Brussels, Belgium - Three events in recent history have shaped the Kurdish struggle for self-determination significantly. And they affect Kurd's lives in Kurdistan and should definitely do so in Europe.
First, there was the United States’ intervention in Iraq to find weapons of mass destruction in the hands of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Without success. However, the key outcome of this war was a constitutionally guaranteed recognition and expansion of the Kurdish autonomy in the country’s north.
Secondly, eight years after the Iraq War, the so-called "Arab Spring", i.e. the struggle of the Arab youth for freedom and prosperity, started and spread also into Syria. What seemed promising at the beginning, ended with the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians. Millions of people have been on the run since.
However, again the key result for the Kurds was a de facto autonomy in northern Syria.
But the most far-reaching and perhaps most important event was probably the conquest of Mosul by the radicals of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS). In hindsight, historians might regard this incident as crucial for the establishment of an independent Kurdish state.
Previously, the Kurds were victims and forgotten by humanity. Now they are active players, shaping the fate of the Middle East and becoming the decisive kingmaker.
Although the respective Kurdish movements pursue different ideologies, they have certain values and principles in common. Such as democracy, rule of law and especially the protection of minorities.
For the first time Kurds are no longer perceived as a threat by the international community, but as a hope for a war-torn region. These conflicts can no longer be solved without the region’s Kurdish players. Consequently, the Kurds never have been as close to their goal of independence as now.
But what about the two million Kurds in Europe of which almost one million live in Germany?
The vast majority of them follow the current events in the Middle East with much interest and great emotions. They are proud, perhaps more proud than ever, of being Kurds. They have suffered a great deal as a minority in the Diaspora. They were stateless and homeless. Their wishes and demands were consciously and unconsciously ignored by their host countries. But now the situation has changed. The Kurds have become crucial allies. A historical time window has opened.
Will there now be a Kurdish renaissance among the Diaspora Kurds? Will many return?
Certainly one can not deny that developments in Kurdistan will not be without consequences in Europe. Yet most Kurds will not return, because many of them are living here in Europe in the second and third generation. They are not just Kurds, but also German, French, English. They are European.
Especially the young generation is torn between cultures. Kurdistan maintains a permanent place in the hearts of Europe’s Kurds, but their future is and will be in their new home.
Therefore, it is important that European Kurds find their place in this new home. It is important that they contribute actively to the development of their new homelands, found associations to promote solutions to issues of civil society, or enter European political parties without losing their Kurdish identity. These steps help the communities in Europe, but also the people of Kurdistan. Every Kurd must see himself both as a citizen of his new homeland and as a diplomat of the Kurdish movement.
It is true that currently the future seems promising for the Kurds, but the Middle East is dynamic. In a few months, it could look very different, very bleak for the Kurds. Then it is important that the two million Kurds in Europe throw in their full weight into the balance and gain international support for their cause. For foreigners, the big states would not necessarily take any risks.
But for well-integrated and highly crosslinked Kurds, who are also active citizens of these countries, they may do so.
Kahraman Evsen works currently at the European Comissions' Directorate General for Trade and has in the past worked for government administrations in Germany.