Following his diplomatic tour of Europe in January, including to the Davos summit, The President of the Kurdistan Region, Massud Barzani, returned to Irbil for a while before leaving again for Moscow on 19 February. The declared objectives of the journey were “to discuss relations between Russia and the Government of Kurdistan and developments in Iraq and in the region as a whole”.
Among those accompanying him were the President\s son, Massud Barzani, Kurdistan’s Security Advisor, the Deputy Prime Minister Imad Ahmad, the President’s Chief of Staff, Fuad Hussein, the Foreign Minister, Falah Bakir, the Minister of Housing and Building, Kamran Ahmed Abdullah and Ashti Hawrami, Minister of Natural Resources for several years past. The presence of the last two shows that this visit will cover issues regarding economic development and particularly the exploration and operation of Kurdistan’s oil fields. The Russian company, Gazprom Neft has, so far, been mainly active in Iraq even though, in 2012, it announced it was taking shares in two blocks in Iraqi Kurdistan — a 40% share in the Garmiyan field and an 80% share in Shakal. The Russian company then estimated that the resources of the two blocks could produce about 3.6 billion barrels.
This announcement came at the height of the controversy between Baghdad and Irbil over the Region’s right to sign its own agreements with foreign companies. During the summer of 2012, Iraq had toughened its discourse, threatening foreign companies that signed contacts with Kurdistan and threatening reprisals against their agreements with Iraq. At that time Baghdad’s main targets were ExxonMobil. According to Nefte Compass, a weekly that specialised in fuel and power issues, Nuri al-Maliki’s government had envisaged replacing ExxonMobil by LUKOIL (a Russian company) following a meeting between Nuri al-Maliki and Vladimir Putin. However no official statement was made.
In November 2012 there were contradictory rumours about the future activities of Gazprom Neft. Some sources close to the Iraqi government stated that it had frozen its projects in Kurdistan, while others apparently from the company itself (but not from its official spokesman) and from the KRG stated that Gazprom Neft for alliance with Russia. In October 2012had let them understand that the contracts signed were being carried out.
However, it is not only in the field of hydrocarbons that Baghdad and Irbil seem to be competing Nuri al-Maliki had also visited Moscow and had signed arms contracts for a total of 4 billion dollars. Now ever since the resurgence of tension between the Kurds and the Iraqis over Kirkuk and the other disputed territories, Iraq’s arms policy has been very closely watched by the KRG, that sees it as a direct threat to the Region. Last December there was a rumour of future arms purchases worth 87 million dollars by the Kurds from Moscow, though this was denied by the Irbil government. Safin Diyazee had denied this in December and it was again denied today by another spokesperson, Omed Sabah, while the media reported remarks by Massud Barzani denying without actually denying it (as is his habit!) by saying that it was not on the agenda but that if such an offer were made it would be welcome . . .
Seven days later, while nothing concrete had filtered out on the subject of arms sales, more is known about the agreement with Gazprom Neft. It is clear that Russia’s fifth largest crude oil producer has secured the lion’s share, with 80% of the Halabja oilfield, whose reserves are said to be between 90 and 100 million tonnes of hydrocarbons. However the terms of such an agreement have not been revealed.
“Our next mission is to prepare our working programme of geological prospecting” announced Vladimir Iakovlev, first Assistant General Manager of Gazprom Neft. Despite this, he asserted that he had received nonnegative messages from Baghdad and that the contract covering the Badra field in Southern Iraq has not be questioned.
Another burning issue raised is that of Syria. Damascus us supported by Putin whereas Massud Barzani is supporting all the initiatives to try and unite the Syrian Kurdish National Council (KNC) and has several times acted as an intermediary between the Syrian National Council, the KNC and Turkey. In any case, his position is openly opposed to that of Nuri al-Maliki who, for his part, remains close to Bachar al-Assad.
The Iranian nuclear issue also could concern the Kurds who chose to remain as neutral as possible as between Washington and Teheran although the increasing Iranian influence in Baghdad has not helped ease the political atmosphere between the Kurds and Nuri al-Maliki.
According to the Kurdish presidential cabinet, however, the meeting between Massud Barzani and Vladimir Putin mainly covered strengthening economic and cultural cooperation and the role of Russian companies in the reconstruction of Kurdistan.
To the extent that there is continuity with his father’s policies, it is also in Massud Barzani’s refusal to chose between one camp or another, particularly between the USA and Russia. Often supported (but also often let down) by the Americans, the Barzanis have always maintained good relations with the Russians. Mollah Mustafa and his men’s long sojourn there (many of whom, while there, married Soviet women and were educated there) always enabled the Iraqi Kurds to maintain the same neutrality between the USA and the Russians as between the USA and Iran.
In the dispute between the Kurdish Region and Iraq, the Americans too often tried to play for time (and even to discourage the Kurdish desire for autonomy) for Irbil to trust Washington to ensure its security let alone to support them in their differences with Iraq. History, also, provides many warning such as Kissinger’s betrayal of the Kurds in 1975, while Baghdad’s arms purchases from the US have also worried them. Then there was the latest incursion by the US Ambassador to Ankara, Francis Ricciardone, warning Turkey against its policy of energy partnership with the Kurds at the expense of Baghdad, which also displeased Erdogan, who then suddenly became a warm defender of Iraqi Constitutional Federalism. At a time when Kurdish and Iraqi troops have been confronting one another for several months over Kirkuk and before the Hamrin Mountains, such an argument against Kurdish autonomy was obviously not appreciated in Irbil. In any case, this visit and the agreement with Gazprom Neft is a further snub at the Iraqi Prime Minister’s centralising policy, enabling the Kurds to strengthen their claim to being an independent economic power a few months after Maliki’s visit to Moscow.
Massud Barzani took advantage of his stay in Moscow to visit the where his father, Mustafa Barzani, had lived during his years in exile after his legendary “long march” from Mahabad to Russia. Indeed, 66 years after the fall of the Mahabad Republic which had seen his father and 500 Peshmergas seek asylum in Russia, the son returned as President of a Kurdish proto-State flying the same colours at those of Mahabad, though needing to maintain American friendship as well as possible promises of Russian arms.
The negotiations taking place for some months between the imprisoned chief of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, and the Turkish Government via the Secretary of State for the Security Services (MIT), Hakan Pidan, are arousing considerable stir in the Turkish political caste — but also in the ranks of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).
During a meeting at Antalya on 11 February, the BDP co-President, Gultan Kisanak had again expressed a demand for “autonomy for Kurdistan” and again criticised the opacity of the political process being played out in Imrali and the way his party had been pushed to one side.
“Every day there is a new speculation on who will be going to Imrali for the second round of negotiations with Ocalan. So far the government ha not recognised the BDP as part of the negotiation process”.
For his part, Murat Karayalan, the PKK military commander, demanded to be able to have direct telephone communications with Ocalan, which the latter, apparently, had also demanded. Contrary to Gultan Kışanak, he does not seem to want to act as “part of the negotiation” process — possibly to avoid having personally to shoulder the decisions when faced with his men — but just fully to follow the line and orders set out by Abdullah Ocalan: “Ocalan already represents us and we think it’s best to negotiate with Ocalan alone” (Firat News).
There is one demand that, according to the daily paper Taraf, might be agreed, especially when it’s a matter of carrying out ceasefire operations and demilitarisation of the PKK in the field. Thus Taraf suggests that contacts between the PKK chief and his military units could well be by teleconferencing.
Regarding the conditions for a retreat of guerrilla units and an end to the fighting, Murat Karayılan avoided giving any opinion, positive or negative, on this issue. He just answered with another question: “Why were we fighting in the first place? There was a reason for our presence in the mountains”.
For his part, the Turkish Prime Minister is trying to address the “Kurdish electorate” directly in order to ensure its support for the peace process: “We have initiated a process … to provide a chance for a political solution. So long as you support us we will tackle this problem with determination” he stated in a public speech at Midyat, a town moreover in a region with a mixed population of Kurds, Christians, Arabs and Turks.
However, the demand for a direct visit by leaders of the BDP or Members of Parliament to Imrali was not immediately agreed. In the first instance it was Abdullah Ocalan’s brother, Mehmet, who was authorised to visit him on 16 February. The private character of this visit was confirmed by Mehmet Ocalan, who avoided any personal comments on the peace process, but just gave the daily paper Dicle an account of the conversation he’d had with his brother on the subject. Thus Abdullah is said to have asked how public opinion (probably Kurdish) had greeted the negotiations and Mehmet had answered (without mentioning his sources for this) that they were 70% favourable.
Abdullah Ocalan is said to have said: “ I am a prisoner and, consequently, am unable to do everything or find a solution to everything. Here I have meetings with Intelligence officers (MIT) who are behaving sincerely to me. However, the truth is that there are other people and other powers involved in this problem. I do not know to what extent these powers will support the process. I am doing my best, but my means are limited as I cannot answer all the questions and take responsibility for everything. That would not be a correct approach. I have sent my proposals to the government through a State delegation, expressing what we want and what we can do and how the problem can lead to a solution. Whatever the government may call it, this is a war towards peace. The government will examine my proposals and will evaluate the way the Kurdish problem can end with a solution”.
The PKK chief affirmed that the Kurdish question concerns Qandil as well as “Europe” (the PKK in Europe) and added that the co-Presidents of the BDP and the Congress for a Democratic Society (DTK) should also take part in the negotiations so that they could communicate information from Imrali to the PKK’s offices in Europe and Qandil. He then alluded to reservations that had been made to the government following the visit by certain members of the BDP rather than others, without specifying what the reason was.
“The government raised problems about the names of those who would be part of the BDP delegation, but it is not a matter of names. It is not right to make an issue about who should or should not come to Imrali. No one has been authorised since the visit by Ahmet Turk and Alya Akat 40 days ago. The Turkish and Kurdish peoples are also a major part of the process towards a resolution of the Kurdish problem — which is a problem that has lasted for 100 or 200 years, not just 30 or 40. The BDP delegation must take part in the discussion son the way the process must advance. They must then inform the public about the process while Qandil and Europe must put forward their opinions and proposals. We need people to convey information to these circles. The Kurdish camp does not close the door on a peaceful solution. If the process now taking place reaches a dead end this will harm the Kurds as much as the Turks and the whole region”.
In passing he gave his views on the murders in Paris, where he seems to accuse Turkey of covering an agent: “The judicial authorities say that the murders were perpetrated by someone from Sivas (Ömer Güney). Our people must know that these three Kurdish political activists were killed by those who brought e here. The suspect is said to have visited Turkey and Ankara 10 times last year. The Turkish State must reveal who this person is , what he was doing in Ankara, what his mission was, whom he met and who planned the attack. France, the United States and NATO all know who is behind this murder but are not telling the truth, which must be disclosed for the process to advance”.
On 21 February it was finally announced that some Kurdish Members of Parliament would be allowed to see Ocalan even though the Turkish bombing of Qandil were continuing.
The names of those who received the Turkish governments approval to visit Imrali on 23 February (allegedly at Ocalan’s suggestion) included the film director Sırrı Süreyya Önder (a Turk from Adiyaman), Altan Tan and Pervin Buldan. The first two are members of the Parliamentary commission appointed to draft a new Constitution, which is probably no accident. Pervin Buldan made the point that two MIT officers were present at the meeting.
Erdogan had earlier explained that the PKK’s disarmament was one of his government’s principal demands. Indeed, as from 25 February it was leant that Ocalan would call for a cease-fire on the following 21 March, the day of the Kurdish New Year. He also announced the possibility of the guerrilla’s releasing Turkish prisoners, both Army and civilian (they are said to be 9 or 10 of them), that it has held for several years.
The minutes of the meeting (21 pages long) was sent to the guerrilla commander as well as a “peace plan” of 61 pages drawn up by Ocalan, both of which are supposed to remain confidential. However, the whole of the minutes were rapidly published I the press, in the first place by the daily paper Milliyet and then taken up by the other papers, although the three members of the delegation denied being the source of the leak.
It should be recalled that last year the Oslo negotiations had failed because of similar leaks.
In general, there is no change in the tone of Ocalan’s accusations and discontent regarding the BDP and the PKK, which gives credit to the statement published in the newspaper Sabah in July 2012, that the PKK chief had himself asked the Minister of justice to freeze his lawyers’ visits: “Don’t make me meet these lawyers. They distort and transmit my words incorrectly. My messages are not sent to those I intended. The BDP and the PKK are betraying me. I no longer want to communicate with them”.
Thus Ocalan is said to accuse the PKK of creating obstacles to his efforts to establish peace, while warning Turkey against wanting to dictate its conditions, expressing the hope that there would not be any “misunderstanding” on the part of the AKP. He criticised that Party’s will to hegemony, affirming that if they did not net him control the negotiations or that they failed, Turkey could expect a future as catastrophic as Syria’s or Iraq’s.
In his opinion, the PKK’s withdrawal from Turkey would have to be bi-lateral and decided by Parliament and not just the Prime Minister. Indeed, that would give some legitimacy to an order that is in danger of deeply offending Turkish public opinion. However the complete withdrawal of the Armed Forces and police from the border zones or from the Kurdish regions is unlikely. As for the autonomy, demanded by the BDP, the PKK (as well as its Syrian branch), Abdullah Ocalan no longer considers it to be a means of “sabotaging” the negotiations but is more insistent on the necessity for the democratisation of Turkey, while contemplating a general impunity for PKK members (without an amnesty, considered unnecessary) — which excludes the total dissolution of the movement. The return of those displaced to their villages (destroyed by the Army) is also indicated as a necessary condition for the withdrawal.
The PKK’s leader’s main peeve, apart from his own movement, was directed at the “Gülen brotherhood” whose under cover powers seem to be mingled with those of the “deep State” and to be attacking the MIT and the Prime Minister so as to scuttle the political process under way.
It is possible that the reports of the meeting were somewhat distorted to strengthen the impression of some complicity between Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Abdullah Öcalan with the aim of creating difficulties between the Prime Minister and the nationalists. Thus the PKK leader seems to support the possibility of Erdogan becoming President and even of an alliance with the AKP.
“We can seal a Presidential alliance with the AKP on these bases, However, he (the President) must be similar to that of the United States, with a Senate and a People’s Assembly that could be called a democratic parliament, like the US House of Representatives or the Russian Duma or the British House of Commons”.
Erdogan condemned the leaks and denied they had any basis: “Until we make a declaration and confirm it, all rumours are lies and unfounded. This is clearly an attempt at sabotage by certain circles that do not want Turkey’s development”.
While he was at it he also rejected any amnesty for PKK fighters contrary to what Ocalan is said to have stated )or wanted) as well as of placing the PKK leader under house arrest.
The BDP denied being the source of the leaks while affirming it would conduct an internal enquiry.
On 27 February, another PKK military commander, Duran Kalkan, commented to AFP the latest political events — Turkey’s demands and the call for laying down their arms. Duran Kalkan confirms the PKK’s lack of enthusiasm, of which Ocalan reproached it and stated that Ocalan had called for freeing of prisoners by the Turks as well as by the Kurds ( there are thousands of Kurdish political prisoners) and that “no one expects a unilateral gesture from us” and that it was up to both sides to make “political gestures”.
On the issue of the withdrawal of the guerrillas from Turkish territory, Duran Kalkan asked, this time in agreement with his leader, whether the Turkish Armed Forces also intended “withdrawing” from the Kurdish regions.
“That is an approach that could help lead to a solution. If we each did what was asked of us I can say, on the PKK’s behalf that the Kurdish armed movement will never be an obstacle to the democratisation of Turkey and a solution to the Kurdish question. The PKK and its leaders are determined to fight until the Kurdish people wins its freedom”.
The military commander finally concluded that the PKK must express its position on the way that a solution should be negotiated, adding that his movement will accept “any agreement that was based on the people’s agreement”.
What emerges from his statement, which was published by Firat News, the PKK news agency, is that the “peace processus” as drawn up by Ocalan and the MIT is, indeed, far from de lighting the guerrillas — which, was foreseeable. The question remains whether, as in 1999, it will pretend to agree to a half measure (a cease fire without disarming) in which case nothing would change or whether, under pressure, either from the BDP or its European offices, the guerrillas come down from the mountains.
A BDP delegation visited Iraqi Kurdistan last week to carry Ocalan’s message to the PKK guerrillas. This time, in addition to Altan Tan and Sirri Sureyya Onder, it included political leaders of both the BDP and the DTK, Ahmet Turk and Aysel Tugluk and Selahattin Demirtas and Gultan Kisanak, who went to Suleimaniah. Pervin Buldan, on the other hand flew to Europe to give Ocalan’s message the PKK representatives there.
Ahmet Turk held a press conference jointly with Mele Bextiyar, of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) as he has been PUK interim leader since Jalal Talabani’s stroke. He made the point that contacts with the political circles of Southern Kurdistan are continuing so as to collect their views on the current process. Mentioning the Turkish bombing of Qandil, and thus of Iraqi Kurdistan, he considered that they were liable to “weaken the peace process”.
Sabah asserts that a meeting took place between Karayılan, Kalkan a BDP delegation and some Iraqi Kurdistan leaders, since a PKK military withdrawal could take place with the Peshmergas acting as supervisors and guarantors (for the moment Irbil has said nothing about this).
Sülbüs Peri, another of the organisation´s leaders made the point, as had Duran Kalkan a few days previously, that a unilateral retreat was impossible to envisage, and also called for guarantees regarding the security of this retreat.
At the Davos forum on 24 January last, the Kurdistan Regional Government President, Massud Barzani, had stressed the necessity of resolving the political crisis in Iraq and of launched the political process again, pointing out the extremely dangerous character of the situation.
The following month the differences had in no way eased but the political difficulties of Iraqi governance had, this time crystallised round the vote on the Iraqi budget for 2013, over which the Baghdad Parliament seems unable to agree. The main cause is the multi-facetted conflict between the central government and the Kurdish region.
Thus although the Cabinet had approved the $118 billion budget last October, this has still not been passed by Parliament as its provisions are opposed for a variety of reasons by Arab Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish members of Parliament.
One of the disagreements that has dragged on for months is the amounts due to companies working in the Kurdish region who export oil to Iraq. Last summer the Kurds had suspended deliveries of crude oil to Iraq because of failure to pay for it. After several promises to settle the exports had been resumed last autumn but without reaching the level of 250,000 barrels a day stipulated by the agreement after Iraq had maid a first instalment of its debt.
On 13 February the vote on the budget was postponed sine die because the sum of $644 million to settle the arrears to the oil companies was considered insufficient by the Kurds. They claimed 4.2 trillion dinars ($3.5 billion) to cover arrears pending since 2010.
The amount demanded by the Kurds seemed to great to some Sunni Arabs, like Jaber Al-Jabri, elected on the Iraqiya List, who is also a member of the Finance Commission, especially as Iraq has a deficit of $4.5 billion.
Nuri al-Maliki’s list, the State of Laws, retorted that the Kurds must first of all pay damages to the central government for having failed to deliver 250,000 barrels a days as promised since November 2012.
The slowing down of exports irritated Baghdad all the more since, on the other hand, the RGK has stated exporting oil at a rate of 150,000 barrels a date of oil and condensate to Turkey by truck and they are planning to build an oil pipeline that will go directly from Kurdistan to Turkey without passing through Iraq.
Another point in dispute is the percentage of the budget allocated to the Kurdish region by the central Government. Over the last few years it was 17%, calculated on the basis that the population of Kurdistan is 17% of the total of Iraqis. Today, while the population living in Kurdistan is constantly growing, according to the Kurds, the Iraqi Members dispute this figure and holding a census, if accepted by the Kurds, would only delay the vote on the budget. Meanwhile, the State of Laws and the Iraqiyya (Sunni Arab) lists are calling on the Kurds to be satisfied with 12%.
The share of the budget due to be allotted to Defence is also considered too great and some Members are suggesting redistributing the money to the families hit by the recent floods. This proposal, on the other hand, is not opposed by the Kurds, who are watching with concern the arms purchases being signed by Nuri al-Maliki, which seem to them a threat mainly aimed at them. As against this, a budget for maintaining the Kurdish Peshmergas was again rejected by the pro-Maliki coalition, especially since the recent tensions between the Arab and Kurdish forces in Diyala and around Kirkuk.
“The Peshmergas have pointed their arms at the breasts of Iraqi military personnel and now they want us to pay for their equipment and their wages” is how Mohammad Al Sayhood, a State of Laws member summed it up.
However, the Kurds are refusing to vote for the budget unless this demand is not met. The Peshmerga budget has not been paid since 2007 and Baghdad owes Irbil, according to the Kurdish Finance Minister, about $ 6.4 billion.
This issue has even reconciled, temporarily at least, the Kurdish parties in office and those in the opposition since even the Goran Members of Parliament have agreed to block the vote should the refusal continue.
According to para.5 of Article 13 of the 2013 Iraqi draft Budget, based on a mutual agreement between the Iraqi and Kurdish Finance Ministers, all the arrears since 2007 regarding the Pwshmergas must be settled on the basis of payments before due date. The Members, however, are claiming even more: that the Peshmergas budget be part of the overall budget for the whole of Iraq. Muayyad Tayyib, spokesman for the Kurdish Alliance (the majority list) explained that this would avoid postponing payments year after year.
Iraq also demands a reduction in their numbers, from the present 200,000 to 20,000. Evidently this is out of the question for the Kurds, who are determined, in the event of any conflict, to resist in the field the 820,600 man strong Iraqi Army — who, it is true would be much less motivated than the Kurds to defend Kirkuk.
According to the Minister for the Peshmergas, the Kurdish forces have been maintained for years by the Kurdistan Regional Government, without any Iraqi subsidy.
Since all the possible intermediaries and negotiators are often at work in Iraq, it was at the end of February that the Supreme Islamic Council, that wanted to act as mediator through its director Ammar al-Hakim, announced that an agreement had been, or was on the point of being, found to the dispute about oil with the Kurdish Alliance.
The day before, the KRG Minister of Natural Resources, Ashti Hawrami, the Kurdistan Deputy Prime Minister, Roj Nouri Shaways, the Iraqi Oil Minister, Abdel Karim al-Leabi, the Iraqi Finance and planning Minister, Ali Shukri are said to have met privately to reach an understanding regarding payments to the oil companies active in Kurdistan.
On 2 March, Safeen Diyazee, KRG spokesman said he was “not pessimistic” regarding the resolution of the crisis, considering that this government’s delegation had left Baghdad without any concrete results, but that this “did not mean it had failed”. He also renewed the idea of a census to determine the proportion of the Kurdistani population.
On 3 March, Mahmud Othman, an independent Kurdish Member in Baghdad and a well considered political veteran, revealed that Massud Barzani was in favour of holding a national conference bringing together all the Iraqi political components without exception, so as to resolve the crisis and all the conflicts pending. It has just been learnt that the Iraqi Finance Minister, Rafaie Al-Issawi, has resigned. He announced this during a demonstration against Nuri al-Maliki in the Sunni Arab Anbar province. His reasons had nothing to do with the budget disputes but because, he said, the central government did not respond to the demands and needs of the Iraqi Sunni Arabs even after 70 days of demonstrations. “I have take sides with my community” he concluded. An additional reason may be that his own bodyguards had confessed (whether or not under torture) to having been accomplices of terrorist assassinations committed with the bodyguards of Tarik Hashimi, the Iraqi Vice President, now a refugee in Turkey.
Nuri al-Maliki has refused to accept this resignation, alleging “financial and administrative irregularities” — which has not helped calm things down…
Today the Kurdish Alliance have again succeeded in blocking the budget vote that Nuri al-Maliki tried to bulldozer through, after refusing an invitation to visit Irbil although the Kurdish Prime Minister, Neçirvan Barzani, is due to visit Baghdad.
Another possible drawback of the parliamentary crisis that works to the advantage of the Kurds would be the cancellation of the arms contract between Baghdad and Moscow, signed last October for a total of $4 billion. Baghdad is said to have considered reducing this, envisaging limiting it to one billion, and paying a penalty for this. However the Iraqi Foreign Minster, Hoshyar Zebari (a Kurd) has said that the contract still stands and that the Mi-28N helicopters and the Pantsir ground-air artillery are due for delivery next June.
This contract has been the subject of considerable controversy, with accusations of corruption — made by the Iraqi Prime Minister’s own spokesman but refuted by the Defence Minister — which seems to indicate the degree of unity and coherence within Maliki’s Cabinet. Soon after, indeed, they were confirmed by Ali al-Dabbagh, the Iraqi Government spokesman who added, at the same time, that the contract would be “completely reviewed”.
Thus it is possibly the foul general atmosphere reigning in Baghdad more than the difficulties in having the budget accepted that leaves one sceptical about the reality of these Russian arms deliveries.
A synod of 15 Chaldean bishops has been meeting in Rome since 29 January to elect a new Patriarch, since Cardinal Emmanuel Delly had resigned for reasons of health. The man finally chosen is Mgr. Louis Sako, Archbishop of Kirkuk.
Born in 1948 in a family living in Zakho, in Iraqi Kurdistan, Louis Sako studied in Mossul and was ordained a priest in 1974. He has a doctorate in Patristic science and another in Iraq’s ancient history as well as a Masters in Islamic Jurisprudence. From 1997 to 2001 he taught at the Baghdad Patriarchal Pontifical College. He was elected bishop in 2002 and confirmed by Pope John-Paul II in 2003.
As the Kirkuk diocese is the subject of political and armed conflict between Kurds, Arabs and Tucomen and the target of terrorists who attack both Christians and Moslems, Louis Sako has been very active locally to promote understanding between the religious communities and for a united and reconciled Iraq. He is also a member of the Pontifical Council for interdenominational dialogue. Independent of the bishops of the diaspora for this very local church, it is a very good compromise between purely Iraqi dignitaries possibly too “Baghdadi” and the Kurdistan bishops.
As he often travels outside Iraq to make heard the voices of Christian minorities, he speaks fluent French and has received many awards for his activities. In 2008he received the Defensor Fidei prize and in 2010 the Pax Christi.
On 23 February 2013, the Paris Kurdish Institute celebrated its 30-year existence and organised a symposium and the French National Assembly to celebrate the occasion entitled “Kurdistan and the Kurdish Diaspora: 1983-2013”. The invitations were presented as follows:
“The 1980s are a dark period in Kurdish historic chronicles since they are so characterised by massive repression and wholesale destruction carried out by the states against any sort of Kurdish resistance, be it armed or peaceful, but also against the Kurdish populations as such: in Iranian Kurdistan, the heady revolutionary days of 1978-9 were replaced by a “juhad” launched by Ayatollah Khomeiny against Kurdish society as a whole; in Iraqi Kurdistan the destruction of the countryside rises to a crescendo, leading, at the end of the decade, to a policy of outright genocide while in army governed Turkey Kurdishness itself is criminalised or considered a pathology to be cured by increased doses of Kemalism and torture.
Founding the Kurdish Institute of Paris, made possible by a political change in France, was thus as much due to an urgent need to save this people’s culture — which everything seemed show was doomed to irreversible destruction — as to the will to bring together Kurdish intellectuals driven abroad by political repression on top of an atrocious war between Iraq and Iran that was to cause over a million deaths.
Thirty years later, while the Middle East is going through a new period of violence in many countries, it is time to draw up a balance sheet. It is self-evident that this assessment cannot be just one of the Kurdish Institute or of the Diaspora, that has strenuously influenced the changes in Kurdistan over these decades. Indeed, it is essential to take stock of some considerable transformations that have resulted, inter alia in the emergence of a Kurdish Federal Region in Iraq, and to reflect on the socio-economic consequences of the rapid urbanisation that Kurdistan has experienced between 1980 and 2010. This has brought, in its wake, the emergence of a youth, now partly at the helm, whose sociological profile is radically different to that of the nationalist intelligentsia of the 1950-70 period.
Taking into account the generational phenomenon in Kurdistan’s recent history is all the more crucial as a large part of the public figures who had dominated the political and cultural landscape such as Abdurrahman Ghassemlou, leader of the KDP-Iran, the film director Yilmaz Güney, the poets Cegerxwin or Hejar or scholars like Noureddine Zaza or Ismet Cheriff Vanly are now part of the Kurdish national Pantheon. While, in the 80s, the Kurdish Diaspora still remained the only area where a peaceful intermingling of Kurds from different countries was possible, the internal integration of Kurdistan, not only economic but also cultural and even political, has considerably accelerated in the 1990 – 2010 period. Inter-state borders, already made porous by new communication technologies, are now further weakened by population movements. We are forced to note that the linguistic and cultural areas have, over the last two decades, experienced a renewal, unprecedented in Kurdish history. In contrast with the 80s, when the very word “Kurdish” frightened many universities, Kurdish Studies in Europe and in the United States are really soaring with dozens of theses on Kurdish history and society being presented every year.
The “present” always consists of this space-time continuum and invites us today to evaluate the past and to project ourselves into an as yet undetermined future. This Symposium to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Kurdish Institute is intended as a response to this double challenge”.
The first round table was presided by M. Bernard Dorin, French Ambassador, and its subject was “Kurdistan from 1983 to 2013”. Those taking part were Professor Hamit Bozarslan, of the EHESS, Dr. Khaled Saleh, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Kurdistan, Chris Kutschera, a journalist and a specialist on the Kurdish Question, Ms Sève Izouli-Aydin, a Barrister and Celîlê Celîl, emeritus professor.
Khaled Saleh : “Iraqi Kurdistan from Saddam Hussein to Nuri al-Maliki”.
Outlining the relations between the Kurdistan Region and the Iraqi State, Khaled Saleh described them as an alternating series of crises, acts of violence and open negotiations with strategic reservations and ulterior motives on both sides. Thus the Kurds were granted a very wide autonomy in the 70sthat was due to be fully carried out within 4 years. However, as it remained a dead letter this agreement was broken off by a new period of armed violence. To conclude, Kurdistan suffered a wave of destruction and genocide actions in the 80s that destroyed almost all the Kurdish villages.
The end of Saddam Hussein’s rule allowed hope for a fresh start, a “resurgence of programmes”.
At the start of the new Iraq, following Saddam’s overthrow, Nuri al-Maliki was an unknown quantity in Iraq, whose only effective support came from the Kurds, who were the most united and politically advanced group in the political field, since they had had the experience of 10 years autonomy before the fall of the Baath. The Kurds, at that time held the key to the negotiations.
Today, if we look at recent events, some people who had previously been politically marginal are now threatening to wage another armed campaign against the Kurds.
Iraq is still suffering from the political influences and ideologies current in the 60s and 70s and even the 90s, when agreements could be made, signed and then withdrawn very easily, especially when someone new came to power. This is the main danger overshadowing the perspectives of the Kurdistan Region.
Between 2003 and 2005 there was a favourable climate for a change of attitudes and for reconstruction in Iraq, but this gradually changed. People were still talking about Arabisation of Kurdish territories (outside the Kurdistan Region) between 2003 and 2004, but for reasons that are unclear the Kurds finally accepted the American proposal to call these territories “disputed territories”. This drastically changed the way of tackling the question of the question of these territories by allowing it to be implied that there were two valid points of view, whereas “Arabisation” stressed the injustice of the policy.
Another important problem was the sharing of power and revenues, which became the subject of finicky controls by Baghdad while for the Kurds and attempt to call into question the sharing of power and revenues or the issue of the territories they claimed immediately triggered a reaction of national defence against the possible consequences.
Going from Saddam to Maliki has not changed the initial situation and the basic problems: What do we want to create in Iraq? An area where people can breathe and live worthily? A step forward has been taken since the 80-90 period, since the period of genocide, but we must still remain aware of the basic problems that the Iraqi State as well as the Kurds face over and above those of individual positions.
Chris Kutschera: “The history of the Iranian Kurds between armed struggle and civil resistance”.
The Iranian revolution surprised everyone, including Dr. Abdulrahman Ghassemlou, General Secretary of the KDPI. This event brought him to the head of an armed resistance of several thousands of Peshmergas. His mistake was of thinking that the Islamic regime would rapidly collapse after the Shah had been overthrown. After 1983 the KDPI and the Komala withdrew to the Iraqi border and, finally into Iraqi Kurdistan.
The two assassinations of the KDPI leaders, Ghassemlou and Sherefkandi) were terrible blows and this party fell into a fault that is frequent in Kurdish history — that of a “war between chiefs and under-chiefs” in a society still impregnated with tribal organisations. The KDPI and the Komala split into a number of movements that event went so far as to confront one another violently. The years following the assassinations were leaden years.
The year 2004 saw a renewal of Kurdish civil resistance under the relative liberalisation of President Khatami, with students as at Samanjad, doctors, lawyers, journalists all watching closely what was happening in other parts of Kurdistan while still remaining close to the Iranian context of the Kurdish question and suspicious of the traditional parties.
That year also saw the founding of the PJAK, considered to be an offshoot of the PKK, that was fighting for a “democratic and federal Iran”. Some young Kurds who admired the PKK joined PJAK and started clashes with the Guardians of the Revolution. Whale the PKK had for a long time been tolerated or better in Iran, the rapprochement between Erdogan’s Turkey and Teheran changed that situation completely.
After several years of clashes the PJAK concluded a ceasefire with the Iranians in the autumn of 2011 and withdraw to the borders while the Iranian Army, for its part, ceased military operations and stopped executing Kurdish political prisoners. Was this a defeat or a real ceasefire? In any case a number of young Iranian Kurds are again fighting in the PKK ranks against Turkey while relations between Teheran and Ankara have again become tense since Turkey supports the Syrian opposition.
Iranian Kurdistan, like that of Turkey, has problems of geographically defining itself, unlike Iraqi Kurdistan. According to Iranian Kurds, Kurdistan includes the provinces of Western Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, Ilam and Kermanshah. Western Azerbaijan has cities largely in habited by Azeri Shiites, like Urmiah, Koy, Maku, Miandoab. In 1946 qazi Mohammad had already refused to take a stand on the issue of including the city of Urmiah in the Mahabad Republic, although some Azeri tribal chiefs had called for this. The province of Sananjad has a more or less homogenous population (Sunni Kurds); Kermanshah and Ilam have heterogeneous, largely Shiite, populations. Iranian Kurdistan calls for a more complex solution than that of article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, to resolve the problem of the “disputes” Iranian territories.
Recently two rival leaders of the KDPI, Mustafa Hijri and Khaled Azizi, were able to meet (thanks to the efforts of Dr. Frédéric Tissot, former French consul in Irbil), which may allow us to hope for some cooperation between the two rival branches of the KGP-I.
Will the upheavals of the Arab Spring reach Iran? Are the Americans using the Kurdish card against the Teheran regime? If so the KDPI doesn’t carry much weight and there are no contacts (at least not official ones) between the PJAK and the USA. The Iranian Kurdistan card, unlike the Iraqi Kurdistan one, is not really promising.
Sève Izouli-Aydin: “The fate of the Kurds in Syria”.
Sève Izouli-Aydin began by recalling the terrible years that followed the 1980 coup d’état in Turkey, when even the Kurds of Syrian border villages round Qamishlo were living in fear of Turkish incursions and the impact created by the BBC’s announcement of the founding of the Kurdish Institute in Paris
Then she outlined the broad population figures of the Syrian Kurds, recalling the case of the “Stateless” Kurds, either registered as foreigners or just not registered at all, who live, paradoxically enough, in some of the richest regions in Syria, because of their water resources. In 1970, a law on redistribution of agricultural land deprived these “stateless” Kurds of their land to give it to Arab colonists from other parts of Syria.
The first Syrian Kurdish party was founded in 1956 (the KDPS). Today there are about a dozen, with four particularly active and influential parties.
Thus one can talk of a real “Syrian Kurdish opposition”, with parties, associations, demands, a programme and considerable capacity for mobilising within the population.
Prior to the 2011 Syrian revolution, there had been the 2004 uprising following the attacks on Kurdish supporters during a football match by Arabs shouting slogans attacking Barzani — brawls that were then suppressed by shooting by Baathist militia. This repression unleashed a series of riots in Kurdish towns and the statues of Hafez al-Assad wand pulled down in the town of Amude, well before the Arab revolt of 2011.
Other laws in the years2000-2010 were past attacking the Kurds and forbidding any real estate transactions, banning the employment of stateless persons or agricultural regulations hindering all activity in the Kurdish regions.
Following the 2011 revolution, a decree by Bachar al-Asssd on 7 April restored Syrian nationality to the Kurds. However, this was far from being the Kurds’ only demand, contrary to press reports, since “the recognition of fundamental and democratic rights is at zero level”: freedom of expression, the length of detention, separation of powers, an independent TV, freedom to form political parties, free and regular elections, lifting the ban on parties. It was, indeed, a demand for establishing a state of Laws. Thus the restoration of their nationality to Syrian Kurds is not to be seen as a present” — it’s one of a number of fundamental rights of which the Kurds have been deprived.
The Kurds have always been against the Syrian dictatorship but they distrust the Moslem Brotherhood that is trying to take over the Syrian revolution with the help of the Turkish AKP, despite the secular character of Syria.
The Kurds also have some specific demands and reject a second “Syrian Arab Republic”. They are also in favour of a secular and democratic State — they want the Constitution to specify the equality of men and women.
Celîlê Celîl: “The Kurdish communities of the former USSR after the collapse of communism”.
This region has played a remarkable intellectual potential, because of the work of the Kurdish intellectuals, artists and scientists in the ex-Soviet Union. The Kurds of the three Republics in the Caucasus have experienced different dynamics. Thus in Azerbaijan the 20s saw a gradual decline in Kurdish dynamism. In Georgia their number has diminished since 1991.
Until the end or the regime, the Kurds wanted to keep their identity: the villages were grouped close to each other and these rural groupings became the basis for Kurdish identity, described in books, magazines by intellectuals and teachers.
However many Kurds were deported to Central Asia by Stalin, which created a new diaspora in Kazakhstan, which is still very stable. Then new cultural doors were opened after Stalin’s death. In 1955, there was the publication of a Kurdish language daily, followed by several literary works. The Kurdish intellectual world had a new voice as well as the scientific Kurdish speaking world, until the beginning of the Glasnost and Perestroika period.
Then there came a new era, an intermingling of freedom with chaos. Religious conflicts were transformed into ethnic conflicts, with armed bands and the war led to changes in Armenia and Azerbaijan, especially for the Kurds. There were thousands of victims in Azerbaijan, the Moslem and Yezidi Kurds were forced to leave the country. Most of them went to Kazakhstan or Kirghizstan.
What is the assessment 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet block:
In Georgia a war created problems for many minorities but the Kurds now have more rights, some organisations have come into existence some associations, though with little economic or political influence.
In Azerbaijan being Kurdish is no longer forbidden but thousands of Kurds have forgotten their language. In Karabagh and other regions that want to be integrated into Azerbaijan the Kurds have had to face a kind of persecution and have also abandoned their language and culture.
In Armenia there is now a split between the Yezidi and Moslem Kurds — two groups have been formed with two alleged separate languages and two different cultures. Kurds have no political rights (not even a Kurdish member of Parliament). Kurdish society has thus lost its unity. The cultural associations have disappeared, as they are no longer supported by the State. Some newspapers will also disappear and TV programmes are limited to one hour.
There are some positive points: the Cyrillic alphabet has been replaced by the Latin alphabet. The daily Riya Taze also uses it. This is an important development for the Kurds of the ex-USSR, as it is an instrument of exchange and a link with the other Kurds and the different diaspora.
Overall, in the ex-USSR the Kurds enjoy a certain cultural autonomy but their rights are insufficient and the scattering of the diaspora makes things harder. Only the diaspora in Kazakhstan is strong enough so many Kurds from Sates in the Caucasus have gone there to continue their work.
Hamit Bozarslan: “Turkish Kurdistan from the 1980 Army coup d’état to the AKP”.
In 1983, the most important factor then was the existence of mass terror — the Kurdish language was banned, for the first time since the 20s and Kurdistan, as the film Yol shows, was a prison inside another prison — Turkey.
However, the Kurdish movement and Kurdish socialisation existed and crossed the generations. In the 60sthere was the resurgence of an autonomous Kurdish movement. In the 70s a great number of Kurdish movements and organisations were created. In 1977 an openly Kurdish mayor, Mehdi Zana, won the municipal elections. A movement was emerging from under the repression — very much radicalised and fragmented in 1971. The ending of Mustafa Barzani’s revolt, that the Kurds of Turkey had hoped for, regarding Barzani as their “grand-father”, somewhat broke the movement — but also enabled them to organise themselves in Turkey.
Between 1977-78 saw the creation of the PKK and the KUK. After the 1980 coup d’état, the Kurds of Turkey opened out to the Middle East and became a major part of the diaspora in Europe. In fact, the PKK engaged in its first armed struggles in the Lebanon, against Israel, not against Turkey. The diaspora was composed of very young activists, between 18 and 20 years — the oldest were barely 30. They had been politicised since their adolescence and were very fragmented in Europe.
In 1970 the Kurds wanted to create an organisation and then go into armed struggle. In 1980, in the diaspora, they wanted at least to save their culture — hence the foundation of the Paris Kurdish Institute.
The balance sheet: thousands of villages destroyed, a mass urbanisation of the Kurds in Turkey, the disappearance of the tribal and rural traditions. There is, however, a new Kurdish landscape — being Kurdish has become the very basis of political struggle, even if the AKP has established itself there in a significant manner, since its local representatives stand as Kurds.
The BDP party now exercises some hegemony over the Kurdish movement and has won a central position in Kurdistan and in Turkey.
There has been a 1968 generation, then a 1978 generation, followed by 1988, 1998 and 2008 waves: the Kurdish movement can now ensure its transmission across the generations. However, each generation represents a breach and invents its own political language with different profiles: Ahmet Turk (70 years old), Ocalan (64) but also some mayors in collars and ties and young women who have real political influence are making this movement a long-term one.
In Turkey, the political language is changing — there is no longer a denial of existence of Kurds, but the nationalist language defines them “the enemies within, a biological threat to the Turks”. Or else consider Kurds as an uncivilised group that has to be civilised by the Ministries of Justice and Education . . . The AKP is offering to recognise them but, in return for their serving the interests of Moslem Turkishness — much the Union and Progress party (the Young Turks) demanded of the Armenians in 1914.
There has also been an evolution in Kurdish political language: in 1982-3 it was essentially Marxist-Leninist mingled with Frantz Fanon, then came the Ocalan personality cult, This distinguishes the Kurds of Turkey from the other Kurds who never had a cult about their leaders, even very popular ones like Ghassemlou or Barzani.
However today there are no standards on an international scale, as there were before, under the influence of the USSR or Albania. It is Brussels or Washington that set the tone, and some Kurds now engage discourse on ecological, feminist or homosexual defence themes etc. Turkish Kurdistan has become an area of artistic creation and aesthetic pluralism: music, theatre and all kinds of expressions.
Research about Kurdistan has developed enormously. More and more young researchers are leaving the Kurdish question as such to devote themselves to a whole heap of other subjects: childhood, housing etc within Kurdish society with calmer analyses, a sure sign of becoming commonplace.
However, the Middle East is in a precarious and versatile situation, a new period of violence can be feared even if we are not in the 1980s, in the Kurds’ darkest, most tragic years.
The second Round Table was chaired by Mr Kendal Nezan, President of the Paris Kurdish Institute. Its subject was: “Kurdish Society at the turn of the millennium”. Those taking part are Mrs Nezand Begikhani, of Bristol University, Mr. Khalid Khayati, of Linköping University, Mr. Philip Kreyenbroek, of Göttingen University and Mr. Ephrem-Isa Yousif, a philosopher and writer.
As Nezand Begikhani, of Bristol University, was unavoidably absent, her contribution was read by Mrs Khanna Omarkhali: “The Women’s Question in Kurdistan and in the diaspora”.
“Honour crimes” take place inside a family or a community that allow these aggressions. “Honour crimes” in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and in the diaspora have been the subject of research financed by the Kurdistan Regional Government on the basis of its field work.
These research projects were initiated after the stoning of Doa Khalil, a Yezidi teenager of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Region’s Prime Minister initiated several measures to struggles against this scourge, including an enquiry to evaluate its extent.
It is most important to reach an understanding of what is meant by “honour”. The collective, be it family, clan or nation has codes of conduct with a scale of honour or dishonour. Women must be chaste, obedient and modest. There are expectations regarding their way of dressing, love, marriage and divorce. Romantic relations, being seen out in male company, loss of virginity before marriage endanger them, hence a practice of concealment for fear of remarks, gossip, rumours. Society as a whole suffers from this, not only the women.
There are no precise figures about these honour crimes but they are wide spread in Iraqi Kurdistan, almost daily occurrences, even though things are slowly changing: its practice is gradually being condemned as a “dishonour” rather than an honour. More than 50 NGOs are working on violence against women: information, social activism, protection (safety hostels) but these services are overloaded and liable to be attacked by the victims’ families.
The issue of honour crimes was not included in the KRG’s political programmes until the last few years, which have seen the first attempts to pave the way for fighting against these practices. This gives Iraqi Kurdistan a key role, even though these crimes remain endemic, being part of a wider range of violence against women — acts of violence that are themselves part of a context of political and historic violence. Hence the slow progress.
Honour crimes are an expression of the inequality between men and women — and it contributes to strengthening that inequality.
Ephrem-Isa Yousif: “Christianity in Kurdistan”.
Christianity has a very ancient presence in Mesopotamia and the town that are today Kurdish were the birthplaces of Christianity, with the preeminent role of the Syriac translators who transmitted the Greek classics in both Iraq and Kurdistan. However, following the Mongol invasions, then those of the Timurides, and the great plagues (the black death) there was a spectacular fall of Christian presence in Mesopotamia. The Christians then withdraw to the mountains and Kurdish regions, Hakkari, Soran, and Baban etc. Some 90% of the Christians ended up in the Ottoman Empire, in Kurdistan, and became culturally close to their neighbours.
At the time of the Kurdish resistance in Iraq, the Christians sided with Barzani and took part in the revolution to demand some rights for Kurdistan. They joined the Peshmergas from the first, in the country and abroad. Thus after the signing of the Algiers agreements in 1975 and Barzini’s departure Baghdad exacted reprisals. Amongst the 4000v villages destroyed, 182 were Christian. The Anfal campaign hit the Christians of Kurdistan as well. During the 1991 exodus they fled with the Kurds and were in the camps with them in Turkey.
The autonomous region, to which the Christians subsequently returned with the Kurds, saw a renaissance of Christianity as from 1993. Teaching in the Aramaic language was encouraged by the Kurdish government and Assyrian and Chaldean political parties were formed.
The autonomous region also encouraged the Christians’ cultural efforts, with some cultural centres and Mgr. Rabban’s Lycée (High School) in Duhok, which is open to all and where both Kurdish and Aramaic are taught to pupils of both sexes and all origins. Three years ago the Directorate of Syriac culture and arts was created at Ankawa, with offices at Duhok at Suleymaniah. Eighteen months ago a Christian Culture and Art Museum was opened at Ankawa.
Quite the contrary happened in Iraq, following the fall of the Baath regime. There a hunt for Christians was opened in Mosul, Baghdad and Basra and a new exodus — either abroad or to Kurdistan. Over 100,000 Christians have been settled in the Kurdish Region, which helps them to settle, to rebuild the villages and provides linguistic assistance to the Arabic-speaking Iraqi Christians for their education and integration into Kurdish society.
In the Mosul plain, 5 Christian towns and villages administratively dependent on al-Qaida dominated Mosul, have been given peace, protection and stability by the Kurdish Peshmergas. However they are not included into the KRG but remain administratively dependent on Mosul Province that is hostile to them.
The Christians are now asking the Kurdish authorities for University courses in Syriac, a demand supported by the Kurdish Institute.
Kendal Nezan then talked of the Christian participation in the Kurdistan liberation movement, with some major historic figures: Father Paul Beidar, member of the leadership of the Kurdish Movement in the 60s; Marguerite George, who led a women’s brigade; François Hariri, who was the first Christian governor of Irbil and one of Massud Barzani’s closest associates until he was assassinated by Islamic fundamentalists.
Finally there is the new Chaldean Patriarch, the former Bishop of Kirkuk, who is a Christian from Zakho — which moves the centre of gravity of Mesopotamian Christianity from Baghdad to Kurdistan,
Philip Kreyenbroek: “The development of the religious space in the last 30 years”.
Kurds and non-Kurds have become aware of the religious complexity of Kurdish society. Most Kurds are Sunni Moslem (mostly Shafeïte) with a minority of duodecimal Shiites in Iran, and several Sufi orders that play an essential role in Kurdish culture. To this must be added some Christian groups that are also an integral part of the Kurdish religious space, as were the Jews in the past, before their emigration and a whole series of religious minorities like the Alevis, Yezidis and yaresan (Kaka’I or Ahl-é Haqq).
Some even smaller groups also play a role, like the Shabak or the Barzani, who have retained in their community some very ancient religious elements of which we know very little.
Western perception also changed once it discovered the Kurds in the 70s and 80s, with the first political refugees, while the Turkish representatives in Europe were exerting pressure on them the West to continue to believe that the Kurds did not exist but were all “Turkish citizens with the same religion as the Turks”. Little was known about Kurdish specific characteristics and diversities, cultural, linguistic and also religious — during the period of PKK prominence there was even a tendency to minimise them, considering that it harmed Kurdish unity.
The religious life of the different Moslem Kurdish communities has not yet been studied in detail, as is the case for the rest of the Middle East Sunnis, which gives the West the distorted image that all the Sunnis have a homogenous culture. This did not allow an understanding of the emergence of extremist Kurdish groups like Ansar al-Islam, or the increase in of practices like excision in a culture where it had been inexistent, as well as the tensions between some Moslem groups and the Yezidis or the Kaka’i.
Sufism and its dervish brotherhoods in Kurdistan also suffer from lack of research, particularly regarding the development of the Qaderis and their relations with other groups in the autonomous region
Since the 80s, the Alevis in Turkey and the diaspora are trying to find their identity in an active manner. In Germany, Alevis, both Kurdish and Turkish, come to Göttingen to try to find the Kurdish roots of Alevism, that has taken on many elements from older Kurdish religious movements, while the Alevi myths and legends are slowly fading from memories as the older generations disappear.
The Yezidis have experienced the greatest changes: victims of persecution in Turkey during the 70s and 80s, West Germany gave them collectively political asylum. Their religious practice was then very discrete, as in Iraq, where the Yezidi religion was considered by many Moslems to be “impure”.
However, during the Anfal campaign, the world became aware of the Kurds as in 1991. The setting up of the autonomous zone led the leaders of the movement to ask questions about Kurdish identity. In 1991, Massud Barzani spoke of the Yezidi religion as the “original” Kurdish religion, which was pasted up on the walls of all the Yezidi communities.
Western Universities then became interested in the Yezidis and those in the diaspora began to make themselves heard. Today many Yezidis want to study the whole body of their sacred texts, hitherto only transmitted orally, which is a major revolution.
The Ahl-é Haqq in Iran are experiencing serious tensions between those who consider themselves Moslems, and so tolerated by the regime and those who see themselves as outside Islam and thus persecuted. This has led to a great split in the community. The Moslem Ahl-é Haqq have drawn the attention of academics in recent years while the other group is considered in these works as “backward” and “ignorant”. This has, unfortunately led to their being persecuted by the Iranian government.
In Iraq the atmosphere of fear was the same as that of the Yezidis in 1991 and still exists among the Kaka’i in the Kurdish autonomous Region so they continue to keep quiet. One of them who advocates spreading their culture, the former Minister of Culture, himself a Kaka’I, received death threats (from his community) after he announced that he hoped to publish a book on his religion. Because of these misgivings, some crucial information about the Kaka’I and other groups that speak Gorani are not available.
In the last 30years, great changes have taken place, especially in the perception of religious space, outside Kurdistan, where they used to consider that all the Kurds, Turks or Arabs were Moslem. However the religious complexity of Kurdish society is now better known. This openness should, as in the case of the Yezidis, mean an improvement for all members of the community, but our knowledge of certain Kurdish religions is still insufficient.
Khalid Khayati: “The formation of the Kurdish diaspora in Europe”.
We should, as with the Kurdish question, discuss many questions linked to the Kurdish diaspora: language, literature, and social questions.
Rogers Brubakers, an American sociologist working on the diaspora gave this definition: a diaspora has three important components: dispersion, since any population considered as a diaspora is a population that has been dispersed by forced displacement or departure under constraint; a tendency to look back to the old country, as a community retains an emotional or concrete link with its country; the maintenance of a specific identity different from that of the original group that has remained in the country, since its identity is mixed.
The Kurdish diaspora is a very vast one — it stretches from Kurdistan to Central Asia, to Russia, Europe the Iraqi towns, Syria, Iran, Turkey and beyond the Kurdistan Region.
The first group to arrive in Europe was a group of intellectuals, a list of whom is given in the Bulletin of the Kurdistan Research Centre. The second wave of Kurdish students created a first Kurdish students’ organisation that celebrated Newroz for the first time in Europe in 1956, but there wasn’t a real diaspora until the 80s, with the arrival of refugees.
Before that there was a large-scale arrival of Kurdish labour in Western Europe, especially in Germany. This, however, could not be considered part of a diaspora — it was later that they started to be identified with the Kurdish diaspora, with a political change and the fact that the second generation became interested in their origins.
The forming of the diapora occurred to preserve its identity, with a transnational culture and some symbols representing feelings and emotions in several areas. The Kurdish identity in the diaspora was built round a discourse of victimisation, of an identity of being victims as with the Armenians. It was not the product of imagination but rooted in traumatic experiences of real tragedies: — the genocide, the chemical air raids in Iraq, the severe repression of the Kurds in Turkey, the denial of their identity and banning their language, the destruction of villages and the use of capital punishment for ethnic purposes.
The Kurds also experienced policies of discrimination and of social exclusion in Europe. In Sweden they lived in segregated areas and could not get decent jobs. This was also linked to the kind of life the Kurds had in the areas where they were working.
Among the many internal problems of this diaspora was a pathology of Kurdish politics, that of “divide and rule”, with different political organisations and certain groups being considered mutual enemies. This was sometimes passed on to the second generation of the diaspora.
There was also an association of Kurds with violence — the word Kurdish is often raised when discussing “honour crimes” or violence linked to honour.
However, this feeling of victimisation provides a certain dynamic: the Kurds created a large number of organisation, institutions and transnational networks, like the Kurdish Institute, to strengthen and revitalise their identity in the diaspora.
The Kurdish diaspora has been a meeting place for a good number of Kurds, which has had positive consequences. Thus Khaled Khayati, a Kurd from Iran met Kurds from Turkey within the diaspora. Kurdish dialects that were eradicated in Turkey still exist in Sweden in a diaspora that is an area of population visibility where people can appear in public and where they have a right to exist. It is also a place for cultural and artistic and academic achievement, a place where democratic values are promoted. The diaspora also put pressure on Iraqi Kurdistan in favour of democracy, equality of the sexes, the rights of women and of children.
The Kurdish diaspora is an illustration of cross-border citizenship: it does not have a single state, with one flag, one language — one can be or several nationalities. It is also the most politicised diaspora in the world, which is over-represented in Sweden — there are, today, 7 Kurdish members our of 349 Members of the Swedish parliament, 4 men and 3 women from different political organisations. Kurdish intellectuals are well represented in Swedish cultural and public life.
A Ministry for the diaspora ought to be formed in the Kurdistan Regional Government
The third and last Round Table was presided by Mrs Joyce Blau, professor emeritus of INALCO. Its subject was “Language, literature and artistic creation in Kurdistan”. Those taking part are: Michiel Leezenberg, Amsterdam University, Reşo ZÎLAN, The Kurdish Institute of Paris, Mrs. Clémence SCALBERT, Exeter University, Mr. Salih AKIN, Rouen University, Mrs. Khanna OMARKHALI, Göttingen University.
Joyce Blau gave a short history of the development of Kurdish Studies by recalling that in the 60s a bare handful of academics were interested in the Kurds — in France they were Roger Lescot, Celadet Bedir Khan and Gérard Chaliand. The founding of the Kurdish Institute of Paris created an important centre for information and resources.
Michiel Leezenberg: "Linguistic debates in Kurdistan" or alternatively “The Kurdish language and “super-diversity”.
Bülent Arinçsaid in the Turkish Parliament that Kurdish is a language without a civilisation. He is wrong, even though some long-standing differences exist between the dialects of the regions of Kurdistan.
Four stages in the vernacularisation and standardisation of the Kurdish language:
The 17th and 18th Centuries were the period of the vernaculisation and standardisation of the Kurdish language. Many people know the work of Khani and his “Nûbara biçûkan” (dictionary) but few know that there are two works of grammar and linguistic and religious sciences produced at the same time, which saw the beginning of an educational tradition in Kurdish, accompanied by a literary civilisation amongst the Kurds. How many people have heard of Ali Termukhi? Yet he was one of the most important people in the intellectual history of Kurdish literature, the first man to have written a Kurdish grammar, which is almost unknown since the “Tesrifa kurmancî” is a very small booking Kurdish about the Kurdish language. It was used in primary classes of the madrassas of North Kurdistan and all the former pupils of these madrassas knew the book by heart. Hence the incredible role that this book, written in Northern Kurdish, had in unifying Kurdish speech and its literary language. It also, consequently, played a part in the feeling of national identity. That period of religious education in Kurdish in the madrassas was a primordial one in a very Persianised context — that is cosmopolitan rather than nationalist.
A century later, at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Century, was a stage of nation building but, for the Kurds, rather one of the destruction of a nation. Linguistic development was more secular than religious. The period saw the development of a Latin alphabet by the Bedir Khan brothers in Syria and in the Soviet Union (with Erebê Semo, for example) where a Latin alphabet was also devised and then a Cyrilic one. However, it was also the development of a new dialect as a national one, Soranî, which till then had not been considered standard language, despite its expansion.
The third phase is that of the Paris Kurdish Institute and the Kurds of the diaspora. During the years of total cultural repression, some Kurdish intellectuals , particularly in Sweden, Mehmet Emin Bozarslan, Mehmet Uzun and Reşo Zîlan undertook important work to perpetuate the existence of a literary and modern Kurdish language, which required some heroic efforts for this generation that had been educated to think in Turkish. The Southern Kurds had never undergone this kind of assimilation process, hence the great differences in the literary tradition of these two Kurdish languages.
Phase 4, at the start of this century, is one of consolidation — and also, paradoxically enough, of globalisation. In Southern Kurdistan, cultural and linguistic activities are made easier. In Northern Kurdistan the “Kurdish opening” has created real opportunities for studying the Kurdish language at university and secondary school, and in a few years time this could extend down to the primary schools.
The Kurdish language has, thus, incredible opportunities — but also some centrifugal tendencies with the politicising of dialects and writings. In Southern Kurdistan, writing in Latin characters implies sympathy with the PKK; some varieties of Kurdish are connected with sympathy for one political party or another.
There is also a process of urbanisation, of migration national and international migration, satellite TV and Internet (Facebook), which has, paradoxically, strengthened Kurdish national feeling still more. Globalising world technology = super diversity, new cultural forms, dialects, and variations of language: the development of a hip-hop culture in Kurdish.
There is also a debate over the standardised language. In Southern Kurdistan some intellectuals recently wanted to make Sorani the standard language for all Kurds with a centralisation of the language, which gave rise to a heated polemic, since the Kurds have always stood up against the centralisation of other States. This is the paradox the Kurds are in: with the Kurdistan Regional Government, Internet etc. it is much easier to form a national community. Yet, at the same time there are more possibilities for the diversification of the Kurdish language, which goes against the ideology that considers that linguistic and cultural unification helps political unification. This is a 19th Century idea even but if it does seem legitimate it no longer corresponds to the reality of globalised world. The Kurdish language cannot, today, be unified.
In a conference last year at Amed-Diyarbekir, everyone spoke their own Kurdish dialect and everyone was, more or less, understood … or not. However, everyone wanted a unified language — while thinking that it was important to cultivate his own dialect.
This is a fairly realistic conclusion: there are ancient differences of dialect, of literary traditions, but a feeling of cultural unity. The reality must, therefore, be accepted — that Kurdish is a language that has at least four standards:
- the Kurdish of Northern Kurdistan, Kurmancî, written with Latin characters
- Zaza, that has developed in Northern Kurdistan as a written language, and perhaps other dialects
- the Soranî of Southern Kurdistan, written with a more or less Persian alphabet
- the Kurdish of behdini, of Southern Kurdistan, also written with Persian letters, which s not quite identical to Kurmancî
Khanna OMARKHALI: “Kurdish Studies in Europe”.
The Kurdish language is daily gaining in importance, on all sides and in different countries as well as in Kurdistan. The reason is not just the importance of the Kurdish question in the changes that the Middle East is going through but also the fact that the Kurds are beginning to be an important part of the European population and the question of teaching the Kurdish language in higher education is beginning to be an issue that many European universities are facing.
A brief history of Kurdish Studies over the last 30 years.
At the beginning of the 19th Century several European as well as Kurdish academics, began to be interested in Kurdish language and literature, with a certain number of publications, for example Grazoni’s grammar. In Russia Kurdish Studies also began in the 19th Century with some publications.
Russia can be considered to be the cradle of Kurdish Studies, with the cities of Petersburg-Leningrad, Erevan and Moscow, where Kurdish Studies formed an independent field of study, with a team of specialists that was unique in the world for the number and variety of its research projects.
In the20th Century, Kurdish Studies began to be very active in the 30s at Leningrad University and form the basis of modern Kurdish Studies.
In 1959, this group of Kurdish Studies became an independent unit of the Leningrad Institute of Oriental Studies. It covered three major disciplines: Kurdish history, language and Mediaeval studies, led by Orbelian, Zuckerman, Kurdoev, Rudenko, Mussaelian Vassilieva, Smirnova, O. Celîl and Yousupova. The strong point of the Kurdish studies at St Petersburg was linguistics and work on different Kurdistan dialects: Mukrî, Kurmancî, Sorani and Zaza.
Literature was also a strong point of this group, with Rudenko as leader, who translated a certain number of works by ancient Kurdish poets. This centre was able to train active Kurdologists not only in the USSR but also in Kurdistan.
There are now two schools and two directions taken by Kurdish Studies in Russia: St Petersburg and Moscow. The latter devotes itself mainly to the politics, economy, international relations and history of the Kurds. In 1979 a Kurdish Study group was formed in Moscow, separate from the Department of the Near and Middle East.
In the last 20 years, a significant number of non-academic institutes and individual research workers have supported and promoted Kurdish culture, including the Paris Kurdish Institute in 1983, with its review Kurmancî. The Kurdish Language was also taught in France at INALCO by Roger Lescot and Kamuran Bedir Khan.
In Germany, there was the Navend centre and Göttingen University where they teach Kurdish language, literature and non-Islamic Religions.
In Vienna Celîlê Celîl has published an abundance of works on Kurdish literature.
Today, however, the major part of the Kurdish Study programmes are incorporated into Iranian or Islamic studies. Thus in 2004, at St Petersburg, the independent Kurdish Studies group was integrated into the Near East Department.
A great number of research workers are interested in Kurdish Studies with a growth of theses covering political questions. In 2010 a Kurdish Studies Department opened at Mardin University, in Turkey. The Kurdistan Regional Government supports Kurdish Studies abroad, with centres like the Kurdish Studies Department at Exeter. In 2011 the Kurdish Studies Network was launched on Internet. Contacts between research workers throughout the world have become easier.
Mrs. Clémence SCALBERT: “Development of the field of Kurmancî literature”.
As from the emergence of the first Kurdish organisations in the last years of the Ottoman Empire and in Kurdish nationalism, culture played a major part — and Kurdish nationalism also contributed to reformulating that culture. However, can all expression of Kurdish culture be identified with nationalism? How and with what consequences can a minority cultural expression make itself independent of politics?
There is no standard language to use as a tool of a creativity spread by education. At the beginning, those who wanted to learn Kurdish had to do it themselves, had to adapt it and create a language for writing. There were few books in Kurdish, thus very few resources on which to build a contemporary Kurdish literature.
There was also a bilingualism that became very characteristic of the practice of the Kurdish speaking population, with the coexistence of Kurdish languages and Turkish along with, sometimes, loss of the Kurdish language.
The Kurdish language, which is the raw material for the creation of Kurdish literature, also has a political connotation — writing in Kurdish means affirming one’s Kurdish identity, which was not an automatic choice.
A de-territorialising of the work of writing can also be seen, due to political conditions, as from the first years of the Turkish Republic, with Hawar appearing un Syria and the setting up of a Kurdish diaspora in Europe in the 70s. This was especially the case of the diaspora in Sweden in the 80s,with the forming of Kurdish literature, since the Swedish State’s support for publishing and creating allowed some development of this literature.
Before the end of the 70s literary creation was the result of a limited number of people who had a variety of different activities — the same author could write essays, a dictionary and fiction etc. Then creation became differentiated, at the end of the 70s and after the coup d’état of 1980, but still remained linked to politics, even though the new generation of after the coup d’état turned more towards literature once in the diaspora.
Conditions have now changed a great deal in Turkey and this has had a positive effect on the creation of Kurdish literature. The role of the diaspora in creation has diminished as the number of books published there has declined whereas it has greatly increased in Turkey and in Turkish Kurdistan. Kurdish is thus becoming part Turkey’s literature whereas, on the other hand, Kurdish literature from Turkey and that from Iraq remain in two different spheres, each more integrated into their respective national fields.
While the field of Kurdish literature has become more independent with publications, publishing houses etc, it continues to develop under different laws. The idea that Kurdish literature must be written in Kurdish is still very strong, but a breach is opening with some poets working in the Turkish language.
The actions of State actors in the field of Kurdish literature (universities, the State TV channel) means that Kurdish literature , today, is not longer an act of resistance and Kurdish literature is thus not simply a committed literature. This could be an invitation to review Kurdish literary works and their relation to other kinds of literatures of the region as well as review the dynamics of resistance and determination.
Reşo ZÎLAN: The Kurdish Institute of Paris, “Linguistic studies in the diaspora”.
Linguistic studies in the diaspora by Kurds and non-Kurds, over the last thirty years have produced some major works on the Kurdish language.
These works on the Kurdish language by diaspora Kurds appeared in the 60s. The reason was that at that time, a Kurdish diaspora was settling settled abroad as it was in the 60s that intensive emigration of Kurds began. This was particularly due to the Kurdish revolts in the South and the intensifying of repression on Kurdistan by political regimes, as well as in Turkey, as well as some economic emigration. There also began an expatriation of intellectuals, who, in this diaspora, could work on Kurdish culture and language, which they couldn’t do in Turkey.
With the publication of books, reviews or radio and television broadcasts they wrote and spoke in Kurdish. However, they had to move from a language of villages to a more general language adapted to modern life. This is also how these intellectuals gradually worked to develop a language and a culture.
Several projects were born, including that of the Paris Kurdish Institute, to preserve the Kurmancî dialect, threatened with assimilation, built round a group of researchers, writers, linguists , novelists from different parts of Kurdistan, who all worked together. They founded a review, “Kurmancî”, which started publishing in the spring of 1967. They used to meet twice a year in various countries like France, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Sweden. The regional Government of Kurdistan also housed w meetings and 2 others took place in Northern Kurdistan, one at Wan and one at Beyazîd. We are reaching our 50th issue with over 50 meetings. These issues been bound into book form — one volume of 20 issues printed in Sweden and one of 40 issues printed in Istanbul.
About 80-85 people have taken part in these Kurmancî seminars to date and unfortunately three of them are since died.
Kurmancî works on: 1. questions of language and spelling; 2. preserving knowledge of proverbs, the classics and less known words of the language; 3. a lexicon of the speech of different kurmancî speaking regions; 4. typical words and phrases of Kurdish life like carpets, clothing, cattle, milk products, weapons etc. with a list of idioms; 5. on children’s language, in Kurdish and neighbouring languages, Kurdish and ancient languages (Parthian, Pehlevi etc); 6. qewls (religious songs) and Yezidi beyts (couplets); 7. Terminology in the scientific, legal economic, geographical, anatomical, literary and mathematical fields as well as cosmetics and football; 8. a dictionary of the fauna and flora with dialectic variants.
There is also a review “Vate”, that is working on the Zazki dialect, which was started in 1993 and has since met about 20 times and publishes on that dialect’s culture, language and literature with the Kurdish Institute’s backing.
There are now Kurdish dictionaries published in almost every language. There are now also Kurdish dictionaries on Internet.
M. Salih AKIN : “Language(s) and identity(ies) in the diaspora in Europe.”
A programme financed by the French and German Foreign Ministries called “contrasting evaluation of the social implications of linguistics in the Kurdish language as a language of immigration” is a research project that associates Rouen and Potsdam Universities.
This research project has four objectives :
- measure the transmission of the first language in Germany and in France
- to evaluate the language skills of pupils born of the Kurdish immigration in their first language and in language in which they are taught (French or German).
- to seek to determine if mastery of the parental language by the children plays a role in their school results.
- to seek to study the connection that might exist between the language and identity in the context of the diaspora.
In the framework of this action, only the 4th point has been tackled.
Some results have been obtained in discussions in French and Kurdish regarding the language-identity link in the context of the diaspora with Kurds from Turkey who have had access to education, having suited in secondary schools and universities.
Apart from one of the people questioned who declared that his mother tongue was Turkish, all the other Kurds stated Kurdish was their mother tongue, even one of them, Ahmed, who comes from the Haymana region of Ankara, from a Kurdish community that had been displaced a long time ago.
Those questioned were then asked if they had received any education in their mother tongue: there is still a lack of education in their mother tongue and its transmission is not didactic but solely within the family circle. The policy of forbidding it released among those being questioned memories of a conflictual situation. Ezdan remembered the traumatism he suffered at school, which was, above all, an area of assimilation and that Kurdish is being gradually stifled, even in family circles.
About links with their origins: “You can’t be attached to a history, a culture if you do not speak the language of that culture” (Faris).
It may seem paradoxical to talk of the beneficial effects of the diaspora , but the Kurdish exiles have freed themselves from the constraints and interdictions weighing on their language and have been able again to take over their language and their culture, with the possibility of learning to read and write in Kurdish. Exile, which many people consider a mechanism of language dispossession, has, in the case of the Kurds, been a means of rediscovering their mother tongue and an intellectual rebirth.
The mother tongue is considered to be an authentic means of expression and a symbol of struggle and resistance. Using it becomes a duty. Thus Mehmet Uzun admitted that if Kurdish were not in danger of disappearing he would certainly have written in Swedish, but by writing in Kurdish he was committing himself. “Abandoning one’s mother tongue language in the context of the diaspora is treason”, said one of those questioned, which is an extreme idea of linguistic loyalty, the only way maintaining the memory.
Recounting past events is not experiencing the events, especially in exile. However, the convergences of testimonies enables the extent of the linguistic violence suffered to be brought to light and establish a strong connection between the ethno-cultural identity and membership of the diaspora. The mother tongue is the principal vector of the collective memory in the uprooting experience of exile.
The final discussion was presided by Mr. Gérard Chaliand, a writer and geo-political expert. Those taking part were Mr. Bernard Dorin, a French Ambassador de France, Mr. Kendal Nezan, Mr. Jonathan Randal, a journalist, former Washington Post correspondent Mr. Frédéric TISSOT, French Consul General de France at Erbil, from 2008 to 2012.
Gérard Chaliand recalled that 51 years earlier, in 1959, when he was mainly working on “practical anti-colonialism”, he was asked to write a 30 or 40 page article on “a cause no one spoke about” — the Kurds. He was given one book by Basile Nikitine and one by Thomas Bois. In 1960 the 5th Congress of Kurdish students took place in East Berlin attended by Ismet Cheriff Vanly and Abdulrahman Ghassemlou. At that time the Kurds were practically unknown, except to specialists. They were just emerging from 30 years of repression in Turkey, Iraq and Iran and the repression had not ended with the 1975 Algiers Agreement.
However, as tile passed, thanks to accidents such as, the spring of 1991, when the YV cameras were able to show the Kurdish exodus from Iraq and then another when the US decided to remodel the Middle East and attack Iraq, the Kurds found themselves in an unexpected situation: for the first time the Kurds were faced with managing a society and not just with an insurrection.
The situation has been positive, even if fragile and imperfect regarding the economy, education, threatened but still much has been done and it is more useful to welcome what has been done than to lament the things that have not yet been done
Bernard Dorin put forward two proposals for the future: impressed by what had been said about “territorial delimitations”, it seemed to him fundamental to have a map on which to locate “the four Kurdistans”. A document is most valuable in this respect — the Norodov myra Atlas drawn up in the Soviet Union is extremely precise linguistically and shows where the Kurds are throughout the Near East.
He also proposed that we should be inspired by his proposal for a “Council of Elders” already mad for Africa on the occasion of Senghor’s funeral, which would draw up a global continental policy. A “Council of the four Kurdistans” could meet quarterly to discuss the state of their part of Kurdistan and seek help, if need be, from the other parts. A Pan-Kurdish Cultural Council would enable regular contacts with officials in the different Kurdish areas to create a “spectre of unity of the Kurdish nation”.
Jonathan Randal recalled his first contacts with the Kurdish Institute, its library and the Kurdish circle that he met then, including Ghassemlou and the help he’d received from Kendal Nezan and Joyce Blau when he was writing his book “After Such Knowledge What Forgiveness?”. He then talked about Kissinger’s betrayal of the Kurdish revolution and how Mustafa Barzani had said he wanted to make Kurdistan the 53rd American State. After a history summary of the betrayals that the Kurds had experienced from the Great Powers, he said that when looking at the “success story” of Iraqi Kurdistan it should not be forgotten that George Bush Senior had called upon the Kurds and Shiites to revolt against Saddam in 1991 — making them then pay terrible price. He also recalled George Bush Junior’s attempt to have US troops enter Iraq via the Turkish border and that, while the latest diplomatic developments between the KRG and Turkey were positive, the Iraqi Kurds should remain wary. He ended by recalling the tragic and turbulent fate of the Christians of Mesopotamia and of the Tur Abdin over the last two centuries and the danger of their disappearing.
Frédéric Tissot stressed the major role of the Kurdish diaspora that saw to it that the Western countries would finally know what is a Kurd and also the role it could still play to ensure that one that there really be a Kurdistan.
He wanted to draw attention to the fact the linguistic and cultural diversity of the Kurds does not always enriching but can also be a handicap, recalling the civil war of 1994-96 and that it made the Region’s daily running of the Region harder, both inside the KRG and in its relations with Baghdad.
The diaspora must still continue its unceasing work to ensure that this wealth and diversity be of benefit to all parts of Kurdistan.
He ended by referring to the reluctance of foreign to recognise the Kurdish reality and called on the diaspora to take part in building a future for the Kurds.
Kendal Nezan agreed that there was still an enormous amount of work to be done and to hope that hand it over to younger generations. He also explained the difficulty of ensuring the financial survival of an independent institution, open to all the Kurds and also to the Christians of Kurdistan without becoming dependent on Kurdish political parties. He also paid tribute to the memory of all the foreign public figures who have supported the Institute, including Danielle Mitterrand as well as the outstanding Kurdish intellectuals from all parts of Kurdistan who contributed their prestige in founding the Kurdish Institute. He called for the collective work of the Institute to continue and announced that a Kurdish dictionary would soon be coming drawn up by the