The Kurds are a nation without a state of their own. They have occupied for centuries territory in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. They have their own language but not their own country.
After the demise of the Ottoman Empire as a result of World War I, there were discussions among the victors of creating a separate Kurdish state. It failed because none of the regional states in the Middle East having Kurds in their midst wanted to give up territory to create one. Syria, Iraq (created by the victorious Allies), and Iran, which wasn’t a participant in WW I, were determined not to create such an entity at their expense. That feeling still exists today. As the Kurds say, they are a “people without friends.” Today, that saying has been changed. The Kurds do have friends, especially in the West.
Stephan Mansfield has written a book entitled, The Miracle of the Kurds: A Remarkable Story of Hope Reborn in Northern Iraq. He traces the recent tragic history of the Kurds who were targeted for genocide by Saddam Hussein, especially since the Gulf War when the coalition forces did not remove him from power. His genocidal attacks include massive use of chemical weapons. Over four thousand villages were destroyed by these weapons and hundreds of thousands of Kurds were killed. This led to the U.S. imposing a “no fly” zone over northern Iraq, providing protection for the Kurds. No longer could Saddam Hussein unleash his aircraft to bomb and strafe the Kurds.
The Kurds used this protection to start the rebuilding of their area and Mansfield gives a glowing account of their successful efforts. These were helped by grass-root groups consisting of private citizens throughout the West that collected funds and other forms of aid that was shipped to the Kurds to help them rebuild their war torn area. In addition to collecting aid, material and funds, the grass-roots groups also generated political and economic support for the Kurds. At last, the Kurds had found some friends. This emerging pro-Kurdish network, the book points out, “… started clinics, built houses, planted churches, performed surgeries, raised millions of dollars, wrote books, and even founded businesses to fund work among the Kurds …”
The protective umbrella provided by the U.S. and British air forces prevented Saddam’s aircraft from crossing the 36th parallel, the southern boundary of the “no fly” zone. No longer could Saddam conduct his genocide gassing, strafing and bombing campaign against the Kurdish citizens of his Iraqi state.
“Soon,” Mansfield wrote, “international aid organizations began locating in urban centers of Kurdistan and, when their efforts proved successful, multi-national corporations followed. This meant jobs and an increase in services.
“As conditions improved and confidence began growing abroad that Kurdistan might be a promising market, strategic partnerships became possible. This allowed for fledging private firms to arise, firms that in time would become highly successful and contribute to the economic miracle just then underway.”
Mansfield makes a further interesting point that throughout the world socialism is on the ascendency, as it surely is in the United States. Not so in emerging Kurdistan, where their 2006 Investment Law firmly planted them in capitalism’s camp. “The genius of the Kurds in their law is obvious,” said Mansfield. “As the new millennium dawned, Kurdish leaders took stock of their situation. They had little to offer but lands, rights, and freedom. In typical Kurdish fashion, they offered these willingly to the world. You are welcome. It will be an honor to us. The result has been an influx of foreign investment that is transforming the once ‘flat-lined’ region into a rising first world economic model.”
The results have been spectacular: a growth rate of more than 10 percent and a Gross Domestic Product that is 50 percent higher than the rest of Iraq. This growth rate will likely grow as ISIS consumes more of non-Kurdish Iraq, taking their occupied “caliphate” back to the Dark Ages. This coming Dark Age does pose an existential threat to the Kurdish miracle. The threat is real, but, given the history of the Kurds, they, with the help of the West, can overcome this threat and, who knows, sometime in the future, have their own country.
Even as these dark clouds are gathering over the Kurdish miracle, the Kurds are optimistic that a bright future ahead can sweep away these clouds. One can hope they are right, but right or wrong, the Kurds will not give up their dreams and efforts and for this they are to be greatly admired.
As we face an uncertain future from political forces determined to turn us into a socialistic welfare state, the story of the Kurds documented in Mansfield’s book should fortify our efforts to resist such a dismal future that socialism imposes everywhere its toxic poison takes root.
Morgan Norval is the founder and Executive Director of the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research and a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.