Arab-Kurdish brotherhood must stand to rebuild new Iraq

  • KurdishMedia.com - By Dr Salah Aziz
  • 14/04/2003 00:00:00

After seeing the bloody fighting and destruction in the southern and central cities of Iraq, residents of Kirkuk cheered the Kurdish -American troops in their city on April 10, 2003. Despite Turkey’s warning and disapproval, the international community welcomed the peaceful liberation and the Kurdish forces policing the city. The rosy image reversed quickly after the media reported that the Kurdish fighters participated in looting Mosul on April 11th, and Arab residents of Kirkuk claimed that they were threaten by “some” to leave Kirkuk. As a result, Turkmen requested arms to “protect” themselves. There was even more surprise when al-Jazeera interviewed some residents of Tikrit, and they stated that they “welcome American troops” but they “will fight the Kurdish fighters” if they try to enter the city, on April 13. Regardless to who is behind this campaign, the outcome will hurt the Arab-Kurdish relationship at the time that they need to stand together to rebuild a new Iraq.

Kurds have had social, economical, and political ties and links to Arabs and Turkmen in Kirkuk and Mosul for many centuries. Prior to my departure of Kurdistan in early 1979, there were more marriages between Kurds and Turkmen in Kirkuk than between the Kurds of Sulaymania and the Kurds of Kirkuk. Likewise, there were stronger social and economical relations between the Kurds of Dohuk and the Arabs of Mosul than between the Kurds of Arbil and Dohuk. Many scholars blame the central governments in Baghdad in planting hate and fear among Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen to use them against each other. In the last three decades, Kurds were forced out of the cities and Turkmen were forced to identify themselves as Arabs so that they could stay.

In the uprising of March 1991, Kurdish forces did not enter Mosul, since they were afraid that that move would be interpreted as “Kurdish control” over the city and it might have triggered “revenge” violence among Arabs and Kurds. The situation was different in Kirkuk since many of the Kurds were victims of Saddam’s regime and wanted to go back to their homes. Furthermore, Kirkuk has a significant economic and political history to the Kurds; and many Kurds feel that that is enough of a reason for Kurds to control it. Nevertheless, after three days of controlling the city, Kurdish fighters were overcome by the Iraqi forces and left. The Kurdish residents suffered even more. It is estimated that over 70,000 Kurds have been forced out of Kirkuk in the last ten years.

After Saddam, the U.S. would try to form a transitional government that would ensure security and stability in the entire country. U.S. can and must not resolve Iraqi internal disputes. Iraqis must agree on a political system to rule Iraq. The political future of Kurdistan: statehood, federalism or autonomy can only be addressed and agreed upon when there is stability and a “mutual understanding” among the people.

Residents of Kirkuk and Mosul need the administration’s help to get out of the chaos after Saddam, and humanitarian aid to meet the shortage in food and medicine. The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) may offer both without interfering with the day-to-day life of residents. The KRG must demonstrate its strength and experience in policing and aiding to gain the trust and respect of the residents. KRG can place the foundation for a new Arab-Kurd relationship, which will counter the hatred and animosity that the central government planted for decades. KRG must resist the attempts of the power vacuum and not control any city against the will of the city’s people. KRG must also resist ultra-Kurdish nationalists’ calls for revenge and taking back the cities or homes occupied by Arab settlers. (A problem must be dealt with justly later.) Kurds, especially the victims, must apply a high degree of self-control and adapt a policy of “forgiveness” toward the residents of the both cities and, in fact, all Iraq. Kurdish leaders must set a policy and demonstrate the fact that they can help and forgive.

At the same time, Arabs and Turkmen must overcome the old “nationalistic” approach and welcome the Kurds and allow them to help. Arabs and Turkmen must understand and accept that the Kurds will be kinder to them than American and Turkish troops, respectively. After all, these people have lived together in brotherhood for centuries and will continue to do so in the future. Therefore, they have to plant and feed a new brotherly relationship.

  • KurdishMedia.com - By Dr Salah Aziz
  • 14/04/2003 00:00:00