6/03/2008

Kurdish Lesson 02 - The Kurdish Air Force

A graveyard in Halabja for those who died in March 1988 when Saddam Hussein dropped chemical weapons on the city. It is the worst chemical weapons attack against a civilian population

Another popular search which leads people to this blog is the Kurdish air force.

There is no Kurdish air force. Therefore, my two posts on this rate fairly high on google. The real question, though, is why people are searching for information on something that doesn't exist.

I have two theories to explain it.
  1. People wish the Kurds did have an air force
  2. People are afraid that the Kurds have an air force.

The Kurdish army is better known as the Peshmerga. This means "those who face death." One definition I've heard indicates that it means more than just face death, but more like those who rush forward to face death.

Even though they've never been able to secure a homeland for the Kurds, the Peshmerga are one of the most successful militias in history. Since 1996, they've kept the north of Iraq peaceful and held the Arab insurgence at bay. In fact, the US Army relies on them in such volatile cities as Kirkuk and Mosul.

So, people who see this success and applaud it want the Kurds to have an air force. With an air force the Peshmerga could even better secure Kurdish interests in Iraq.

Those who see the success and fear it do not want the Kurds to have an air force. The only country in which the Kurds have any sort of power is Iraq, of course. Turkey, Iran and Syria actively persecute their own Kurdish populations.

These would be the countries with the most to lose from an active Kurdish air force.

The PKK with airplanes would be a disaster viewed through Turkish eyes as it would undoubtedly lead to a sovereign Kurdish state in what is now eastern Turkey. Turkey has a long and brutal history of oppressing the Kurds.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Kurds have found better treatment in Iran. As this article points out, "unlike Turkey where Kurds are called 'the mountainous Turks', no one in Iran has dared to make such insulting remarks concerning the Kurds in Iran."

Today, Kurds are oppressed and censured along the same lines as the rest of the Iranian minority populations, but with perhaps greater frequency. Kurdish journalists are increasingly being targeted. These links (1 and 2) are two recent examples.

The Kurdish population is Syria numbers 1.5 million and, like Turkey, Syria denies their ethnic identity. Syria's government is ba'athist, like the former Hussein government in Iraq. The Kurds there are openly repressed even unable to use Kurdish names for their children. This article from the Kurdish Human Rights Watch (KHRW) has more information.

So, while Angie and I often talk about all of the amazing progress in Sulaymaniyah (and it's very true) I hope we can all remember that there is a very real struggle for the freedom of the Kurds and the survival of their culture. In this fight Iraqi Kurdistan is a very real beacon of hope. Among all the debate about the war and the American presence there - a political topic that I won't get into here - we should remember that the Kurds are benefiting and their neighbors are working hard to ensure their failure.

All three countries - Iran, Turkey and Syria - have people on the ground in Iraq and Kurdistan with the goal of bringing down the Iraqi government and to ensure that Kurdish freedom does no spread and ultimately is turned back. There can be no doubt about this.

So, I hope we all learned something.

3 comments:

Tammy said...

I am continually blown away by your knowledge and your writing ability. Why you do not put this into a book or write for a newspaper is beyond me!!! I really think you're missing out on one facet of your calling!!!

Devan said...

so, ummm, what about the blog game. Is there a deadline for entries? and when will you tag the next topic or person?

James said...

Maybe the pesh merga should form a clandestine air force, as other countries forbidden to have warplanes have done. Quietly aquire some planes and helis under the guise of civil aviation, selecting types than can be quickly militarized. When Kurdistan declares independence all they'll need to do is paint out the airlines of air freight logo and civil registration numbers, and paint a Kurdish flag and roundels on, and they'll be ready to go.
However, the Kurds are unlikely to get anything like the F-16s they need to defend their airspace. And without air cover, their tanks and APCs will be left vulnerable. So, it would probably be best for them to aquire lots of man-portable anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, dirt bikes and small, fast vehicles that can be taken up into the mountains if the country is invaded.