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Re: [casi] [Fwd: Harvest time: occupier vs. occupied

Dear Hassan and list

I apologise unreservedly if I gave the impression that I was denigrating
Hassan Zeini's knowledge and experience of Iraq. That wasn't my intention at
all. On the contrary, it was my own knowledge I wanted to denigrate. My
point was that what Alexander Sternberg was saying about a well-established
convention on the question of taking other people's land struck me as
improbable, but I wasn't as well placed as he was to know about it.

My criticism of Hassan was (and still is) that he has changed the subject. I
think its down to a confusion about the word 'occupied'. Alexander, as I
understand it, was talking about individual (Arab) famers encouraged by the
government to occupy individual (Kurd) farmers' land. Hassan was talking
about occupation by one people of another people's 'national territiory'. Is
Kirkuk and the area round it 'Kurdish'? or 'Arab'? or 'Iraqi'? On that
subject I found what he has to say very interesting. But it wasn't what
Alexander was talking about.

Related to all this is the feeling some people have that Alexander shouldn't
be allowed to contribute to the list at all because he has defended
sanctions. Although the hit-and-run interventions of some of our
pro-sanctions, pro-war contributors are a bit irritating I really don't
understand this point of view at all. In all the political situations I've
been in (my closest experience has been Northern Ireland) I've always
favoured as much contact as possible with 'the other side'.

In particular in this respect I regret that we have no Kurdish contributors,
certainly no-one who is articulating a Kurdish point of view. Alexander's
the closest we've got and I welcome what he has to say even if I disagree
with it, as I usually do. And if it prompts Hassan to lay out his
understanding of Iraq's recent history at greater length, which is what I
have always been wanting him to do, then I welcome it very much.


> From: Hassan Zeini <>
> Date: Sat, 17 May 2003 08:30:04 -0700 (PDT)
> To: CASI <>
> Subject: Re: [casi] [Fwd: Harvest time: occupier vs. occupied
> Dear Peter & List
> As much as I was glad that Peter found my comments on
> Alexander Sternberg's message interesting enough to
> merit reading them, I was disappointed a the
> one-sidedness of his conclusions.
> Peter has interpreted my views wrong without giving me
> the benefit of the doubt. At the same time he has
> found Alexander Sternberg's message positive and worth
> defending. The reason seems to be "embedded" between
> the lines, because to Peter, Alexander Sternberg is
> the expert and authority on the Kurdish issue. My
> fifty years of knowledge of the place and the people
> are not of value...
> To begin with, Alexander Sternberg's previous messages
> all indicate that he is pro-sanctions and pro-war, and
> it is my conviction that he is not an objective person
> in this matter, neither should his words be taken as
> the absolute truth. He is an outsider, if anyone is..
> I did not say nor even implied that "Kurds have no
> right to the land they lost through President
> Hussein's Arabization policy". I only made my comments
> in response to the way Sternberg presented the issue.
> To speak of people of the same country as "occupiers"
> and "occupied" is not only ridiculous and na?ve, but
> also shows an attempt at distorting  history. I wanted
> to show how ridiculous the whole argument was...
> How long does a group of people live in one land to
> start claiming it as its own? Can the Arabs claim
> Spain for themselves? Can the Native Americans claim
> North and South America?
> If the Kurds, who came after the Arabs to Iraq, can
> claim the areas where they live as their own, can they
> deny the Turkomans the same right to Kirkuk? And in
> fact they do, because they claim that Kirkuk is
> Kurdish and should be given to them. In maps published
> by Kurds during the 1990s, they have demanded all of
> North Iraq and a strip of its East extending down to
> Basrah!!! The reason is that they lived there
> sometime... Sounds very much like Zionist claims!
> And that is why I ask again: how far back in history
> do we go to establish ownership of any land? Does
> history start with the year the Kurds came into Iraq?
> What about before that date?
> If Arabization of Kurdish areas is bad and to be
> condemned, should Kurdization of Arab areas also be
> condemned? After all that is how the future Kurdistan
> State is envisaged... And if Kurds do not want
> independence as they claim, but a unified Iraq, why is
> this talk about Kurdish and Arab areas, and occupiers
> and occupied??
> Should the English be considered "occupiers" and the
> people of Wales, Scotland and Ireland "occupied"?
> There is very little knowledge about the Kurdish
> issues; and what is known is biased and one-sided, as
> Alexander Sternberg has on many occasions shown. As I
> said previously, to go into the history of the Kurdish
> issue needs pages and pages, and CASI is not perhaps
> the best place for it. But I guess I have to explain
> things in some detail.. It is enough to say that the
> Kurdish problems did not start with Saddam Hussein and
> they will not end now that he is no more in power.
> Saddam Hussein and his regime are not the only ones to
> blame for the suffering of the Kurdish people. The
> Kurdish leaders are also to blame, for making wrong
> decisions and going into alliances that have damaged
> their people. I am not saying that I accept what has
> been done to the Kurds; not at all. I have always
> opposed oppression of the Kurds, and some of my best
> friends are Kurds. What I am saying is that the
> history of the Kurdish leadership's behavior is one of
> betrayal to Iraq; one of always allying with Iraq's
> enemies.
> In the 1950s, Barzani allied himself with the Soviet
> Union which supported the rights of the Kurdish
> people, a surprising feat for Marxism. But the
> monarchy was anti-communist, and so
> my-enemy's-enemy-is-my-friend principle prevailed. And
> the Kurds mistakenly believed in their value to the
> Soviets.. But when Abdul-Karim Qassem refused Kurdish
> demands, the Soviets did not support them, and they
> took up arms in 1961. By that time, Iraq was a Soviet
> ally, and so Barzani allied himself with the Shah of
> Iran and the CIA, the enemies of the Soviets... This
> uprising continued during the first Ba'th rule in
> 1963, the Arif brothers' rule from 1963-1968, and the
> second Ba'th rule from 1968.
> In 1970, the GOI and Barzani reached an agreement to
> end the fighting and establish an autonomous region in
> Kurdistan. The 11 March accord was announced and the
> cultural rights of the Kurds were recognized in Iraq,
> with the establishment of schools, universities, TV
> and radio stations and newspapers. Kurdish language
> became an official language.
> The accord collapsed because the Kurds wanted Kirkuk
> and Khanaqin, which the GOI refused because the
> majority of their inhabitants were not Kurds. And
> soon, the Kurds took up arms again, this time directly
> and openly receiving support from the Shah of Iran,
> from the CIA and from the Israelis. Henry Kissinger
> was personally involved, and prominent Kurdish
> leaders, like Dr. Mahmood Uthman, have admitted these
> contacts.
> In 1973, when the October war started between the
> Arabs and Israel, Iraq found itself in a crooked
> position, because its army was facing the Kurdish
> revolt and the Iranian threat. The Ba'th took a huge
> risk by withdrawing parts of the army from the fronts
> and sending them to Syria... Arabs in Iraq, who make
> up about 85% of the population, did not look favorably
> at the Kurdish behavior. It is one thing to demand
> autonomy and seek your rights; but it is another thing
> to cooperate with the country's enemies, endanger your
> country's unity and safety and expect to be accepted
> and supported by the people.
> It is strange that the claims by the Kurdish leaders
> for respect for Iraq's unity and integrity is not
> supported by their actions, especially when, since
> 1991, they didn't fly the Iraq flg, but each had his
> own flag..
> I don't think that the Kurds as people deserve what
> happened to them. But I am sure most British think
> that the IRA receiving assistance from Gaddafi makes
> them "a contemptible people and it doesn't matter what
> happens to them." Or am I wrong? If I am wrong, why
> don't the British withdraw and give the land to the
> rightful owners without making any fuss about it??
> What would the US do if, for example, one of the
> tribes of the Native Americans allies itself with
> China or Russia and rises in an armed revolt against
> the US Government? Wouldn't the US wipe their villages
> and cities out, and make the Anfal campaign look like
> a nice picnic??
> Without defending the Ba'th rule, one has to admit
> that the Kurds in Iraq have enjoyed more rights than
> anywhere else they exist. Kurds in Turkey make up over
> 30% of the population. But Turkey refuses to even call
> them Kurds (they are Mountain Turks), does not allow
> them the use of their language, and Turkization has
> been going on for centuries. Thousands of their
> villages have been wiped out, and millions have been
> displaced. None of that merits even a mention from
> Alexander Sternberg..
> The same treatment of Kurds takes place in Iran. So
> why is Iraq singled out??
> How can the Kurds support Turkey's massacres of its
> Kurds and assists it in killing PKK members in Iraq,
> yet are surprised when the GOI does the same to them??
> How does Alexander Sternberg feel about the PKK and
> their struggle?
> In 1982, the Kurds cooperated with Iran, which was
> fighting a war with Iraq. Saddam considered that an
> act of treason, and the Kurds were viciously attacked.
> The Anfal was his reply to the Kurdish Iranian
> alliance, and he carried the attacks out at the end of
> the war with Iran. And so, even though I condemn what
> has been done to the Kurds, I can not absolve the
> Kurdish leaders from responsibility for what happened
> to their people. They are as bad as Saddam Hussein;
> all they are interested in is power and money, and the
> rest can go to hell..
> In 1991, Talabani's forces took Iraqi soldiers
> prisoners. There are reports that those prisoners were
> killed by Talabani's forces without trial and in cold
> blood. Saddam didn't forget that, and in 1994 sent his
> army to assist Barzani against Talabani.
> In 1992, the GOI negotiated with the Kurds, and an
> agreement was reached with Barzani for a pluralist
> system and a move to democratic rule. Barzani went to
> Kurdistan to negotiate with the other leaders and get
> their signature, but he only returned to Baghdad last
> April, 11 years later... This time he came with the
> American invaders, and Talabani now demands a Kurdish
> (ie. Talabani!) President or Prime Minster.... Why
> should someone who claims to want a democratic and
> equal Iraq want positions to be divided on ethnic
> basis? And in that case, why would the majority accept
> the President or Prime Minister to be from the ethnic
> minority??
> How can someone who keeps changing alliances and sides
> expect people to trust him? What is to prevent
> talabani or Barzani from changing sides tomorrow?
> The news I saw and read tells me that it is not true
> that the Kurds were leaving long established Arabs
> undisturbed. What happened when the Kurdish forces
> entered Mosul (which is a majority Arab city), was a
> campaign of terror, killings, destruction and
> lootings, carried out by the Talabani Pesh Merga. They
> only left after being threatened by the US army..
> People in Kirkuk were thrown out of their houses, some
> by force, and their houses taken over by Kurds who
> claimed these were their houses. Even if that was
> true, in a state where there is a rule of law, these
> matters are solved legally after establishing
> ownerships and after due process is followed. If
> everyone just grabs what he can, then what is
> difference between Saddam's rule and Talabani's or
> Barzani's??
> I hope this time Peter and the List will understand my
> views and my comments, and accept that I may be
> looking at things from a distance, but I have the
> advantage of belonging there, in body and soul. I am
> not an outsider.
> HZ
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