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Middle East

Dignity a priority
Kurdish national identity

By Kamal H. Artin
June 18, 2004

In the denial stage, individuals may blame others when facing difficulties. The collective mindset of individuals resembles a society's culture. On a societal level, the Middle East seems to be the prototype of a blaming culture. It is likely that arrogance, excessive ethnocentricity, and crystallized mistrust of its statesmen and religious leaders, both of whom might be the same individual, have led the Middle East to remain socially and politically very primitive.

Often the West is blamed for the misery that the Middle Eastern societies have created for themselves (previously both blocks used to be blamed). Kurds are no better than their neighbors in the region in blaming others for their misery. Kurds have been blaming the dominant ethnic groups such as Arabs, Turks and Persians for denying their rights and imposing their identity on them; they have called those among themselves who side with their oppressors "Jawsh", hinting to the offspring of an animal who is running ahead of it's mother, for wrong-doing.

Some now blame the US and argue that recent selection of the interim government in Iraq is connected to the upcoming elections to be held in the United States; they believe that the current US administration needs to: satisfy major national and international opponents before the US presidential election and must ignore the basic human rights of the Kurds again. Some attribute the persistent denial of Kurdish rights by their opponents to the tribal structure of the Kurdish political parties who do not give priority to Kurdish national identity. Some blame the Arabs, Turks, and Persians for preventing any serious move toward resolving the Kurdish issue once and forever.

While all of these might be part of the facts, rarely does anyone points to the fact that the Kurdish society is a primitive society and has a long way to go in order to run its own affairs in this modern era. Many Kurdish intellectuals have started pointing their pen against PDK and PUK, the two main political parties in Iraqi-Kurdistan. While this might be indicative of good insight to recognize one's own deficiency first, blaming PUK and PDK alone without mentioning the contributing factors might not lead to any corrective action from the society as a whole.

Although these parties may be failing to secure the right to self-determination in Kurdistan in this critical stage, all things considered, they remain somewhat defendable. Unfortunately, in order to defend them, the blame has to be shifted to the outside again. Maybe KDP and PUK are pragmatic and aware that they have neither financial nor human resources to run a country effectively and therefore have to be dependent on others, even if it means the loss of dignity. Maybe the biased and previously inefficient United Nations and its representative, Mr. Brahimi, have convinced the Kurdish leaders that they will fail unless they are under the superior Arab rule. Maybe they are preparing the high-ranking Kurds to function as ministers in Baghdad to gain leadership experience so that they can run their own affairs in the future.

Maybe Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabani are deliberately avoiding any serious confrontation in order to gain further international recognition and to win, if not a Nobel peace prize from Europe, at least a prize from the neighboring countries for negligence and abandonment of their Kurdish constituents. Maybe they are convinced that they need to remain tribal in order to survive among other Shiite and Sunni tribes and under the leadership of sheikhs, ayatollahs, kings, and permanent presidents.

And worst of all, maybe Mr. Bremer has threatened that, if they don't keep quiet, the US will let the neighboring wild wolves, sharks, and vultures attack them again. Maybe they are experiencing nightmares from the past betrayal of the left and right political groups of the dominant cultures. Maybe they experience constant insecurity and fear and their dignity is not a priority now.

Once the dignity of the majority of the Kurds and their leaders becomes a priority, as might be the case among many developed nations, the Kurds might start looking inward; then they might use Gandhi's model to remain passive and sacrifice everything except human lives to fulfill their dreams. In such a stage, they might become free of fear and insecurity and stop negotiating and exchanging any tribally satisfying rewards for their dignity and national identity. Once their identity is recognized and respected and they have tasted their freedom, they might reach a higher level of development to voluntarily give up their Kurdish identity and become free members of a united Middle Eastern federation and, finally, citizens of earth.

Kamal H. Artin, MD, is from the Kurdish-American Education Society in Orange County, California.

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