Why Iranian Kurdish Groups Remain Politically Weak
Operating in Exile Has Hindered Their Effectiveness
One of the more notable developments from the fight against the Islamic State (or ISIS) has been the emergence of a Kurdish public sphere in the Middle East. Since U.S. coalition forces began their campaign against the terrorist group in the summer of 2014, Iraqi Kurds, for example, have gained additional territories, military equipment, and new partners and have become more vocal in their push for independence. Indeed, Iraqi Kurds have more or less captured from ISIS most of the lands that Iraq’s 2005 Constitution originally designated as disputed between the Kurdistan Regional Government and central Iraqi government. The more land ISIS has lost, the closer the Kurds have gotten to securing all of the areas within the boundaries of their projected homeland. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has since expanded its territory by more than 40 percent. Moreover, the upcoming independence referendum, currently set for September 25, will take place not only within the official Kurdish borders but in the disputed territories as well.
Syrian Kurds have also transitioned from being an oppressed and marginalized minority to one of the most important political groups in the country. After Washington began supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the militia effectively became the United States’ boots on the ground. The backbone of the SDF, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), is the armed wing of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which first established its foothold in northeastern Syria in July 2012 and later dramatically expanded the boundaries of its enclave. With the Syrian Kurds’ successes has come international recognition and hence legitimacy, much to the dismay of Turkey, which feels threatened by their power and irredentist ambitions. Turkey has not welcomed the fact that the Kurds have become an increasingly powerful political actors in Syria in recent years. Similarly, despite suffering setbacks in the November 2015 Turkish repeat election, in June 2015 the pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP) initially received the highest percentage of the vote (13.1 percent) in the history of civilian Kurdish politicsRead the full article on ForeignAffairs.com