrant, Kurdish land was, of course, “negotiable.” To his succeeding little tyrants, Kurdish land is still “negotiable” today and will remain so forever.
The consequences of this evil act by Saddam have become one of the thorniest issues that Iraq and the Kurdistan Region are contending with today. Since the liberation of Iraq in 2003 and the fall of the tyrant, the Kurds have been trying peacefully, but without any success, to get the Arab settlers brought in by Saddam to go back to their original homes with compensations, but the “new” Iraqi government has, at best, only paid lip service to the Kurdish demand despite the fact that Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution stipulates reversing the Arabization of the Kurdish areas by allowing the Kurds who were expelled from their ancestral homes to return to their homes and properties and the Arab settlers to go back to where they came from.
Under Saddam’s Arabization, the Kurds lost everything, including their homes and their dignity as human beings, while the Arab settlers gained a lot. Now that the Arab settlers are being asked to leave with dignity and with compensations (for giving back what they had taken from the Kurds by force), the settlers and their Arab chauvinists backers call this “reverse discrimination.” For racist and expansionistic reasons, even non-Iraqis from Saudi Arabia to Turkey oppose righting the wrong done to the Kurds and demand that the Arabization policy which Saddam implemented stay, which would mean that the Kurds remain homeless while the Arab settlers remain on the land and in the homes they took from the Kurds by force. Arab Iraq calls the historically Kurdish areas where Kurds were expelled from and replaced by Arab settlers “disputed territories,” which it is not willing to give up and give back to its rightful owners. “What is mine is mine; what is yours is negotiable.”
Every Arab summit meeting and every Arab gathering on any level usually concludes with a communique stressing “Iraq’s Arab and Islamic identity” and its “unity and territorial integrity,” which are all code words for denying the right of the Kurdish people to their own land and their right to be free from Arab domination and oppression. So, as far as Arab leaders and the majority of the Arab masses are concerned, the only identity the seven million Kurds in the Kurdistan region, which is still part of Iraq, can have is an “Arab” identity. Imagine what kind of hell would break loose if anyone or any power told Arabs in any one of their twenty-two states that they can no longer call themselves Arabs but some other name! Again, “My identity is mine; yours is negotiable.”
Like the Arabs, the Turks are also masters of this chauvinistic, jingoistic attitude. They have been occupying part of the Kurdish homeland for five centuries and in the past hundred years of their dark history they have also been trying to erase Kurdish identity altogether in the part of Kurdistan under their occupation by calling the Kurds “mountain Turks who have forgotten their language,” while denying them human rights as basic as identifying themselves as Kurds, studying the Kurdish language in schools, educating their children in their mother tongue and giving them Kurdish names, etc., and every other human and cultural right that other people take for granted.
The Turks give themselves every right under the sun, but they don’t consider a Kurd even a second class citizen, unless he considered himself a Turk. To add insult to injury, they constantly remind the Kurds of their ultra racist graffiti: “Happy is he who is born a Turk,” written in big letters in prominent places in Kurdistan so that a Kurd cannot escape being humiliated every day of his/her life. What the Turks have been denying the Kurds in their own occupied homeland shouldn’t even be called “rights” to be granted or denied by the state but natural birth rights that shouldn’t be taken away from anybody by any state or power, yet the Turks have been doing just that to twenty million Kurds under their control
The Persians are not far behind the Arabs and the Turks in clinging to their mistreatment and oppression of the Kurds. While they consider the part of Kurdistan under their occupation even beyond “negotiable,” they, too, are denying every legitimate right to the Kurds, including studying Kurdish in schools, or using it as a medium of instruction, etc. Such is the justice and democracy that the Iranian regime claims to be practising today. The Shah’s regime did not treat the Kurds any better, of course.
No matter which way the Kurdish people turn, they are faced with states and neighbors that consider the Kurdish homeland and Kurdish identity “negotiable.” The insistence by these greedy and racist neighbors not only on keeping what they have taken away from the Kurds by force and grabbing for more, but on erasing Kurdish identity, remains as serious a threat to Kurdish survival as it ever has been. Therefore, the Kurds must remain vigilant and stand their ground against continuous attempts to take away their land, their freedom, and their identity. If we remain true to our ancestors, who resisted and, in the end, defeated every invader of Kurdistan who dreamt of breaking the will of our people, we will foil any and all attempts by today’s invaders, too, for, as it is in any struggle, it is often a strong defence that carries the day.