It’s no surprise that thousands of Kurds in Iran, Syria and Turkey took to the streets applauding the vote. And it’s also no surprise that the referendum brought an immediate and harsh response from the capitalist regimes in these countries, where the vast majority of the Kurdish people live.
Baghdad was especially upset that the referendum included oil-rich Kirkuk. Historically Kurdish, Kirkuk is today a multinational city, with Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs, the result of a conscious “Arabization” drive by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Kurdish Regional Government leader Masoud Barzani has pledged that all minorities and nationalities would be treated equally in an independent Kurdistan. This would be sharply different from the treatment of the Kurds and other minorities by Baghdad, as well as by the capitalist regimes in the rest of the region.
The Kurds — more than 30 million strong, the largest nationality in the world without their own country — have refused to stop fighting for their national rights despite tremendous odds. In Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria they have suffered bloody attacks from the ruling regimes that have often denied them the right to speak their language, own land, or even be treated as citizens. Because of the weakening of U.S. imperialism and the continual wars that have wracked the Middle East, the Kurds found the space to make significant advances, winning the right to speak Kurdish in Turkey and carving out autonomous regions in Syria and Iraq.
The Kurdish struggle shows that it is possible to stand up to centurieslong oppression and win. This is what the Iraqi rulers, the other capitalist rulers in the Middle East and Washington fear the most — that the Kurdish struggle will inspire workers and farmers to stand up and fight for their own interests.
And the impact goes beyond the Middle East. It’s a boost for workers and farmers in Puerto Rico fighting to end U.S. colonial rule, and inspires working people in Catalonia, opposing attempts by the Spanish state to block their right to self-determination.
Working people around the world should oppose the threats and hostile moves by the governments of Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria. Stand with the Kurdish people and their fight for an independent homeland. Raise these questions in your union, with co-workers and others. Prepare now to take to the streets in solidarity if the Kurds are attacked.
Kurds stand up to threats from Mideast regimes
Spanish gov’t, cop assaults fail to prevent Catalan vote
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