Did Barzani betray the tradition of his movement?

Published 28.09.2017 20:04

Contrary to the tradition of his movement, which has always avoided terrorism, violence and ethnic conflicts, Barzani is now about to wreak unstoppable havoc in northern Iraq

The insistence of the president of northern Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Masoud Barzani, to hold an independence referendum has dragged the region to the brink of unforeseeable tension.

At the current point, even a spark can play havoc with everything in the region. We confront a region in which dozens of plots and conspiracies are set up, military forces of around 60 to 70 countries are lurking, and spies are swarming. It is uncertain who traps whom and who supports whom and for which reasons.

Barzani took to the stage despite a very chaotic background and coaxed Iraqi Kurds with the independence referendum, spurring the nationalist inclinations of Kurdish society.

Every possibility is likely to strain both Turkey and Kurds. Barzani sticking with the independence vote surprised both the Turkish state and people since he has so far maintained amicable relations with Ankara even though the Turkish-Kurdish alliance disturbed some groups.

Of course, Turkey is not the only one surprised. All countries were bewildered by Barzani's statements, except for Israel. Iraq, Iran, the U.S. and EU countries were also against the referendum. Although many of them recognize the Kurdish demands for independence, no one thinks that now is the right time.

Barzani's insistence in such an environment has increased the possibility of serious ethnic conflict in Iraq, let alone external intervention. Barzani's movement can grasp the meaning of it in the best possible way. The Barzani family has so far taken pride in the sensitivity they have shown to avoid terrorism, violence and ethnic conflicts. It is always argued that their movement is not ideological, but national, and cherishes the principles of virtue and social ethics.

It means that a victory achieved by making people pay heavy costs cannot be expected to bring any good. Several years ago, Barzani told pro-PKK Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) members in Ankara how his father Mullah Mustafa Barzani behaved in his fight against the Baathist regime as a noteworthy example:

"We had the power to seize Rawandiz and conveyed this to my. He said: ‘We cannot protect and take care of the civilians there,' and rejected our request."

The reason why he rejected the request is explained through the answer to whether they could offer a decent life to the locals after seizing the city without bringing any harm to them. As the answer was no, Mustafa Barzani gave up the idea of laying siege to the city.

Writer İbrahim Sediyani commented on this aspect of the Barzanis:

"They care about neither themselves nor the commercial and sensational effect of this victory in domestic and global media outlets. They only care about preventing harm to people."

Now we can turn to the present case and look at why Barzani has appeared so persistent. He has been undergoing profound political strain for the past two years. He cannot even hold elections to overcome this, so he came up with the idea of an independence referendum, which is the last card up his sleeve. In a sense, he strives to overcome his own strain through the fate of his people and is fully aware of the fact that a heavy price will be paid, having said before the referendum: "We are ready to die. We will hold this referendum regardless of the price we pay."

So, what happened to their century-old sensitivity? Is death the only option? Is it realistic to demand independence in the Middle East under the name of an amicable separation given that even Catalans have not been able to declare independence in Europe?

The rightfulness of the demand is not enough by itself, as there are innumerable questions regarding the issue: Why did Barzani make such a leap that contradicts the history of his own movement by disregarding relations with Turkey and in an environment where no one gives him any support?

Is there a bigger and more complex plot behind this? This concern is reminiscent of the politics adopted by the HDP following Turkey's general election on June 7, 2015. Had the party, which received 80 seats in Parliament, followed a reasonable policy and rejected complying with the PKK leadership in the Qandil Mountains, the current situation and agenda in Turkey would be much different.

Why do they not show the same sensitivity they once showed to Rawandiz to Iraqi Kurdistan now?

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