Panel 2a. Kurdish Liberation I

Chair: Robert Lowe

Into Dilemma: The Turkish State’s Policy towards Rojava (Western Kurdistan)
Bekir Halhalli, Comenius University in Bratislava & Sakarya University

Turkish State’s Policy toward the Kurds in Syria after Muhammed Bouzazi set himself on fire in Tunisia and triggered the waves of change in Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Bahrein and later in Syria, Rojava Kurds have gained unprecedented leverage in regional politics. In spite of Syria’s Kurds are the largest ethnic minority and continuation of Kurds who live in Turkey, has not taken an important place and a serious interaction until post-Arab revolutions. The current events of internal conflict in Syria and the ongoing peace process in Turkey have led the Kurds to become one of the most important and influential actors in Middle East. In this process, Kurds have received greater attention primarily by the Turkish state as well as other regional and global actors and states, especially after Abdullah Ocalan becoming the interlocutor in the peace process and Syrian Kurds’ Democratic Union Party (PYD in Kurdish acronym) declaring autonomy in the regions of Cizire, Kobane, and Afrin. In recent times, the Kurdish demonstration effect in the streets has indicated that Turkey’s peace talks with PKK (Kurdistan’s Worker’s Party) almost came to the end due to Turkey’s support with groups like Islamic State (IS) and other fundamentalist Sunni groups in Syria in general and in Kobane (Ayn-Al Arab, Northern Syrian’s Kurdish City) in particular. Historical and political structure of change in Kurdish/Kurdistan question of cross-border relations has made it impossible to ignore anymore. By incorporating the background of the Kurdish question in Syria, this study seeks to understand and discuss the outcomes of Turkey’s policies toward Rojava (Western Kurdistan) under the rule of Justice and Development Party (AKP in Turkish acronym). Besides, Turkey’s support for freedom, democracy, and people’s rule in the region is discussed in relation to Turkey’s domestic approach to the pro-Kurdish political mobilization. Key Words: Arab Spring, Turkish Foreign Policy, AKP, Kurdish Question, PYD, Islamic State

Rojava’s Nature – From Hydro-Carbon Geopolitics to Post-Scarcity Anarchy
Clemens Hoffmann, Bilkent University

Political Ecology debates enter the question of Rojava’s political ascendancy in two dominant ways. First, ‘from top’ there are structural, geopolitical issues at stake, namely the integration of new forms of sovereignty into a region where geopolitics is still dominated by hydro-carbon geopolitics, including regional powers (Iran ‘v’ Saudi-Arabia), global powers (US ‘v’ Russia/China) as well as non-state actors (Daesh ‘v’ KRG). The second question concerns the future of Rojava’s ‘domestic’ political ecology ‘from below’. Strongly influenced by Murray Bookchin’s “Post-scarcity Anarchy”, advocating sustainable forms of social reproduction, little is known how this thinking enters the wider political vision of a progressive Kurdish political future. At the same time, valorizing its contemporary (and possibly short-lived) geopolitical fortunes on the world energy markets akin to the KRG’s strategy seems an attractive, but nevertheless risky option. Questions that are not exhausted by avoiding a Kurdish ‘resource curse’. This paper argues that Rojava’s ‘micro’ questions on political ecology cannot be viewed independent of the ‘macro’ structures of the hydro-carbon geo-political economy it finds itself surrounded by.

Liberation from Iraq? The Kurdistan region between ISIS and the US/Iranian promoted new Iraq
William Harris, University of Otago

The Kurdistan region in what is currently northern Iraq operates in a substantially changed, multi-layered geopolitical arena since ISIS seized Mosul in June 2014. On the one hand, Kurdistan supplies crucial ground anchoring for the new international and local coalition against the Islamic State jihadists. This has given the “Iraqi” Kurds new opportunities for territorial assertion, particularly involving Kirkuk, and for pressure for a loosened Iraqi political framework. On the other hand, the United States and Iran – the odd couple that patronizes the Arab Shi’ite dominated Iraqi government – are wary of allowing Kurdistan room for maneuver for the future. In consequence, both lethal and non-lethal military equipment flows are carefully modulated, leaving the Kurds stretched and rather vulnerable on their front lines, despite their successes against ISIS. At the same time, Turkey hesitates between the political and economic advantages of fostering a strengthened Kurdistan region and the unknowns for Ankara of a Kurdish divorce from Baghdad. Turkey is Kurdistan’s vital conduit to the outside world in the event of a Kurdish declaration of independence from an Iraq that is either hostile or generally disintegrating. The paper explores the various geopolitical contradictions and their overall implications for the Kurdistan region. In the changed configuration since June 2014, what are the options, opportunities, and dangers for Kurdistan? Analysis is partly based on travel to Kurdistan in November 2014, including a visit to the Peshmerga front line with ISIS at and around the Mosul dam.

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