Dreams of a transnational Kurdistan: Kurdish independence in Iraq and Syria

In Iraqi Kurdistan’s September 2017 referendum on independence, 92% of the population in Kurdish-held areas voted in favour of secession. Yet dreams of independence were shattered quickly. In response to the referendum’s result, the Iraqi military launched an offensive campaign, driving out Kurdish Peshmerga forces from areas around Kirkuk and other provinces which the Kurds had taken control over in the war against ISIS. Turkey, which itself hosts a Kurdish population of approximately 14 million, has condemned the referendum and pledged support to Baghdad.

How will this stifled attempt for Iraqi Kurdish independence affect aspirations of autonomy for Syrian Kurds? As the Middle East’s fourth largest ethnic group, what are the prospects of a transnational Kurdistan?

In our conversation with Fawaz Gerges, the LSE Professor of International Relations asserts that “Turkey will fight tooth and nail to prevent the Kurds in Syria from establishing either a federal system or an independent autonomous region”. In contrast to their Iraqi counterparts, Syrian Kurds are fragmented, Gerges explains, both geographically and religiously. Institutions like the Iraqi Kurdish ministries, civil service and army are non-existent in Syria, according to Gerges.

While Syrian Kurdish parties currently attempt to unite to negotiate federalism with the Syrian government, the recent setback for Iraqi Kurdish independence and an ongoing raging civil war will make the self-determination of Syrian Kurds an uphill battle.

The interview was recorded in Amsterdam on November 4th, 2016.

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