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    Iraqi Kurdish girls carry a Kurdistan flag during the celebration of Flag Day in the northern city of Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq

    Kurds: The Key Beneficiary of Daesh's Rise and Fall

    © AFP 2017/ SAFIN HAMED
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    Violence Erupts as Islamic State Rises (1881)
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    Fighting against Daesh and other radical groups has helped the Kurds to overcome their "factional divisions" and win powerful allies, but time will tell whether this will be enough to achieve their ambitions of greater autonomy, if not independence.

    The Kurds (along with the Syrian Arab Army, for instance) have turned out to be one of the few forces capable of standing up against Daesh. The Iraqi Kurds were not overwhelmed with the group's blitz offensive on northern Iraq in June 2014. As a result, they succeeded in preventing the militants from overrunning Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, in what was one of the first major loses for Daesh.

    Kurdish Peshmerga fighters take part in a graduation ceremony on April 16, 2015 at the Kurdistan Training Coordination Center (KTTC) of Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq.
    © AFP 2017/ Safin Hamed
    Kurdish Peshmerga fighters take part in a graduation ceremony on April 16, 2015 at the Kurdistan Training Coordination Center (KTTC) of Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

    The Syrian Kurds, assisted by the Iraqi and Turkish Kurds, defended the embattled Syrian city of Kobane, which spent six months under Daesh siege and was largely destroyed in the process. This, according to the National Interest, was "the most striking indication" that different factions within the ethnic group had cast their differences aside.

    Consequently, the anti-Daesh fight has helped to empower the Kurds, leading to them achieving greater autonomy in Iraq and Syria, but this process could affect Turkey as well.

    "True, IS will not be able to wrestle large swaths of territory from Ankara, as it has done in Iraq and Syria," Egemen Bezci and Nicholas Borroz asserted. "But the group, which is well-embedded in Turkey, certainly has the ability to bring a burning, persistent, low-level conflict into the country."

    Although the analysts believe that the Kurds "will emerge from this crisis stronger than before," they face major obstacles on the road to establishing an independent Turkish state. These include internal divisions, which are still plaguing the ethnic group, the lack of explicit international support for their cause, as well as absent formal military.

    These obstacles are not insurmountable. Political scientist Peter Lvov noted that Western leaders could in fact side with the Turkish Kurds.  

    "Although Turkey is a NATO member state, Washington and its European allies will be more than happy to weaken it, even by tearing a part of its territory away to create Kurdish autonomy there, thus taming an uncompromising ally," he suggested.

    Ankara views the Kurds, not Daesh, as the key threat to its security and stability. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) launched a large-scale military operation against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) after the two-year-long peace process collapsed in 2015. The campaign has been condemned as a humanitarian catastrophe and violation of human rights.

    A photo taken on February 3, 2016 shows smokes rising over the district of Sur in Diyarbakir after clashes between Kurdish rebels and Turkish forces.
    © AFP 2017/ Ilyas Akengin
    A photo taken on February 3, 2016 shows smokes rising over the district of Sur in Diyarbakir after clashes between Kurdish rebels and Turkish forces.
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    Violence Erupts as Islamic State Rises (1881)

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    Tags:
    Middle East, Turkish Kurds, autonomy, Kurds, independence, Daesh, Iraqi Kurdistan, Turkey, Syria, Iraq
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