Kurdish Political Parties

kurdish political parties

Source: Council on Foreign Relations

Political parties in the Kurdish regions can be directly traced to the nationalist movements in the Middle East after WWI. At the end of World War I, the Treaty of Sevres was formally drafted to deal with the dissolution and partition of the Ottoman Empire. The Treaty provided that a referendum be conducted to decide the issue of the Kurdistan homeland.

Rejection of Kurdish Homeland

When the Ottoman Empire collapsed after the war, Turkish Nationalists led by Kemal Atatürk embarked on a War of Independence which resulted in the establishment of the Turkish Republic. The Treaty of Sevres was rejected by the new Turkish Republic and a new treaty was negotiated and signed in 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne.[1]

The Lausanne Treaty annulled the Treaty of Sevres giving control of the entire Anatolian Peninsula to the new Turkish Republic including the Kurdistan homeland in Turkey. There was no provision in the new treaty for a referendum for Kurdish independence or autonomy and Kurdistan’s hopes for autonomy and independence were dashed.

False Promise of Autonomy

Since then the Kurds have been promised autonomy by successive governments in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran; and each time the promise is unfulfilled, the Kurds then revolt and then the revolt is brutally put down resulting in the destruction of Kurdish villages, massacre and maiming of people. As each nation-state in which Kurds were living evolved separately, the struggle for autonomy and independence within each nation-state was separate.

Kurdish Political Parties in Iraq

In Iraq, from the 1950s to the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, a pattern and cycle merged. An Iraqi leader would promise autonomy to the Kurds, the Kurds would support the new leader, after the new leader consolidated his power, he would renege on his promise to the Kurds for autonomy and the Kurds would revolt resulting in violent repression. Then a new leader would emerge and the cycle repeated.

In the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, the Kurds supported the Iranians letting them use their land in the North of Iraq to open up another front against Hussein hoping it would result in their eventual objective of autonomy. But again, it triggered a brutal campaign of repression and genocide.

Finally after the 1990-1991 Gulf War, the Iraqi Kurds took control of the Iraqi Kurdistan region and, with the protection of the Americans and British Air Forces in enforcing a no-fly zone, achieved autonomy.

In 1992, the Iraqi Kurdistan Front, an alliance of political parties, held parliamentary and presidential elections and established the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), a new autonomous Government of Kurdistan in Iraq. In effect, this was the referendum that was promised at the end of World War I.

Kurdish Civil War and Beyond

In 1994, a power-sharing arrangement between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) fell apart, leading to civil war and two separate administrations in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah respectively. The Civil War continued for four years until 1998 when the PUK and KDP signed the Washington Agreement, ending hostilities.

In 2003, the Americans invaded Iraq and the Peshmerga joined in the fight to overthrow Saddam Hussein. After Hussein was driven from office, the Iraqis, in a national referendum, approved a new constitution. The new constitution recognized the Kurdistan Regional Government.

In 2006, the PUK and KDP agreed to unify administrations under Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani.