Kurdistan Bloggers Union "The Kurds, Heroïc Destiny, Tragic Destiny" - Kurdistan Bloggers Union

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Sunday, February 20, 2005 

"The Kurds, Heroïc Destiny, Tragic Destiny"

sorry to push out Hiwa's appeal.... But the conference of yesterday, in the Kurdish Institute of Paris, by a former French ambassador, Bernard Dorin, was quite interesting and I have transcribed a large part (I am not a dictaphone, so I shortened long passages, without changing the meaning of course...). For people who know the Kurdish Question very well, it won't bring new elements. But it was a clear and all encompassing talk, and it could be a good first step if you'd like to understand the Kurdish problem. There were too beautiful memories of a man who loves really Kurds, not like poor victims, but for their energy and their courage, and that is not so common in our time of victim's praising....

We have to notice the presence, for the first time, in the Kurdish Institute, of the Iraqi ambassador, who sat down next to Saywan Barzani, the representative of the Kurdish Regional Gobernment, and then the representative of Kurds, and the permanent delegate of Iraq with UNESCO : things change...


"I have firstly to tell you that, as an unconditional friend of the Kurds, I have 3 homelands (as Joséphine Baker said that she had 2 loves, her country and Paris). I have 3 homelands : France, Quebec and Kurdistan.

I would like to also mention in preamble the recent elections in Iraq, elections which for the first time were entirely free in this country. This considerable event has already had repercussions before even its unfolding, for it had led the two authorities sharing the area to be combined for this election, and then Kurds are number 2. When the Israelo-Palestinian conflict is finished - and it finishes early or late - the Kurdish Question will be the major problem to be solved of the Middle East. Knowing the Kurdish wisdom and moderation, I hope that the Kurdish problem could be solved in the four countries (Iran, Irak, Syria, Turkey), in the best and the rightest way. For language is identity, and each family has the right to hope that his children could speak their own language, without being massacred or deported.

I want to write a teaching booklet for all the French-speaking people. Because of lack of time, it is a succession of questions and answers. Questions are asked by a journalist, (we had agreed on them together) and I answer. I think that these questions sweep the whole of the Kurdish Question in the 4 countries. The last part concerns the possible future of Kurds.

I would like to also speak about the photograph which is on the book. I am very fond of it. I took it in 1968, in Kurdistan. I can tell you now that this little boy thereafter was made prisoner and killed, probably tortured. But I chose it, for because he breathes joy in life, hope, and he symbolizes the Kurdish people : A little warrior, for Kurds are a warlike people, neither by will nor because they like it, but by necessity. Historians think that they were, little by little, reduced to occupy the mountains in a defensive way. I remember the proverb that prince Bedir Khan quoted: "the mountain is the citadel of my heart."

In Turkey, Kurds are between 14 and 18 million, perhaps 16. They are 2 million in Syria. Before Saddam Hussein they were 5 million in Irak, perhaps 4 million now. In Iran, 8 million, so it makes 30 million. And what is interesting in this distribution, it is the geographical unity of their settlement, which covers the highest mountains of the area.

Formerly, the Kurdish people were completely included in the Ottoman Empire. But after battles against Persians, the latter obtained the border of the Zagros mounts. So until 1918, Kurds were only divided in 2 parts, and it was a less uncomfortable situation than nowadays. French and Brittons made this division into 4 parts. After 1923, Turkey losed the totality of its Arab areas plus the vilayet of Mosul, which they always claim, more or less openly . These borders, which were done under the French and English mandates, perdure today.

The history of Kurdish populations was then, very different, according to the countries where they lived, without a real coordination each other. Each parts had faced different events. For example, the Kurdish Republic of Mahabad, of 1946 did not have repercussions out of Iranian Kurdistan, if we exclude the participation of the Kurdish General Mustafa Barzani.

The Kurds' wisdom leads them today to claim their rights within this official state framework, the only one which is realistic today. And they have a very good card to play in Iraq, in several conditions :

- All the area initially populated by Kurds should be given back to people who were expelled (Kirkuk, then) ;

- The 2° condition is that a great autonomy should be granted not only to the Kurds, but with all the components of Iraq, within the framework of a federal State or - better still! - in a confederal State, which would reinforce the Iraqi State instead of weakening it.

Now I am ready to answer to your questions.

(The following questions were asked in the public).

Q. : You talked about Palestinians. But it is difficult to imagine that the Kurdish Question could be resolved, because of the 4 zones which divide us, contrary to the Palestinians who are not divided. Do you think that a reunification of all the Kurds might be possible one day ?

A. : The Kurds, at least, do not fight against Israel, which is an ally of the greatest power! Moreover, Kurds are clever, and even if, like the Poles in the 19° century, they could wish their reunification, they do not claim it. In the current circumstances, in the explosive context of the Middle East, with the traditional hostility of the chancelleries to any change of border, it would not be realistic... Of course, these changes occur sometimes, in spite of the opposition of the chancelleries, as in ex-Yugoslavia, or into ex-Czechoslovakian, where separation was done peacefully, or in the ex-USSR... But in general the chancelleries prefer the statu-quo. Personally, I am often against it, the statu-quo is more dangerous when it goes against necessary evolutions. However, later, who knows ? In one century, in one half-century, things can change.

Q. : Among these "States which do not like to change the borders", there are those which precisely created them. Then can't they either reorganize borders ? Of course, the total reunification is very difficult.

A. : I am not agree with you when you say that the Great Powers create borders which they can themselves move. The creation of borders of States implies a reality which crystallizes and fixes them. The same states traced in Africa borders which had nonsense, by ignorance of the positions where the people were. It is the same thing in the Middle East with Cilicia, Syria, Turkey, etc). The division in the treaty of Sevres envisaged a Kurdish State and a Armenian State. But the victory of the General Ismet Inönü, who pushed back the French of Cilicia, changed everything. In the Sykes-Picot agreements, the Syrian mandate was cut down by the vilayet of Mosul, which in first should belonged to the French. The English required that it return at the new Iraqi State, pretexting that without the oil-bearing richness of Kirkuk, Iraqi state would not be viable. However, Syria, had the same need! And in this negotiation the French had been, euh... I would not say the word.

Q. : How the famous Syrian Bec-de-Canard (the "Duck nozzle" of Jazirah, between Iraqi and Turkish border) had been traced ?

A. : Following the negotiation on the vilayet of Mosul. General de Gaulle made a thesis, when he was a colonel, on the Syrian Bec-de-Canard, he mentionned in particular Yezidis.

Q. : Was the oil question already important in this cutting? Had people already located oil in Iraq?

A. : Absolutely. The Kurdish oil-bearing fields had been located in first. Later, other were discovered in the south, and now we find them everywhere. Iraq is a sponge with oil. Kurdish oil tends to become exhausted moreover, because it was discovered in first.

Q. :I would like to talk about the photograph. At the first look, I find it a little sad, giving a negative vision of Kurdistan with this child who has a kalachnikov in his hand.

A. : I had been struck at this time, by the totality of the mobilization among population. Children as old men, everyone fought for his people. I have on this subject a moving anecdote : I was with the Kurdish partisans in the area of Rawanduz in 1968. We were in the mountain and I walked with difficulty with the peshmergas. With their shoes of mountain dwellers, they walk as easily in the mountains as in the plain, whereas with my European shoes, my feet were bleeding ! A night, we arrived in a village, and came inside houses. I was in an extraordinarily poor house, without any piece of furniture, neither carpet, nor chests, nothing of what we usually find in Kurdish houses. In this house there was only an old man, and there were only dry sheets on the ground. We sat down on poor cushions. At the wall, there was only one photograph, a beautiful photograph, a portrait of a man with a white pointed beard : it was his father, killed by the RAF. I said : "It is strange, your father is like my grandfather, who had the same white pointed beard." He explained that it was the only precious thing for him, because it was also the memory of his youth, his huntings in mountain with his father, etc. He had had a beautiful wife, who was dead. His children were scattered, he was poor like Job and he said like Job: "God gave me everything, he took me everything, hamdullah." And he had a great smile: " When I see this photograph, I am happy."

I was so tired, I slept on a mattress of sheets. At dawn, as usual, peshmergas came to wake me and we went out. Then he came with the photograph and gave it to me. "But it is the only thing keeping you alive !" "You see, I am old, my hands are shaking, I cannot carry a rifle, but I can still do something for my country. If you take the photograph, you will speak about us to foreign countries."

Concerning the photograph of my book : This boy has a merry, determined, optimistic face. He shows that his people is not subjected, they don't lower head. Because the main Kurdish quality is courage.

Q. : How did begin your affection for Kurds ?

A.: I did not intend to speak about it, but since that will remain between us... * laughter *.

I did not know anything about Kurds. I had only seen in Paris Match I believe, a photograph of Mollah Mustafa Barzani descending a hill on his horse qith partisans. I found that he looked nice and proud. But that was all, until in 1963, when I was the assistant in the Quai d'Orsay (French Foreign Office). Each morning, I had to read 200, 300 telegrams, to sort 10 or 12 among them, and explaining their content to the General Secretary.

One day, a telegram arrives from London, saying that according to the Franco-British concerted policy, Great Britain requires our agreement to send 50 hunters bombers with their loading of napalm in Iraq. I run toward the Secretary and said : "France cannot do that, the loading of napalm means the genocide of populations. It is only for civilian people (I had seen it in Algeria). We must answer "No". I faced a great anger : "How could you interfere ? You are only a simple conseiller d'ambassade ! " Then I answered : "I am a catholic, and you are a calvinist. And we,catholics, think, wrongly or rightly, that among calvinists, morality is higher. I talk to the calvinist in you. We could not kill the Kurdish population." He became more and more angry : "We shall say "yes" and you will sign it personnaly !" "I will never do a such thing." "In that case, it is not necessary that ou come back tomorrow." "I go immediately." And I come back to the Quai d'Orsay only after 8 years. Because of Kurds, I was expelled, so I could continue to help them ...

Q. : Don't you think that the membership of Turkey in EU could be a chance, by obliging it to pay attention to its Kurdish problem ?

A. This entry has positive and negative points. As far as I am concerned, I have 3 major objections, if we put aside the problem of Cyprus.

- With the adhesion of Turkey Europe would be in direct contact with Syria, Iraq, Iran and Georgia.

- But the main reason is a human one : As long as humans right are violated in Turkey, as long as a prison like the Diyarbakir's one exists as told the former mayor (Mehdi Zana), as long as there are no fundamental freedoms in this country, as long as this problem is not resolved, I am against it.

- For the Kurds of Turkey, this adhesion would be a great advantage : The end of martial law, of repression, of assassinations... But the border of Europe would cut the Kurdish people definitively in 2 part, one half in Europe, and the other out of Europe. Could we wish it ? Isn't it worth to wait than things change in Turkey?

Q. : About the internal borders in Iraq: Is it desirable to modify the borders of the current Kurdish governorship?

A. : The 4° governorship, the Kirkuk's one, gave the majority to the Kurds, but that implies only the city and the north. I think that it is necessary to make referendums of self-determination, but only if displaced people come back in their home. Because if alien people vote, that would be nonsense. The great question of course is oil Kirkuk. I would say that people should be restored in their rights and their former situation. The rightest map is in a Soviet atlas of people in the world, with a linguistic map, showing exactly where are the Kurds and where are the Turkmenes. Then we will be able to make referendums to determine the border of an autonomous Kurdish state in Iraq.

Q. : What do you think of the elections , as they are presented, with this denominational division : Shiites, sunnites... and Kurds?

A. : The Kurdish population did not vote according to a religion but a nationality. Moreover, both great Arab groups in Iraq are divided, the Shiites being in a majority. But the insecurity in the Sunni areas sunnites was important, and many people could not or did not want to vote. But this situation, I hope, is provisional."

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