Monday, November 5, 2012

Getting Your Own House In Order

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Turkish, Syrian, and Iraqi Kurds (at least the ones that live in Iraq’s northwest, across the borders with Turkey and Syria) are linguistically united. These Kurds speak the Kurmanchi variety of Kurdish, as opposed to Iranians and northeastern Iraqi Kurds. They speak the Sorani variety of Kurdish, which is more different from Kurmanchi than Portuguese is from Spanish.

Syria’s Kurds would likely turn to Turkey for support [..] This presents Turkey with a crucial choice. It has traditionally been hostile to an independent Kurdish state or entity anywhere in the region, lest its own Kurdish population make similar demands. But its calculus could be changed by the prospect of chronically unstable Sunni Arab neighbors [..]

In light of all these compelling reasons to support an independent Kurdish entity in Syria, Turkey may be convinced to reverse its long-standing opposition to any Kurdish autonomy in the region. But one major roadblock stands in the way of Turkey capitalizing on these developments: its own Kurdish population, who has long been agitating for its own autonomy.

As Turkey makes good friends with the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, it has to keep its own disgruntled Kurds happy. Rising Kurdish nationalism across the region has excited the country’s Kurds. Turkey has witnessed a rise in PKK attacks recently, with the group even launching a brazen, if aborted, fall campaign to take over towns in the country’s southeast. Politically, Ankara’s failed 2009 attempt to provide more cultural rights for Kurds has added to the their frustrations. Such sentiments will be voiced prominently in the country’s 2013 local elections, when the Kurdish nationalist Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) will likely retain control of major cities in southeastern Turkey.

It will be hard for Turkey to build a strong relationship with the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds when Turkish Kurds are locked in a centrifugal tendency away from Ankara. As it aims for influence in Syria and Iraq, Ankara has to make peace with its Kurdish community. If autonomy is the way to resolve the Kurdish issue in Iraq and Syria, in Turkey the path forward is more democracy. Currently, Turkey is debating whether to write its first civilian constitution. This presents the country with a timely opportunity to create a truly liberal charter that broadens everybody’s rights, including those of the Kurds.

Health Apocalypse Now

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