A Kurdish Band of Brothers and erosion of common borders
The proposed Kurdish National Conference, set to bring Kurds together from Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria, serves as a symbolic moment in the history of the Kurdish nation and the Kurdish renaissance as a political and strategic force in the Middle East.
The greater Kurdish lands were arbitrarily carved almost a century ago leaving Kurds in each respective quarter to fight for their localised rights. The notion of a national conference for the Kurds serves to shatter the principle that the Kurdish struggle is now discounted to the respective segments that they were forcefully thrown under. The prospect of 600 participants across the Kurdish divide under one roof and with a common cause would send strong signals across the region at a highlysensitive time.
The struggle for minority rights has overshadowed the real battle for sovereign rights and narrowed the nationalist angle of the Kurds.
However, holding and organising such a grand venture was never going to be easy. Each part of Kurdistan is going through its own critical historical juncture, dominated by a different political picture and regional connotations.
The recent announcement to postpone the national conference for a second time gave more fuel to sceptics and regional powers watching developments with intent. It was originally scheduled for September 15th and now set for November 25th.
The reason for the delay was officially due to the upcoming Kurdistan parliamentary elections on September 21st, but there have been reported disagreements over allocation of seats and format of the conference.
The task of bringing together hundreds of figures and dozens of political parties was never going to be straightforward. But Kurds must not back away from this grand challenge and ultimate aims of the conference, in spite of any differences or pressures from neighbouring powers.
Successive regimes in Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq always feared the ripple effect of the Kurdish struggle. Rights or political achievements in one part of the divide could be the launchpad for a struggle elsewhere. Once Kurds are emboldened and strengthened on one side, this sets expectations and a benchmark for the others.
In this light, neighbouring powers were always going to view such a conference with suspicion and as a threat.
The Kurdish national struggle was firstly blighted by the imperial powers at the time with imposed division, but to counter that Kurds in each respective part have divided themselves further. How can the Kurds achieve statehood or demand greater rights from respective regimes if they themselves suffer from disunity, a lack of a common vision or long-term plan for the Kurdish nation as a whole?
The growing prominence and strategic standing of the Kurdistan Region has laid the foundations for the rise of the Kurds as a key regional power. Kurds in Syria, Turkey and Iran already benefit from the immense trade, opportunities and cultural bridges that the booming Kurdish Region provides.
The Kurds in Syria have finally wrestled from decades of tyranny to achieve unprecedented autonomy. But with raging battles against Islamist forces, a Syria that is sinking deeper into division and conflict and outright disunity amongst Syrian Kurdish political parties, Kurds risk wasting their historical opportunity.
At the same time in Turkey, there is the unique chance of peace between the PKK and Ankara after a 3 decade old conflict that has paralysed the economic and social development of Kurdish lands in Turkey.
With prospects of autonomy for Syria Kurds, their natural gate is the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Kurdish lands will slowly but surely become de-facto united with the eroding of borders. A greater Kurdistan may not exist in name, but Kurds can build an affective regional union.
A Kurdish League with a common charter, effective power and equitable representation can form the equivalent of the Kurdish band of brothers. This is the only way to protect Kurdish interests and further Kurdish national goals.
However, achieving such lofty goals of unity will not be easy. Just look at Syrian Kurdistan where the influence of the both the PKK and KDP and respective support for Abdullah Ocalan and Massaud Barzani