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

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    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.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.