The Kurdish Issue in the Middle East

2 years agoJournals

By Hawre Hasan Hama

This research discusses the English school in International Relations as an approach to explain the Kurdish question in the Middle East from a justice vs order perspective. The term English school was first used in the 1970s to describe a group of British writers and those whom they influenced. The principal authors in this school of thought are Hedly Bull, Martin Wight, John Vincent, Adam Watson, Robert Jackson, Tim Donnelly, Nicholas Wailer and Barry Buzan. The English school standpoint is a different and systematic vantage point in international relations that is accepted in modern International relations theory. However, in the 1980s, the English school was not as influential as the theories of realism and liberalism were dominant in international relations academic circles. More recently, the English school has become so prominent and widely-accepted that the majority of its modern writers are neither British and do not reside in Britain (Burchill et al, 2013). The central argument of the English school is that its proponents also accept that the character of the international system is anarchic, in the sense that there is no global government. However, they also argue for the existence of an international society. Proponents of the English school argue that even though the international community lacks an international governing body, sovereign states were successful in establishing an international society in which all sovereign states are equal. The school has attracted its students through its idea that the international system maintains a high level of order and stability and low levels of violence between states at a time when the character of the international system is anarchic and lacks an international government. Furthermore, the school’s followers point to the levels of violence, fear and uncertainty, and the lack of trust which come about in genuinely democratic and stable societies when their governments collapse. Hence, they argue that significant anarchy can result from the collapse of a government; however, they further argue that this is not a character of the international system as there is not an international government (Daddow, 2017). While the school is united on the existence of an international society, they are divided on this subject of justice and order. The first branch of the school is known as the pluralist school. The pluralists reject the notion of military interventionism as it impacts global stability negatively. However, the second branch, known as the Solidarist School, supports justice and military interventionism over international stability.
Hence, the central questions of this research are: How does the English school explain the Kurdish question in the Middle East? Can the English school explain the insecurity and sufferings experienced by the Kurdish society in the Middle East?  Why the Kurds are still stateless and systematically oppressed by the four nation-states that they reside? The answer to these questions in the perspective of the English school is that the international society has supported order over justice to keep the stability of the Middle East. In other words, this research argues that the international community only dealt with the Kurdish case through the prism of justice in 1991 by establishing a no-fly-zone over the region. However, this was because, at the time, such action did not challenge international order and stability. In all other cases in which the Kurds have needed assistance from the international community, their needs have always been ignored and have supported the unity of the states that the Kurds inhabit (Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Syria).

The English school: Between realism and liberalism
The neorealist theory of international relations assumes that the international system is characterized by anarchy as there is no higher authority that can enforce the rules and regulations governing the relations between states (Waltz, 2000). As a result, for realists, this character of the international system enforces states to engage in a self-help system. They argue that in such a system that lacks a central authority to guarantee states protection from one another, the only guarantee of survival is to gain power and being powerful in terms of military (Mearsheimer, 2007). Hence, for realists, that is the character of the international system that influences the actions of actors within it, not the specific characteristics of different states, for example, their individual political systems or ideologies (Hobson, 2000). Similarly, members of the English School are agreed with realists that the international system is characterized by anarchy, in the sense that no higher authority exists to govern relations between nations. However, they also argue for the existence of an international community. According to Hedly Bull, one of the founders of the English school, states exist in an environment which lacks a central or higher authority on the international level that can govern the actions of actors within it.
Contrasting the realist view are the liberalists and neoliberals. Both the liberalists and neoliberals also believe that the international system is defined by anarchy; however, they reached a different conclusion to that reached by the realist school of thought. The liberals believed that competition is not a permanent characteristic of international relations and does not need to be regarded as such. The initial liberalists, also known as the classical liberals, argued for the need to spread democracy and good governance as a solution to the problem of war and competition on the international level. However, liberal theory following the Second World War focused on the importance of creating international organisations and international establishments. They argued that such organisations and establishments could aid the reduction of the negative impact of anarchy.
The works of Hedley Bull is influenced by both the realist and the liberal school of thought in international relations. From the realist school, Bull derived the notion that states are the main actors in international relations and that they exist in an anarchic environment. In this respect, to understand international relations, Bull accepts the importance of anarchy in international relations. However, Bull is also influenced by the liberal theories of international relations. He believes that international relations consist of numerous states who are aware of several mutual interests and values. As such, he argues that these states have established an international community that follows set customs and norms in their relations with one another, He also argued that they share several international institutions. By observing his argument, we are confronted by a number of terms in Bull’s works that have been borrowed from the liberal schools of thought. These terms include, mutual interest, shared values, community, rules and regulations, shared and shared involvement and establishments. 
The only difference between Bull and the liberal schools of thought is the term international community. Bull believed that modern states had created a state system, which they will continue to develop. Moreover, he also thought that they had created an international community. Proponents of the English School believe that states create an international society that is shaped by shared thinking, values, identities and norms and that this society belongs to all states .
Bull has the same understanding of the state as the realists and liberals; however, he does not agree with either school of thought on understanding state behaviour. Bull places great importance on the subject of diplomacy and state diplomats. Bull believed that the world view and understandings of those individuals who make the foreign policy of respective states play a significant impact on the international system. In contrast to the neorealist, such as Waltz, Bull does not believe that it is the structure of the international system that influences state behaviour in a top-down manner. Instead, he argues for a complex interplay of relations between the international system and the states within it. Hence, he argues that just as the international system influences state behaviour, likewise state behaviour and actions affect the international system (Dunne, 2010).

The English School in International Relations
The English School’s theory of international relations is recognised as the “third debate”. Its terms such as ‘international society’, ‘order’, and ‘justice’ provided for the foundations of this school of thought and distinguished it from the realist and liberal schools of thought in international relations. Hence, here we will provide a thorough explanation of these terms. First, we will begin with an explanation of the term ‘international society’, an element in the English School’ a theory with universal agreement. Along with their belief that states exist in an anarchic environment, in the sense that no higher authority governs the interactions between states, Bull and Watson describes the international community in the following was:
“we mean a group of states (or, more generally, a group of independent political communities) which not merely form a system, in the sense that the behaviour of each is a necessary factor in the calculations of the others, but also have established by dialogue and consent common rules and institutions for the conduct of their relations, and recognize their common interest in maintaining these arrangements” (1984, 1).
Tim Dunne has interpreted this definition as follows: The first key element of international society is the unique character of the membership that is confined to sovereign states. What is significant here is that actors both claim sovereignty and recognise one another’s right to the same prerogatives. Clearly, the act of mutual recognition indicates the presence of a social practice: recognition is fundamental to an identity relationship. Recognition is the first step in the construction of an international society. If we were to doubt for a moment the social nature of the process of recognition, then this would quickly be dispelled by those peoples in history who at some time have been or continue to be denied membership of the society of states. The history of the expansion of international society is a story of a shifting boundary of inclusion and exclusion. China was denied sovereign statehood until January 1942, when Western states finally renounced the unequal treaties. Why was this the case? Membership became defined, particularly in the nineteenth century, by a “standard of civilisation” that set conditions for internal governance that corresponded with European values and beliefs. What we see here is how important cultural differentiation has been to the European experience of international society. China was not recognised as a legitimate member of international society, and, therefore, was denied equal membership. If the West and China did not recognise each other as equal members, then how should we characterise their relations? Here we see how the system–society dynamic can usefully capture historical boundaries of inclusion and exclusion. There was a great deal of “interaction” between China and the West during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but this was driven by strategic and economic logic. Crucially, neither side believed itself to be part of the same shared values and institutions: China, for example, long resisted the presence of European diplomats on its soil along with their claim to extraterritorial jurisdiction, which has been a long-standing rule among European powers. In the absence of accepting the rules and institutions of European international society, it makes sense to argue that from the Treaty of Nanking in 1843 to 1942 China was part of the system of the state but was not a member of international society. Here, through a number of examples, we will explain the difference between the international community and the international system (Stivachtis, 2018).
Relations among the European states reflected the existence of a European international society, while relations between the European states and the Ottoman Empire reflected the existence of an international system. Likewise, the interaction among the European Union’s member states demonstrates the existence of an international society, while the interaction of the European Union itself with Turkey (a non-member) describes interaction within a broader European international system. These interactions represent the existence of an international system because the European Union is not a member of the European Union (Dunne, 2010).
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, international society came to be regarded as a privileged association of European and ‘civilised’ states, which had visible expression in certain institutions such as international law, diplomacy and the balance of power. There was a sense that European powers were bound by a code of conduct in their dealings with one another and that this code did not apply in their dealings with other societies. In the Nineteenth-century a cultural duality was perpetuated between Europeans and non-Europeans and between ‘civilised’ and ‘non- civilised’ peoples. The distinction was that ‘civilised’ states were those that protected basic human rights and harboured an internal system of legal codes that would maintain equality among their respective populations. State’s that did not meet these requirements were described as uncivilised or ‘barbarous’. As the European international society spread over the world, many non-European states sought to join the international society. Thus, the European states needed to define the conditions under which non- European political entities would be admitted. The result was the establishment of a standard of ‘civilisation’, which reflected the norms of the liberal European civilisation. In respect to International institutions, Hedley Bull writes:
“States collaborate with one another, in varying degrees, in what may be called the institutions of international society: the balance of power, international law, the diplomatic mechanism, the managerial system of the great powers, and war. By an institution, we do not necessarily imply an organisation or administrative machinery, but rather a set of habits and practices shaped towards the realisation of common goals. These institutions do not deprive states of their central role in carrying out the political functions of international society or serve as a surrogate central authority in the international system. They are rather an expression of the element of collaboration among states in discharging their political functions–and at the same time a means of sustaining this collaboration (Bull, 2012, p.71).  Generally, it can be argued that the English School believed international institutions are made up of the following: diplomacy, war, power balance, superpower agreement, international law, intervention, the right to self-determination, non-favouritism, human rights and political lines. According to Barry Buzan, weak modern institutions are made up of the United Nations General Assembly, conferences, embassies, United Nations Security Council, international protocols and international agreements (Buzan, 2002). Membership of international society has security implications in and of itself, not necessarily guaranteeing survival, but giving some protection against being treated as a terra nullius whose inhabitants can be treated as non-human (Buzan, 2004).
After rightful membership, the next consideration involves thinking about what this membership means. The English School argues that states act through the medium of their representatives or office-holders. Every state employs officials who act externally on its behalf, meaning diplomats through to heads of state are the international representatives of the state. This is the original sense in which the term “international society” came into existence in the eighteenth century. Hence, if we are looking for the real agents of international society, then it is to the diplomatic culture that we must look, that realm of ideas and beliefs shared by representatives of states (Dunne, 2010).

The Solidarism compared to the Pluralism - Order vs Justice in the English School.
Proponents of the solidarist branch of the English School argue that solidarism is a character of international politics at the point of Westphalia agreements. For this branch of the English School international order and stability is more important than protecting human rights. When international society is focused on protecting justice rather than order, instability and conflict become more likely in the international system. For proponents of solidarism, the international society came into being based on the principle of accepting state solidarism in an anarchic environment. All states establish their own political communities and have the right to choose their own values and norms. These values and norms change from state to state as they are the product of the internal politics of states. Moreover, competition over these values is expected. States may not agree on the meaning of justice, but they can concur about how to maintain order among themselves. Most agree that each state should respect the sovereignty of the others and observe the principle of non-intervention. For proponents of this branch of the English School, the aim of the international society is to protect the sovereignty of states in order to preserve international stability and order. Order is defined as “respecting the sovereignty and independence of states. Protecting peace between states and non-interference in the affairs of other states. Furthermore, promoting the needs of the state over humanitarian needs.” In essence, the requirements and needs of the state must be put before humanitarian needs (Burchill et al, 2013).
The second perspective in the English School of international relations is that of its pluralist wing. This perspective promoted a Kantian/liberal understanding of international relations. The perspective of the pluralists argues that individuals or humans are the subject of international relations and are equal members of the international society (Stivachtis, 2018).
For this understanding, humans must have basic human rights. Hence, the pluralists argue that a central obligation of international society is protecting human rights. If a state can not provide these rights to its citizens, it is an obligation of the international society to interfere militarily in the affairs of the given state to protect the human rights in that jurisdiction. This branch promotes justice over order. This branch defines order as: “the protection of citizens by the state and state power, respecting human rights, the existence of the right of intervention to protect the human rights. In contrast to the solidarist approach, the pluralist approach argues that human needs should be treated as being more important than the needs of the state.” The central reason for this is that the pluralist approach viewer humans as members of the international community and the subject of international politics. Hence, it supports military intervention to protect human rights internationally. Wailer, one of the founders of the pluralist approach, argues: “Intervention by force might be the only means of enforcing the global humanitarian norms that have evolved in the wake of the Holocaust. But this fundamentally challenges the established principles of non-intervention and non-use of force.” However, for such intervention to be suitable and beneficial, it must meet a number of conditions, which are discussed more robustly in just war theory (Wheeler, 2000).

Order vs Justice
Order is defined as “the nature and characteristic of the international society that defends the basic objectives of the community of states (which is mutual respect for sovereignty).” The international order is mutually protected through international laws and modern international establishments such as the balance of power, diplomacy, international treaties and laws. Proponents of the English School, principles such as sovereignty, interference in the internal affairs of other states, and not using force are requirements to protect international peace and security (a form of order). Proponents of the English school believe that attempting to achieve justice, which is a concept in humanitarian intervention, is a threat to the preservation of order. Robert Jackson, one of the prominent thinkers within the English School, argues: “importance to respect the diversity of state norms and values, in order to safeguard international order. Instead of attempting to establish justice, which demands the protection of human rights, which were constructed by the UN and are based on western values. Western leaders have no right to place themselves above international society, so long as respect for state sovereignty remains the universal standard of international conduct. Pluralists further elaborate, that sovereignty bears more benefits to states and its citizens, than does democracy (precisely, democratisation process which is imposed or exported from outside).” In short, we can summarise our understanding of order as follows: the protection of global peace and security is more important than the protection of human rights, and humanitarian intervention, the order in itself is a higher objective, even higher than the protection of human rights. States can easily reach agreements over order; however, it is difficult for the same states to be agreed on the issues of justice and the protection of human rights internationally. Even more than this, it is sovereignty and not the humans that make states equal members of the international community.

In contrast to the pluralists, the solidarists emphasize the importance of attempting to protect justice. The meaning of justice in this context is the opposite of the meaning of order. Justice emphasises the idea that humans are equal members in the global community, and that states and state sovereignty are tools to protect humans, which it deems a higher value.  Advocates of the solidarist branch of the English School believe that when a state “fails to uphold its obligations to protect and provide security for its citizens”, that state forgoes its sovereignty. As a result, it becomes an obligation for the international community to conduct humanitarian intervention to protect the citizens of that state. Moreover, solidarists argue that the state is the representative of the people if it can’t uphold this role it loses its legitimacy and can no longer be considered the representative of the people. As a result, solidarists believe that in the event of severe abuse of human rights, it is incumbent on the international community to intervene on the basis of humanitarianism and put justice before order. (Ukhurgunashvili, 2014)

The Kurdish problem from the perspective of the English School in International Relations
The international communities treatment of the Kurds based on the principle of order rather than justice: the end of the Second World War until the end of the Cold War:
In this section, we will attempt to analyze the Kurdish question following the end of the First World War until the end of the Cold War, in the context of the theory of the English School outlined in the sections above. For proponents of the English School, the end of the First World War is a clear marking point of when the new international community was created. In this new international community, the Kurds failed to achieve membership. The 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement, 1920 Severs agreement and the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne ultimately divided the Kurds between four states, which were Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. As a result, the Kurds were prevented from becoming a member of the international community (Delan, 2006). Since the end of the Second World War until the end of the Cold War, the international community has continuously dealt with the Kurds through the principle of order rather than justice. Based on the theory proposed by the English School, the protection of order required the international community to protect the sovereignty of its member states and not to intervene in the internal affairs of one another. In contrast, the protection of justice requires members of the international community to intervene in the internal affairs of other states that do not protect the fundamental basic human rights or those that abuse human rights. In the period between the end of the Second World War until the end of the Cold War, the international community has been motivated to accept the international agreements and treaties that divided the Kurdish people when dealing with the Kurds so that it could protect international order and regional stability. Therefore, in this period, the international community has continuously seen fit to follow non-intervention principle and respect for the sovereignty of Iran, Turkey, Syria and Iraq when dealing with the Kurds. The international community has put this as more important than protecting the Kurds from oppression and grave humanitarian abuses that were committed by each host state. The international communities rejection of Kurdish dissatisfaction and failure to support the newly created Kurdish liberation movement, which was created in opposition to this division of the Kurdish people and in support of their demand for the right for self-determination and independence is a clear example of the international community choosing to pursue the principle of order in the international system when dealing with the Kurds. The Second World War changed the balance of power in the region; the Soviet Union played an important role and was a great supporter of the Kurds during this period.
In 1946 the Kurdistan Republic of Mahabat was established in Eastern Iran under the leadership of Qazi Mohammed, however, members of the international community, in particular, the Soviet Union dropped their support for the new fledgeling republic in favour of the Iranian state, causing it to collapse (Roosevelt, 1947). In the period following the Second World War, Kurdish liberation movements sprouted in Iran, Turkey and Iraq to demand the national rights of the Kurds. These movements came about as a reaction to the oppressive policies of their host states towards the Kurdish identity more widely. However, once again, the international community attempted to pursue the protection or intentional order by continuing its respect for the sovereignty of these states rather than showing support for the Kurdish case (Gunter, 1992). In the 1980s, the poor treatment of the Kurds by their host states reached its peak with the Kurds of Iraq facing a wave of massacre and genocide. The Iraqi government of the period, led by the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein carried out the Anfal Campaign and the Halabja massacre, two campaigns of systematic killings against the Iraqi Kurds. The Anfal camping saw between 100,000 and 182,000 Kurdish civilians displaced, while the Halabja campaign saw 5,000 killed in minutes. However, the international community continued to pursue order rather than justice when dealing with the case of the Kurds. As a result, in this period, the Kurdish people became one of the biggest sacrifices to the international community’s adherence to the principle of order in international relations (CHAK, eds. 2007).

The post-Cold War period: the creation of the southern Kurdistan safe zone - a case for justice over order
The defeat of the Iraqi army in February 1991 at the hands of the international coalition led by the United States resulted in a popular internal uprising against the Iraqi regime. The uprising was divided into two camps - the uprising of Iraq’s Shi’a population in the south and the uprising of the Kurds in the north. At the end of March 1991, the Iraqi forces were able to destry the uprisings in Iraq’s south and retake control of much of the territory they had lost to the uprisings in the north. As a result of the Iraqi army’s push into the Kurdish territories, much of the Kurdish population in those territories were left with no choice but to flee towards the Iranian and Turkish borders (Al-Jabbar, 1992). In April 1991, the United Nations Security Council passed resolution 688, which condemned the Iraqi actions against the civilian Iraqi Shia and Kurdish populations. In early April, Turkey, France, and Iran made their cases in support of the Kurds at the United Nations Security Council, leading to the United Nations passing resolution 688 (Malanczuk, 1991). As a result of the resolution, a safe zone was established in northern Iraq, allowing for the establishment of the Kurdistan Region. Hence, according to the English School, it can be argued that the decision taken against the Iraqi state, which was the single biggest threat to the Kurds of Iraq, to establish a safe zone over northern Iraq is a case for justice; however, this case is not necessarily against order. It is a case for justice in that it was a moral decision by the international community to protect innocent Kurdish civilians against a barbaric regime. Moreover, it was an action taking to preserve human rights over the sovereignty of Iraq, a state that had long failed in its obligations to “provide human security”. Instead, the Iraqi state itself became the source of insecurity to the Iraqi citizenry, which included the Kurds.
Nevertheless, it can also be argued that this was not necessarily a case against order. While it is correct that the action taken by the international community was in effect interference in the affairs of another sovereign state and member of the international community, but the decision ultimately had the support of the international community and the majority of the states in the Middle East. First, the decision was taken by the United Nations Security Council; and second, Iraq’s neighbours, in particular, Iran and Turkey, supported the decision. Therefore, this decision did not result in the collapse of peace and security in the region; instead, the decision freed the Kurdish population for Iraqi rule to a great extent. However, it is also important to note, that Iraqi Kurdistan’s demand for independence was rejected by the international community at that point in history. Accepting that demand would have resulted in the collapse of regional order as Turkey, Syria and Iran were strongly against such action and met regularly during the period to prevent such an outcome. Therefore, the international community has no choice but to reject Iraqi Kurdish demands for independence during that period. This is evident in a speech by Massoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, when he returned from his trip to Turkey and other European Countries in March 1992, in which he said: “the state of the world today is such that it will not allow any change in the region’s borders and is against any division”. He went on to say: “It is for this reason that the Kurds cannot swim against the tide in the international community. […] We must accept the current state of the world and accept that there is a great gap between what we want to achieve and what we can achieve” (Gunter, 1993, P.300).

The Iraqi Kurdistan Independence Referendum on 25th September 2017
On 6th June 2017, the leadership of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq with the presence of fifteen Kurdish political parties met under the leadership of Massoud Barzani, the then president of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and decided on holding an independence referendum in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and the Iraqi disputed territories. Not only did the international community stand against the proposal, but they also actively met with the Iraqi Kurdish leadership to persuade them to postpone the referendum. However, the Kurdish leadership was determined to hold the poll on 25th September 2017 without taking into consideration the concerns of the international community (Hama & Abdullah, 2019). After the poll was conducted and the Kurds voted overwhelmingly (92.7 percent) for independence for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (Sangar,eds. 2017), the international community rejected the validity of the poll and refused to support the Kurds (Kaplan, 2019). According to the English School, it can be argued that the international community’s rejection of the poll and its result is a reflection of its deep determination to maintain the region order. It is evident that Iran, Turkey and Iraq were strongly opposed to the holding of the referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan. Turkey and Iran saw the poll as a security threat to their respective states, while Iraq views the poll as a threat to the territorial integrity and unity of the Iraqi state. As a result, at this juncture, the internal community believed the preservation of order (respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Iraqi state, respecting the concern of Iraq’s neighbours, and assessing that in respect to the interests of the international community these concerns outweighed their interests with the Kurds) was more important than respecting the decision of the referendum and allowing the Kurds to separate from the Iraqi state. As such, the international community was not prepared to support the Kurdish referendum and respect its result. In the perspective of the term order, supporting the Kurds would have led to a destabilisation in the region’s peace and security. Therefore, the international community was unable to deal with the Kurdish will for independence based on the principle of justice. The international communities sidelining of justice, in this case, was expected as accepting the result of the referendum equates to disrespecting the sovereignty of Iraq and the three other Middle Eastern nations that host Kurdish populations. By taking into consideration the deep reservations of Turkey, Iran and Iraq over the Kurdish referendum, we can argue that had the international community accepting the result of the Kurdish referendum; then it would have further destabilised the already fragile Middle East. As a result, the peace and security of the region would have come under threat as Turkey, Iran and Iraq were prepared to take any and all measures to prevent the emergence of an independent Kurdish state in the region. This was evident in the days after the referendum was held when the three countries agreed on imposing economic sanctions on the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (Hama, 2020).

The Syrian Kurds: Order over Justice
The Syrian civil war that began in 2011 as a result of the Arab Spring-inspired protests saw the retreat of its weakened Syrian regime from many of its territories in the country. In the power vacuum that followed the Syrian Kurds were able, for the first time in Syrian history, able to express their Kurdish identity through the establishment of an independent canton in the country. In 2016, the Kurdish political leadership in Syria, along with other rebel groups in the country, was able to establish a model for Syrian federalism in the territories that they controlled. The aim of the Kurds was to create a decentralised power structure along with the Arabs, Turkmen, Yezidis and Christians in these territories as a counter-model to the decades’ old regime model of centralised and authoritarian power in Syria. However, the international community rejected this press for a federal Kurdish state in Syria (Bengio, 2017). Here, based on the English School, this stance by the international community is more to preserve order than justice. Justice would have required the international community to accept the model of Kurdish self-governance in Syria and not to respect the sovereignty of Syria. For the international community accepting order over justice, in this case, was deemed more important than justice as any attempt to support a just outcome would have resulted in further destabilisation of order. The international community is well versed on Turkey’s concerns over the Kurdish desire for self-determination in Syria. Hence, any steps by the international community to push for a just outcome for the Kurds in Syria would likely have brought with-it a further degradation of order in the country and in the wider Middle East. The international communities dealing of the Kurds through order has resulted in the Syrian Kurds feeling insecure due to the Turkish attacks on them, since 2016, Turkey has conducted three separate military operations against the Syrian Kurds. The first was the Turkish military operation code-named the ‘Euphrates Shield’ in 2016; the second, code-named “Operation Olive Branch” in 2018; and the last code-named “Operation Peace Spring” in 2019. In short, from the perspective of the English School, we can argue that the international community dealt with the issue of the Syrian Kurds through the principle of order and not justice. For the principle of justice to have been utilised, the international community would have had to support the Kurdish administration in Syria. Furthermore, the international community would have had to take action to prevent the Turkish military operation against the Syrian Kurds, which ultimately caused the death of thousands of civilians and displaced many more. However, it is clear that in this case, the international community deemed it more important to deal with the issue through the principle of order rather than implementing justice. In the case of the Syrian Kurds, the principle of order demanded that the concerns of Turkey, Iran and Syria over the regions Kurds be taken into consideration and for their respective sovereignties to be respected. There is no doubt, had Turkey and other states in the region not been against the position of the Syrian Kurds then the international community would have accepted independence for the Syrian Kurdish administration (Reuters, eds,2019).

The English school of international relations is lies between the liberal and realists schools of thought. Through terms such as international community, international institutions, order and justice, this school has participated significantly in academia’s understanding of International Relations. This research provided a background into the ideas and thoughts presented by the English school. It followed this by applying its ideas to the case of the Kurds in the Middle East and reached the conclusion that the Kurds are not viewed as a part of members of the international community as only sovereign states have the privilege of being equal members of the international community. As a result, Kurdish desires and pushes for independence have been sacrificed by the international community in favour of the territorial integrity of the sovereign states which host the regions Kurdish population. In other words, the international community has always dealt with the Kurds in a manner that preserves order in the international community, rather than through justice. To achieve this, the international community has often turned a blind eye to oppression, massacres and genocide committed against the regions Kurdish population by Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Syria, their host states.
While there is an argument to suggest the creation of a safe haven in northern Iraq in 1991 was an example of the international community dealing with the Kurds through the principle of justice, there is a counter-argument, as discussed, that this can also be seen through the perspective of order.
For over a century the international community has dealt with the Kurds of the Middle East through the principle of order by continuing to uphold the original international treaties that divided the Kurdish people and territory against their will between the nation-states of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Hence, for as long as these states maintain positions against Kurdish independence in the region and for as long as the international community deals with the Kurdish case through the principle of order the Kurds will continue to be stateless. Having said this, it is possible to find a compromise between the principles of order and justice, if the example of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq is anything to go by. Other Kurdish populations can follow this model and achieve semi-autonomy while the states that host them maintain their sovereignty.

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