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.