A youth in the Kurdistan Region holds the Flag of Kurdistan at a rally to support independence in September 2017. File photo: Safin Hamed | AFP
This week last year was probably the happiest week in the life of millions of Kurds at home and abroad. After a century of waiting a referendum was coming up to vote for independence and finally fulfill the dream of a Kurdish state.
People didn’t want to hear of the pressures to cancel the referendum or the threat of war. They revisited their wardrobes and brought out their most colorful Kurdish clothes or tailored new ones and began instead to envision the Kurdish flag outside the U.N., a Kurdish passport, Kurdish banknotes and dropping the name of Iraq from all personal documents.
The outside world, too, was keenly watching. Those with plights similar to the Kurds rooted for our success. Others still hung up on the sanctity of borders despaired and discouraged Kurdish leaders to stop the process.
To the Kurds separating from Iraq was as vital as having a state of our own. To Kurds Iraq only meant oppression, genocide and injustice. Baghdad perpetrated all of its crimes in broad daylight and there was no need for evidence.
The day finally came and on September 25 close to 93 percent of those who voted said, “Yes to Independence” and went home unable to sleep from an excitement and adrenaline that could only be understood by a Kurd.
There were fireworks, street dances and rooftop parties. Suddenly you felt close to strangers, shook the hands of people you had never met and smiled to whoever crossed your path.
But sadly, the joy was short-lived as the suffering had been long.
As it is always the case the world abandoned us. Our neighbors closed their borders, international airlines halted their flights and Iraq shut down our airports and banks. It was followed by a vengeful military invasion into Kirkuk and many other Kurdish towns and villages.
The same world who stayed silent and never expressed a word of sympathy suddenly began blaming the Kurds for what happened. They said Iraq shouldn’t be divided, the Middle East shouldn’t be destabilized, Kurds didn’t know how to run a state, Kurds were not united, and a hundred other analysis.
Instead they began praising Iraq for defeating ISIS and hailed Haider al-Abadi as man of the year, the hero of the century.
I wonder what those countries, chief among them the United States, would say today. They traded the Kurds, their democratic right and the votes of millions for an Iraq that is in a pitiful state and going down the drain.
In the Iraq they so much love it is clerics in mud houses and militia leaders who decide the political course of the country. The prime minister they so admired is on his way out and fallen out of favor with everyone including his own party. The Iraqi government is shooting civilians who demand drinking water. After four years of misery internally displaced Sunnis still linger in refugee camps and unable to go home.
Iraq is a wealthy country, with a long history of sectarian violence, lots of cash, advanced American weapons, corrupt officials and militia members of parliament. It’s a decaying carcass with little hope of salvation.
The Kurds tried to break away from it and save themselves. It didn’t work out as many wished. But that long overdue dream for a Kurdish state will still come true.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.