How Kurds are losing hope of establishing own state – The Economist

Kurds, some 30 million of them divided among four nation states, are losing hopes for an independent state and settling for varying degrees of autonomy inside their respective countries, according to a report by The Economist published on Tuesday.

Following World War I, the idea of a Kurdish homeland had been abandoned as the defeated Ottoman Empire gave way to today’s modern states with the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, The Economist said, but the dream of uniting all Kurds endured.

Turkey’s Kurds have significant political influence, with the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) winning more than 10 percent of seats in parliament, The Economist said, but they are mostly seeking to preserve their political rights.

Clashes with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) picked up again in Turkey in 2015, following 2.5 years of peace talks in the four-decade-long conflict over Kurdish rights. Since the resurgence, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has cracked down hard on the HDP, arresting two of its former co-chairs, several former deputies, and almost all mayors from the party, as well as thousands of its regular members. Government appointed proxies who replaced the ousted mayors have rolled back Kurdish-language municipal services and resources offered in the Kurdish-majority provinces of southern and southeastern Turkey, including daycare centres and women’s refuges.

In Iraq and Syria, Kurds have some degree of autonomy. Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region is officially recognised, although it has lost a significant third of its territory to the central government following the independence referendum the region’s ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (PDK) pushed for in 2017 and the central Iraqi government counter-punch.

Syrian Kurds had carved out a de facto autonomous zone for themselves after war broke out in the country in 2011. Garnering Western sympathies as they fought and mostly defeated the Islamic State (ISIS), they enjoyed relative peace and autonomy for several years in the region they call Rojava (“West”) before the Turkish army launched military operations together with their allied Syrian forces, starting in 2018, and took control in several cities.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan firmly rejects anything resembling a Kurdish state, for fear of emboldening the PKK in Turkey, and has stood against both the referendum in Iraq and attempts by Syrian Kurds to gain recognition.

Kurdish parts of Iraq are safer than the rest of the country and are developing faster, while the territory Syrian Kurds still hold also enjoys better conditions than most of the area under the central government’s control, The Economist said, but there is too much infighting and corruption in both regions. Internal division has been one of the worst enemies of Kurds, it said.
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