Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The UN and the Kurds

Go to fullsize image - By Sait Keskin

The United Nations came into existence in 1945, when the League of Nations failed to prevent WWI. The aim of establishing the UN was also to prevent any future wars and bring all the people of the world together for a united purpose and goal; peace, equality and the right of self-determination.

In the 64 years that have passed, have the nations of the world achieved that purpose, and has the UN implemented any of these goals? Can the UN really establish peace and bring an end to all wars?

From 1945, when WWI ended, to 1991 and the collapse of Soviet Union, numerous wars and conflicts have taken place and many countries gained their independence, although most of them did so as a result of the territorial Cold War tensions between the East and the West. However, in Southeast Asia, Africa and in the Middle East, many of them achieved their goal of national independence through a struggle for freedom.

After the end of the Cold War, in the former Soviet Union, 15 independent countries came into existence, and in the former Yugoslavia, a federation of 6 new countries was born.

There are two examples of importance; one of them is East Timor and the other is Kosovo. East Timor, with a population of less than one million, gained its independence in May 2002. Kosovo declared its independence in February 2008. Its declaration was recognised by the US and the EU. However, Serbia and its strong ally Russia remain opposed to that declaration. The population of Kosovo is estimated to be between 1.8 and 2.4 million.

Kosovo and East Timor both represent two new independent countries that have come into existence in the 21st century. The UN has also recognised them as member states. These two countries were members of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO) in 1991, when the organisation was established.

There are so many questions we should ask ourselves, our political organisations and their popular, charismatic leaders. How long should we tolerate this inhumane and unjust international political regime which has bound and paralysed the Kurdish nation? Why does East Timor enjoy the support of the US, EU and Islamic Conference and recognition by the UN, when the change of the international borders of Indonesia according to international law does not affect their regional and international affairs? Why would Kosovo have the support of the EU, US and the UN, while the change of the so-called “international borders” of Yugoslavia not be troublesome for Europe?

If those existent so-called “international borders” were man-made and could be changed on the basis of humanitarian intervention, why should we, the Kurds, be faulted for asking for the right of self-determination?

We are also members of the global community, and should have the right to ask the UN why, when we ask for our basic human rights and freedoms, we are labelled as the separatists or terrorists, while the East Timorese are recognised as freedom fighters? The East Timorese people were not denied the right to exist and were not subject to assimilation efforts, but we are. The Kosovars were right to have defended themselves by any necessary means, but when it comes to the Kurds, particularly to the Kurds of the northern region of Kurdistan in their fight against Turkish occupation, we are criminalised and labelled “separatists” or “terrorists”. This is because Turkey is a member of the NATO, a strong ally of the US, and has played a strategic role since the Cold War. Today, Turkey is trying to become a member of the EU. Unfortunately, the UN and EU are closing their eyes to Turkey’s crimes and forgetting the principles of the United Nations Charter.

We, the Kurds, must compare and contrast the first decade of the 20th century to the first decade of 21st century, to see our national gains and losses. In the first decade of 20th century, we were not united, and that is why we could not build a state apparatus to protect our people and get international recognition. It is very important for us to take into account that if we, today, do not act logically and in a well-organised manner, we could lose again.

The League of Nations sent a mission to Kurdistan in 1919, but it was prevented from entering Istanbul. The JonTurks kept the mission in Istanbul and they went to Kurdistan under the leadership of Ataturk (the founder of Turkish Republic). This demonstrates the point that recognition by the UN and other international organisations can be based on our united voice and well-organised national and international actions.

In one month’s time, the first decade of 21st century will come to an end. We must be cautious and vigilant in our participation in the international politics of the world. Our victory could be very, very close and the UN could recognise us, if we hold a national conference, elect a national leadership to form a congress that will protect our national interests, and have a united voice.

Sait Keskin, Studying MA in Kurdish Studies at Exeter University, England.