United Nations

   The United Nations is an international organization that was established at the end of World War II to, according to UN Charter Article 1, "maintain international peace and security." Since it is an international organization made up of sovereign independent states, however, the Kurds have no legal standing as members. Indeed, the states in which the Kurds live (Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria) have a vested interest in keeping the Kurdish question out of the United Nations in order to preserve their own respective territorial integrities. This they—and others who have similar interests in keeping the lid on their own minority problems—have largely done. Until the end of the first Gulf War in 1991, therefore, the United Nations had had almost nothing to do with the Kurdish question. Ironically, however, more than half the members of the United Na-tions—who by definition have legal standing in the world organiza-tion—also have populations less than that of the Kurds.
   Those who would seek an entry for the Kurdish issue onto the UN agenda might point out that UN Charter Article 1 also lists as its purposes "to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples" and "to achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion." In addition, UN Charter Article 14 declares that "the General Assembly may recommend measures for the peaceful adjustment of any situation, regardless of origin, which it deems likely to impair the general welfare or friendly relations among nations."
   One of very few early attempts to bring the Kurdish question to the United Nations occurred in January 1946, when Rizgari Kurd, an Iraqi Kurdish predecessor of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), unsuccessfully made a formal appeal to the world body for Kurdish self-determination and sovereignty. Following Iraq's use of chemical warfare during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) and against the Iraqi Kurds in Halabja in March 1988, UN Security Council Resolution 620, of 26 August 1988, finally condemned the use of such weapons. At the same time, Massoud Barzani appealed to the United Nations to stop Iraq's Anfal campaign with its usage of chemical weapons against the Kurds. The overall international response, however, was largely one of deafening silence, as few wanted to offend Saddam Hussein and Iraq in those days.
   The first Gulf War in 1991 partially changed this neglect. 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." This was by far the most important specific recognition of the Kurds that the United Nations had ever made. In the succeeding years, the United States used this Security Council Resolution to justify first its temporary creation of a safe haven for the Kurds in northern Iraq and then its enforcement of a no-fly zone over the area. Under this protection, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) developed after 1992 until it was recognized by the new Iraqi constitution adopted in October 2005 as a federal state within Iraq. The United Nations has also maintained a number of humanitarian programs in the region.
   UN Security Council Resolution 986, of 14 April 1995, authorized Iraq to sell a limited amount of oil for food and other humanitarian needs, thus partially lifting the economic sanctions that had been imposed since the first Gulf War. After a great deal of haggling, UN Security Council Resolution 1153, of 20 February 1998, dramatically increased the permitted amount of oil sales to $5.256 billion every six months. The Iraqi Kurdistan region received 13 percent of the funds from the sale of this oil. These oil funds from the United Nations helped immensely to develop economically the Kurdish area in northern Iraq to the point that the region started to become a model for the entire Middle East. Many administrative problems regarding UN projects remained, however, since the United Nations continued to take the position that it was acting on behalf of the Iraqi government when it administered its programs in the Kurdish region.
   After the government of Saddam Hussein was overthrown in the second Gulf War of 2003, the United Nations played only a limited role regarding Iraq and the Kurds because the United States felt that the world organization was too weak and corrupt to be trusted. Sergio Vieira de Mello, the highly respected UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-General's Special Representative in Iraq, was killed along with 20 other members of his staff in a bombing in Baghdad in August 2003. This assassination also discouraged UN involvement in the area.
   UN Security Council Resolution 1546, of 8 June 2004, interjected the world organization partially back into the equation by endorsing the formation of a sovereign interim Iraqi government and the continuing presence of U.S. troops during the transition. The Kurds, however, saw this UN resolution as being biased against their interests because it did not specifically mention the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) that guaranteed the newly won Kurdish rights regarding federalism. Acting under UN Charter Chapter 7 (Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression) UNSC Resolution 1546 also implemented the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and a Special Representative of the Secretary-General to assist the Iraqi people and government. To help accomplish this mission, the UNAMI coordinates 16 separate UN agencies and programs. Subsequently, this Resolution has been renewed at 12-month intervals.
   In April 2009, the United Nations issued a lengthy study in which it urged the Iraqi Kurds not to push for a referendum on whether Kirkuk should become part of the KRG. This recommendation opposed the Kurds' desire to implement Article 140 of the permanent constitution of Iraq, which called for just such a referendum and was strongly criticized by KRG president Massoud Barzani.
   See also Refugees.

Historical Dictionary of the Kurds. .

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