Gramscian Hegemony and International Studies Perspectives on Kurdish National Unity Talks in Syria
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Gramscian Hegemony and International Studies Perspectives on Kurdish National Unity Talks in Syria

Kurdish National Council (KNC) is the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)-baked political party in Rojava, Syria. As it is commonly misperceived, KNC is not necessarily anti-Democratic Union Party (PYD)/People’s Protection Units (YPG) which is Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)-backed political and military force in Rojava. They have never fought against each other, but they are ideologically opposing forces for the fact that KDP and PKK have been in decades-long political competition for hegemony in Kurdish populated territories in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria known as the ‘Great Kurdistan’. On the one hand, PKK is a leftist-radical-revolutionary political party, on the other hand, KDP is a secular-democratic- conservative party. In terms of popularity amongst Kurds regionally and worldwide, PKK is the hegemonic party, but it is still internationally listed as a terrorist organization. Contrary to that, in terms of international recognition and relations, the KDP is the leading Kurdish political party on the international stage. Both sides have the three pillars for hegemony, these being: material capabilities (content), ideology (form), and institutions. 

Ideology wise, PKK is more influential and still in the ‘revolutionary mode’, thus can gain wider range of support from Kurds due to their strive for independence. Nevertheless, in terms of resources or financial resources, KDP is more stable due to the fact that it is the ruling political party in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) having partial access to Iraqi budget along with regional revenues, including selling oil independently. The institutional establishment and capacities can be weighted the same for both political parties. Aside from the fact that they differ in their deeply rooted ideologies, co-opted political parties/minorities, NGOs, and medias within Kurdish societies, both sides have been exercising political and economic powers inside the four mentioned states as well as globally. On the KDP side, through Kurdistan Regional government (KRG), and on the PKK side, through PYD/YPG ruling political party and (para)military force in Rojava’s cantons. Remarking that PYD/YPG are significant segments within Syrian Democratic Council (SDC)/Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). By all means, there is a strong competition between both hegemonic actors. 

The recent talks for unity between Kurdish National Unity parties (parties allied to PYD) and KNC with the presence of SDF commander Mazloum Kobane have left many skeptical, questioning the following two narratives as valid: On the one hand, generally speaking, Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the PKK, sent a message through his lawyer a couple weeks ago addressing the recent political conditions as well as the Coronavirus pandemic. In one part of the message, he emphasized the unity of the Kurdish forces. Building one narrative on that, it can be a major factor that both PYD/PKK and KNC/KDP are trying to find a common ground, promoted by Ocalan’s greenlight. 

What Kurds need the most right now is unity, and the Kurdish political forces are well aware of that fact because the US hegemony and its international institutions are decaying, which can also be translated to the degenerating of the world order and international laws that Kurds could receive some protection from in the past. 

However, building another narrative on the same incident, personally, I have always been skeptical about the credibility of Ocalan’s statements from Imrali (a Turkish prison island, where Ocalan has been held in solitary confinement since 1999) whilst he is highly censored by the Turkish intelligence. The question is: was it really himself who said the Kurds need to unite? Because a trustworthy agreement between PYD/KNC which is translated to a 'real' agreement between PKK/KDP is an agreement that is crucially damaging and threatening to Turkey, Iran, and also Iraq and Syria. Moreover, it is the collusion of two fundamentally different ideologies which may bring about popular dissatisfaction among Kurds and other political parties, in particular the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) because it has strong ties with PKK. In other words, while KDP is PUK’s political rival in KRI, the enemy of PUK’s enemy is about to become its enemy’s friend. Additionally, there lies another worth mentioning element of danger of such an agreement between PKK and KDP. It gives Turkey another “justification” to retaliate PKK in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, thus becoming politically and militarily more dominant in the region. The recent entering of the Turkish Commando forces deep inside Kurdistan Region to attack on PKK bases without the permission of the KRG and the Iraqi Federal Government can give more validity to such a hypothesis. 

While still apprehensive, the negotiations were initiated and held on a US-base in Hasakah which brings some hope for the credibility of such unity and the agenda behind it. Meanwhile, Kurds are the only faithful and reliable ally for the US in the region, but again, the problem is that the US itself is not reliable especially when it is “led” by president Trump. Nonetheless, by analyzing the circumstances, Kurds are the only remaining hope for the US to maintain hegemony in the region. The construction of the largest US consulate complex in the world in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region, demonstrates that fostering support from the Kurds is the last card for the US to play with in the region. In conclusion, it is up to the excellency of the Kurdish political parties and forces to deal with the situation cognizantly based on the fact that they ‘should’ be more well-informed through their networks and intelligence agencies than any researchers or scholars in political and global studies. 

[The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BasNews] 

Arez Barzinjy
Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Law at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani
Studies Master’s Degree in Global Political Economy and Development at University of Kassel, Germany