JULY 23, 1962
HYDE PARK—One is never too old to learn new things. This I discovered yesterday when a charming gentleman named Dr. Kamuran Ali Bedhir-khan, who represents the Kurdish people living in Iran, asked to come and see me at Hyde Park.
He had sent ahead a petition which he had presented to the U.N. The Kurdish people have a language and culture of their own and consider themselves a nation, but in the complicated situation of the Near East they have been divided up, with part of their people under Turkish rule and part under Iraq and Iran rule. The Kurdish nation consists of 12 million souls inhabiting some 310,000 square miles of mountainous country in the Middle East. They feel they have been discriminated against, because many nations gained recognition and independence and have come into the U.N. in the course of the last few years whereas they have received no recognition. In the Treaty of Sevres of 1920, the family of nations did give recognition to the Kurdish nation and to its autonomous rights. But in later years the political situation of the Near East brought about the split of the Kurdish nation and cancelled their hopes of developing as a whole people. The particular group in Iraq which Dr. Bedhir-khan represents was formally recognized on December 4, 1922 by the United Kingdom and Iraq and given autonomy within the frontiers of Iraq.
It has been the hope of the whole Kurdish people that someday they would be recognized again as one people. After 30 years, however, those in Iraq are simply subjected to the government of Iraq. They hoped, after the revolution of July, 1958 in Iraq, that the new constitution which recognized the national rights of the Kurdish people as being on an equal footing with those of the Arabs would put them in a better position, but these rights were completely ignored. In June, 1961 the Kurdish Democratic party submitted a series of requests to Prime Minister Kassem on the basis of the July, 1958 constitution. The requests concerned schooling, extended use of the Kurdish language, building of roads and the establishment of hospitals and clinics in Kurdish territories.
The Iraqi government, alas, responded by closing down all Kurdish newspapers and by arresting their newspapermen. The Democratic party which had made the request was declared illegal and many of its members were imprisoned. When an effort was made to ask for the release of these prisoners, the response of Prime Minister Kassem was to dispatch two divisions of his army to sack Kurdish towns and villages, and the Kurds say that 50,000 innocent men, women and children have been slain.
Yet the resistance goes on, and it is for this reason that the Kurdish people are appealing to the U.N. They would welcome a committee of inquiry. I imagine, however, that some nation would have to place this whole question before the U.N. and, with the present delicate situation in the whole Near East, I can well understand why all members would be a little hesitant about taking up any new cause that might make more trouble in an area which already has trouble enough.
Many Americans may know little or nothing about the Kurdish people. Supreme Court Justice Douglas in his mountain climbing has come across them and he might tell us a good deal about their present development, but otherwise there are not many in the U.S. who can enlighten us. Hence it seems to me that this is a legitimate area in which a committee of inquiry might serve a very valuable purpose not only for the U.S. but for the world as a whole. It is not a question of military interference or of trying to force upon Iraq any particular course of action. This is simply an effort to acquaint the world of the numerous difficult situations that are bound to arise in the Near East, an area so full of delicate situations that certainly no more are needed.
I want to draw the attention of my readers to a publication called "A Universal United Nations, 15th Report of the Commission To Study the Organization of Peace, Arthur N. Holcombe, Chairman." This is the research affiliate for the American Association for the U.N. and the reports are published about once a year on some one aspect of the U.N. I think this publication will be of particular interest to those interested in the growth of the U.N., and I hope it will be widely read throughout the U.S.