The Kurdish people have not, however, been fighting for years under a single banner, that is, different groups act on behalf of each of the regions an eventual Kurdistan would be divided into. And, even though the PKK represents the root to all of them and often funds their actions, these groups are often at loggerheads with each other, thus incredibly hindering their common action. The PKK fights against Turkey and is based in southern Turkey and northern Iraq. In Iran there is the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan and in Syria there is the Democratic Union Party (PYD in Turkish). Some organizations seek to create an independent nation state of Kurdistan, consisting of some or all of the areas with Kurdish majority, while others campaign for greater Kurdish autonomy within the existing national boundaries.
In what concerns the fate ofKurds in Syria, today nearly all hinges on the end of the good relationship Turkey and Syria had over the past few years. Shortly after the first uprisings in Syria, Ankara sided with the rebels opposing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. In retaliation, Damascus stopped chasing Kurdish militias in the north eastern tip of its territory, notably the PYD. Precisely mainly because they see that the opposition in Syria is backed by Turkey and the opposition, both on the ground and in exile, has still not recognised Kurdish rights, the Syrian Kurds are more interested in being granted autonomy than in fighting along with the rebels and have used their weapons to defend their territory. Moreover, some of its elements were close to the Assad regime. After months of an escalating conflict, the huge majority of Assad’s forces left for the South, leaving behind a PYD practically in charge of the whole Kurdish region, as well as large areas of the border with Turkey. That has certainly been one of the factors that have pushed Turkey to seek peace with the PKK. However, it has to be noted that Syrian Kurds themselves are also divided. The other major faction representing them is the Syrian Kurdish National Council, which maintains very good relations with the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq, which in turn has ties with Turkey. In fact, the Syrian conflict has galvanized the Kurdish drive for self determination, and the autonomous Government of Iraqi Kurdistan has sent fighters to protect Syrian territory held by the Kurds.
Today, Iraq is the only country where a continuous dialogue between the central government and the Kurdish regional government is conducted within the framework of the “new Iraq” which emerged after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The semi-independent autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, born after the end of theFirst Gulf War from the safe haven the Allies established in northern Iraq and controlled by the Kurdish Regional Government, represents the largest gains the Kurdish community has obtained so far: it entirely controls its own legislative process, it has its own armed forces and, paradoxically thanks to Turkey, is also seeing its economic autonomy increasing by the day. It is enjoying a notable economic development: officials estimate there will be a growth of around 9% this year. Their being a landlocked territory turns them into an entity that depends on an open borders policy, and they have succeeded in improving their relations with their neighbours. The oil reserves are estimated at about 45,000 million barrels (a third of Iraq’s). Encouraged by the oil boom, the KRG has signed deals with foreign firms and, since January has been exporting oil through Turkey, even though that has incredibly angered the Arab government in Baghdad Iraq (which, contrary to Turkey, supports the Syrian regime and faces increasing uprisings). The latter is even toying with the idea of diminishing the allocation of still vital revenues. Kurdish are consequently adopting an assertive line, although their Government is playing cautious and has still no plans of breaking away, even though they have wisely accumulated many “facts on the ground”. They have learned from years of uprisings constantly being brutally suppressed under Sadam Hussein’s regime (even resorting to chemical warfare). The community was afterwards granted unprecedented freedom after the US intervention and has been seeking an endorsement of its constitution for seven years now, provided for by the 2005 Iraqi Constitution but hampered by political differences between the ruling and opposition parties, the starting point of a process that might eventually lead them to a very much awaited independence, for them and ultimately for their brethren.