On September 29, 2017, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated that the United States did not recognize the decision of the Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum.
"The vote and the results lack legitimacy and we continue to support a united, federal, democratic and prosperous Iraq."
For all of the international community’s efforts to support and provide safe haven to refugees as well as religious and ethnic minorities, it is the Kurdish people who have had a particularly difficult situation within this realm. Following skirmishes with the Iraqi government and international condemnation of the move, the Iraqi Kurds are not retracting the independence request at the moment. The Kurds lack a well-defined boundary - by international standards - and broach the lands of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. All of these neighboring countries have had a contentious relationship with the Kurdish people. The Kurds have different languages, different religious traditions, and different cultures. And much like the Jewish people and the Palestinians, they seek an independent homeland in which they have the right to self-determination.
Due to the difficult political and military situation in the Fertile Crescent region of the Middle East, the Kurds have yet to successfully create their own nation with recognized borders. And it would not be an easy task; while the Kurds of the different countries in this region all collectively refer to themselves as "Kurds", there are many differences among these groups. Admitting that the Kurds deserve an independent state also means a loss in territory for Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Iraq which these countries heavily rely on for economic and strategic military reasons.
By delving deeper into their ethnic, religious, and political history, it is possible to understand the larger issues of statelessness and the striving for independence. At the same time, the relationships between the Kurds and the ruling regimes of the day have changed and altered the political landscape in the Middle East. The Kurds’ relationship with European and American governments also led to a certain expectation that outside support would somehow usher in the creation or at least the support of the Kurdish state, yet that has not come to pass. Assessing the violent treatment of the Kurds by governments opposed to their independence will also illustrate the horrors and struggles of the Kurdish community over the years. All of this history culminates in the historic referendum in September 2017 and its implications for the region.
The Kurds: The History of the Middle Eastern Ethnic Group and Their Quest for Kurdistan examines the group and the contentious issues surrounding them.