Part I here: An Independent Kurdistan?
Iraqi Kurdistan is closer to independence than ever before. Its next step is to hold, despite the opposition of Baghdad, a referendum on independence in the Kurdish areas. The Peshmerga are now battle-hardened and well-supplied with American weaponry. The American military has taken notice. When asked by a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 23 about the Kurdish Regional Government’s (KRG) intention to move forward with a referendum on independence after ISIS falls in Iraq, Marine Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, the chief of the Pentagon’s intelligence arm, responded: “Kurdish independence is on a trajectory where it is probably not if, but when.”
A Kurdish state in what is now northern Iraq will have tremendous consequences.
First, it will increase the restiveness, the sense of new possibilities, among the Kurds in Syria, Iran, and Turkey, with some now agitating for incorporation of their lands into an enlarged Kurdish state. What seemed impossible just a few years ago will now be a reality. And if the Kurds in any of those three countries rise in rebellion, it will be hard to suppress them. An independent Kurdish state can offer both experienced soldiers, and American-supplied weaponry, that was not available to the Kurds before. For the Kurds it makes the most sense to begin their revolt in Syria, for six years of civil war have greatly weakened the Syrian military, while the Kurds in Rojava have been recognized by the American military as the most effective fighting force against the Islamic State in Syria.
Second, the example of a Kurdish state will not be lost on the Berbers who, like the Kurds, are spread over several countries and, like the Kurds, have suffered from Arab supremacism. Those Berbers who have increasingly been thinking of independence, in re-asserting their Amazighité or Berberness, and previously assumed it could only be a pipe dream, now have the example of an independent Kurdistan to embolden them. That means they will no longer be satisfied with official recognition being given to their language. They want more: they want recognition and celebration of the Berber culture, not the disparagement and begrudging recognition it has received from the Arabs. Many of the Berbers who now live in France — there are more Berbers than North African Arabs in France, and the Berbers are much more open to such groups of freethinkers as Riposte Laique (“The Laic Response”), which warns against the power and spread of Islam. Berbers are much more likely, both in France and in Algeria, to become apostates, or even to convert to Christianity.
The Berbers have sensed the connection between islamization and arabization, and in rejecting the latter, have started questioning the former. Should a Berber state be attempted, the Arabs will do what they can to suppress it. It won’t be easy for them. The Berbers are quite numerous; 45% of Moroccans speak Berber as their first language, and estimates of the total Berber population in Morocco, including those Berbers who speak Arabic, run as high as 70% of the total. In Algeria 25% of the population speaks Berber, but there are many Berbers who speak Arabic. The total Berber population is somewhere between 30% and 40% of the total. No one knows, for sure, and it is certainly not the kind of figure the Arab government, even if it collected such information, which is doubtful, would make public. It counts as Arabs all those who speak Arabic as their first language, even if by ethnicity, by culture, by sense of identity, they are Berber. The Berbers in North Africa will have the support of Berbers in France, for an independent Berber state. Some Berbers have discussed a state where Western-style freedom of religion would be protected, including the right of apostasy by Muslims, both Berber and Arab.
The French government might recognize, if it has well-prepared leaders, that the Berbers, both in France and in North Africa, are less in thrall to Islam than the Arabs, and a religiously liberal Berber state could have a salutary effect on its Arab neighbors, as an example of real enlightenment and true Islamic moderation, much needed in the current climate.
The third consequence of an independent Kurdistan, after the example it will offer both other Kurds (to join that state) and Berbers (to emulate it), is the conceivable widening of the fissure between Arab and non-Arab Muslims all over the globe. 80% of the world’s Muslims are not Arabs. As they watch the Arab attempt to suppress the Kurds, and then to suppress the awakened Berbers, they will begin to see that there is merit in the claim, a claim that should be continually repeated by statesmen and scholars in the West, that “Islam is a vehicle for Arab supremacism.” It’s something that needs to be pointed out by us to them, that is to the very people who, as non-Arab Muslims, have suffered the most from Arab supremacism, but once they have recognized the truth of the observation, it will be impossible for them to forget it. They know they are supposed to read, recite, and memorize the Qur’an in Arabic, face Mecca five times a day in Arabic-language prayer, copy the habits and ways of seventh-century Arabs, that is of Muhammad and his Companions, if converts to adopt Arabic names, to make the hajj to Mecca, in Arabia, at least once in one’s life, and finally, they learn to treat their own lands’ pre-Islamic histories as things of little worth, from the time of ignorance, or Jahiliyya. Those are some of the ways that Islam reinforces the Arab sense of superiority.
The Kurdistan spectacle, of a non-Arab Muslim people throwing off the Arab yoke, with the Arabs trying to re-impose it, should help awaken other non-Arab Muslims as to how they have suffered from Arab Muslims (far more than they ever have from the hated Infidels) and is more likely to increase their resentment both of Arabs and of Islam itself as that “vehicle of Arab supremacism” — a phrase one should be prepared to use on every conceivable occasion, so that it enters into the collective consciousness of Muslims and Infidels alike. That’s what the Kurds can help bring about, by holding that referendum this September, and voting for independence, and at long last attaining, despite the Arabs’ best efforts to prevent it, that independent state that they were promised long ago. An unintended consequence, devoutly to be wished.