Jun 5, 2011

Republic of Kurdistan; The first glimmer of hope that demised early

Kurds in 1920 were nearest to statehood than ever as outcome of the Treaty of Sevres. It envisaged interim autonomy for the predominantly Kurdish areas in Turkey and the British-occupied province of Mosul (current Iraqi Kurdistan area). But, the possibility for such a state never occurred, since Kemal Ataturk renounce submission at Sevres. He started a revolution against the Christian forces and drove them out. Then, Kurdistan became four parts. The dream of independent Kurdistan dramatically demised, and the inception of brutal suppression employed. One of four parts of Kurdistan consist modern Iran. Although government of Iran hasn’t implemented same level of brutality as its counterpart in Turkey, yet, it has always been opposed any suggestion of Kurdish separation. Iran has had greater reasons than Turkey to oppose such a step, because it has had more large minorities such as Arabs and Azeries. From the beginning, Iranian authorities allowed Kurds to use their own language and express their culture openly. It’s noteworthy to say, however, that Kurds are around 10 percent of Iran’s population, less than other large minorities such as Turkics and Baluchies. Unlike Turkey and Iraq, however, Kurd’s land in Iran has less demographic share. Kurds in all four parts have almost no vital activity for independence that might be because of brutal suppression of central governments. At the late of 1930s and the beginning of 1940s, affected by European antinationalism, nationalist Kurds emerged. At the beginning of 1940, nationalism beside communism became a favorable common ideology.
As a result of World War two in late August 1941, British troops occupied southern part of Iran, with the Soviets controlling the north. The aim of the occupation was to dislodge Shah of Iran who the Allies forces suspected would turn his pro-German sympathy into Military Corporation. There was no Iranian government at that time. In the absence of a Central government, the Soviets tried to attach northwestern of Iran to the Soviet Union. City of Mahabad which mostly inhabited by Kurds wasn’t occupied by any of the forces that led to vacuum of power. Soviet promoted nationalism amongst Kurds. These factors made Kurds think about self-governing for Kurds within the Iranian state. In 1942, as a result of vacuum of power, a committee supported by tribal leaders took control over the administration of the city. Later at that year, a nationalist political party formed, called the Society for the Revival of Kurdistan (its Kurdish original name was, Komalay Jiyanaway Kurdistan or JK). Qazi Muhammad, member of a respected family in Mahabad elected as the chief of the new party. The party was under Soviet influence, but not control. Then, however, before the declaration of Kurdistan republic, the party elected a committee that started administering the area. The JK’s administration was successful for over five years until the fall of the republic. In 1945, the Kurdistan Democratic Party had started; all member of JK joined the new party. The new party asked for autonomy for Kurds whining the Iranian state not an independent one, Kurdish as an official language and asked for democracy in local administration. Generally, Soviet’s attitude toward Kurdish administration was ambivalent, and they didn’t support it clearly. Kurdish successful administration under Qazi Muhammad’s rule enhanced every aspect in the people’s life in this area.

In September 1945, Qzi Muhammad and other Kurdish leaders visited Soviet’s consul in Tabrez to seek for a new Kurdish republic, and they went to Azerbaijan for the same purpose. There they found that Azerbaijan’s Democratic Party is seeking a republic in Iranian Azerbaijan. On December 10, Azerbaijan’s Democratic Party took control over the East Azerbaijan province from Iranian troops and declared a republic; likewise, Qazi Muhammad decided to take the same step. After five days, on December 15, Kurdish people’s government was found in Mahabad. On January 22, 1946, Qazi Muhammad proclaimed the republic of Kurdistan in Mahabad. According to the republic’s Manifesto, they aimed to gain autonomy from Kurds inside the Iranian state, Kurdish become an official language in the area, electing locals to all official positions and unity and fraternity with Azerbaijanis. The republic was never seeking for independence out of Iranian limits. They aimed to gain autonomy and self-governing whining Iran. Kurdish printing spread throughout the area and a lot of publication were printing in the republic. That boosted the education and printing media in the area. Economically, even though, Soviet hadn’t done much to support Kurdistan republic in Mahabad, but it had an important rule in protecting the borders of the republic from Iranian forces’ intervention. Also as a kind of encouragement for the new-born republic, Soviet was buying the whole of the tobacco that was producing from that area. But regarding the military corporation, Soviet, neither did train the Kurdish republic’s fighters nor did supply them by weapons.

On March 26, 1946, under the pressure of Western powers especially United States, the soviets pledged the Iranian government to withdraw from northern Iran. This step was the beginning of the end of both Mahabad and Azerbaijan republics. Firstly, in June, Iranian forces re-controlled the Iranian Azerbaijan. That was slow killing for Kurdistan republic of Mahabad. The republic isolated from all sides, eventually led to destruction of first and only Kurdish republic in the modern history. The main reason behind the republic’s destruction is clear, Soviet withdrawal from northern Iran, but there are some internal reasons as well. The Kurdistan republic hasn’t had a strong army. General Mustafa Barzani was the commander-in-chief in the republic’s government, but he didn’t have strong enough army to protect the republic from Iranian threats. The army was formed from voluntarily non-trained fighters. Another reason of Kurdistan republic’s collapse is tribal disagreements, a problem that all Kurdish movements suffered from throughout the history. During the republic’s governing, tribal chiefs didn’t help the republic because of their relation with the central government. Ironically, tribal leaders helped the Iranian forces to topple the Kurdistan republic in Mahabad that’s despite, they were Kurds. Tribal chiefs support for Iranian government instead of Kurdistan republic was disenchantment and fatal for the republic in the military aspect.

Diplomatically, likewise all other Kurdish movements, the Kurdistan republic’s ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party failed to gain support from superpowers. Although Soviet, one of the main powers at that time encouraged the foundation of Kurdistan republic, but when western powers pressed on it to pull out from Iran, it never thought about Kurdish and Azerbaijani republics because they never had a strategic alliance. Also, western powers especially United States did support Iranian government precisely because they didn’t have other choices. Kurds took Soviet’s side; they never attempted to gain western sympathy. There was a possibility of Western power’s support for Kurdish state if they asked their support; because of one reason which is they weren’t Iranian alliance either. Qazi Muhammad and other republic leaders’ insist of relations with Soviet led to republic’s demise. Some may say politics is like a card sometime the winds mayn’t blow in your favor, but the problem in republic’s case is they even didn’t pick a card to test their chance. The absence of accurate diplomatic skills together with tribal chiefs’ embroiled in fighting with their brothers led to Kurdistan republic’s demise.

The foundation of Kurdistan republic in Mahabad, first and only Kurdish republic in modern history, led to a crackdown aftermath. But it hasn’t finished the glimmer of hope in Kurdistan. General Mustafa Barzani after fleeing to Soviet for eleven twelve years, returned to Iraqi Kurdistan in 1958. Barzani started a new struggle for Kurdistan’s independence but this time in Iraqi part of Kurdistan. He gave another hope for Kurdish statehood. Also, in Kurdistan of Turkey the struggle started more actively in the wake of Kurdistan republic’s destruction. Iraqi Kurdistan liberated and gained self-governing with all other aims of Kurdistan republic in Mahanad. No one can deny military struggle’s role in the autonomy of Iraqi Kurdistan, but diplomatic struggle also had a vital role. Kurdish movement was sending representative to United States, western powerful countries, even to Israel to gain their support for Kurdish autonomy because they knew that they can’t achieved just by military struggle. The lake of diplomacy in other parts of Kurdistan halt their hope of self-governing. The quake of Kurdistan republic’s demise still affecting Kurds in Iran, they should wake and never lose hope, especially while the region live Arab nation’s uprising against their autocratic leaders. Kurds can invest this opportunity to gain more and more right to live in long awaited prosperous life. Moreover, the only reason that collapsed all Kurdish struggle toward self-governing is differences, so the unity and fraternity of all political parties is the guarantee of any future hope for Kurdish statehood.

* studying politics and International Relations at University of Kurdistan – Hawler(UKH)

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