The image of Kurdistan as a democratic, progressive, prosperous state is illusory. The Kurds should get their house in order before they get their state
David Rosenberg Sep 28, 2017
By any reasonable standard of history or justice, Kurdistan should be an independent country. The Kurds have a documented history as a separate ethnic group going back centuries, if not longer, and even have their own language. Kurdistan has a bigger claim to statehood than any of the states created from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.
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But by another standard, the issue of whether an independent Kurdistan would make the world a better place, even for the Kurds themselves, is a more complicated one.
There was a time when Iraqi Kurdistan looked (at least by Middle East standards) as if it was developing into a progressive, democratic and prosperous country. The capital, Erbil, was a forest of construction cranes, and elections were real and held on time. Kurdistan was safer and more stable than any of its neighbors and was hosting refugees rather than spewing them out. Kurdistan’s fighting force, the Peshmerga, was the only local army that could stand up to Islamic State.
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Indeed, the image popularized by the media of female Peshmerga fighters on the front lines in the war against ISIS gave the impression that Kurdistan was different from its Arab neighbors – an oasis of equality and opportunity, in a region where women are second-class citizens.
Much of this was an illusion and the part that was real proved to be just as ephemeral.
The real part was Kurdish democracy, but Masoud Barzani’s term as the elected president ended in 2013, his parliament-appointed term expired in 2015, and two years later he is still in power and shows no signs of quitting. Even if he does eventually step down, the Barzani family controls key institutions and jobs in and out of government, as well as businesses that will ensure their continued power. Iraqi Kurdistan’s Parliament was suspended two years ago and since then has met only once – this month, to approve the referendum that was held on Monday.