The makings of a Kurdish nation ?

Kurds in Iraq already enjoy a substantial degree of autonomy. In Turkey, the Kurds say that autonomy is the best way to solve the problem of Kurdish terrorism. Iran is also fighting a Kurdish secessionist movement. All this seems to point to a separate Kurdistan, carved out of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria in a bloody conflict.

Turkey’s leading pro-Kurdish party called on the Turkish government on Thursday to grant autonomy to the mainly Kurdish southeast as a solution to the violence that has plagued the impoverished region for more than two decades, according to this report in Reuters.

A Kurdish nation may not be without precedent. New nations sprung up after the breakdown of the former Soviet Union. In Yugoslavia after the Balkan crisis, new nations sprung up there too based on a mix of religion and ethnicity. Kosovo has also been threatening to declare independence from Serbia.

What this means is that throughout the world, the old order is changing, and is changing on the basis of ethnic and religious aspirations.

Some of these groupings will try to be nations in a hurry without the political institutions and the maturity to run countries. They will be unstable and dangerous neighbors. Some of them will be born, not unexpectedly in violence, as majorities in their countries oppose the birth of new nations. The birth of some of these parvenu nations could also be accompanied by ethnic cleansing of new minorities in the new nations.

All in all a bloody outlook ahead. It is avoidable if the majorities in each country show some interest in accommodating their minorities, work on their economic betterment, and try to concede some of the demands of their minorities. It is also avoidable if some of the big countries like the US and Russia do not play with the ethnic and religious tinderbox for their petty political ends.

Turkey may avoid a Kurdish break-up by conceding some of the autonomy the Kurds in Turkey demand, and also invest in the development of this community. Serbia may still be able to hold Kosovo within the country if it offers the Albanians in Kosovo a large degree of autonomy.

In September, Serbia warned the UN of “unforeseeable consequences” that could destabilize the world if the breakaway province of Kosovo declares independence unilaterally later this year.

If we go by history, and a sense of justice, there should be no objection to an ethnic group declaring independence, I wrote in an earlier blog. This stand unfortunately only looks good in a treatise on nationalities, meant for academic discourse alone.

If we put it into practice, we could see a large part of the world “balkanized” because every ethnic group or group with nationalistic aspirations could demand independence regardless of its political and economic viability as an independent country. Many of them will likely emerge in haste and violence, without the institutions in place required to be nations.

This bloody situation can only be avoided if host countries try to accommodate their ethnic and religious minorities.

Related article:

Kosovo dispute highlights the issue of nationalities

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