Erdoğan’s oppo­si­tion to the “inde­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum” pro­posed by Barzani in Ira­ki Kur­dis­tan met with the assent of a qua­si major­i­ty of States, with the excep­tion of Israel.
The French Pres­i­dent him­self spoke on the sub­ject and refut­ed the Kurds’ right to vote on self-deter­mi­na­tion in the con­text of region­al war, incit­ing them to “rein­force the Ira­ki State and its demo­c­ra­t­ic institutions.”

Erdoğan was not con­tent with warn­ing Ira­ki Kur­dish lead­ers over “the respon­si­bil­i­ties they would take on in desta­bi­liz­ing exist­ing cor­dial rela­tions”. Since then, he has osten­si­bly massed Turk­ish mil­i­tary armoured cars on the Ira­ki bor­der in the past few days.

The Turk­ish press at the boot of the AKP has begun denounc­ing the ref­er­en­dum with appro­pri­ate head­lines and adding weight to the “big bad eyes” oper­a­tion insti­gat­ed by the regime. “The inter­ven­tion is ready if the Ira­ki Kurds dare” they clam­or, in brief. To the sound of the click­ing of tank turrets.


Dis­agree­ment exists with­in Ira­ki Kur­dis­tan, oppos­ing the two metrop­o­lis of Erbil and Souleimanyeh, the sec­ond not being total­ly pro-Barzani. The prin­ci­pal argu­ment of oppo­nents to the ref­er­en­dum is that the “country’s struc­tures”, mean­ing those of the “future State” do not exist yet in mat­ters of eco­nom­ic and admin­is­tra­tive man­age­ment and that there are obvi­ous ter­ri­to­r­i­al dis­par­i­ties. In pass­ing, they denounce the absence of a demo­c­ra­t­ic func­tion­ing, pow­er being “con­cen­trat­ed in the hands of one man, his polit­i­cal clan and his Par­ty”, and the leader of the pro­vi­sion­al autonomous gov­ern­ment has for a long time refused to hold a pop­u­lar vote .
Part of the Turk­men pop­u­la­tion liv­ing in this ter­ri­to­ry active­ly oppos­es the the inde­pen­dence project, with Turk­ish sup­port. The Turk­men and the Arabs refuse the inclu­sion of Kirkuk and oth­er con­test­ed regions in the ref­er­en­dum, sup­port­ed in this by Erdo­gan of course. The Yazi­di will be the last to be consulted…

As a reminder, it was Great-Britain, almost a cen­tu­ry ago, who presided over the cre­ation of the nation-state called Irak, and still feels a diplo­mat­ic oblig­a­tion to get involved. Dur­ing a recent meet­ing, the British warned against “dis­lo­ca­tion”. This would be laugh­able were it not for the remains of the Islam­ic State, the dis­putes with non-Kur­dish pop­u­la­tions that were dis­placed or dis­sem­i­nat­ed, the reli­gious instru­men­tal­iza­tion of the Sunni/Shiite schism and cor­re­spond­ing region­al alliances, as well as the pres­ence of the great blocks. No doubt that in their view, the “war against Sad­dam”, did not “dis­lo­cate” anything.

The Ira­ki nation-state is in total cri­sis, as are Syr­ia and Turkey, despite the show of force of their repres­sive regimes, with noth­ing but dic­ta­to­r­i­al pow­er to offer, and the addi­tion of a domes­tic war to boot.

And in this con­text, the Ira­ki Kur­dish leader Barzani pro­pos­es a ref­er­en­dum on independence…

In oth­er words, the cre­ation of a Kur­dish nation-state, rest­ing on the inter­na­tion­al rule acknowl­edg­ing the right to “self-deter­mi­na­tion”. All amid the applause from a good part of the Kur­dish dias­po­ra, the “why not” ques­tions, and the clas­si­cal con­fu­sion between “Peo­ple”, “State”, “Nation” as a backdrop.

This debate on the polit­i­cal future of the Kur­dish move­ment, quite right­ly set­tled by Öcalan’s crit­i­cal evo­lu­tions, and the pro­pos­als for demo­c­ra­t­ic con­fed­er­al­ism (Eng­lish trans­la­tion to fol­low), had become the pre­vail­ing guid­ing line among Kurds in the ongo­ing exper­i­ment in North­ern Syr­ia where Barzani was con­sid­ered a “col­lab­o­ra­tor” with the Erdo­gan regime.

Or so we thought. We now see it is not so.

As a leader, Barzani defends the inter­ests of a new Kur­dish dom­i­nant class, linked to pro­vi­sion­al future oil ben­e­fits, and already enriched by the good terms under which it does busi­ness with neigh­bor­ing Turkey. If Barzani appears to be in oppo­si­tion with Turkey’s AKP regime and with Erdoğan, it is pre­cise­ly because a cer­tain alle­giance in these peace­ful “good terms” weighs heav­i­ly on the rela­tion­ship, and being freed from it under the pro­tec­tive mask of an inter­na­tion­al fight against ISIS, with a rel­a­tive diplo­mat­ic iso­la­tion of Erdoğan, would prove beneficial.
He has clear­ly mis­cal­cu­lat­ed the region­al bal­ance of pow­er and the poten­tial “lais­sez faire” of the imper­al­is­tic pow­ers for whom a Kur­dish nation-state could still prove inter­est­ing in the future, but who remain diplo­mat­i­cal­ly tied to the exist­ing struc­ture, giv­en the ongo­ing war. The great table for the shar­ing of spoils isn’t for the imme­di­ate future.

One can safe­ly say that the cre­ation of an addi­tion­al nation-state, be it a Kur­dish one, would deep­en the exist­ing crises rather than lead to its resolution.

In this war con­text, divi­sion meant to favor the inter­est of its dom­i­nant class and con­sol­i­date its pow­er will turn against those with­in the Kur­dish move­ment who are the bear­ers of con­fed­er­al­ist and com­mu­nal­ist solu­tions. Con­flict between the Kurds in Erbil and polit­i­cal forces close to the PKK in Ira­ki Kur­dis­tan would then become an open one. This would bring great sat­is­fac­tion to Erdoğan who has been vitu­per­at­ing from a dis­tance and in a void.

By mass­ing troops and tanks on the bor­der, Erdoğan flex­es his mus­cles for the domes­tic crowd, draw­ing a blan­ket over his “peace­ful” col­lab­o­ra­tion with Barzani for the sake of the more nation­al­is­tic among them. But he also read­ies for all even­tu­al­i­ties in forth­com­ing events, be it in Turk­ish Kur­dis­tan or in the case of an open con­flict with PKK posi­tions Erbil might intend to “reduce”.

I think it is use­less to spec­i­fy that Roja­va (Eng­lish trans­la­tion to fol­low) and its process of build­ing a demo­c­ra­t­ic con­fed­er­al­ism (Eng­lish trans­la­tion to fol­low) would be the first vic­tim of these region­al re-arrange­ments, espe­cial­ly since the “allies” are anx­ious over the post-Raqqa future, and that the ardor of the Bachar regime is encour­aged more than ever by Rus­sia and the region­al stakeholders.

Play­ing the win­ning ref­er­en­dum card in this con­text where all the eco­nom­i­cal, polit­i­cal, mil­i­tary and reli­gious con­flicts find no oth­er out­let than a war of inter­na­tion­al inter­ests between the impe­ri­alisms, and where the can­non fod­der is pro­vid­ed local­ly, adds an addi­tion­al unpinned grenade.

No one has the slight­est right of oppo­si­tion against the demands for self-deter­mi­na­tion of a peo­ple. Still, this self-deter­mi­na­tion should not be decid­ed by a hand­ful of priv­i­leged ones posit­ing an enlight­ened lib­er­al­ism to their own advan­tage, claim­ing their share among the nation-states of the for­mer Ottman empire on the premise that the Kurds were “spo­li­at­ed and forgotten.”

My inten­tion here is not to analyse the polit­i­cal posi­tion­ings of the one or the oth­er on the top­ic of “inde­pen­dence”, nor do I intend an “objec­tive” list­ing of those posi­tions. Giv­en a dis­pute over a cen­tu­ry old, once let out, the word “inde­pen­dence” obvi­ous­ly unites many for­mer oppo­nents, in a mix com­bin­ing staunch nation­al­ists and recur­ring vic­tims, exhaust­ed by their own suffering.

And the leader Barzani plays on this, call­ing on the mar­tyrs in his speech­es, as if his rul­ing class didn’t behave like a bour­geoisie send­ing its troops off to combat.
It is more than obvi­ous that the Kur­dish nation­al­ist sen­ti­ment, repressed in blood for a cen­tu­ry in its most recent his­to­ry, is close­ly tied to a some­what nation­al­is­tic striv­ing for iden­ti­ty. But when we look at the nation­al­is­tic excess­es that have fol­lowed over a cen­tu­ry the cre­ation of nation-states in the region, (the strong or oli­garchi­cal pow­ers with the mil­i­tary might that main­tained them, the sin­gle Par­ty regimes, and the cas­cad­ing wars and armed strug­gles, as exem­pli­fied by the mur­der­ous notion of Tur­kic­i­ty), one can only sup­port and repeat the polit­i­cal posi­tion­ing of forces with­in the Kur­dish move­ment favor­able to demo­c­ra­t­ic con­fed­er­al­ism and com­mu­nal­ist exper­i­ments (Eng­lish trans­la­tion to fol­low) in this part of Mesopotamia and the Mid­dle East.

Nation­al left­ist move­ments in Europe, mould­ed on the con­cept of the nation-state, were begin­ning to pay atten­tion to Kur­dish solu­tions through the prism of Roja­va. Under the push of pop­ulism, ongo­ing nation­al ten­den­cies towards turn­ing inward in dif­fer­ent Euro­pean states cer­tain­ly did not favor this inter­est. The Kur­dish dis­as­po­ra, often linked to the left — some­times inti­mate­ly — were already deeply influ­enced, even in con­tra­dic­tion with the crit­i­cal evo­lu­tions with­in the PKK.
By open­ing the flood­gates on every oppor­tunis­tic posi­tion, this ref­er­en­dum project won’t help mat­ters either.

It is not unusu­al these days in arti­cles, chron­i­cles or on social medias to see “per­son­al­i­ties” in the dias­po­ra devel­op­ing, in oppo­si­tion to their pre­vi­ous stance, a posi­tion of “bet­ter a Kur­dish State than noth­ing at all”. Inevitably in such a con­text, every form of oppor­tunism fol­lows in their footsteps.

I am not Kur­dish, I am only a chron­i­cler on Kedis­tan whose only legit­i­ma­cy is that of “friend of the Kurds” with which to express my opin­ion… And that opin­ion is not even mine. It is one forged through the strug­gles called «nation­al lib­er­a­tion”. To sim­pli­fy : con­trary to their stat­ed objec­tives, in the sec­ond half of the Twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, they saw counter-rev­o­lu­tions win out in all those alliances against nature between nation­alisms and the basic will expressed for pop­u­lar sovereignty.

But I don’t con­sid­er myself as “eth­nic French” either, or even sim­ply French. What I express and devel­op here is an anti-nation­al­ist point of view, con­sid­er­ing that his­tor­i­cal oppor­tu­ni­ties when they yield to supe­ri­or impe­ri­al­is­tic inter­ests, often lead to the cre­ation of nation-states which have, over the long term, demon­strat­ed their war­ring and mas­sacring tox­i­c­i­ty, some­times to the point of geno­cide. His­tor­i­cal­ly, cap­i­tal­ism has always attempt­ed to sti­fle, bind and crush eman­ci­pa­tion move­ments con­test­ing it and call­ing for a future com­mon to all, out­side a ven­omous nation­al­ism. And some­times, such as in Spain, reformist or stal­in­ist “left­ists” helped with the dirty work.

A striv­ing for inde­pen­dence that does not go beyond its own wish­es can only head straight into a wall of nation­al sou­ver­eignism in a glob­al envi­ron­ment devoid of any con­science con­cern­ing the envi­ron­men­tal stakes pre­cip­i­tat­ed by preda­to­ry capitalism.

Inverse­ly, no sur­vival guar­an­tee exists for Roja­va either.

But, because of impa­tience and oppor­tunism, to fall back on solu­tions that have demon­strat­ed their his­tor­i­cal fail­ure, and will quick­ly become sources of new con­flicts of inter­est, can only set back the Kur­dish move­ment as a whole and, even in Turkey, serve as a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for new inter­nal wars, with­out men­tion­ing the already recur­ring con­se­quences on the Iran­ian side.

The UN Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, sign­ing off on the issue, declared itself opposed to the orga­ni­za­tion of the ref­er­en­dum, which could pro­vide “inter­na­tion­al legit­i­ma­cy” to black­mail exert­ed against all Kurds, and even legit­imize Erdogan’s pow­er play. He also expressed him­self in favor of the “open­ing of nego­ti­a­tions” which would undoubt­ed­ly be con­duct­ed on the back of the North­ern Con­fed­er­a­tion of Syria.

A num­ber of arti­cles in French have appeared on the top­ic these days. I men­tion only three of them here, par­tial­ly con­tra­dic­to­ry with one another.

L’ONU pro­pose un accord entre Bag­dad et Erbil plutôt que le référendum

Un bil­let paru dans L’Orient le Jour, (presse libanaise)

Un bil­let paru dans L’Ori­ent le Jour, (presse libanaise)

Et ceux-ci, plus fouil­lés dans l’analyse politique

Sur le mag­a­zine Ori­ent XXI


Kur­dis­tan irakien : les enjeux d’un référendum

Trans­la­tion by Renée Lucie Bourges

En français : “Kur­dis­tan • Un référen­dum pour quoi faire ?” Cliquez pour lire

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Daniel Fleury
Let­tres mod­ernes à l’Université de Tours. Gros mots poli­tiques… Coups d’oeil politiques…