The politics of Iraqi Kurdistan : towards federalism or secession?

  • Ala Jabar Mohammed

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Scholars of ethnic conflict resolution have suggested various approaches to addressing the ethnic right to self-determination, especially when an ethnic group perceives itself to be a nation. These approaches include autonomy, federation and confederation. One neglected area is whether an ethno-nation feels that one of these institutional designs can accommodate their aspirations or is secession their ultimate goal, especially in an ethnically divided society? For this reason, the politics of Iraqi Kurdistan presents as a particularly interesting case study with which to examine the tension between internal self-determination and secession, and test the utility of one such design, namely, federalism. Since 1992 Iraqi Kurdistan has been in a politically more advantageous position than other parts of Greater Kurdistan in Turkey, Syria and Iran because population has gained an autonomous status. On 5 April 1991,the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 688 setting up the Safe Haven for the Kurds in Iraq by the Allies following the second Gulf War, thus acting to prevent the Kurds from facing an uncertain future. The Kurds used this opportunity to elect their first parliament on 19 May 1992 and to establish the Kurdistan Regional Government. Since 1992 this Kurdish polity has been evolving, but its possible political futures have not been empirically examined in-depth. Thus, this thesis focuses on the issue of the future of Kurds in Iraq. It examines whether the formation of an independent Kurdish state is feasible and plausible. The research involved enquiry into the political views and activities of the Kurdish people in Iraq, asking them about their desired political future for Iraqi Kurdistan and their perceptions of what is feasible. In addition, this study used the researcher’s field observations and data drawn from secondary historical sources to provide a better and more profound understanding of Iraqi Kurdistan’s political futures. It was found that while Kurds considered themselves to comprise an ethno-nation and be entitled to nation-statehood, most people believed that autonomy within Iraq is the most feasible future. Further inquiry into the nature of this autonomy found that the pluralist type of federalism was seen as the most preferred and feasible political arrangement to address the question of Kurdish self-determination in Iraq.
    Date of Award2013
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMark Turner (Supervisor) & Chris Roberts (Supervisor)

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