News / Middle East

    Kurds Have New Hopes Amid Mideast Changes

    The upheaval from the "Arab Spring" across the Middle East has given the 30 million Kurds, who live mostly in parts of Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran, new hopes of their long-held dream of independence. In a series of stories, VOA correspondents in the Middle East and Washington found that Kurdish aspirations are met by a complicated reality on the ground.
     
    It's lunchtime, and kebabs are on the grill at a newly-opened Kurdish restaurant in the Washington area. 
     
    Hekmat Bamarni came here from northern Iraq in the 1970s, and he sits at a table in the restaurant with a man bearing a scar on his forehead from a shrapnel wound. 
     
    Both men were Kurdish independence fighters known as Peshmerga, or "those who face death."
     
    "As a Kurdish person, yes, we have a dream like everybody else -  like a Turk, Arab, Iranian," Hekmat Bamarni said. "We want independence too." 
     
    But Kurds in Iraq and elsewhere have endured harsh crackdowns in pursuit of that dream.
     
    As the largest ethnic minority in the Middle East without a state, Kurds at one time depended on an armed insurgency to press their cause. 
     
    But the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Arab Spring revolts and other recent events in the Middle East have solidified their political ambitions.  
     
    "This is certainly a changing moment and an exciting moment for Kurds and those who study the Kurds because it appears as if those boundaries that were set at the state formation period seem to be breaking away," said Denise Natali, a Middle East expert at the National Defense University in Washington. 
     
    That seems to be the case in Syria, where Kurds have taken control of much of that country's northeastern tip amid a national anti-government uprising. 
     
    Meanwhile in Turkey, Kurds are using unprecedented new freedoms to reverse years of discrimination and alienation.
     
    In Iran, the Western crackdown on Tehran over its nuclear ambitions has given Iranian Kurds hope for change.
     
    And in Iraq, Kurds have run their own affairs in the northern part of the country since the ouster of Saddam Hussein’s regime. 
     
    But Natali said this self-rule has forced Iraqi Kurdish leaders to face geopolitical reality in a landlocked region. 
     
    "The survivability of the region depends on open borders, and positive or at least working relations with neighboring states," she said.
     
    Natali said the neighboring states often play Kurdish factions off against one other, leaving Kurds alienated and caught in national politics or regional disputes.
     
    Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official now at the American Enterprise Institute, said Kurdish leaders themselves often pay lip service to nationalist aspirations as they acknowledge the realities. 
     
    "I just came back from Kurdistan," he said. "And certainly among the students, among the professors, among the intellectuals - but not the politicians - there’s this real fear that again we have independence within our grasp and the neighboring powers and our own politicians are going to prevent it from happening because they’re always unable to reach consensus." 
     
    But Rubin says the younger generation of Kurds, inspired by their Arab counterparts, are growing increasingly impatient with their political leaders as they see gains that were made in the Arab Spring.
     
    And across the Middle East, Kurdish factions are taking steps to control their destinies. 
     

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: ali from: Turkey
    November 21, 2012 7:47 AM
    What does KURDISTAN mean? Dont confuse ppl with this type of unreal news! Almost 20 million KURDS lives in TURKEY and at least 19million of them happy to being member of REPUBLIC OF TURKEY! Only terrorists whose their "nickname" are KURDS wants a newland and real aim for that is cut off TURKEY!.. We turks,arabs,christians and kurds are pretty happy to live together in TURKEY. write ur news based on true knowledges!
    In Response

    by: Dr. Malek Towghi/Tauqee from: USA
    November 22, 2012 4:33 AM
    A free referendum can easily determine how many Kurds love Turkey. The very name, Turkey, 'the Land of Turks' is irritating and is insulting for the Kurds, Armenians and other Christians and Arabs. Long live the heroic Kurds, For a united, sovereign and free Kurdistan, Malek Towghi, Ph.D., Liaison, Baluch Human Rights International

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora