Maria Fantappie, specialist in Kurdish issues

Country : Irak

Tags : Kurdistan

A researcher at the Institut français du Proche-Orient (IFPO, trad. French Institute of the Near East), this Arabic-speaking woman of Italian origin had to leave Baghdad after receiving death threats, settling in Erbil in the summer of 2013. She delivers an uncompromising analysis of the geopolitical situation of this Middle Eastern El Dorado, torn among a rapidly developing oil sector, a greatly changed demographic landscape, and persistent political tensions.

The Kurdish Rising

From the beginning of the civil war in Syria, the Kurds have seen an opportunity to demand their rights, denied for decades by the Damas regime. But tension is rapidly appearing between two players: the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), presided over by President Barzani, who also leads Iraqi Kurdistan. And, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), based in Turkey, lead by Abdullah Öcalan, who is condemned to life in prison. A decisive turning point took place the 12th of November, 2013, when the PYD (Democratic Union Party) declared the establishment of an administration in the Kurdish region of Syria. It is a radical change that has side-lined Barzani's party which was established in Iraq. 


Relations between Iraqi Kurds and Syrian Kurds

Syrian Kurds feel like they have been treated like second-class citizens by Iraqi Kurds. For several months, Syrian Kurds who do not live in the refugee camps have more and more difficulty obtaining their residency permits. After awhile, they are here without authorisation, so when they find a job, they must accept unfavorable conditions. Sometimes, they need to accept only half of their regular salary while working twice as much because otherwise the employer will claim that they have entered Iraqi Kurdistan without authorisation.

They have distant outlook concerning Iraqi Kurds: they see them, above all, as coddled children, products of a society which is developing itself increasingly through income from the petroleum industry and from capitalism but that has completely set aside questions of society, urban life, [and] cultural life. They have completely lost their bearings.


Future of a Greater Kurdistan?

Greater Kurdistan is a mosaic, difficult to imagine as a region as we see it today. Iraqi Kurdistan is a homogenous region with a boundary between the Kurdish zone and the rest of the country. In Syria, they are split from a geographical point of view, and additionally, it is not really in the spirit of Syrian Kurds to want to create an independent Kurdistan, particularly for younger generations. What they want is to be recognized as Kurds with rights, which the [current] regime has not done for decades: to have the right to say that they are Kurds, to celebrate their holidays, to learn to write and teach their language. 

The question is: Will Kurdish nationalism be more important than political differences and regional alliances? If this is not the case, I think one cannot imagine the Kurdistan of the future as a State with demarcated borders but as regions, each led by its own government. In the future, one can potentially imagine a confederation of sorts. But Kurdistan as a State seems to me to be something faraway, something that will probably never take place. Jalal Talabani himself, the president of Iraq, has said that this State is a dream, and maybe he is right.


Discussion with Maria Fantappie, Iraq Analyst, International Crisis Group (Inside Middle East - Youtube)

 International Crisis Group

This interview has been initially carried out for our interactive report "Refugees - On the ground reporter" in the Kawergosk refugee camp in December 2013.