Kurdistan is a nation that historically never made it to be a fully-fledged state. The reasons are many and varied. Per The Kurdish Project, the contiguous Kurdish regions of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria sit in the north central area of the Middle East. Over the millennia, numerous ethnicities have migrated, settled or natively inhabited the area including Turks, Persians, Arabs, Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, Chechens, Azeris and others. To get a feel of how things are locally appreciated, we reproduce an article of ASHRQ AL-AWSAT written bySalman Al-dossary , former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, on a real Kurdish Project. Landlocked and spread over large portions of the above-named countries, it will obviously have an uphill development plan.
Meanwhile, the recently held referendum according to many observers, has not helped the cause, on the contrary, it appears that it is only another and peculiar way of the current president to consolidate his hold on the country.
Kurdish people protest outside the Erbil International Airport in Erbil
On September 25, the region woke up on a decisive moment with 92.7 percent of Kurdish people voting for independence from Iraq. Then events accelerated and the Iraqi government announced, in coordination with Ankara and Tehran, its willingness to restore control over four cross-borders (two with Turkey and two with Iran) and to impose an air-embargo on flights from and to Iraqi Kurdistan with scenarios of likely armed conflicts in disputed regions especially the oil-rich Kirkuk.
Two days before the referendum, the Iraqi Army advanced to launch an offensive on ISIS strongholds in Hawija – the scene foresees a spark of military confrontation that would break out anytime.
True that the local government in Kurdistan confronted the international community with its insistence to carry out the referendum, but the tension in Iraq and the region wasn’t caused only by it. Announcing the referendum is not something new, its date has been previously set and the Kurds reiterated several times their determination to separate from Iraq.
Kurds attribute this demand to years of abuse that have made them realize that it is time to establish their own state. Where was this international rejection before? (Especially that of the US, European Union, Turkey and Iran) Back then, none of them attempted to reform ties between Kurds and the central state, especially that Kurdistan government has been accusing the central government in Baghdad for years of depriving the Kurds from fair shares in power and resources.
Despite all that, the dispute was neglected and this pushed Kurds to insist on the referendum, whose outcome came as expected. This gives Iraqi Kurdistan a strong card to use in upcoming negotiations with the central government on natural resources as well as reinforcement of its political position as a self-ruled region.
The severe escalation by the Iraqi central government, Iran and Turkey with the unprecedented siege and threats of starving the Kurds, disregard the fact that Kurds announced earlier that the referendum is not an announcement of independence — it only acknowledges the necessity to move to the next step and to negotiate with Iraq and neighboring states in addition to the international community the conditions of separation, if it happened.
Confederation with enhanced conditions and possibly a new version of the current self-ruling which means that Kurds moved on with the referendum after they lost hope in any of the main powers to understand the situation. They moved on with a referendum that enhances their condition and urges European countries to focus on reforming ties between Kurds and the central government.
It should be mentioned that it is difficult for Kurdistan dream of independence to become true amidst this regional and international rejection. Geographically, the anticipated Kurdish state has no navy border and is surrounded by states that reject its independence.
Economically, Kurdistan government economy depends on oil transported via pipes that pass through Turkey or is exported via the central government. Iraqi Kurdistan exports around 550,000 bpd – out of daily produced 600,000 bpd – via a pipe in Turkish Jihan’s Port overseeing the Mediterranean Sea. All these basic-income sources would be hindered if the tension remains. How would Erbil establish a state without the ability to export its oil?
With the referendum card in its hand, the government of Kurdistan has a strong negotiation card that permits it to move on with a confederation that maintains its status, doesn’t marginalize its people -as it is the case now- and ensures that Iraq remains united as everyone wishes.
This would contribute to finding solutions for pending topics, including the disputed regions between Erbil and Baghdad based on the Iraqi constitution and providing joint market and currency as Kurdistan maintains its independent cultural, economic, political and foreign policies.
Countries of the MENA are getting indebted, starting with those involved with internal conflict such as Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. As far as Syria is concerned, The National of the United Arab Emirates on July 10, 2017 per Agence France-Presse and Associated Press reported citing a report of the World Bank that came out as the UN in yet another attempt to revive a moribund dialogue between the various parties to the conflict were again invited to the seventh round of indirect talks in Geneva. These will sit down knowing that per the World Bank , now into its sixth year, the violent conflict in Syria continues to take a heavy toll on the life of Syrian people and on the Syrian economy. The UN estimates that more than 250,000 people have died, while other sources place the death toll at almost 500,000 (470,000) with 1.2 million people injured. More than 6.3 million people are internally displaced and 4.9 million are officially registered as refugees. It is good to remember that at start of the conflict in 2011, the country had a GDP of $65 million.
The report came as the UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura opened the seventh round of indirect talks in Geneva between Syrian government representatives and opposition leaders to try to wind down the civil war.
The war has killed over 320,000 people and displaced more than half the country’s population since it began in March 2011, but the destruction ran much deeper than death tolls or infrastructure damage, the World Bank said.
“The number of casualties is devastating, but the war is also destroying the institutions and systems that societies need to function, and repairing them will be a greater challenge than rebuilding infrastructures,” World Bank vice president for the Middle East and North Africa Hafez Ghanem said.
The World Bank report found that cumulative GDP losses since Syria’s conflict erupted “have been estimated at $226bn, about four times the Syrian GDP in 2010.”
It estimated that the conflict had damaged or destroyed 27 per cent of Syria’s housing stock and about half the country’s medical and educational facilities.
Those calculations were based on cross-checked satellite imagery of certain cities and areas and extrapolated based on a conflict intensity model.
The World Bank also found an average of 538,000 jobs had been lost annually between 2010 and 2015. It said more than three in four Syrians of working age — or about nine million people — were neither employed nor enrolled in any form of school or training.
“The long-term consequences of this inactivity will be a collective loss of human capital leading to a shortage of skills in Syria,” it said.
During talks in Geneva, Mr de Mistura said agreements to de-escalate the fighting in Syria could simplify the conflict and lead to a phase of stabilising the country, but such deals must be an interim measure and avoid partition.
The start of the talks in Geneva coincided with the first full day of a ceasefire for southern Syria that was brokered last week by the US, Russia and Jordan.
Speaking at the start of five days of peace talks, Mr de Mistura said there were discussions in Amman to monitor the implementation of a US-Russian brokered ceasefire for south-west Syria.
“The agreement is basically broadly holding, quite well. In all agreements there is a period of adjustment, we are watching very carefully,” Mr de Mistura said. “But we can say we believe it has fairly good chances of working out.”
The Geneva talks are expected to last through the week.
The UN envoy will be shuttling between the two sides, which have so far only faced each other in ceremonial meetings that have been short on substance. Mr de Mistura was first to meet with representatives from Syrian president Bashar Al Assad’s government on Monday, before a meeting later with opposition representatives.
The UN-led diplomatic efforts seek partly to ensure humanitarian aid deliveries to Syria and plan for the day after the war is over.
The Syrian opposition is determined to achieve a political transition in Damascus, while Mr Al Assad’s government insists the talks should prioritise “the war on terror”.
As highlighted in this WEF latest article written by Emma Luxton, Formative Content, on human displacements in the world, most are from the north-east end of the MENA region. This is due principally to a certain lack of good governance that is coupled to and / or consequent to the prevailing historically defined under-development of the majority of the nation states of the region. The title of the WEF quotes 1 in 100 but adds later on in the article that in the Middle East 1 in 20 displaced people from their homes is the current picture.
One objection, though, could be the huge numbers of expatriate workers displaced from their original homes in south Asia, the Philippines, Nepal, etc. and number up to 90% in some of the GCC countries are also displaced for this time obvious economic reasons. Would not they count as displaced as well? Meantime [. . .]
Syrian citizens account for one in five of the world’s displaced people.
There are more than 65 million people displaced from their homes, a record high since World War II.
This amounts to 0.8% of the global population, or to put it another way, roughly the population of France; or of Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined.
The UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, has been collecting data on displaced people since 1951, and in recent years it has seen numbers increase drastically. In 2015 alone, 5.8 million people were displaced.
Conflict, persecution and human rights violations have driven people from their homes in search of safety. The UNHCR Global Trends report looked at the figures for 2015 and found that 24 people were forced to leave their homes every minute.
Image: Pew Research Center
The UNHCR’s definition of a displaced person includes those who still live in their country of origin (internally displaced people), as well as those who have fled across borders (refugees and asylum seekers).
The Middle East is hosting many of the world’s displaced people, both the internally displaced as well as refugees and asylum seekers.
In fact, as this chart from the Pew Research Center shows, more than one in 20 people in the region are displaced. Many of them have fled the Syrian conflict, which has been a major contributor to the steep rise in people driven away from their homes.
Image: Pew Research Center
Since the war began in 2011, almost 5 million refugees have made their way to another country in search of safety, and 6.6 million are now internally displaced within Syria.
Syrian citizens account for one in five of the world’s displaced people.
Countries with the most internally displaced people include Colombia (6.9 million), Syria (6.6 million) and Iraq (4.7 million).
Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees in relation to the size of its population, with 183 refugees per 1,000 citizens.
Overall, Turkey is providing sanctuary to the largest number of refugees – 2.5 million people took refuge there in 2015.
Pakistan has more than 1.5 million Afghan refugees who have fled the conflict in Afghanistan, and who make up more than half of the displaced population living in the country.
Children are often those most at risk, and the UNHCR estimates that they made up over half of the world’s refugees in 2015.
Many were separated from parents and family, or travelled to a different country alone.
Speaking earlier this year, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon warned: “We are facing the biggest refugee and displacement crisis of our time. Above all, this is not just a crisis of numbers; it is also a crisis of solidarity.”
It is amidst the country’s ongoing internal war, that Damascus University versus forged degrees through an unprecedented effort to digitise its documentation is unfloding.
In effect, Damascus University recently issued its first digitally enhanced diplomas, part of an initiative to combat the use of forged diplomas by students wanting to claim they graduated from the country’s oldest institution of higher education, writes Riham Alkousaa for Al-Fanar (also reported in University World News, Issue No:412).
Reports have surfaced of diploma-forging rackets in Turkey and in Persian Gulf countries, as Syrian refugees who have fled their country’s brutal war seek to boost their qualifications in order to gain access to educational or work opportunities, either in the region or beyond.
“Some people believe that holding a university degree improves their chances of getting refugee asylum in Europe,” said Nour Murad (29), a Syrian journalism masters student at Marmara University in Istanbul, Turkey. Accurate statistics about the phenomenon are not available. But Damascus University Provost Abbas Sandouk recently told the Syrian newspaper Al Watan that he discovered a batch of 70 fake certificates in 2014 that were clearly the tip of an iceberg of fake credentials circulating among Syrian emigrants. Efforts to fix the problem started soon afterwards.
. . . In Germany, where the number of Syrian university applicants has increased significantly over the past two years as the European refugee crisis has continued, admissions officers have discovered forged diplomas, said Martin Knechtges, an assistant to the board of directors at uni-assist, a service that helps international students apply to schools in Germany.
But the service and European universities have learned to spot forgeries and consult experts or double-check other databases if they’re in doubt, he said. Knechtges noted that a lack of language skills, rather than the lack of proof of graduation, is most often the reason that a Syrian student’s application is rejected. . .
Read full report on Al-Fanar.
L’annonce, des réfugiés Syriens à la Sorbonne, effectuée en août 2015, est reprise récemment par des journaux français surpris de la somme engagée par Ali Bin Fetais al-Marri, le procureur général du Qatar et ancien élève de l’université Panthéon-Sorbonne.
C’est, en effet, à cet alumnus, docteur en droit, que Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne doit d’avoir obtenu une aide financière de 600.000 euros par année universitaire, pour une durée pouvant aller jusqu’à trois ans, pour accueillir des réfugiés, de la part de l’émirat comme le rapporte Isabelle Maradan dans EducPros.fr (09 mars 2016).
Selon Maradan, “essentiellement Syriens, les 111 réfugiés ou demandeurs d’asile concernés par le dispositif sont âgés de 18 à 28 ans. Parmi eux, 86 suivent un parcours d’intégration d’un semestre de formation en FLE (français langue étrangère) et 25 avaient un niveau suffisant en anglais, pour intégrer des diplômes passerelles en anglais de niveau master 1, en économie et mathématiques appliquées, ou l’aisance nécessaire en français pour suivre des études dans l’une des composantes de l’université.
67 étudiants ont commencé les cours fin octobre 2015 et 48 étudiants ont débuté leur semaine d’intégration en janvier 2016. Pourquoi Paris 1 a-t-elle besoin de 600.000 euros pour accueillir 111 réfugiés quandl’université de Strasbourg a réussi à offrir des cours de FLE à 75 réfugiés cette année avec 45.000 euros seulement ? “100.000 euros des fonds qataris servent à l’organisation du programme en FLE et à l’accompagnement des étudiants, 250.000 euros sont consacrés aux logements et aux assurances et 250.000 euros permettent de garantir des bourses et la Sécurité sociale aux bénéficiaires”, détaille-t-on du côté de l’université.
“C’est un budget très confortable. Je suis très heureux pour eux”, commente Mathieu Schneider, vice-président de l’université de Strasbourg chargé de la coordination du dispositif porté par l’Unistra. “Mais il ne faut pas tout réduire à une question d’argent, poursuit-il. On ne fait pas forcément mieux en termes de conseil et d’accompagnement avec 600.000 euros qu’avec la motivation des personnels.” Citant l’exemple de sa voisine haut-rhinoise, l’UHA (université de Haute-Alsace), qui accueille une vingtaine de réfugiés, il estime que “chacun, à son échelle, peut faire quelque chose”. L’Unistra a d’ailleurs finalement décidé de renouveler ce dispositif et compte l’étendre à 100 bénéficiaires à la rentrée prochaine, avec un budget voisin de celui de l’an dernier selon EducPros.