Mr. Azad Moradian’s speech on the KNCNA 22nd Annual Conference,
San Diego State University,California
Kurdish National Congress of North America: Strategy and Tactic for a new era
Dear President of KNC-NA,
Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you for attending KNCNA’s 22nd annual conference. I congratulate the board of advisers, board of directors, members, and the supporters of the KNCNA on the 22nd anniversary of excellent work for the promotion of the Kurdish issues in the North America. I hope that the 22nd conference will be able to successfully reach its goals as it has always done. Every year we gather to reflect on our progress thus far, bring awareness to current issues pertaining to Kurds and Kurdistan, and outline how to move forward.
In the short time that I have with you today I want to take a look at two very important aspects of any organization: strategy and tactic.
Strategy is defined as the overall campaign plan or goal of an institution. This is often confused with tactic.
When KNC-NA was established by a group of distinguished intellectuals following the 1988 chemical bombings of Halabja and the subsequent massacre of the Kurds in Northern Iraq, they agreed to mobilize under the slogan of a United Kurdistan. They were catalyzed by genocide and remained primarily focused on this region for the next decade or so. Some of the objectives of KNC as quoted directly from our website were: “Unite Kurds living in North America to work for common goals, to promote the idea of a United Free Kurdistan, and to strengthen the voice of all Kurds living in the USA and Canada.”
As with all strategy, this overall goal involves complex operational patterns, activity, and decision-making that lead to tactical execution. Tactics are then defined as the actual means used to gain the objective or strategies previously decided on.
Although the founders of KNC-NA envisioned an organization, which pays equal tribute to all Kurds regardless of geographic location, it seems that throughout the years, the primary focus of this establishment has been Iraqi Kurdistan.
This has perhaps been due to the makeup of KNC’s leadership, the historical events at the moment, and the geopolitical importance of Iraqi Kurdistan during the 1990’s and then during the US led war in Iraq.
The tactics that KNC has used to promote the Kurdish agenda has been to be a voice for the victims of Halabja and Anfal, as well as strengthen ties between Kurds in diaspora and the governments in our host countries. This can be seen as strategically wise for KNC because this organization was able to work on the issues most historically urgent for Kurds as well as most newsworthy.
The leaders and founders were able to establish themselves as an authority on current events regarding Kurds and political movements in the region and have been consulted by various agencies.
Another reason why KNC might not have been able to focus on other parts of Kurdistan might have been lack of expertise. This is understandable considering our sheer numbers in North America. We are a very small minority here and have yet to establish a truly educated and organized community. We must be realistic on our outlook. With a population of 300 million in the United States alone and a vast landscape stretching from coast to coast, 20,000 Kurds will have a very difficult time coming together and bringing their talents to form a well-rounded minority group.
This country is also made up of many diverse minority populations, all with their own demands. In order for Kurds in diaspora to be recognized as a minority with a unique history and specific needs, much more must be done. KNCNA can play a very crucial role in this. However, in order to do this our tactics must be current. Our strategy will always be focused on what our founders had in mind but tactics and alliances might need to be reconsidered and then executed.
I believe KNC has an even bigger role to play. The events taking place in the Middle East today will have a direct impact on Kurds, not only in the region, but also on those of us living in diaspora.
The potential to make an impact on policies and lives of Kurds are enormous. All of this has to be done with a fresh outlook.
We cannot continue to use the same tactics we have used in past to move towards our strategy of serving all Kurds. Today Kurds in Turkey, Syria and Iran face serious threats and need the attention of the international community more than ever. Just as in the 1990’s when KNC brought the western communities’ attention to Iraqi Kurdistan;
We now have the potential to zoom in on these regions. We must have the right leadership with such vision, as well as the right connections. We cannot have biased opinions about working with opposition groups or other ethnic minorities in the region, and must redefine what it means to live as a Free Kurd in place like Iran or Turkey.
With all smart goals and strategic planning, an organization must move with the times. It is important for our organization to look at our tactics and find more innovative ways to sail towards our strategy of a United Kurdistan.
Like any other successful organization, KNC needs to be able to self-evaluate and adapt to the new geopolitics of the Kurdish region. Any delay in the systematic reexamination of KNC’s tactics may cause an adjustment disorder similar to any system and phenomena. In fact, ignoring the new system of the region is like ignoring the needs of our people who are working in the grassroots level and can be costly.
Turkey moves towards cultural freedom, while Iraq is moving towards federalism. Although the situation is Iran been bleaker the overall consensus is that the focus should be on Human Rights of Kurds first and foremost. In Syria, the recognition of Kurds as a citizen is one of the most significant issues today. None of these means a derailment from a Free United Kurdistan. Rather these are tactics and diplomatic maneuvering.
During the years after the fall of the Soviet Union, borders were carved up and nations were formed; however, today the international community is not interested in nationalism and state formation, but rather in democratization and standardization of rights. Any deviation from this agenda comes of as extremism.
Unfortunately, in a brief analysis of KNCNA’s work in the past few years, one can see a strong indication of reluctance within the leadership to change tactics. There has been a major sense of resistance to move with the times. KNCNA has been unable to differentiate between the overall strategy of holding on to the slogan and dream of a Free Kurdistan and the need to realistically measure the challenges faced by Kurds under each regime in the region
The danger of not reevaluating our tactics is a continuous isolation of the Kurds in diaspora and subsequently less attention and solidarity from the International community to our cause. Our very small presence in the Armenian Genocide Remembrance day is a perfect example of a tactical mistake on our part. A lack of connection with Greek communities and their lobbies is yet another mistake because they could be extraordinarily important especially when issues of Turkey’s human right abuses are brought up.
If we believe that a Free Kurdistan is not compatible with working with non-Kurdish opposition groups in the Middle East who are fighting and struggling with the same regimes in the region, then we will have a much more difficult battle.
Often pro-democracy opposition fronts of all ethnic groups have the same common goals as Kurds, and we need to build strategic alliances. In order to do this we have to have a presence during critical historical events.
For example, the last 12 months could have been a fantastic opportunity to direct the attention of the International community to the plight of the Kurds in Iran. This opportunity was missed. Unimaginable events swept Iran, which took the international community by surprise. It demanded solidarity from the Kurdish Community in diaspora precisely because Kurds in Iran have suffered the most from the regime in Iran and will need the support of other ethnic groups in Iran in the coming months. Our Kurdish community has been almost entirely absent because they have considered the movements in Iran inconsequential and irrelevant to a Free Kurdistan. This type of mentality is not compatible with 21st century politics and needs to be updated.
As Kurds we have to be honest with ourselves and look at our history critically and analytically. We have been one of the biggest losers of history. Yes, we have been betrayed by world powers in the past and continue to struggle with challenges to be recognized. Yes we lack adequate resources to educate our youth and keep them from being executed. Yes, we have been under oppression and have faced genocide, war, and ethnic cleansing. However, we cannot ignore the very fact that we have also often lacked strong compassionate leadership. We have often lacked the right strategy and tactic. We have done too little too late. We have often been silent when we should have shouted, or not acted when we should have been up in arms. Many times when we should have been at the negotiating tables we were too busy fighting amongst ourselves for power and position. Many times we just simply did not understand the systematic geopolitical, economic, social, and cultural aspects of the times we lived in.
If we do not learn from our history then we are bound to repeat them. The prices of losing opportunities are irreversible. As someone who comes from a family of martyr, who has lost many close relatives to the Kurdish plight, as someone who has spent many long months in prison and many long days in the mountains as well as a refugee, I understand first hand what it means to be a Kurd without a land. I also understand that shouting slogans will not save children from execution. We need diplomacy and strategy, lobbies and resources, leaders and funding, as well as dedication and compassion. Yes we can move KNCNA towards a more pragmatic and mature tactical road-map.
Azad Moradian, Chaeir of Kurdish American Committee for Democracy and Human Rights in Iran.