Democracy is a critical component for Kurdish self-government, autonomy and independence. While the Kurdish bid for democracy has been withdrawn, ignored, and reneged upon on multiple occasions during the 20th century, recent events have given a bright future for democracy in Kurdistan.
Early Kurdish Democracy
The first true autonomy the Kurds achieved was in Iraqi Kurdistan in the aftermath of the 1990-1991 Gulf War. During this period, American-led coalition forces enforced a no-fly zone that protected the Kurds from aerial bombardment from Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Armed Forces.
After the Gulf War ended in February 1991, parliamentary elections were held to elect a Kurdistan National Assembly on May 19, 1992. The result of the election was that the two major political parties, the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), virtually tied in terms of seats won, and agreed to form a democratic unity government.
From 1994 to 1998, Kurdish democracy faltered, and Iraqi Kurdistan was witness to a civil war that split the region between the two political parties. The civil war came to an end in September 1998, when the two parties signed the US-mediated Washington Agreement, declaring a peace treaty between the two Kurdish parties.
Kurdish Democracy in the 21st Century
With the help of American troops, Kurdish autonomy and democratic government was maintained throughout the Iraqi Invasion, the Iraqi Insurgency, as well as the formation of the new Iraqi Republic. Today, Iraqi Kurdistan remains the most advanced democratic form of government in Kurdistan.
Democracy for Kurds in Syria, specifically the Kurdish region of Rojava, is developing day to day as Kurdish forces defend and seize land from ISIS. Democratic leanings of Kurds in Rojava could lead to a new Kurdish autonomous region in Syria once the dust from the conflict settles.