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August 05, 2012, Sunday

Why do Arabs remain silent on the Kurdish issue?

As the Arab Spring prepares for the end of another dictator in the Middle East, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, scenarios for an independent Kurdish state have started to dominate the international agenda.

While Turkey, which is home to roughly half of the Kurdish population in its region, attaches huge significance to the issue, the Arab public prefers to watch the developments in silence.

Just as Turkey has watched many Arab-related issues through the windows of the Western world, the Arab public has followed the Kurdish question from the eyes of the West.

At the same time as Arab newspapers printed stories which suggested that the Turkish army slaughtered Kurds, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, was referred to as a mujahid, or warrior of Islam, in sermons in Arab mosques.

Many Arab academics still think Kurds are under profound pressure in Turkey.

However, Kurds, who make up around one-fifth of Turkey’s population, enjoy equal rights with Turks, Bosnians, Albanians, Arabs or Circassians. Kurds do not face any obstacles in becoming military generals, presidents, prime ministers or bureaucrats.

At least 2 million people born as a result of marriage between Turks and Kurds live in Turkey. And at least one-third of Kurds live in Turkey’s western cities. The largest Kurdish-populated city at present is not Arbil, Sulaimaniya, Qamishli or Diyarbakır. It is İstanbul, which is also one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Turkey’s Kurds have received their share of atrocities carried out by successive governments against devout Muslims, non-Muslim minorities and Alevis in the past. The state denied that the Kurds had a separate identity for years.

However, at present we cannot say that Kurds are divested of their rights, with the exception of receiving education at schools in their mother tongue. The government is trying to take some steps for schooling in the Kurdish language. And the Turkish public expects these steps to continue.

As a result, Turkey has not fallen behind Western countries in offering rights to citizens who come from different ethnicities. Furthermore, it is probably ahead of some European countries in this sense.

It is an incontestable fact that dictators who ruled the region for more than half a century share the responsibility for the fact that Arabs remain mute about the Kurds’ situation or have wrong perceptions about them. Dictators have preferred to keep silent about Kurds and the Kurdish question, believing that any comment may lead to questioning of their legitimacy by their people.

The second factor that has led Arabs not to speak out about Kurds is the belief in the Arab public that the Kurdish issue is not a serious threat for Arabs. Several Arab regimes, which consider the Shiite identity as the greatest threat to their existence, have watched the steps of Kurds in Iraq, once controlled by Shiites, on the path to independence with joy.

And the third factor is the fact that the Arab public has not yet realized that a Kurdish state being established in the region would ruin all balances of power in the region.

The setting up of an independent Kurdish state would mean the emergence of a conflict or war in which Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria would participate.

And such a conflict or war would have an impact on the entire Middle East, from Egypt to Saudi Arabia.

For this reason, Arab countries and people should stand by countries which host Kurdish populations against an independent Kurdish state.

The establishment of a new state in the Middle East would spell a serious threat for all other countries in the region. There are potential threats, similar to the establishment of a Kurdish state, in almost all of those countries.

It should also not be forgotten that Arab countries, which band together against Israel, had better know that an independent Kurdish state in the region would mostly serve the purposes of Israel. A Kurdish state would result in the dragging of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, all among the biggest countries of the Middle East, into a war and eventually to the destabilization of the region.

Israel would never desire the existence of a strong country in the region, be it Turkey or Egypt.

The emergence of a Kurdish state as a result of the Arab Spring would be knocking on the door of a new disaster by the countries in the region, similar to the situation with dictatorships in the past.

It is unlikely that a Kurdish state would bring prosperity to Kurds in the region. A Kurdish state established in a region which has no coastline would never become more than the puppet of other powers.

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