Kurdish President Masoud Barzani
Kurdish President Masoud BarzaniAzad Lashkari/Reuters

Speaking on the 100th anniversary of the Sykes-Picot Agreement last week, President of the Iraqi Kurdistan, Masoud Barzani, declared that the old Middle East created by European imperialism was dead – and that an independent Kurdish state must be part of the emerging new order.

Referring to the secret arrangement by the Allied Powers in World War I to divide the Middle East into “spheres of influence”, Barzani blasted the Sykes-Picot Agreement, saying that it denied the rights of the inhabitants and carved up populations with arbitrary lines. The agreement served as the basis for the establishment of the modern states of Syrian, Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan.

“Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Sykes-Picot agreement. This agreement led to the carving up of the region following the First World War, disregarding the opinion of the peoples of the region and of the geographical reality in the region. It was a great injustice on the peoples of the region, especially the Kurds.”

"The consequences of this agreement were first and foremost detrimental to the people of Kurdistan in the state of Iraq. An Iraqi state that was originally established to be based on partnership between Kurds and Arabs, in fact decided to marginalize the Kurds. Successive Iraqi regimes have since denied Kurds their rights and have committed great tragedies against the Kurdish people.”

While the divisions established in the Sykes-Picot Agreement have held for a century, Barzani claims that the new reality of Islamic terrorism has effectively rendered the boundaries of states like Syria and Iraq null and void.

“In Iraq, in Syria, and many other countries, Daesh has rendered borders meaningless, and new borders have been created. The people of Kurdistan are not responsible for this in Iraq. The responsibility lies with those who carved up the region one hundred years ago, and with the flawed policies of the rulers of the region who have wanted to maintain stability by the use of force, violence, and oppression. In this, they have failed.”

With a new order emergent, Barzani called for Kurdish statehood and an end to international efforts to prop up the Iraqi state as it now exists.

“We must acknowledge the new realities; citizenship has not been developed; borders and sovereignty have become meaningless, the Sykes-Picot agreement is over. The international community must shoulder this historical responsibility and instead of insisting on the continuation of the suffering of the people of Iraq, they must seek a real solution for Iraq and the region. Otherwise, we are destined for continued war, extremism, and tragedy, and international peace and security will be under threat.”

“If political parties in the Kurdistan Region, for whatever reasons, decide not to shoulder this historic responsibility to act, the people will make their decision, and the people’s decision will be stronger and more legitimate. I am confident that the people of Kurdistan will make the right decision.”