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Kurdish-Israelis Want Representation in Upcoming Conference

As Kurds push towards national unity, in the hope of eventually securing independence, Israel's sizable Kurdish community wants a seat too.
By Ari Soffer
First Publish: 8/19/2013, 9:19 PM

YPG fighter shows Kurdish flag on his gun
YPG fighter shows Kurdish flag on his gun
Reuters

August 24th marks the start of a 3-day conference in Iraqi Kurdistan, which many of the roughly 30 million Kurds worldwide hope will forge a united Kurdish National Congress.

The Kurds are the largest indigenous Middle Eastern nation without a state. Their homeland, Kurdistan, is currently occupied by Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq. However, recent years have seen progress in the Kurdish struggle for self-determination: Kurds in Iraq enjoy autonomy under the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), Kurds in Syria have secured a degree of autonomy in Syria, and Kurds in Turkish-occupied Kurdistan are currently engaged in negotiations for greater rights.

The run up to the conference has been marred by much internal political strife, not least between the KRG and the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), along with its various affiliates. A point of particular contention is over who should control western Kurdistan (in north-eastern Syria).

Nevertheless, the initiative has inspired Kurds throughout the world, who have been fighting, campaigning and hoping for an independent state of their own for at least a century.

At a meeting back in July, it was decided (also amid some controversy) that the congress would be made up of 21 members: six members from Kurdish parties in Turkey, five from the Autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq, four from Syrian Kurdistan (Rojova), five from Iranian-occupied Kurdistan and one member to represent the Kurdish communities in Europe, where the majority of the Kurdish diaspora is located.

Now it seems, some of the members of the Jewish-Kurdish community in Israel would also like a seat at the table.

According to the Bas Kurdish news site a group of Kurdish Jews posted a message on Facebook requesting representation:

 "When we look at the [proposed] Kurdish National Congress, we don't see any Jewish Kurds to represent Jewish Kurds, even though Jewish Kurds, like all other Kurds, are part of Kurdish heritage, history and culture."

The group further noted that there are "over 500 thousands Jewish Kurds" in Israel who still maintain their traditions and feel an affinity to the Kurdish people.

Most Kurds are Sunni Muslims, and the community is known for its moderate and tolerant brand of Islam. But a large Jewish population existed in Kurdistan for many centuries, eventually making aliyah (emigrating to Israel) during the 20th century.