In Iran, minorities don’t have the right to teach their native tongue or to express their culture in public. Political expression and freedom of speech are both banned. Execution or imprisonment awaits those who defend human rights. Iran’s system can be compared to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan or European medieval culture. Iran is currently involved in matters such as supporting Syria, the Hamas and the Hezbollah, and trying to raise a conflict between Israel and the Arabs. These facts are widely known.
But a less-known is the Kurdish question. The Kurds form a population of 40 million, with its own culture and language. The Kurds live on a stretch of land divided between several countries: Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. They weren’t given their own nation-state by the winners of the First World War for political reasons, even though tiny Kuwait (with a population back then of merely some 20,000 persons) was granted its own borders. They left the Kurds without a nation in order to be able to practice ‘divide and rule’ politics.

Nowadays the Kurds are fighting for their rights in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. In Iraq, they’ve obtained autonomy which has existed since 1991. In other parts of the Kurdistan area, the situation hasn’t evolved and the conditions are similar to those in the days following the First World War. It is still illegal for Kurds to teach their own language.

Turkey, as is commonly known, is a Nato-member, and it uses the organization’s weapons and force against Kurds. It has managed to get Kurdish political parties listed as terrorist organizations. Turkey has also succeeded in making global opinion on Kurds turn negative. The double standards of the ruling Islamic party (the Justice and Development Party) of Turkey keeps  growing , and they are now accusing the Israeli people of violations against human rights (referring to the Palestinians), while ignoring the fact that they themselves have more than 20 million Kurdish people in Turkey living without rights. Compared to the Kurds, the situation of the Palestinian people is much better. In Turkey only silent, assimilated Kurds are treated as normal citizens, but anyone who tries to protest against the current situation, even by silently marching, is treated by the government as a terrorist. The Turkish government can use severe force to repress the Kurdish movement.

Since the 1990s the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has proclaimed a cease-fire with Turkey eight times, seeking to solve the Kurdish question in a peaceful manner. Turkey hasn’t responded to these cease-fires, but it has kept on bombing.  On 17th August 2011 the Turkish army continued their airstrikes against the Kurdish guerilla fighters’ bases in the Qandil mountains. Ten people were killed in the airstrikes, including civilians, and dozens of villages destroyed. At the same time the Turkish Prime Minister travelled to Somalia to distribute food and medical aid to children there.

When news about violations and violence against Kurds come up, the microphones fall silent and the cameras are blind. There are numerous stories about wrongdoings: here it is possible to list only the most recent case of violence by governments against Kurds.

The collaboration between Iran and the US

In the eyes of the USA, Iran is a dangerous place, filled with terrorists, and a home to Al Qaida. On the other hand, Iran views the USA as Satanic. Generally, and for good reason, Iran and the USA aren’t perceived as friends – but now they are collaborating in an unexpected way.

On 16th July 2011 Iran’s army attacked Iraq’s Kurdistan. These attacks are still going on. The reason given for these attacks is that Iran claims that a Kurdish political party (PJAK) holds its headquarters there. But suffocating PJAK isn’t the only reason why Iran is attacking Iraq’s Kurdistan – it’s also secretly hoping for the abolition of Kurdish autonomy. According to UN rules, the USA, as a conqueror, must defend the Iraqi border. But the USA remains silent and takes no action against these Iranian attacks. In addition to this, the USA is in tight collaboration with Turkey by giving them the exact whereabouts of Kurdish guerilla fighters, first filming them with their newest technological equipment. Turkey then hands this information forward to the Iranian army. Thus, in an indirect manner, Iran and the USA are collaborating, joining their forces against the Kurds. The last reason for the attacks is Iran’s will to take hold of the Qandil mountains, which is the base of the Kurdish guerilla fighters. If Iran gets hold of the Qandil mountains, it will inevitably transform them into an Al Qaida base. So far 200 people have died in these attacks by the government, and more than 1,000 families have been forced to leave their home in the countryside and flee. The Qandil mountains are located between the borders of Iran, Iraq and Turkey. In this war, Iran’s victory means Al Qaida’s victory.

As superpowers, the EU and the USA have a duty to interfere in the continuous violations of human rights and the ethnocide that’s going on against the Kurds in the region of Iran, Syria and Turkey.  Interfering will also bring benefits to the EU and the USA because, if the political situation in the Middle-East is stabilized, fewer immigrants, notably Kurds, will flee to the West. The solving of the Kurdish question can be used to bring peace to the whole region.

Activists everywhere in the world are fighting to stop animals from becoming extinct, and everyone is touched by the struggling pandas. It would be nice if the same energy and effort was put to solving the Kurdish question, so that the aboriginal people of the Mesopotamia – the cradle of the world – will not become extinct as well.

 Mohammed Salehzadeh is a researcher and expert on the politics of  North-Africa and the Middle-East. He is based in Helsinki, Finland.