Kurd on Kurd, us vs them


The mentality of “us versus them” has long bedeviled mankind. Much too frequently, one group—“us”—fights another group—“them”—for reasons that are so limited as to be incomprehensible to subsequent generations, who may look on the lives lost, recognize the missed opportunities, and ask: Why did they do it?

World War I is a prime example. Just why did the leaders of the “civilized” world engage in a mutual slaughter that killed over 17 million of their own citizens? Because of the assassination of one man—the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian empire? At war’s end, no such empire existed, let alone a throne to rule over it.

Examples of the "us and them" problems are evident across the world today. Brexit is one example. The people of the United Kingdom chose to leave the European Union based on an “us vs. them” viewpoint.  In the United States, we have the Black Lives Matter movement pitting black America against the police. And in Iraq, we have the problem of Kurds vs. Kurds.

The “Us Kurds vs. the Them Kurds” is not new, we only have to go back the 1990’s to revisit the Kurdish Civil War: KDP vs. PUK. In this time regional powers played the Kurds against themselves. Baghdad playing the KDP off of the PUK which had Iran’s backing and Turkey pulling strings to keep the thing alive.

Today much of the old animosity remains. While the Kurdish people are at the best time in history to declare independence and have a country, they are forming up against themselves. The old social “Us vs. Them” is coming to deny the Kurds a homeland once more. While there is no doubt that much of the feelings are genuine, it also must be considered who has the most to gain from this.

In many cases, there are legitimate concerns. While it is easy to argue the limits of a Presidential term, it is harder to argue the rule of law. There is no constitution for Kurdistan; it’s still in draft. With no law, there is really no limit. There is an agreement, but all sides seem to maneuver around that whenever they want.  The Kurds are then facing the dilemma of who is right and who is wrong. But when it is “Us vs. Them” the answer is always easy, we are right and they are wrong. When one side or the other entrenches themselves in righteousness, it becomes impossible to extricate yourself from a position; it also becomes easier to be manipulated.

The current crisis between KDP vs. PUK/Gorran will not lead to a position that either side actually wants. The outcome should be becoming a unified country, a single entity, then start from scratch to build a nation. This is difficult; it requires for the past to be relegated to the past.

Masoud Barzani was never the President of an independent Kurdistan, so the past is forgotten. The KDP, PUK, Gorran and the rest were never a sitting body for an independent Kurdistan, so a new government is formed. The other options are to do nothing and maintain the status quo or move on to violence, which is the typical end of an entrenched “us vs. them” problem; a full out split of them and us into an SW Kurdistan and SE Kurdistan. Ultimately these last options will result in a stronger neighbor absorbing the geographic region and the Kurds just go on fighting each other.

Until the Kurdish people can become one and together “Us,” and relegate Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran to the status of “Them” there will not be a chance to become Kurdistan. Until Kurdistan the rest of the arguments amongst the Kurds are meaningless.

Indeed, given the unique opportunity that exists today, if Kurds, instead, fall into “Us vs. Them,” subsequent generations may well ask, “Why did they do it?”


Paul Davis is a retired US Army military intelligence officer. He has been a consultant to the American intelligence community specializing in the Middle East with a concentration on Kurdish affairs. Currently, he is the President of the consulting firm JANUS Think in Washington D.C. 


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Kurdistan24.


Editing by Delovan Barwari and Laurie Mylroie