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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 79

OIC, Kurdistan and Kashmir

By Tushar Charan - Syndicate Features

The problem of ‘Kurdistan’ is in many ways not very different from our own Kashmir problem. One dimension of the Kashmir problem is that whenever it raises temperatures in Islamabad and Delhi it leads to anxieties in the world—lately because of the nuclear bombs in the possession of India and Pakistan. But the ‘problem’ refuses to go away, not the least because of double standards of some of the self-appointed local and foreign arbiters in Kashmir.

So it was that a recent threat of serious confrontation between Turkey and Iraq, following surprise attacks on Turkish soldiers by Kurdish insurgents, had Washington worried. Since both the countries are its close allies the US was mainly concerned with defusing tension, not finding a solution.

Unlike the Kashmir problem which is said to be the main hurdle in normalising relations between secular India and Muslim Pakistan, the Kurdistan problem is essentially an inter-Muslim problem, so to speak. After all the people of Turkey as well as the Kurds are Muslims. A question that arises is how is that the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) that has never lost an opportunity to criticise India for not handing over Kashmir with its Muslim majority to Islamic Pakistan has failed to do anything about removing tensions over Kurdistan?

A meeting of OIC soon after the PKK fighters killed 12 Turkish soldiers inside the Turkish territory late in October ended without offering anything concrete to end the new wave of bitterness against the Kurds that had swept Turkey. The OIC was at best said to be ready to ‘involve’ itself but the world saw only the Americans—as usual—rushing in to tackle the delicate issue that had seen two of its staunch allies arrayed on either side of the battle line.

An organisation of co-religionists should be ‘doing’ something, instead of ‘talking’, about a problem between two of its members if it wants to be taken seriously? Also why should it allow the Americans to interfere in the Kurdistan problem that actually concerns three Muslim countries (Turkey, Iraq and Iran)?

A military intervention by Turkey did look very real after the Turkish Parliament authorised the government to target bases of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, close to Turkish borders. Turkey held back its troops under American pressure.

Washington got into trouble shooting mode to avoid further complications in Iraq. Of course, there is every chance of tension returning to the region because three governments concerned and the Kurds in Turkey, (northern) Iraq and (northern) Iran have widely different views on the Kurdistan issue.

For years the Kurds in eastern Turkey, at the junction of the Turkey-Iraq-Iran borders, have suffered extreme oppression at the hands of rulers in Ankara who were absolutely opposed to the idea of an independent Kurdistan or autonomy to the Kurd region within Turkey. Even to mention the word ‘Kurdistan’ was considered separatism in Turkey. Teaching of the Kurdish language and manifestations of a separate Kurdish culture was banned. The Kurds were treated—and continue to be treated—as second class citizens.

The Kurds in Turkey, from the time the PKK was founded in late 1970s to almost the end of the last millennium, were fighting for a separate homeland. There was a period of intense fighting by the Kurds in the mid 1980s and there was also a five-year period of ceasefire that ended in 2004.

Contrast this with the ‘freedom movement’ in Kashmir. The separatists have been propagating that idea openly, at least in the Indian part of the divided province. Next, the propagators of the ‘freedom’ brought bloody violence into the valley of Kashmir and resorted to an unprecedented act of ethnic cleansing. The OIC pretends to be ignorant of the fact that the minority community has been driven out of their homes in Kashmir because it sees the Kashmir problem only from one point of view.

As for the language and culture of Kashmir, it thrives only on the Indian side as Pathan and other outsiders have swamped the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The Kashmiri separatists who have been alleging ‘oppression’ at the hands of Indian forces conveniently forget the fact that they enjoy all the political freedoms and fundamental rights that Pakistan denies to the Kashmiris in the PoK.

In recent years the demand for a separate homeland for the Kurds in Turkey has been dropped in favour of greater autonomy. But Ankara is not very keen on that either. Its immediate concern is to decimate the PKK which it sees as ‘terrorist’ organisation. The US has endorsed that description in deference to Turkey, its long-standing friend in the Muslim world and an important NATO ally.

OIC does not readily accept the various definitions of ‘terrorists’, certainly not the ones given by countries like the US and India. But then the long-standing problem of Kurdistan will not be resolved unless something is done to dissuade the Kurds to give up arms. The US is not really in a position to persuade the Kurds in Turkey to renounce violence. Washington may have some leverage over the Iraqi Kurds but it will not exert pressure over them on an issue that touches them so deeply.

The US has to pamper the Kurds in northern Iraq because that is the only region in the troubled land of Iraq that approximates to a ‘success story’, an oasis of peace and prosperity in violence-prone Iraq. There are reports that Israel too has made some commercial and trading inroads into northern Iraq.

But OIC has no such interest. If it has to live up to its concept of an organisation of Muslims nations, ready to deal with their problems, it should start taking more serious interest in the troubled regions in the Muslim world, instead of becoming a forum for bad mouthing certain nations.

- Syndicate Features -

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