Posted by: Frangipani | March 16, 2012

What if there was an independent Kurdistan?

My husband and I were chatting in a cafe in Iraq Kurdistan. “What would happen if the south allowed the north to become an independent country, and Kurds who wished to move from any country were free to do so?”

“Well, that might provide an interesting and peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue in Eastern Turkey. And it could help with the Kurdish issue in Syria. And in Iran. And it could be easier for Kurds in Europe, America and Australia to return to the region of their parents,” was my immediate response.

Then I realised what I had just said: how much of a gamechanger his thought potentially was.

Turkey, Syria and Iran would give up no land and no resources. All who wished to leave would do so. All who stayed would become more integrated in Turkey, Syria and Iran. A bit like Cornish people in England; they are free to maintain Cornish language and culture, but there is no disputing the fact that they are fully English and they do not seek any form of autonomy. Kurds from any country would have the possibility to move to the independent Kurdistan at any time. This seems like a big win for the three countries that currently have Kurdish “issues”.

What could be given in return to encourage such a move from the current autonomous Iraq Kurdistan region to an independent country of Kurdistan with a larger population?

I added a thought at this point: Could Turkey and Syria give free transit of Iraq and Kurdistan gas through their lands? There is a hungry market for gas, being the cleanest fossil fuel, in Europe. Throughout Europe, coal fired power stations that produce at least twice the CO2 emissions of gas fired power stations are being shut down and nuclear power is under intense scrutiny. This “gift” could be given involves no cash outlay. As already demonstrated, it can bring economic growth along the transit route, since gas can also be bought along the route and used to develop local industry. Turkey and Syria would forfeit the usual practise of receiving gas transit fees; in return they would reduce the intensity of the Kurdish “issue”.

Removing the intensity of the Kurdish issue could (if the military allowed) dramatically reduce the military budget. Peace allows for greater economic growth. With less military expenditure, more stability and lower populations, the GDP per capita would be expected to rise substantially in Turkey and Syria. All remaining citizens would benefit from the improved standards of living in areas such as healthcare and education. This in turn would have follow-on benefits, such as increased productivity of the workforce. And whilst the Turkish people would need to decide upon the desirability for EU entry for themselves, there could be a marked improvement in human rights that would make EU entry more of a possibility.

Without transit fees, gas from Iraq and Kurdistan could be marketed favourably in Europe. If sufficient new gas reserves were found in Turkey and Syria, that gas could be added to the expanding pipeline network, and can be marketed alongside gas from Iraq and Kurdistan. An easing of the tensions between Iraq and what is now Iraq Kurdistan would allow multiple export routes for Iraq’s vast quantities of gas. Increased economic co-operation and growth would be expected in the whole region. And one day, Iranian pipeline gas can be added to the mix, alongside increased economic co-operation.

Could this picture be painted? What do my Kurdish friends think? Could the dreams of an independent Turkish Kurdistan be laid down by the PKK? Could an independent Kurdistan within the confines of what is now Iraq Kurdistan work? How could the borders be drawn? Could a democratic country be maintained that welcomed Kurds from every land? Would it be a land where minorities would also be well taken care of, since Kurdish people have experienced so much mistreatment as minorities for so long themselves? Could such a land be united by the fulfilment of their long held dream for an independent Kurdistan?

A dream according to some. The Kurdish issue may need to be solved separately in each country. “Better we fix it here. Iraq Kurdistan is already open for Kurds from other countries to move to, with incentives.

But that would be like giving up. We believe something is coming. It will happen here.”

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