Chomsky: We are living a period of dangers and prospects

Conference's patron: Mr. Noam CHOMSKY's message

Noam Chomsky

The current negotiations are taking place at a critical moment of the contemporary Kurdish history. The borders imposed by the imperial powers are beginning to erode, that’s a development that provides new opportunities for Kurds, but also considerable threats. Iraqi Kurdistan has achieved a substantial degree of autonomy, one by-product of serious, hideous plunged suicides is that the Kurdish regions have partially broken free, enough so that the Kurdish PYD just a week ago declared autonomy, of course as close links to the PKK and Öcalan. This took place after a series of military victories against jihadi forces in the region.

The PYD is likely to seek to establish closer relations with Iraqi Kurdistan, a matter which won’t be easy. Leaders of Iraqi Kurdistan, notably President Masoud Barzani have joined Turkey in expressing considerable concern and opposition to the Syrian militias. It appears that a Barzani-Öcalan conflict is in process over the loyalty of the Kurds of the region.

Just 2 days ago, President Barzani of Iraqi Kurdistan made a historic visit to Turkey actually to meet Prime Minister Erdogan in Diyarbakir, that’s significantly not in Ankara. And, speaking in Diyarbakir, he said (I’ll quote him): “Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has taken a very brave step towards peace. I want my Kurdish and Turkish brothers to support the peace process”. There was right at the same time a BDP counter-rally in Diyarbakir and Barzani’s stand was sharply criticised there as an effort to split the Kurds and contribute to Erdogan’s electioneering for the upcoming election, and through his attempt to draw Kurdish votes to his AKP, away from the Kurdish parties.

These meetings, the Erdogan-Barzani meetings also aroused a good deal of speculation in the Turkish press and the general, regional press. Undoubtedly, steps are being taken towards establishing closer relations between Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey, which crucially includes the 2 pipelines soon expected to be operating, supplying oil and natural gas from Iraqi Kurdistan to Turkey. What the implications of this will be for Kurds is not very clear, but they could be substantial.

At the same time, Turkey appears to be reassessing its regional role generally, in light of the failure of earlier efforts of the current government. The Prime Minister recently went to Baghdad, he also visited the important Shiite sites in Iraq. Turkey is also beginning to try to reconstruct friendly relations with the European Union. The whole region is in flux, there are many uncertainties ahead; there are many uncertainties within Turkey as well. The repression of recent years continues regrettably, that’s reversing encouraging progress in the early years of the millennia. Turkey remains for example the global leader in imprisonment of reporters. Kurdish rights have improved but are very fragile and there’s no clear indication, at least that I’m aware of, indication of progress in the negotiations with Öcalan.

In general, it seems to me a time for caution, both cautious hope but also care in navigating a minefield of conflicting goals and interests. There are opportunities to proceed, to address the festering sore of bitter repression of the Kurds and denial of their basic rights for many painful years. There are many obstacles to confront, some internal to Kurdish society, some involving regional and broader international actors.

In brief, it’s a period of challenges and opportunities, a period of dangers and prospects.

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Brussels, 4th December 2013

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Mr. Noam CHOMSKY's message

(Transcript of his video message)

Conference's patron