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Activist Marks 100 Years Since Partition of Kurdish Nation: ‘Cultural Genocide’

By Jake Beardslee · July 28, 2023

Activist Kani Xulam completes 300-mileWashington-to-NYC peace walk to commenorate petitioning of Kurdistan.  Giorgio Galeotti, CC BY 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Kurdish activist Kani Xulam arrived in New York City this week after completing a 24-day, 300-mile solo peace walk from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. to the United Nations HQ in Manhattan. Xulam, who runs the American-Kurdish Information Network, undertook the journey to mark the centenary of the statehood-denying partitioning of Kurdistan into four parts under British and French control after World War I.

Xulam told Democracy Now!, of the sad 100-year plight of the Kurdish people and the infamous partitioning of his people under the Sykes–Picot Agreement. “This was done without the consent of the Kurdish people” he declared. “They were left without a recognized sovereign state. What’s happened since has been called a cultural genocide.”

The international community’s poor treatment of the Kurds has not changed much over the last 100 years, said Xulam, pointing to the controversial deal earlier this year between Turkey and Sweden that requires Sweden to crack down on Kurdish exiles as a condition of its entry into NATO.

“When NATO was conceived, it was supposed to be an alliance for freedom. And Kurds don’t have freedom on top of it. Their language is banned. They’re subjected to cultural genocide,” he asserted.

Reflecting on his peace walk, Xulam drew an analogy to Martin Luther King Jr.’s words on racism in America when he called for structural social change and an honest reassessment of history. “The British, the French, the Turks, the Persians partitioned our homeland. They need to come clean. And they need to reach out to us so that they could live in conscience, in good faith with their children,” he said.

Xulam called on the international community to grant the Kurds independent political status and representation. “To pretend that the Kurds don’t exist is to pretend that the world is flat,” he said. Despite supporting U.S. military efforts in Iraq, the Kurds have yet to receive political recognition from Washington.

After a century of oppression, Xulam remains committed to achieving self-determination for the 40 million Kurds worldwide. “We need political status. We cannot depend on our neighbors who are bent on our destruction. This is a crime against humanity,” he said.

Light Wave commentary

Kani Xulam’s 300-mile peace walk from Washington D.C. to UN headquarters in New York is a powerful act of nonviolent advocacy for the Kurdish people. As we commemorate 100 years since the Kurdish community was shamefully carved into four pieces by the British and French after World War I, Xulam’s call for self-determination has power and resonance. It’s time for the international community to find a way to grant the Kurdish people the self-determination they richly deserve.