- JAPAN ASSOCIATION OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
- 国際政治 (ISSN:04542215)
- vol.1987, no.86, pp.68-82,L9, 1987-10-24 (Released:2010-09-01)
Calling the Kurds a minority is a misnomer, for they constitute the overwhelming majority in Kurdistan. Their tragedy is that the borders of five countries crisscross Kurdistan making them a minority in all of these states, namely, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria and the Soviet Union.From the nineteenth century onwards, the Kurds have been struggling for autonomy in the process of which they have tasted moments of exhilaration as well as despair. Shortly after the Second World War, in January 1946, the Kurds in Iran proclaimed the establishment of the Kurdish Republic of Mahabad in Iranian Kurdistan only to see its demise before the year was out. Later, the focus of their struggle shifted to Iraqi-Kurdistan. The charismatic leader, Mullah Mustafa Barzani, led a series of heroic struggles against Baghdad before, during and well after the Second World War. After his final defeat in 1975, Kurdistan experienced an uneasy period of peace.The revolution in Iran, however, opened up the opportunity for the Kurds to assert their autonomy for the third time since the end of the Second World War. Taking advantage of a brief decline in the authority of the central government, the Iranian Kurds began to demand autonomy. But the revolutionary government has not complied, for it is apprehensive about the possibility of other minorities following suit, which it fears could lead to Iran's dismemberment. Ever since 1979 a civil war has been fought in Kurdistan.The start of the all-out war between Iraq and Iran strengthened the Kurdish resolve for autonomy, for Iraq openly supported the Iranian Kurds. Iran countered by aiding the Iraqi-Kurds against Baghdad. As the fortunes of war shifted on the southern front from Iraq to Iran, so did the situation in the north. By the summer of 1983, after regaining control over its part of Kurdistan, Tehran, aided by the Iraqi Kurds, sent its army into Iraqi Kurdistan.With the concentration of the Iraqi forces on the southern and central fronts, and with the support of both Iran and Syria, the Iraqi-Kurds have steadily expanded their control over substantial parts of Iraqi-Kurdistan. They are already in a position to threaten the pipe-lines and the highway that run through Kurdistan, linking Turkey and Iraq. They also provide sanctuary for the Turkish Kurds who in 1984 started a wide spread guerilla campaign against targets inside Turkey. Thus, Kurdish agitation has spilled over into Turkey. Ankara retaliated first by bombing targets inside Iraq and later increasingly by sending troops across the border into Iraq, straining its relations with Iran and Syria. Also Turkey's intervention in Iraqi Kurdistan has fueled speculation that Turkey might occupy Iraqi-Kurdistan, should the Ba'athist regime in Baghdad show signs of imminent collapse. It seems that under the darkening shadow of the Gulf War, “the third wave” of the Kurdish struggle for autonmy has been building up momentum towards an explosive climax over the fate of Iraqi Kurdistan.