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Monday, November 08, 2004 

Minorities, divided nations : the Black Book of the Middle East

Interesting paper reminding a Ottoman and European past the "New Turkey" has never forgotten nor digested. Indeed the "protection" of minorities by European states in the 19th century, (that we call "Capitulations"), is still a trauma in Turkish minds, for these "protections", not at all disinteresed, were considered like a successfull attempt to break the Empire, by undermining it with trade and juridical foreign areas, where Ottoman laws had no power, as in China.

Moreover, this fragmentation by communities is still vivid in the Middle-East, behind the high-flown statements of "National states". And Turkey, which has nightmares that Europe could "protect" again its millet/minorities, dos not hesitate to use the same protective claims, (but under the banner of ethnicity and not religion), for the Turkmen of Kirkuk, by saying : "our minorities give us the right to interfere", as if Turks were the legal protectors of all Turanians in the world, from Iraqis to Chinese Uygurs (well, ok, to intervene for Chinese Uygurs is less easy).

But is it so different for Arab countries ? The division of the Middle East between Syrian, Iraqi, Jordanian states had put an end to Arabism, to the nahda dream. And the fierce opposition of Arab states against Israƫl in the name of Palestinians' defense depends on the same national cross-bordered solidarity. Thus, it is obvious that neighbouring states fear that a political power called Kurdistan becomes the natural protector of Kurds in Syria, Turkey, Iran. And indeed, there is no alternative. The collapse of the Ottoman empire and the cutting up by the League of Nations couldn't get any result but these inter-states alliances, in new countries torn between several nations, which had neither had the same dreams nor the same fate.

Today, as since its creation, Iraq is torn between three great histories, three great inheritages, three psycho-genealogies : Shiit, Kurdish and Sunni Arabs from Bagdad and Center's histories. Each of them has its own trauma, its disputes with the others, its own myths, its own political dream. Each of them has its own heroes, its great events, and its settling of accounts with the past : the persecution of Shiits, the failure of Arab nationalism, and for Kurds the Kurdistani dream. Difficicult to concile it as an homogeneous group, under the same flag. Today, the state of emergency divides Iraq and Kurdistan, for obviously they have different situations. While Iraq sinks (a bit helped by its Arab brothers, we have to notice it), Kurdistan, for the moment, is quite wealthy. Of course, optimistic people are still hoping that the Kurdish model will contaminate the rest of Iraq successfully. But contamination runs rarely in that way. It might be, at the contrary, an increasing protectionnist reflex from Kurds (very understable), to avoid to be infected by violence and terrorist infiltrations from below.


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