IRAQ REFLECTION: Kurds feel abandoned and surrounded

3 March 2009
IRAQ REFLECTION: Kurds feel abandoned and surrounded

by Michele Naar-Obed

Word is filtering throughout Iraq that the United States is starting to remove its military presence.  The country is theoretically in the hands of Iraqis.  However, the situation on the ground is chilling.   Journalist Dahr Jamail writes "the capital city of the country is essentially in lock-down and prevailing conditions are indicative of a police state..." (See   And, of course, the Kurds in the north are again experiencing feelings of fear and betrayal as they let go of the U.S. safety net.

While the recent election was touted as an example of democracy, over one million Kurds in the province of Diyala were not allowed to vote, costing them important political seats.  Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission admits that voter fraud was rampant.

The new U.S.-backed leaders in Iraq have been levying threatening language the Kurdish region.  When the Kurds turn to the U.S. for help, U.S. officials tell them to solve their own problems.   A worse betrayal is the refusal of the U.S. to sanction Turkey for its ongoing bombing along Iraq's northern border.  The U.S. has admitted to clearing air space inside Iraq for Turkey and providing "military intelligence" for strikes against the militant Kurdish Worker Party (PKK).  Damning evidence that these attacks have caused extensive destruction for Kurdish civilians not associated with the PKK makes the U.S. complicit in violating their human rights.

While Turkey has done the most damage, Iran and Syria have also launched attacks.   Iraq's central government has done little to protect the Kurds from hostile neighbors.  Instead, they admonish the Kurds for their efforts at semi-autonomy because these efforts inspire the Kurds of Turkey, Iran, and Syria to exert independence.   The Kurds thus feel completely surrounded by hostile forces. With feelings of nowhere to turn, some Kurds have found violent self-defense a more attractive option, and more may join PKK ranks if this situation continues.

In this atmosphere of fear and insecurity, CPT and Kurdish villagers are working with a UNHCR*-sponsored working protection group towards a return to homes the villagers fled from because of the bombings.  While the villagers know CPT's accompaniment isn't a guarantee of safety, one said, "God will bless this plan, because it is for the good of our people."

CPT is counting on the international community, particularly the U.S., having a change of heart and holding all hostile forces in the region accountable to the Geneva Conventions and other international laws that afford every person certain inalienable human rights.  Naive as this may sound, some of us are banking our lives on that possibility.

*UNHCR-United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees