Opportunities and Challenges Facing the Kurdish Movement in the Region

“If [south] Kurdistan declares independence, Iran would be forced to accept it” opined Mr Khalid Azizi, the Secretary of the Iranian Kurdistan Democratic Party, during a MERI Seminar on Thursday 19, May 2016. Mr Azizi highlighted the importance of think tanks and research institutes in “providing vision and strategy to strengthen society and providing the politicians and leadership with answers.”

Discussing the opportunities and challenges facing the Kurdish movement in the region in their pursuit of nationhood, as well as political and human rights, at a time when the wider Middle East region is going through various changes and upheavals, Mr Azizi highlighted the progress achieved in the Kurdish movement.

Firstly, the Kurdish cause is not identified as part of the wider sectarian conflict in the region. Secondly, despite the grave losses, the war on ISIS has furthered the Kurdish cause in the West and the international community values the potential role of the Kurds. Thirdly, the Kurds have been successful in self-governance at a time where the region is going through unprecedented mayhem.

As Kurds in Iraq inch closer than ever to the prospect of independence –  despite the lack of support from neighboring countries, including Iran –  Azizi stated that if Kurdistan declares independence, Iran would be forced to accept it.

If Kurdistan declares independence, Iran would be forced to accept it

Regarding the potential of independence referendum, Mr Azizi said “Iraq is a multi-national country. A political solution of any kind in Iraq can be a good model to resolve Iran’s local problems in the future, especially since the problems are of the same nature and coming from the same roots”. However, he argued that the referendum and independence in Iraqi Kurdistan is something that Kurds in Iraq are in charge of. The main factors are all available for the Kurds in this part to achieve independence. It will not be easy for Iran to stand against the will of the majority of people in the Kurdistan Region.

Mr Azizi believes that the Kurdistan Region is on the right track to achieve independence and that Kurds in this region should use the opportunity wisely and carefully to achieve their long-held dream. The participants discussed that barriers to independence are lower than ever before and that currently Kurds have a great opportunity to achieve their self-determination desires.

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About MERI:  The Middle East Research Institute is Iraq’s leading policy-research institute and think tank. It is an independent, entirely grant-funded not-for-profit organisation, based in Erbil, Kurdistan Region.  Its mission is to contribute to the process of nation-building, state-building and democratisation via engagement, research, analysis and policy debates.

MERI’s main objectives include promoting and developing human rights, good governance, the rule of law and social and economic prosperity. MERI conduct high impact, high quality research (including purpose-based field work) and has published extensively in areas of: human rights, government reform, international politics, national security, ISIS, refugees, IDPs, minority rights (Christians, Yezidis, Turkmen, Shabaks, Sabi mandeans), Baghdad-Erbil relations, Hashd Al-Shabi, Peshmarga, violence against women, civil society. MERI engages policy- and decision-makers, the civil society and general public via publication, focused group discussions and conferences (MERI Forum).

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