who would have thought a few years ago that a turkish government would ever utter words like “a kurdish state would not be the worst thing that could happen”. it was stunning even though foreseen by many who have followed the step-by-step approach between turkey and the kurdish regional government (krg), particularly after the us-invasion 2003 (refer to robert olson (2005) for a detailed analysis).
for those not aware of the issue, kurdish people are an ethnic group different from turks, arabs and persians in the region we refer to as “the middle east”. in the time of redrawing borders between the first and the second world war, the kurdish group has been split between four major countries: turkey in the north, iran in the east, iraq in the south, and syria in the west. thereby, turkey incorporated the biggest part of this ethnic group, that, through the rise on nationalism started to forge an alternate identity which stood in big conflict to the ultra-nationalistic and intolerant ideals of the newly created turkey. with turkey not excepting anything non-turkish in their new anatolia, and kurds (at the time) daring to question this quest and even fighting for independence, a conflict was born that is not resolved until today.
it is at that, that the current turkish position that is not yet supporting but at least officially not denying the option of a kurdish independent state in iraq is such a big issue. this change in position can be attributed to two factors: one, while at the beginning of kurdish struggle, the focus was very much on trans-boundary kurdish nationalism, aiming at one big kurdistan, this ideal has changed into a more pragmatic approach for each kurdish minority to focus on a bargain within their own state. at that, while the fear of a triggering effect of kurdish independence in iraq onto other kurdish regions in neighboring countries is still there, the increased localism and pragmatism, and also the deepened differences between the different kurdish groups in the four countries leads to a some hope that a krg-independence might not have too big a negative effect on turkey.
and two, ever since the forced market opening by the coalition provisional authority (cpa) after the us-led invasion in 2003, the kurdish market has been overwhelmed by turkish trade. recently i heard the number of 70% (not proven by data) referring to the amount of turkish ownership in the iraqi-kurdish market. while i cannot support the percentage, it is known that turkey is the krg’s biggest trading partner. particularly since the 2013 oil pipeline built in order to avoid baghdad intrusion in kurdish-turkish oil deals, the relationship has grown closer than ever thought possible.
it is with these changes that a friend of mine put it quite well when he referred to the turkish-kurdish case being like a marriage, when they say “think of it not like you are losing a daughter, but like you are gaining a son”.
after all, from today it seems quite unlikely, given the differences between the two kurdish parties dominating their respective areas, kdp (iraq) and pkk (turkey), that the turkish-kurds would pick up a secessionist policy again (losing a daughter). plus, with turkey already basically owning the kurdish region in iraq, a cooperation without baghdad’s interference might just be something tempting for turkey (gaining a son).