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Strangling the spirit of freedom

By KANI XULAM 9/10/2017
I recently attended a rally in Washington, DC to express my support for the Kurdish referendum in Kurdistan, Iraq.

We enjoyed short speeches, pleasant music, and joined hands in large circular dances to celebrate the Kurdish vote on independence from an overbearing partner, Arab Iraq.

Kurds flocked from Tennessee, New Jersey, New York, and even Canada. Some dressed in traditional Kurdish clothing, others donned their Sunday best.

A grassy knoll at the National Mall served as our gathering place. It was walking distance from the State Department and shouting distance of the Lincoln Memorial. We felt the inspiring spirit of Abraham Lincoln: “Self-government is better than good government.”

Dr. Martin Luther King might have addressed us, or sent us this message of his vision for Kurds and Kurdistan: “Arab Iraq doesn’t believe in your dream of freedom. But you do. That is what counts in freedom’s struggle. 

“Hold your referendum. Rattle the bigots, as we did 54 years ago. Ordinary Americans were with us then, as they are with you now. Make your children proud, as we did ours.”

The State Department was noticeably absent. The president’s special envoy for the Middle East, Brett McGurk, had already urged us to cancel our referendum, declaring it “ill-timed and ill-advised.”

Just when is a good time for freedom?

The same McGurk had earlier thanked Kurds for fighting Islamic State cutthroats: “You are really fighting on behalf of all of us.”

Who are “all of us”?  Kurds are fighting for our own freedom, not as mercenaries of the United States, France or Great Britain. Why call us “hired guns”— and on our soil in our capital?

Kurds didn’t show him the door, as they had every right to. They just politely threw his patronizing mumbo-jumbo on the ash-heap of history and held their referendum anyway. 

An overwhelming majority of Kurds voted for freedom, which would have pleased John Adams, the second American president. When Mr. Adams and his partners sought freedom, they enjoyed far less than half the support of people from their thirteen colonies.

And yet, American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson condemned our “unilateral” referendum as lacking “legitimacy.”

Really? Does that mean America’s own Declaration of Independence was illegitimate?

Today, in rejecting Kurdish independence, the US joins such figures as Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Haider al-Abadi of Iraq, and many others who go ballistic when the words freedom and Kurds are linked.

These naysayers think Kurdish freedom is bad for the Middle East. Is there any part of the world where freedom is bad?

There’s a strange inconsistency in America siding with Iran against Kurdish freedom — when President Trump has just denounced the same country as a “corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of democracy.”

There is nothing false about the Kurdish desire for freedom. It is pure and genuine, like a mother’s milk for her baby.

The anti-Kurdish choir includes a spokesperson for the stateless Palestinians, the anti-imperialist ANSWER Coalition of America and Al-Azhar, a “prestigious” center for Sunni learning in Egypt.

Who will be the next to slander independence for Kurdistan? Maybe the Penguin Association of Antarctica (PAA). Imagine their spokesperson issuing a press release, accusing us of adding to the fever of the world and becoming the lead cause of global warming — threatening the habitat of penguins.

A passage from their press release might read: “Nothing against you Kurds, but we have joined the bigots of the world in condemning the ‘ill-timed and ill-advised’ referendum. And let this serve you as a notice, unless you shred your ballots by midnight today, we will make horrible noises to scare you to death!”

Relax, all you alarmed penguins. We have nothing to do with Islamic State cutthroats, nor the crazy shooter in Las Vegas, or other sources of growing anxiety in the world.

It is lack of freedom that elevates the world’s high fever. Our experiment in self-rule subsidizes the safety and security of the world.

My fellow Kurds: A dog barks loudest when it is afraid. Let the enemies of freedom bark all they want. Keep your eyes on the prize. 

Remember our beloved Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, ex-president of Iraq who a Turkish student miffed by asking: What do you mean by the word ‘Kurdistan?’

The inimitable Talabani delighted Columbia University students with this answer: “Kurdistan is a country. I didn’t create it. God did. If you in Turkey are denying it, that doesn’t mean it does not exist.”

Kurdistan remains God’s country. As its children, we must defend it, along with our referendum to usher in freedom.

Unlike most nations of the world, we Kurds have no history of taking over other people’s lands. We only want our own.

Secretary Tillerson: brush up on American history, to help you interact with the world’s 6 million Kurds in Kurdistan, Iraq.

Kani Xulam is a political activist based in Washington D.C. He runs the American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN). 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.


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whats in it for me | 9/10/2017
kurds fought saddam, daesh, assad in syria and god knows who else!! what do we get in return? burned turkey wings made by maliki. thank you mister america. you so nice everyday.......wallah.
jamal | 9/10/2017
Well done Kani! You always talk gold. What these good neighbours do now under the excuse of the referendum and the super majority support for independence flatly reflects the super nastiness of these good neighbours with us throughout history. Wouldn't they ask themselves why the Scotts could not make a 51% majority vote to separate from Briton? The so called good world will be ashamed of itself if it remained siding with with those against the freedom of a nation that has only given good to the world.
Masque du Furet | 9/10/2017
There is an issue with new "nations" : it makes the world more complicated (more visas, if you dare to travel by road : it was easy in the 1920s to travel by train or road from Baghdad to London, changing twice trains -once in Istambul, another time in Calais/Dover); now, it has became almost impossible (and one could take time to try to undersatnd how people whose -existing/inexisting - country /nation one crossed lived (people existed, any way). Another issue : I am sure Kurdistan exists, it was made by GOD, people suffered a lot. So does Corsica (gave French an Emperor and a lot of maffiosi; has its own language; has its own, mafia type way of life), Occitanie (martyred during the Albigeois Crusade: is martyrdom eternal and can it be inherited? and I guess a lots of European parts. Does Europea need to plit into smaller parts (eachand every part has already a miniParliament and a predident; they are reelected in due time -oh, what about Iraqi Kudistan?- and nepotism is not that huge (oh, what about?) People are afraid Kurdistan will give secessionist ideas to a lot of regions which were martyred (Albigeois Crusade was 700 years ago, but suffering was extreme and can therefore be claimed across generations), have their own language, culture (if young people do not watch TV and get americanized ; oh : I heard taht second language in Iraqi Kurdistan was English/American, not Arabic, among youg generations who did not directly know Anfal....) . This fear has nothing to do with the fear of freedom, but with the fear of new statelets, which can be worse than the existing ones (I think of Erythrea and South Sudan...) OTOH, Kurdish diaspora can have influence enough (in France there are 300 000 Kurds -according to "wikipedia + kurds+ France" in countries where wikipedia can be read....- : that is enough, sometimes, to change some elections; in Germany, they are 1 million) so that, if they agree with an irrational referendum, governements will protest ... and live with the results (sometimes, one disagrees with irrational results of elections ... and keeps on living with their results)
AA | 9/10/2017
Well said and may Allah: Khode help the Kurds and all the oppressed and may He also return all the enemies of the Kurdish freedom to their senses Ameen
TooMuchSentimentalism | 9/10/2017
God created Kurdistan? You have given too far in to sentimentalism. Every ultra-nationalist invokes God or some higher power. Instead, focus on why your expected supporters are very staunchly against the referendum. Perhaps it has to do with Kirkuk.

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