The Kurds in Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iraq are dreaming of a national home, Kurdistan. In Iraq they have been forcing their way into Kirkuk and pushing out the Arabs. Kirkuk controls 40 percent of Iraq’s oil reserves. If they succeed, the power relation between Kurds and their host societies will change dramatically. The day may not be far off when the world will welcome Kurdistan into the United Nations. Imagine what would have happened in the last hundred years if Palestine–Israel had had oil!
Is the Zeitgeist blowing the wind into Kurdish sails?
In 1991 Arthur Schlesinger believed it did.
“Nationalism,” he wrote, “remains after two centuries the most vital political emotion in the world – far more vital than social ideologies such as communism and fascism or even democracy.… Within nation-states, nationalism takes the form of ethnicity and tribalism. Ethnicity might prove more powerful and historically important than the forces of globalism or democratism, which then seemed ascendant.”
He might have added “religious faith.”
Not every country has Canada’s wisdom to give Quebec separatists luxurious accommodation in the federal parliament, even though this came about not by intention but accidentally, by a curious twist in party politics. Do Basque separatists – their organization is ETA – sit in the parliament in Madrid?
Last weekend, president Nicolas Sarkozy, speaking alongside the Spanish prime minister, declared France will rid itself of all ETÅ bases on its territory. (The death of a French policeman last week in Paris was blamed on the group.) Since 1960 there have been 800 deaths for which ETA is held responsible.
Basque and Quebec tribalists have long memories, but so have their adversaries, the unifiers, North American and European, who have, under various degrees of duress, managed to come to terms with their aspirations – not easy, considering Arthur Schlesinger’s analysis. The Trudeaus have usually, but not always, prevailed over the Lévesques. Once the Kurdish Lévesques have oil, they may at last have the power to unify. Will they have the world’s sympathy, as Trudeau had?
Whether vital global issues, like climate change, can be resolved in favour of the larger community remains an open question.