Mehri Rezai , KNK representative in London, gave this speech in Trafalgar Square on Sunday 8 December 2019:
Today marks 100 years since the Sykes-Picot agreement was signed. Today we as Kurdish people condemn the decisions made within it, that led to the Lausanne Agreement which divided Kurdistan.
Under the slogan of national unity and believing in the will for freedom and self-determination alongside the leading role of the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK); today we proudly say, after 100 years of suffering from mass genocide, execution and torture; we are still the only source of equality and best foundation for democracy in the Middle East.
Just to let the British people know a majority of the struggles in the Middle East over the past one hundred years can be linked back to the Sykes Picot Agreement and the Treaty of Sèvres.
Forming modern day Turkey, Lausanne set the northern borders of Syria and Iraq, separating ethnic groups and effectively dashing the Kurdish dream of forming Kurdistan.
Today, more than 60 million Kurds, and millions of Assyrians, Yezidis and other ethnicities ride the makeshift borders originally created by Mark Sykes and Francois Picot, 100 years ago.
The Kurds in Turkey were denied basic citizenship until the late 1990’s, and are locked in a decades-old civil war against the Turkish government. Syria’s Kurds have lived without cultural or linguistic freedoms for decades under Assad’s father.
They were not granted full voting rights until the Syrian Civil War broke out in 2011.
Iraq’s Kurds suffered from a genocide, orchestrated by Saddam Hussein in the late 80’s, while the Kurds in Iran attempted to establish a Kurdish government in 1946, it was quickly and brutally suppressed by the Iranian government.
Today after 100 years of the Sykes Picot Agreement:
We know the central reason behind the failure to stabilise the Middle-East region, lies in the West’s inability to understand the vast sociological differences between the region and other parts of the world.
The Middle East has an ancient and culturally diverse history. It is this history that is not recognised by people who attempt to find a solution to the unrest; they do not accept that the solution to the problem is unique.
The best solution is to have a democratic state redefined, so it respects all the cultures and ethnic groups and does not use laws and legislations to oppress or minimalise acts of expressing one’s identity.
Ultimately, this would allow the Kurdish people, Beluch, Lur, Azeri, Persians, Yazidis, Armenians, Arab and all other cultures to come together, under one democratic and unified nation, which is not based on state structures and is not defined by 1 flag, 1 language 1 religion and 1 culture.
Democratic Confederalism, a redefinition of the nation state, is separate from current forms of government structure in the Middle East. It starts by recognising difference, not from a denial of difference and this is extremely important.
One very important element within this is gender, which is fundamental to the idea of Democratic Confederalism. It is necessary to abolish this particular form of hierarchy by bringing women into the body politic of society, in a very systematic way.
In Democratic Confederalism we avoid falling into the trap of Nationalism and nation-states, which has caused profound problems in the Middle East. Instead, we consider an approach to the Kurdish Question that will transcend borders, unify the four quarters of Kurdistan and gradually decentralise power from: Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria.
We need to support the Kurdish women who are fighting against fascism right now.
The Turkish state has not hidden its objective of eliminating what the Kurds have achieved in the region; Erdogan declared it loud and clear in his address to the United Nations and the world leaders were quiet about the plans in which Erdogan wanted to attack Rojava.
The Kurdish forces have protected their lands from Asad’s regime, fascist Erdogan in Turkey and the oppressive leaders of the Islamic Republic in Iran. Moreover they protected us all even in Europe from the rapid spread of Islamic State (ISIS).
The international powers should demand Turkey’s withdrawal from all occupied lands and stop its aggression.
We request that international mechanisms, like The European Union and United Nations in particular should play their role, here, right now to protect the people of the Kurdish nation from ethnic cleansing and destruction.
Essentially the lesson to be taken, from the rise and fall of ISIS, is that the method of over-centralised nation-states, is a recipe for disaster, in a region well known for an extremely high level of cultural and religious diversity and geographical significance.
Ultimately, the vision for Kurdistan and democratic confederalism permits complete representation of minority groups and differences in the region. It will empower the people, to build from the bottom up, a society, which involves and integrates all cultures, languages and identities.