The Kurds in Iraq may realize their centuries-old dream of independent statehood as the crisis and instability there continues.
There are an estimated 30 to 35 million Kurds in the Middle East. Most are Sunni Muslims, with the exception of Christian, Jewish, and Shiite minorities. They are united by their common language and a historical connection to Kurdistan. The Kurds are the largest ethno-linguistic group with no state of their own, and have been denied an independent state for centuries.
Kurds make up 15 to 20 percent of the Iraq, with a population of about four million.
The Kurds have been oppressed by Baghdad for decades. Saddam Hussein had nearly 5,000 Kurds killed in 1988 as a part of his “Arabization” campaign. After the first Gulf War in 1991, the Kurds created the Kurdisn Regional Government. The divide became even deeper after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
CCTV-America’s Shreya Sen has more on the historical struggle of the Kurds to gain freedom.
Follow Shreya Sen on Twitter @msshreyasen
The historic struggle for Kurdish independenceCCTV-America’s Shreya Sen reports on the historical struggle of the Kurds to gain freedom.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has clashed with Kurdish leaders over oil revenues, the Kurdistan border, and the financing of Kurdish militias. The Kurdish government recently called for al-Maliki to step down after he accused the Kurds of aiding the Islamic State.
The collapse of Iraqi defenses in the midst of the conflict with the Islamic State has strengthened the Kurds in their centuries-old push for independence. Kurdish armed forces recently gained control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. The president of the Kurdish region has pledged a referendum on independence, the Kurds’ boldest move towards statehood in nearly a century. But the Kurds face two major hurdles.
Unfortunately, Kurdistan is landlocked and reliant on its neighbors for economically vital access to the ocean. An independent Kurdistan would have to transport its oil by land with the cooperation of its neighbors. In addition, oil companies are reluctant to trade with the Kurds for fear of antagonizing ties with Iraq.
Iraq is treating the oil from Kurdistan as stolen goods, with the backing of the U.S. Iraq has also accused the Kurds of treason and threatened legal action against any buyer of their crude oil.
Iran, Syria and Turkey have long objected to Kurdish statehood in fear that it may increase separatism among the millions of other Kurds who live in their countries.
The Islamic State’s advance has allowed Kurds to expand their territory, but Kurdistan now shares a dangerously vast border with Sunni militants.
Kurdish Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, Head of the Department of Foreign Relations for the Kurdish Regional Government, joined CCTV-America’s Nathan King for further discussion on the Kurdish freedom movement.
Follow Falah Mustafa Bakir on Twitter @FalahMustafa
Kurdish minister on the Kurdish freedom movementKurdish Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, Head of the Department of Foreign Relations for the Kurdish Regional Government, joined CCTV's Nathan King for further discussion on the Kurdish freedom movement.
Middle East Analyst and lecturer at the National Defense University Michael Pregent and director of the American Kurdish Information Network Kani Xulam joined The Heat for more insight on the historic Kurdish struggle.
Follow Michael Pregent on Twitter @MPPregent
Follow Kani Xulam on Twitter @AKINinfo