- Hamidiye, a modern pro-government Kurdish cavalry that proved to be an important stage in the emergence of modern Kurdish nationalism. Nevertheless, the Kurds supported the Ottomans in World War I and Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) during the Turkish War of Independence following that conflict. During World War I, one of U.S. president Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points (Number 12) declared that the non-Turkish minorities of the Ottoman Empire should be granted the right of "autonomous development." The stillborn Treaty of Sevres signed in August 1920 provided for "local autonomy for the predominantly Kurdish area" (Article 62) and in Article 64 even looked forward to the possibility that "the Kurdish peoples" might be granted "independence from Turkey." Turkey's quick revival under Ataturk—ironically enough with considerable Kurdish help as the Turks played well on the theme of Islamic unity—altered the entire situation. The subsequent and definitive Treaty of Lausanne in July 1923 recognized the modern Republic of Turkey without any special provisions for the Turkish Kurds. Ataturk's creation of a secular and purely Turkish state led to the first of three great Kurdish revolts, the rising in 1925 of Sheikh Said, the hereditary chief of the powerful Naqshbandi sufi Islamic order. Sheikh Said's rebellion was both nationalistic and religious as it also favored the reinstatement of the Caliphate. After some initial successes, Sheikh Said was crushed and hanged. In 1927, Khoybun (Independence), a transnational Kurdish party that had been founded that year in Lebanon, helped to launch another major uprising under General Ihsan Nuri Pasha in the Ararat area that also was completely crushed, this time with Iranian cooperation. Finally, the Dersim (now called Tunceli) rebellion from 1936 to the end of 1938, led by Sheikh Sayyid Riza until his death in 1937, also ended in a total Kurdish defeat. Although many Kurdish tribes either supported the Turkish government or were at least neutral in these rebellions, the Turkish authorities decided to eliminate anything that might suggest a separate Kurdish nation. A broad battery of social and constitutional devices was employed to achieve this goal. In some cases, what can only be termed "pseudotheoretical" justifications were offered to defend what was being done. Thus, the so-called Sun Theory taught that all languages derived from one original primeval Turkic language in central Asia. Isolated in the vast mountains of eastern Anatolia, the Kurds had simply forgotten their mother tongue. The much abused and criticized appellation "Mountain Turks" when referring to the Turkish Kurds served as a code term for these actions. Everything that recalled a separate Kurdish identity was to be abolished: language, clothing, names, and so forth. The present (1982) constitution contained a number of specific provisions that sought to limit even speaking or writing in Kurdish. Its preamble, for example, declared: "The determination that no protection shall be afforded to thoughts or opinions contrary to Turkish national interests, the principle of the existence of Turkey as an indivisible entity." Two articles banned the spoken and written usage of the Kurdish language without specifically naming it. Although restrictions on the usage of the Kurdish language were eased following the Gulf War in 1991, Article 8 of the Anti-Terrorism Law, which entered into force in April 1991, made it possible to consider academics, intellectuals, and journalists speaking up peacefully for Kurdish rights to be engaging in terrorist acts. Similarly, under Article 312 of the Turkish Penal Code, mere verbal or written support for Kurdish rights could lead one to be charged with "provoking hatred or animosity between groups of different race, religion, region, or social class." Despite harmonization efforts of the European Union (EU), a new Article 301, which took effect in June 2005, made it a crime to denigrate "Turkishness," a provision that made it possible for extreme nationalists and statists to accuse writers, scholars, and intellectuals such as Nobel Prize-winning Orhan Pamuk of treason and subversion. The PKK Insurgency. Beginning in the 1970s, an increasingly significant portion of Turkey's population of ethnic Kurds has actively demanded cultural, linguistic, and political rights as Kurds. Until recently, however, the government ruthlessly suppressed these demands for fear they would lead to the breakup of the state itself. This official refusal to brook any moderate Kurdish opposition helped encourage extremism and the creation of the Partiya Karkaren Kurdistan (PKK), or Kurdistan Workers Party, headed by Abdullah (Apo) Ocalan, on 27 November 1978. In August 1984, the PKK officially launched the insurgency that by the beginning of 2000 had resulted in more than 37,000 deaths, as many as 3,000 villages partially or completely destroyed, and some 3 million people internally displaced. For a short period in the early 1990s, Ocalan actually seemed close to achieving a certain degree of military success. In the end, however, he overextended himself, while the Turkish military spared no excesses in containing him. Slowly but steadily, the Turks marginalized the PKK's military threat. Ocalan's ill-advised decision in August 1995 to also attack Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in northern Iraq because of its support for Turkey further sapped his strength. The final blow came when Turkey threatened to go to war against Syria in October 1998 unless Damascus expelled Ocalan from his longtime sanctuary in that country. Ocalan fled to Italy, where U.S. pressure on behalf of its NATO ally Turkey influenced Italy and others to reject Ocalan as a terrorist undeserving of political asylum or negotiation. Indeed, for years the United States had given Turkey intelligence training and weapons to battle what it saw as the "bad" Kurds of Turkey while ironically supporting the "good" Kurds of Iraq against Saddam Hussein. With U.S. and possibly Israeli aid, Ocalan was finally captured in Kenya on 16 February 1999, flown back to Turkey for a sensational trial, and sentenced to death for treason. Instead of making a hard-line appeal for renewed struggle during his trial, however, Ocalan issued a remarkable statement that called for the implementation of true democracy to solve the Kurdish problem within the existing borders of a unitary Turkey. He also ordered his guerrillas to evacuate Turkey to demonstrate his sincerity. Thus, far from ending Turkey's Kurdish problem, Ocalan's capture began a process of implicit bargaining between the state and many of its citizens of Kurdish ethnic heritage as represented by the PKK and the Peoples Democracy Party (HADEP). HADEP had been founded in 1994 as a legal Kurdish party and had elected numerous mayors in the Kurdish areas during the local elections held shortly after Ocalan's capture. At this point, Turkey's potential candidacy for membership in the European Union entered the picture. If implemented, EU membership would fulfill Ataturk's ultimate hope for a strong, united, and democratic Turkey joined to the West. Until Turkey successfully implemented the Copenhagen Criteria of minority rights for its Kurdish ethnic population and suspended Ocalan's death sentence to conform with EU standards that banned capital punishment, however, it was clear that Turkey's long-treasured candidacy would be only a pipe dream. As some have noted, Turkey's road to the EU lies through Diyarbakir, the unofficial capital of Turkish Kurdistan. Unfortunately, there were still powerful forces in Turkey that did not want further democratization because they feared it would threaten their privileged positions as well as Turkey's territorial integrity. The military's favored position in Turkey has been a prime example of this continuing situation. Thus, Turkey's passage of reform legislation, beginning in August 2002 to harmonize its laws with EU norms and allow significant Kurdish cultural rights in theory as well as the commutation of Ocalan's death sentence to life imprisonment in October 2002, did not solve the continuing Kurdish problem in practice. Nevertheless, the EU finally began what promised to be long, open-ended accession negotiations with Turkey on 3 October 2005. Arguing that Turkey had not implemented the necessary reforms, the PKK ended the cease-fire it had initiated after Ocalan's capture and renewed low-level fighting in June 2004. In addition, opposition to Turkish membership in the EU began to grow in such EU members as France, Germany, and Austria, among others. New EU members must be approved unanimously, so any one member of the EU could veto Turkey's membership, which many now saw as not possible until some time in the distant future. Nevertheless, the promise of eventual EU membership and the process it entailed still offered a realistic solution to the Kurdish problem in Turkey. Recent Events. As part of its drive to win a date for EU accession talks to begin, a series of harmonization laws began to be passed in an attempt to meet the EU acquis communautaire, or body of economic, social, administrative, and environmental legislation that all EU member states were required to implement. Turkey's sudden economic collapse in February 2001 and the resulting unpopularity of the Ecevit coalition government eventually led to the overwhelming victory of Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party, with its roots in Islamic politics, in November 2002 as Turkey's first majority government since the victory of Turgut Ozal's ANAP Party in 1987. In a confused attempt to reflect supposed moves toward peaceful politics (and possibly earn itself omission from various lists of terrorist organizations), the PKK changed its name first to KADEK (Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress), then to Kongra-Gel (People's Congress), and finally back to the PKK. Although Ocalan continued to be recognized as the leader of the PKK, his statements from prison often seemed perplexing. One such declaration called for the Kurds to live under a system of "democratic confederalism," where the Kurds somehow would rule themselves within a Turkish state with their rights protected by EU-style laws. Although more than three million Turkish Kurds signed a petition in 2006 calling for Ocalan's release, the PKK clearly was dividing. In 2005, Ocalan's younger brother Osman Ocalan and several hundred followers tried to establish another group called the Patriotic Democratic Front near Mosul in northern Iraq, but they failed. Under the leadership of Murat Karayilan, however, some 5,000 PKK guerrillas remained entrenched in the Kandil Mountains straddling the border between northern Iraq and Iran. A militant new PKK Iranian offshoot called PJAK (Free Life Party of Kurdistan) joined it there. Frustrated by the lack of progress, the PKK began low-level military operations again in June 2004, only to announce another cease-fire in October 2006, which quickly broke down. During 2006, the TAK (Kurdistan Freedom Falcons/Hawks) began to set off bombs in several Turkish cities. It remained unclear whether the TAK was connected to the PKK or a rival breakaway organization. In Europe, the Kongra-Gel under the leadership of Zubeyir Aydar acted as a peaceful political wing of the PKK. In Turkey, HADEP was finally closed down in 2003. Its place was taken first by the Democratic Peoples Party (DEHAP), which then merged into the Democratic Society Party (DTP), which was created in November 2005. Osman Baydemir was elected mayor of Diyarbakir in 2004 and quickly emerged as one of the most successful young ethnic Kurdish politicians in Turkey. Baydemir also carried his message of achieving Kurdish rights peacefully in his travels to Europe and the United States, but he was constantly in danger of being arrested for his activities. The off-again, on-again Ilisu Dam project on the Tigris River was touted by the government as a way to help modernize the southeast's agriculture, while opponents denounced the project as a way literally to drown the Kurdish historical presence in the area. ROJ-TV, a Kurdish television station in Denmark connected to the PKK, stoked Kurdish self-awareness throughout Turkey, the Middle East, and Europe. Leyla Zana—a Kurdish leader elected to the Turkish parliament in 1991 but imprisoned in 1994 for her nonviolent support of the Kurdish cause—was finally released in 2004 after her case had become a cause celebre for Kurdish human rights. However, Zana was sentenced to a new prison term in December 2008 for comments she had made about Abdullah Ocalan being one of the main Kurdish leaders. As noted above, Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party, with its roots in Islamic politics, had first swept to victory in November 2002 on the promise of economic achievement, honest government, and pursuit of EU membership. This, of course, implied a solution to Turkey's longstanding Kurdish problem as well as further democratization of the state. In August 2005, Prime Minister Erdogan declared that Turkey had a "Kurdish problem," had made "grave mistakes" in the past, and now needed "more democracy to solve the problem." Never before had a Turkish leader made so explicit a statement regarding the Kurdish problem. As progressive Islamists, however, the AK Party was increasingly opposed by the reactionary Kemalist establishment, which included Turkey's influential military fearful of losing their long-held privileged positions. This situation eventually led to the crisis of 2007 over the election of the AK Party's Abdullah Gul as Turkey's new president. Although the AK Party seemingly triumphed in this struggle by winning an enormous electoral victory on 22 July 2007 (even slightly outpolling the pro-Kurdish DTP in the southeast) and then electing Gul as president, the party was soon put on the defensive by a nearly successful attempt in the Constitutional Court to ban it as a threat to Turkey's secular order. Having survived this threat to its very existence by a mere one vote, the AK Party seemingly lost its reformist zeal and became a party of the status quo that had forsaken reform and the Kurdish issue. Turkey's secretive Deep State seemingly continued to oppose Turkey's democratization and Kurdish rights. Nevertheless, in 2009, Turkey's AK Party government again began to institute reforms. On 1 January 2009, the state initiated a new 24-hour, 7-day-per-week Kurdish-language television channel known as TRT 6. In addition, the new Turkish president, Abdullah Gul, declared in May 2009 that the Kurdish problem was Turkey's "most pressing" and that there was now a "historic opportunity" to solve it. Even the Milli Guvenlik Kurulu (MGK), or National Security Council, gave its cautious approval to proceed. Thus, as of September 2009, the AK Party government had begun a new promising Kurdish Opening, or Democratic Initiative, with the announced intention of helping to solve the Kurdish problem. However, on 11 December 2009, the Turkish Constitutional Court banned the DTP. Therefore, it remained to be seen how this Turkish stop-start record on the Kurdish issue would develop. U.S. Alliance. Turkey's opposition to the Kurdish identity and Turkey's strong strategic alliance with the United States since the days of the Truman Doctrine first promulgated in 1947 have arguably been two of the main reasons for the inability of the Kurds to create any type of independent state in the modern Middle East that began to develop after World War I. Although the United States paid lip service to the idea of Kurdish rights, when the chips were down, again and again the United States backed its strategic NATO ally Turkey when it came to the Kurdish issue. Only when the United States perceived the Iraqi Kurds to be a useful foil against Saddam Hussein did Washington begin to take a partially pro-Kurdish position, at least toward the Iraqi Kurds. However, this U.S. support for the Iraqi Kurds did not prohibit Turkey from unilaterally intervening into northern Iraq in pursuit of the PKK during the 1990s. U.S. support for the de facto state of Kurdistan in northern Iraq, disagreements over sanctions against Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and the future of Iraq itself helped begin to fray the long-standing U.S.-Turkish alliance. The U.S. war to remove Saddam Hussein from power in 2003 furthered this process and even partially reversed alliance partners. For the first time since the creation of Iraq, the Iraqi Kurds now—at least for the present—have a powerful ally in the United States. This ironic situation was brought about by Turkey refusing to allow the United States to use its territory as a base for a northern front to attack Saddam Hussein's Iraq in March 2003 during the second Gulf War. Courtesy of Turkey, the Iraqi Kurds suddenly were thrust into the role of U.S. ally, a novel position they eagerly and successfully assumed. Quickly, the Iraqi Kurds occupied the oil-rich Kirkuk and Mosul areas, which would have been unthinkable encroachments upon Turkish "red lines" had Turkey anchored the northern front. What is more, Turkey had no choice but to acquiesce in the Iraqi Kurdish moves. The new situation was further illustrated in July 2003 when the United States apprehended 11 Turkish commandos in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaymaniya who were apparently seeking to carry out acts intended to destabilize the de facto Kurdish government and state in northern Iraq. Previously, as the strategic ally of the United States, Turkey had had carte blanche in northern Iraq. No longer is this true. The "Sulaymaniya incident" caused what one high-ranking Turkish general called the "worst crisis of confidence" in U.S.-Turkish relations since the creation of the NATO alliance. It also illustrated how the United States was willing to protect the Iraqi Kurds from unwanted Turkish interference. What is more, Washington now began to reject Turkish proposals that either the United States eliminate the PKK guerrillas holed up in northern Iraq or permit the Turkish army to do so. Previously, the Turkish army had entered northern Iraq any time it desired in pursuit of the PKK. Iraq The Kurds in Iraq have been in an almost constant state of revolt ever since Great Britain artificially created Iraq—according to the Sykes-Picot Agreement of World War I—out of the former Ottoman vilayets (provinces) of Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra. There are three major reasons for this rebellious situation. First, the Kurds in Iraq long constituted a greater proportion of the population than they did in any other state they inhabited. Consequently, despite their smaller absolute numbers, they represented a larger critical mass in Iraq than elsewhere, a situation that enabled them to play a more important role there than they did in Turkey and Iran. Second, as an artificial, new state, Iraq had less legitimacy as a political entity than Turkey and Iran, two states that had existed in one form or another for many centuries despite their large Kurdish minorities. Thus, discontent and rebellion came easier for the Iraqi Kurds. Third, Iraq was further divided by a Sunni-Shiite Muslim division not present in Turkey or Iran. This predicament further called into question Iraq's future. For its part, the Iraqi government has always feared the possibility of Kurdish separatism. Kurdish secession would not only deplete the Iraqi population, it would also set a precedent that the Shiites, some 60 percent of the population, might follow and thus threaten the very future of the Iraqi state. In addition, since for many years approximately two-thirds of the oil production and reserves as well as much of the fertile land were located in the Kurdish area, the government felt that Kurdish secession would strike at the economic heart of the state. Thus were sown the seeds of a seemingly irreconcilable struggle between Iraq and its Kurdish minority. To further their goals, the British, who held Iraq as a mandate from the League of Nations, invited a local Kurdish leader, Sheikh Mahmud Barzinji of Sulaymaniya, to act as their governor in the Kurdish vilayet (province) of Mosul. Despite his inability to overcome the division among the Kurds, Sheikh Mahmud almost immediately proclaimed himself "King of Kurdistan," revolted against British rule, and began secret dealings with the Turks. In a precursor to subsequent defeats at the hands of the Iraqi government in Baghdad, the British Royal Air Force successfully bombed the sheikh's forces, putting down several of his uprisings during the 1920s. Although the Treaty of Sevres (1920) held out the possibility of Kurdish independence, as mentioned above, the definitive Treaty of Lausanne (1923) made no mention of the Kurds. What is more, the British already had decided to attach the largely Kurdish vilayet of Mosul to Iraq because of its vast oil resources. The British felt that this was the only way Iraq could be made viable. With the final defeat of Sheikh Mahmud in 1931, Mulla Mustafa Bar-zani began to emerge as the leader almost synonymous with the Kurdish movement in Iraq. Although the Barzanis' power was originally founded on their religious authority as Naqshbandi sheikhs, they also became noted for their fighting abilities and still wear a distinctive turban with red stripes. For more than half a century, Barzani fought the Iraqi government in one way or another. Despite his inherent conservatism and tribal mentality, he was the guiding spirit of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) founded on 16 August 1946, spent a decade of exile in the Soviet Union (1947-1958), and at the height of his power negotiated the March Manifesto of 1970, which theoretically provided for Kurdish autonomy under his rule. Kurdish infighting against such other leaders as Ibrahim Ahmad and his son-in-law Jalal Talabani and continuing government opposition, however, finally helped lead to Barzani's ultimate defeat in 1975. Barzani's defeat also occurred because the United States and Iran withdrew their support in return for Iraqi concessions, an action U.S. national security advisor Henry Kissinger cynically explained as necessary covert action not to be confused with missionary work. Following Barzani's collapse in March 1975, his son Massoud Bar-zani eventually emerged as the new leader of the KDP, while Talabani established his Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) on 1 June 1975. Divided by philosophy, geography, dialect, and ambition, Barzani's KDP and Talabani's PUK have alternated between cooperation and bloody conflict ever since. They have also suffered grievously from such horrific repression as Saddam Hussein's genocidal Anfal campaigns of 1987-1988 and the chemical attack against the city of Halabja on 16 March 1988. After the 1991 Gulf War and failure of the ensuing Kurdish uprising in March 1991, the mass flight of Kurdish refugees to the mountains reluctantly forced the United States to create a safe haven and no-fly zone in which a de facto Kurdish state began to develop in northern Iraq. In addition, the unprecedented UN Security Council Resolution 688 of 5 April 1991 condemned "the repression of the Iraqi civilian population . . . in Kurdish populated areas" and demanded "that Iraq . . . immediately end this repression." As symbolic as it may have been, never before had the Kurds received such official international mention and protection. Despite the de facto Kurdish state that emerged in northern Iraq following Saddam Hussein's defeat in the Gulf War, the KDP and PUK actually fought a civil war against each other from 1994 to 1998. As a result of this internal Kurdish fighting, there were two separate rump governments in Iraqi Kurdistan after 1994: the KDP's in Irbil and the PUK's in Sulaymaniya. Inevitably, the resulting instability and power vacuum drew in neighboring Turkey and Iran, among others such as the United States, Syria, and, of course, Iraq, since for reasons of state none of the powers wanted to see a Kurdish state established in northern Iraq. The United States finally brokered a cease-fire by bringing Barzani and Talabani together in Washington in September 1998. The Kurds also began to receive 13 percent of the receipts from the oil Iraq was allowed to sell after 1995. Peace, relative prosperity, and democracy began to grow in the de facto state of Kurdistan in northern Iraq. In October 2002, the reunified parliament of the de facto Kurdish state met for the first time since 1994 and declared that Iraqi Kurdistan would be a federal state in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. The 2003 Gulf War. On 19 March 2003, the United States finally launched a war against Iraq that quickly overthrew Saddam Hussein's regime. Establishing a stable new Iraqi government has proven much more difficult. As Peter W. Galbraith has explained: "The fundamental problem of Iraq is an absence of Iraqis." In other words, given that Iraq has proven to be a failed state, its inhabitants simply reject further identification with it, identifying instead with their ethnic and/or sectarian groups. Therefore, the Iraqi Kurds were determined to establish at least an autonomous federal state in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. If this failed, they would then opt for complete independence. The interim constitution—known as the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL)—promulgated on 8 March 2004 for a democratic federal Iraq proved only a temporary compromise given the majority Shiites' insistence on what they saw as their right to unfettered majority rule. Thus, UN Security Council Resolution 1546 of 8 June 2004, which authorized Iraq's new interim government, failed even to mention the TAL and federalism as a solution for the Kurdish problem in Iraq. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the de facto Shiite religious leader, in general felt that the TAL should not tie the hands of the interim Iraqi parliament elected on 30 January 2005 and specifically objected to Article 61(c) in the TAL, which gave the Kurds an effective veto over the final constitution, which nevertheless in theory provided for meaningful federalism and was adopted on 15 October 2005. Article 61 (c) of the TAL—the so-called Kurdish veto—had declared that "the general referendum will be successful and the draft constitution ratified if a majority of the voters in Iraq approve and if two-thirds of the voters in three or more governorates do not reject it." Since Iraqi Kurdistan consists of three governorates, this provision gave the Kurds an effective veto over the final constitution. Iraq's Sunni Arabs also came close to using it successfully to block approval of the permanent constitution in the referendum held on 15 October 2005. For its part, Turkey feared the demonstration effect on its own restless Kurds of any Kurdish entity on the Turkish border. Indeed, General Ilker Basbug, Turkey's deputy chief of staff, declared that "if there is a federal structure in Iraq on an ethnic basis, the future will be very difficult and bloody." Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the Iraqi Kurds of "playing with fire" by trying to annex the oil-rich Kirkuk area to their prospective federal state. Turkish opposition to ethnic or multinational federalism in Iraq reflects its long-standing security fears that any decentralization there—especially in favor of the Kurds—will inevitably encourage the Kurds in Turkey to seek autonomy and eventually separation. Given the adoption of the Iraqi constitution in October 2005 and its institutionalization of federalism, however, Turkey has begrudgingly come to accept the existence of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Indeed, by 2010, Turkey and the KRG had begun to complement their thriving economic relationship with a promising political rapprochement as Turkey sought to further its new "zero-problems" with its neighbor's foreign policy under its new foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu. Elections. A number of other problems faced the prospective Kurdish federal state. Unofficial referenda held in February 2004 and again in January 2005 almost unanimously called for independence despite the opposition of the KDP and PUK leaders who argued that independence would not be practical at the present time given the opposition of the KRG's neighbors. In maintaining this position, however, Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani ran the risk of losing control of the Kurdish "street" and thus their long-term grip on power. For the present, however, the two leaders seem secure in their positions. In the immediate aftermath of the three national elections held in 2005—30 January 2005 for an interim parliament (that then chose a new interim government and began to write a new permanent constitution for Iraq), the ratification of the permanent Constitution on 15 October 2005, and the election of a permanent parliament on 15 December 2005—the Kurds held the balance of power. To form the necessary two-thirds majority coalition government, the majority Shiite coalition had to accept the Kurdish demands for strong Kurdish rights in a democratic federal Iraq. These demands included one of the two main Kurdish leaders, Jalal Talabani, as the president of Iraq, while the Shiites gained the leading office of prime minister. Other Kurdish demands included the so-called Kurdish veto over approving or amending any future Iraqi constitution, the limited role of Islam, the rights of women, no Arab troops in Kurdistan, and the future of oil-rich Kirkuk, among others. The Kurds also decided that the other Kurdish leader, Massoud Barzani, would become president of the unified Kurdistan Regional Government. If these demands would not be met, the Kurds could simply wait until they were while maintaining their de facto independence. On paper, it seemed a win/win situation. After a great deal of debate and against strong Sunni Arab opposition, the permanent constitution finally was concluded at the end of August 2005 and then approved by nearly 79 percent of those who voted in a referendum held on 15 October 2005. Sunni Arab opposition almost derailed the document, however, as the Sunnis achieved a two-thirds negative note against the constitution in two governorates and fell just short of doing so in a third. As noted above, a two-thirds negative vote in any three governorates would have scuttled the constitution. On 15 December 2005, elections were held to choose the first permanent post-Saddam Hussein parliament and government. After a great deal of haggling, a Shiite Arab, Nouri al-Maliki, finally emerged in May 2006 as the new prime minister, while Jalal Talabani was chosen as the largely ceremonial permanent president. Several other prominent Kurds also joined the new Iraqi government. Among others, Barham Salih was tabbed as one of the two deputy prime ministers, and Hoshyar Zebari remained the foreign minister. The Kurdish role in Baghdad was a hedge against renewed Arab chauvinism. On 7 May 2006, a supposedly unified Kurdistan Regional Government was chosen, headed by Nechirvan Idris Barzani, the nephew of Massoud Barzani. It consisted of 13 ministries headed by the KDP and 14 by the PUK. Islamists held three ministries, while Turkmans and Assyrians were granted one each. The main problem with the new unified KRG was that four of its major ministries remained divided between the PUK and the KDP: interior, finance, justice, and peshmerga (defense). Each portfolio had two ministers, one from the PUK and the other from the KDP. Eventually, however, these four ministries were united too. More problematic would be the interrelationship between the KRG and the national government in Baghdad regarding such crucial issues as the allocation of oil resources and the future of oil-rich Kirkuk. Article 140 of the permanent Iraqi constitution had called for a referendum on the future of Kirkuk by the end of 2007 but due to a lack of agreement had never been implemented. In the summer of 2008, KRG and Iraqi troops almost came to blows over Khanaqin, a city on their border. Other burning issues included relations with Turkey, the PKK (which maintained bases in the KRG's Kandil Mountains), and charges of corruption and nepotism against the KRG's entrenched political leadership. On 25 July 2009, the KRG held presidential and parliamentary elections. Approximately 78 percent of 2.5 million eligible voters participated. Massoud Barzani was reelected president with a large majority of almost 70 percent of the popular vote. Four years earlier he had simply been elected president by the KRG parliament. More dramatically perhaps was the strong showing of Nawshirwan Mustafa's Gorran (Change Party), which garnered approximately 24 percent of the vote and gained 25 seats in the parliament, largely at the expense of the PUK. This new Change Party had strongly criticized what it charged was the entrenched Kurdish leadership's corruption and nepotism. As a result, the joint KDP/PUK Kurdistani List won only 57 percent of the vote and saw its seats in parliament fall from 78 to 59 out of the 100 elected seats, which did not count 11 additional seats reserved for various minorities. The Service and Reform coalition of four small leftist and Islamic parties garnered almost 13 percent of the vote and gained 13 seats in the new parliament. Thus, for the first time the KRG parliament would have a meaningful opposition. Despite his party's relatively poor showing, Barham Salih, the main PUK candidate, eventually was chosen to be the new KRG prime minister, replacing Nechirvan Bar-zani, who along with Kosrat Rasul became one of the two KRG vice presidents. On 7 March 2010, national Iraqi elections saw the KDP-PUK electoral alliance win 43 seats, while the Gorran Party captured 8 seats. Kurdish Islamists also took six seats in the new parliament of 325 members. As of this writing, however, it was not clear what type of government coalition would eventually emerge from these electoral results. Iran Although twice as many Kurds live in Iran as do in Iraq, the Kurdish national movement in Iran historically enjoyed much less success due in part to the relatively greater long-term strength of the Iranian governments. (More recently, of course, the Kurds in Iran have not benefited from the positive developments their co-nationals have in Iraq and Turkey.) This, however, did not prevent Ismail Agha Simko from leading major Kurdish revolts in the 1920s that only ended when the Iranian government treacherously assassinated him under false pretenses of negotiation in 1930. This Iranian technique of solving its Kurdish problem was used again on 13 July 1989 when Iranian agents assassinated the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), Abdul Rahman Ghas-semlou, in Vienna while supposedly negotiating with him. On 17 September 1992, Iranian agents also assassinated Ghassemlou's successor, Sadegh Sharafkandi, while he was dining at the Mykonos Restaurant in Berlin. Mostafa Hejri became the new KDPI leader and has remained so up to the present, despite divisions within his party. Earlier, the KDPI's revolt against the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's new government had been completely smashed by 1981. Armed KDPI remnants, however, continued to shelter in northern Iraq. Their goal was "autonomy for Kurdistan, democracy for Iran." Fighting, however, broke out between the more moderate KDPI and the more radical Marxist Komala in 1985. Hundreds died in this intra-Kurdish bloodletting. Further divisions occurred among the Iranian Kurds in 2006. Currently, the splintered KDPI continues to shelter in the KRG just west of Sulaymaniya. Komala also maintains an armed militia in the area. Although neither the KDPI nor Komala is now active militarily in Iran, some have argued that the United States would like to use them to overthrow the present Iranian regime. In 2006, top KDPI and Komala leaders such as KDPI head Mostafa Hejri visited Washington to meet with middle-level U.S. State Department and intelligence officials. Hejri made it clear that while he would accept U.S. financial aid, he opposed U.S. military attacks against Iran as being counterproductive. On the other hand, Komala declared that it neither opposed nor supported such attacks. Despite these problems, the Iranian Kurds are famous among their Kurdish brethren for having established the only Kurdish state in the 20th century, the short-lived Mahabad Republic of Kurdistan (January-December 1946). When this rump Kurdish state was destroyed, however, its president, Qazi Muhammad, was summarily hanged on 31 March 1947, a blow from which the Iranian Kurds still have not completely recovered. Unlike the Arabs and the Turks, the Persians are closely related to the Kurds. This ethnic affinity at times has probably served to moderate Kurdish national demands in Iran. Iran also received large numbers of Kurdish refugees from Iraq after the failed Iraqi Kurdish revolts in 1975 and 1991. Unlike the Azeris, however, the Kurds have been barred from high levels of power in Iran. Many Iranian Kurds supported reformist Mohammad Khatami when he was elected president of Iran in May 1997. Khatami appointed Abdol-lah Ramazanzadeh, a Shiite Kurd, as the first governor general of Iranian Kurdistan. In turn, Ramazanzadeh appointed a number of Sunni Kurds to important governmental positions. Khatami's reformist movement, however, proved too weak to stand up to the hard-liners. In April 2001, Ramazanzadeh was accused of libelous statements against the powerful watchdog body, the Council of Guardians, for objecting to the nullification of the Majlis votes in two Kurdish cities. A non-Kurd succeeded him. During the same year, several legislators from the Kurdish provinces resigned from the Majlis, accusing the government of discrimination. The situation continued to deteriorate when over half of the Kurdish members of the Majlis were prevented from participating in the February 2004 elections. As a result, more than 70 percent of the Kurds boycotted the election, and civil unrest occurred in several Kurdish cities. Many Kurds also boycotted the election of hard-line Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was elected president of Iran in June 2005 and reelected in a hotly disputed contest in June 2009. Only 25 percent of those eligible voted in the decisive second round of the June 2005 presidential elections in Kordestan province. Even fewer Kurds voted in other provinces. This compared with a national turnout of more than 60 percent and would seemingly be indicative of Kurdish alienation from the current Iranian political system. Ahmadinejad immediately rebuked Kurdish appeals to place qualified Kurds in his new administration. Indeed, some Kurdish sources claimed that Ahmadinejad had been behind the assassination of the Iranian Kurdish leader Ghassemlou in 1989. This pattern of Kurdish alienation and accusations against Ahmadinejad continued during the elections held in 2009. The creation of a de facto state of Kurdistan in northern Iraq in general and the inauguration of Massoud Barzani in June 2005 as its president in particular also have influenced the neighboring Iranian Kurds to demand changes. On 9 July 2005, for example, Iranian troops killed Shivan Qadiri, a young Kurdish leader, and dragged his body through the streets. The government claimed that Qadiri had organized the destruction of ballots in three voting centers in the recent elections that had resulted in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad winning the presidency. Thousands of Iranian Kurds launched protests in Mahabad, the unofficial capital of Iranian Kurdistan, as well as in Sanandaj, Sardasht, Os-hnavieh, Divandareh, Baneh, Sinne, Bokan, and Saqqez, among others. The Iranian government had to respond with a state of de facto martial law and deploy large numbers of security forces. A number of deaths were reported on both sides. Further Kurdish demonstrations in protest against a death sentence handed down for the July unrest occurred in Mahabad at the end of October 2005. Moreover, during 2005, the Kurdistan Independent Life Party (PJAK), a new Iranian Kurdish party cooperating with the PKK, was reported to be engaging in various military operations against government troops in the Merivan region along the border with Iraq. Along with the PKK, the PJAK was based in the Kandil Mountains of the KRG and along the Iranian border. From this base, the PJAK was able to launch occasional raids into Iran. The PJAK has also welcomed possible U.S. attacks against Iran as a way to topple the regime. On 16 February 2007, the anniversary of Abdullah Ocalan's capture, large demonstrations and mass meetings occurred in Iranian Kurdistan. They led to three deaths and hundreds of detentions. Kurdish protests and violent state repression leading to charges of human rights violations continued in 2010. These events served as a reminder to the Iranian authorities that they still had a volatile Kurdish problem. Syria Approximately a million Kurds live in Syria, a much smaller number than in Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. Although the largest minority in Syria, the Kurds in Syria live in three noncontiguous areas and have been much less successfully organized and developed than in the other three states. For many years the repressive Syrian government of Hafez Assad sought to maintain an Arab belt between its Kurds and those in Turkey and Iraq. This Arab belt uprooted many Syrian Kurds and deprived them of their livelihoods. Many Kurds in Syria have even been denied Syrian citizenship. In 1962, Law 93 classified some 160,000 Kurds as ajanib, or foreigners who could not vote, own property, or work in government jobs. Some 75,000 other Syrian Kurds are known as maktoumeen, or concealed. As such, they have virtually no civil rights. A government decree in September 1992 prohibited the registration of children with Kurdish first names. Kurdish cultural centers, bookshops, and similar activities have also been banned. Indeed, some have suspected that in return for giving the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) sanctuary in Syria for many years, the PKK kept the lid on Syrian Kurdish unrest. For all these reasons, therefore, little was heard about the Kurds in Syria. Events in Kurdistan Iraq, however, helped begin to change this situation. In March 2004, Kurdish rioting broke out at a football match in Qamishli. Since then, the atmosphere has remained tense. Renewed rioting occurred a year later in Aleppo following the killing of Maashouq al-Haznawi, an outspoken Kurdish cleric critical of the regime. Within days of becoming the president of Kurdistan in Iraq in June 2005, Mas-soud Barzani demanded that the Syrian Kurds be granted their rights peacefully. On 16 October 2005, an emboldened domestic opposition consisting of such disparate groups as the Muslim Brotherhood and the communists issued a Damascus Declaration for Democratic National Change. Among many other points, the Declaration called for "a just democratic solution to the Kurdish issue in Syria, in a manner that guarantees the complete equality of Syrian Kurdish citizens, with regard to nationality rights, culture, learning the national language, and other constitutional . . . rights." The forced Syrian troop withdrawal from Lebanon following the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister, Rafiq Hariri, in February 2005, a strong UN Security Council response to apparent Syrian involvement in the affair, and the U.S. occupation of neighboring Iraq have also presented grave international challenges to the Syrian regime. Bashar Assad—who had succeeded his father when he died in 2000 — indicated that he was willing to entertain reforms but has not offered any specific timetable. Thus, as of 2010, the Syrian Kurds are showing increased signs of national awareness due to the developments in the KRG, but they remain much less successful at implementing them than do their brethren in Iraq and Turkey.
Historical Dictionary of the Kurds. Michael M. Gunter.
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