n.Eric jensenPoli. Sci. (Third World Politics)11/27/96Since 1984, and especially the last few months, the domestic problems of amajor N.A.T.
O, Middle Eastern, and American ally state have come to theforefront of the international news scene. That state is the Republic of Turkeyand it’s primary troubles stem from the past seven decades of acrimoniouspolicies directed at the indigenous ethnic Kurds. The main problem, now, is theKurdish popular insurgency on it’s hands, in Turkish occupied Northern Kurdistan.The Kurdish question has long been covered up and denied by the state of Turkey,but recent events has forced Turkey to concede that it has a serious Kurdishinsurgency on its hands. Turkey’s inability to deal with this situation is theresult of the past seventy years of cultural, political, and human rightsabuses directed against the Kurdish population. In fact, this “separatism” is soout of hand that the Turkish government has incessantly appealed to it’s alliesand advisories alike to help counter the escalating Kurdish asperation tosucceed from the Turkish republic.
Turkey’s sputtering and deteriorating economyis directly related to the long Kurdish struggle for independence. Turkey hasspent over eight billion dollars or twenty percent of her GDP to combat the everdeteriorating predicament in northern Kurdistan, and should spend more in thefuture(Laber). Because of the violence, the once prosperous tourist business ofTurkey, has now lost about $1.5 billion dollars annually since 1990.
Many peoplenow talk openly of another possible military coup, there were three majormilitary coups during the last thirty years (Alister) These circumstances in thestate of Turkey have also hurt her chances of ever joining the ever wealthyEuropean Union and battering its ailing economic situation. The depth ofTurkey’s domestic and ethnic dilemma is one of the many that have arisen afterthe end of the cold war, yet the cold war is a simple answer to a much morecomplex one. The factors that have arisen to contribute to this civil war werecreated far before Capitalism versus Communism, East versus West, or U.S versusthe Soviet Union. In order to really comprehend the holistic situation inTurkey one must first be familiar with the complete history of the Turks andKurds.The Kurds of Turkey constitutes, by far, the largest ethnic minority group inTurkey.
The estimate of their population, however, are very dubious because ofthe past Turkish policy to deny the very existence of any minorities within theborders of her state. In fact, past Turkish rhetoric has been that there is noofficial Kurdish problem in Turkey, because officially no Kurds exist. We canascertain that the kurds make up between twenty-five and thirty-three percentof the Turkey’s population. This would put the Kurdish population about twelveto twenty million (Morris).
Because of past and present forced Turkishassimilation practices, the Kurds live in all parts of the country, but most ofthe Kurdish population is concentrated in the southeastern part of Turkey. Theyrepresent a high percentage of the population in fifteen provinces and take up atotal of thirty percent of all of Turkey (Kendal). Economically, the Kurds arethe poorest inhabitants of the country. The per capita of a Kurd is one-tenth ofa Turk living in Istanbul; well below the poverty line (McDowell). While therest of Turkey has modernized and adopted some capitalistic practices, theKurdish areas, by contrast, are underdeveloped and exploited by feudal landlords.The wealth of the area is “drained and channeled to the Turkish metropolis(Kendal).” Much of the region is relatively unchanged since the last seventyyears of Turkish rule or has suffered even worse economically.
The thirtymillion Kurds of the Middle East have lived in Kurdistan before record of modernhistory was kept. The very first mention of the Kurds in history was about 3,000BC, under the name Gutium., as they fought the Summerians(Spieser). Later around800 BC, the Indo-European Median tribes settled in the Zagros mountain regionand coalesced with the Gutiums, and thus the modern Kurds speak from as Aryanlanguage (Morris). The Kurds are mentioned by Xenaphon, a Greek mercenary, as heretreated from Persia with ten thousand men in 401 BC, he says of the Kurds,”These people, lived in the mountains and were very war-like and not subject tothe Persian king. Indeed once a royal army of 120,000 thousand had once invadedtheir country, and not a man of them came back.
.(Morris).” When the Arabs spreadIslam to the Middle East in the seventh century, most of the Kurds graduallyadopted the religion but fiercely resisted Arab rule, much like today in modernday Iraq and Syria. This is evident in a legend about the prophet Mohammed;when the prophet called all the princes of the world to embrace the new religion,they all hurried to submit to the prophet of the new religion. When the Prophetsaw the Kurdish representative, named Zemin, with his giant size and piercingeyes, the prophet prayed to God that such a terrifying people never unite as asingle nation (Morris).
Around the tenth century the Kurds became a militaryforce to be reckoned with in the Middle East and defended Islam against theinvading Christian crusaders and defeated the Mongolian armies at both Cerq DeChavalier and the fortress of Irbile. Saladine, and the majority of his troopswere Kurdish (Safrastian). The Kurds established independent principalities,that never united, but often fought each other for the benefit of foreign powers.During the harsh reign of Shah Ismail in Persia, most of the Kurds who wereSunni Muslims, allied themselves with the Ottoman Sultan Selim “the Cruel” andplayed the pivotal part in defeating the Persian armies at Chaldiran in 1514,and thus most of the Kurds in Iran are still Sunni Muslims among a predominatelyShiite majority.
The Kurdish principalities, at this time were free from thecentral government and struck their own coinage and had Friday prayers in thename of the local prince (Morris). At that point of Kurdish history Kurdishculture and literature flourished. This lasted until the nineteenth centurywhen the Ottoman empire tried to expand its rule into the Kurdish territories.Using the tool of divide and conquer, the Ottamans use Kurdish tribes to fightfellow Kurds. Though, the Ottoman government gained nominal control of theKurdish areas, they were never able to establish direct rule(McDowell). DuringWorld War One, many Kurds actually remained loyal to the Empire.
They foughtbravely in many battles. The Kurds inflicted such heavy damages against theTsarist government that they almost conceded to evacuating the entire Caucusregion. Some historians also suggest, they were eighty percent of the Ottomancasualties at the infamous battle of Galilopi (Gunter). During the war the YoungTurk government, in pursuit of a purely Turkic empire, massacred more then onemillion Armenians and seven hundred thousand Kurds. After the Ottoman loss, theEmpire collapsed and was on the verge of fragmentation when a young army officerby the name of Mustafa Kemal emerged on the scene.
Following the fatal defeat of the Ottoman empire after World War one, theremnants of the former empire were divided up among the victorious allied powers,even the Turkish speaking region were to come under the mandate of foreignadministration. In fact, much of Anatolia was already occupied by Greek orArmenian forces. On August 10, 1920, Turkey and the allied powers signed thetreaty of Sevres. This treaty allowed for the creation of an independentKurdish and Armenian state on the remittance of the former Ottoman empire. Thistreaty was to become null and void. Around the same time the Serves treaty wasbeing discussed, Mustafa Kemal gained power of what remained of the military andpolitical infrastructure in Anatolia. Kemal, starting in the Kurdish region andproclaiming the unity of Turks and Kurds, organized resistance to the Armenianand Georgian forces in eastern Anatolia.
These forces were defeated by almostentirely Kurdish armies, who thought they were fighting for a state where,”Turks and Kurds would live as brothers and as equals (Kendal)” as stated byMustafa Kemal. However, after the defeat of the Greek armies in western Turkey,Kemal declared to an assembly that “The state the we have just created is aTurkish state (Kendal)” Immediately after, a strengthened Turkey renegotiatedthe Treaty of Lausanne with the allies. With much more favorable terms for theTurks, but no mention of the Kurds in the treaty. Thus the Kurds went from equalpartners to non-existent citizens in the new Turkish state. After the treaty ofLousanne, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk proceeded to integrate the country and start aprocess of Westernize the once orthodox Islamic empire. Kemal abolished theCaliphate Arabic alphabet, and adopted the western Latin alphabet, thusimplementing some capitalistic measures in the name of a newly establishedsecular government. Mustafa Kemal enacted harsh laws on Islam in general.
Kemalmade the Islamic call for prayer illegal and went as far as banning Islamists.The most important of these decisions against Islam, was the outlawing allIslamic holy houses of teaching. This was to have profound impacts on thespreading of Islamic fundementalists within Turkey.
This backfired againstMustafa, by forcing Islam to go underground, the form of fundamentalism thatmanifested in Turkey was much harsher then the ones that existed before beingbanned by Kemal. Kemal trying to create a nation state , came upon a problem.The new state of Turkey was a heterogeneous one, composed of multi-ethnicalgroups, not a homogenous one of just pure ethnic Turks, as Mustafa Kemalproclaimed.
The capitalization on a new found Turkish nationalist movementyielded a well tuned systematic campaign of obliterating the essence of theKurdish within the boundaries of newly formed Turkey. Kemal abolished all of the,” Kurdish schools, associations, publications, religious fraternities, andmedressehs (McDowell).” The Kurdish nation represented such a threat to theterritorial integrity of Turkey that all people and names of places wereforcibly Turkicized by the government. This was to became referred to as ethniccleansing or genocide. Old archeological monuments and structure that proved theancient history of Kurdish people in Anatolia were systematically destroyed. Thewords ‘Kurds’ and ‘Kurdistan’ were eradicated from all books and publications.Anything that would lead to a separate identity of the Kurdish people wereeliminated in order yield the assimilation of the ethnically different Kurdishnation.
Even the Kurdish language was banned, a fact unparalleled in history! Noone in the state of Turkey was allowed to speak Kurdish, even though it was thelanguage of thirty percent of the people. All Kurdish students were feedTurkish propaganda on the ethnic ancestry of the Kurdish people, they weretaught that Kurds, were a pure ‘Turkic race,’ whereas in actuality the Kurds areethnically Indo-Aryan, and the Turks are a mixture of Hun-Mongolian people. TheTurkish education minister proclaimed that, the Kurds had forgotten their”Turkic” language in the fastness of the mountains of southeast Anatolia, thusreferring to them as, “Mountain Turks.(Gunter).” The racist spoon feedpropaganda of the Turkish educational institutions has reached to such a degreeof reducibility, that it is often taught in the schools of Turkey, all the greatBabylonian, Summerian, Egyptian, and Hittite civilizations had been created bythe Turks(Kendal). In order to hide the fact that the Kurds had lived inAnatolia four thousand years before one Turk stepped in.
The Turkishintelligentsia determined the Kurds came from Central Asia five thousands yearsago. The situation deteriorated to the point where to state ” I am a Kurd ” wasa crime so serious as to warrant the death penalty under Turkey’s anti-terroristlaws(Kendal). All past measures were not enough in the eyes of the Kemalistgovernment to destroy the remnants of five thousand years of Kurdish presence inAnatolia. After these and more repressive measures were taken out, thesubstantial Kurdish population began to revolt from the pressures unfairlyexerted on them by the oppressive and violence prone state of Turkey. The earlyrevolts were unorganized, lacked money, and poorly supplied. They lasted, on andoff, a little over thirteen years.
The retribution of the Turkish army was soextreme, they almost destroyed, looted, and burned the entire eastern portion ofthe country. Whole villages were either deported to Western Turkey to beassimilated or, if the government knew that the particular tribe or village werenot going to be assimilated that easily, they just simply massacred them. muchlike the Nazi massacre of Jewish civilians(Morris). Throughout these uncivilizedmethods of cruelty instituted by the Turkish governmental establishment, thesavage Turkish government managed to massacre or deport one million, fivehundred thousand Kurdish civilians (Kendal). The repression was so haneous thatthe entire Eastern section of the state of Turkey was prohibited to allforeigners and under martial law for almost thirty years, so as not to discipleto the west. In contrast to Western Turkey, the whole of Eastern Turkey was madeinto a military camp, and it has remained that way until today. The Turkishminister of justice made the relationship of Turks and Kurds clear:I believe that the Turk must be the only lord, the only master of this country.
Those who are not of pure Turkish stock (Kurds and Armenians) can have only oneright in this country, the right to be servants and slaves (McDowell).After Kemal’s death, more successive and liberal minded regimes came to power.The 1960 coup by the army attempted to Turkicize the whole of the Kurdish region.Every single street, river, mountain, village, or city was given Turkish name tothe very last detail. What little hope the Kurdish population had in the hopemore or less disappears as the coup never really brought out fundamental changefor the Kurdish people.
The rights of the Kurds were still non-existent, theKurdish language denied to them, and their culture still prohibited. Thesuccessive coups of 1971 and 1980 always tended to bring Kurdish freedom andself-expression to a halt. To justify a coup, the army would state that therewas a planned Kurdish uprising. Nevertheless, throughout the 1960s and 1970s,Kurdish nationalism did emanate in the form of small underground publicationsand newspapers, but they were always instantaneously banned and the editorsimmediately apprehended and given lengthy jail terms. Throughout all therepression, the Kurds were able to participate in political life, although underforced Turkish identities(Gunter). Today the foreign minister of Turkey, ArdalInunu, is a Kurd; as well as his father the late president Ismat Inunu, formerpresidents Fahrey Koruturk, and Cevdet Sunany, even the late president TurgutOzal claimed Kurdish heritage(Gunter).
The mother of all ironies, is that twopeople who made the bases of Turkish nationalism were Kurds, Ziya Gokalp andIsmet Inunu, who were born in the Kurdish cities of Diarbekr(Kendal). The amountof Kurdish people successfully assimilated into main stream Turkish society isso infinitesimal that over ninety-one percent of the Kurdish population doesn’teven speak one word of Turkish(Kendal). Reporter, who have only recently beenallowed to enter Eastern Turkey, are amazed at how, in this integral portion ofTurkey no one speaks a word of Turkish.
During the uneasy times of the 1970s many left-wing pro-Kurdish groupsmanifested sporadically throughout the Turkish state. The 1980 coup put an endto many of these organizations and political parties. After the brutal policiesof the military junta that took control of Turkey, may Kurds were put in prisonand executed for “separatism” which would mean anything from guerrilla warfareto simply speaking Kurdish in public. During those times of extremism, even byTurkish standards, a group of socialist-Kurdish youth began to organize andformed a political party. Their simple selfless goal was to obtain the God givenright of self-determination for the worthy Kurdish nation, which included out-right independence from the Turkish mainstream government. The main leader forthis independence movement was a young political science student from theKurdish city of Urfa, named Abdullah Ocalan or Apo (Kurdish for Uncle). Thisgroup of organizers were Marxist-Lenninst in ideology and adamantly stated thatthe Kurds and Turks were separate people and hence forth, the Turkish militaryforce present in Kurdistan was a belligerent action of occupation of Kurdistan.
The P.K.K (Party Kereykarey Kurdistan or Kurdistan Workers Party) also calledfor the abolishment of tribalism, feudalism, and the “slave-like dependence ofwomen.” A great amount of the P.K.K military force were female. The P.
K.K alsobelieved the only way to attain freedom and independence were through violence,much like the American and French revolution of mid 1700s.To conceive the P.K.K as completely leftist is untrue, they have adapted theCommunist theme of ideology to counter-weight the Turkish entity as a NATO state,so it is safe to assume that the P.K.K has chosen the Marxist path by default.
Similar to the American fore-fathers choosing a republic form of government toresist the British form of government, and France choosing a parliamentary formof government to overshadow the history of monarchical reign of France. Thismight seem to be absurd, but not when you see a “democratic” Turkey thatespouses a contradictory nationalism and places signs everywhere in Kurdistanthat says, ” Proud is He who calls oneself a TURK” or ” A TURK is worth thewhole universe(Kendal).” So accordingly, underneath all the ideology andpropaganda of the Cold War, what you essentially have is two combatingnationalisms.
The 1980 coup mentioned earlier pretty much halted all of P.K.K’s politicalactivities and other similar left-wing organizations. But the P.K.K’s politicalpolitburo immediately regrouped in Syria and Lebanon.
With help from someneighboring countries, the P.K.K was able to launch small raids into Turkey in1984. After the attacks grew in strength and number, the Turkish governmentbecame seriously alarmed.
The P.K.K was as violent as it advertised, many timeskilling Kurds collaborating with the Turkish government. This didn’t raise theirpopularity with the local populous. But, one thing they did accomplish was thatno other party or group in Turkey ever did, was the recognition of a Kurdishproblem in Turkey and a recognition of a Kurdish people in Turkey (Gunter). Thus,the Kurdish situation was brought out to the international arena for the wholeworld to witness the ever dynamic predicament in Northern Kurdistan.
The Kurdswent from “Mountain Turks” to a “Kurdish reality in Turkey.” The Turkish armythen extended martial law to thirteen provinces in Eastern Turkey. The Turkisharmy chief of staff admitted that “condition of war.
..exists in southeastTurkey(Smyth).”The P.K.K then began to adopt a less hostile attitude towards the civilianpopulation, realizing they can not operate without the help of the people. Whilethe P.
K.K ceased to attack civilians, the Turkish army’s attitude towardsKurdish civilians took an even harsher tone. What happened in the days ofAttaturk, were being implemented once again. It was like the situation wasdorment for forty-five years, and once again it came back to live. Amnestyintentional reported the wholesale arrest and torture of Kurds in all parts ofTurkey. The entire village of Sirnak, population 25,000, was demolished and it’sinhabitants forced to flee(Pilger). In all the Turkish army has destroyed anestimated 1,700 Kurdish villages and towns(Montalbano).
The P.K.K hassuccessfully begun to infiltrate larger cities and organizing merchant strikesand mass protest against the Turkish government. The Turkish army and secretpolice reacted by covert assassinations and “death squads” that killed anyonethat was even remotely linked to the P.K.K. These death squads have even killedjournalists who have reported the Turkish atrocities in Northern Kurdistan.
Turkey has the highest death rate for journalists in the world, even exceedingBosnia and Tadjikistan. Many pro-Kurdish politicians and human rights activistshave been killed, causing mass protest from the Kurdish population, even theprotest control police open fire on unarmed civilian protesters, killinghundreds of men, women, seniors, and children indiscrimenantly(Kendal). Thestate sanctioned DEP (People’s Democratic Party), a legal political entity wasforcibly closed down after their top political representatives were mysteriouslyassassinated, their newspaper affiliates (Ozgur Daily) bombed, and it’sparliamentarians arrested. All of these went against the established Turkishconstitutional laws. The lifting of Parliamentary immunity is a direct violation,but when it comes to using illegal laws against Kurdish civilians there are nolimits.
Needless to say, the brutal and genocidal acts of the Turkish government haveonly fanned the flare of the Kurdish drive for independence. In some parts ofTurkey, over ninety percent of the people support the P.K.
K(Marks). When thepeople see the government burning their houses, farms, and family members howcan one really support the establishment? How can the people believe thegovernment when they have publicly broken parliamentary laws by arrestingKurdish parliamentary members for speaking Kurdish? The people has two choices,the foreign occupiers or their sons, brothers, daughters, sisters, or fathers.In response to the “ethnic cleansing” and martial law, the Turkish governmenthas also stationed over 450,000 troops in the area, backed by US made moderntanks, Apache helicopters, Super Cobra helicopters, F-16 fighter jets, and50,000 elite contra-rebels in the Kurdish region. Many generals in the armedforces have openly talked about using chemical weapons on the Kurds (Turkey usedchemical weapons on the Kurds in the 1930s, British used it in the 1920s, andSaddam Hussien used it in 1988)(Kendal).Turkey has went as far as raiding Iraqi Kurdistan with the air planes given tothem by the US. As recently as March 20, 1995, Turkey invaded Iraqi Kurdistan.
They said the invation was to search for and destroy the P.K.K, but in actualitythe army couldn’t fight the P.
K.K. The 35,000 invading force did little morethen destroying civilian villages, killing civilian Kurds, and ruining farmcrops. UNHCR (United Nations Higher Commission for Refugees) reported that10,000 Turkish Kurds, who escaped Turkey’s systematic burning and destroyingKurdish villages were forcibly detained and forced to return to Turkey.
Thewhereabouts of the refugees are unknown; knowning the Turkish track record,their hopes are dismal.Abdullah OcalanIt now appears that the P.K.K has ascertained itself as the voice of the Kurdishpeople, after seventy years of unrelenting oppression. The P.K.
K’s unequivicalinsistence of independence is rebuffed by Ankara, who state that everyone inTurkey is equal and there are no room for minorities in Turkey. The army, anorganization who operates independently from the political wing of Turkey, willnot even placate a hint of even a form of diminutive local autonomy for theKurdish people. The P.K.K is exhibiting, and for their part proving to theKurdish masses that their violent way is the only avenue for any form of Kurdishindependence.
Since the creation of the irredentent Turkish state the Kurds havenot received anything more then a tombstone with a forced Turkish surname. TheP.K.K has given 15,000 martyrs in the span of eleven years (Marcus), the armyhas massacred more then 1,500,000 in the span of sixty years , more the 1,500villages destroyed, every form of Kurdish identity denied, and their politiciansand journalists killed by secret police. After all it is the US constitutionthat has written:” When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people todissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and toassume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to whichthe laws of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions ofmankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to theseparation…
..whenever any form of government becomes destructive of theseends, it is the right of the people to alter it, or to abolish it, and toinstitute a new government..”It is the very example the United States has set, that the Kurdish peoplewants to declare their independence. For, the only thing different between theKurdish revolution and the U.S one, is only two hundred and nine years. Alloppressions are bad, all occupations are wrong, every nation has the right todecide their own fate. Category: Law