Kurdish national rights and the Turkish breach of honor
Kurdishaspect.com - By Professor Kirmanj Gundi
This article consists of a historical-political analysis on the Kurdish plight and their struggle for national rights in Turkey. It particularly sheds light on the brutal policies of the Turkish state and the callus and inhuman course of action of Western colonial powers after the WWI germane to this ancient and indigenous nation of Kurdistan.
FORCED OUT OF THEIR HOMELAND, Mongolia in the Asia steppes, Turkish nomads immigrated to Asia Minor. En route to the new destination, these Turkish tribes fought some bloody wars and committed some astonishing atrocities that were unprecedented to the region at that time. They created bloodbaths in many places, particularly in Iran, where they were confronted with mass resistance. Ostensibly, these Turkish tribes passed through Iran and Kurdistan, and eventually reached Baghdad.
When in 1258, under Hulago, the grandson of Jenghiz Khan, these Turkish tribes captured Baghdad. Hulago destroyed Baghdad and indiscriminately slaughtered innocent people and burned all the scientific and scholarly books that were products of centuries of hard work. At that time, Baghdad was the center of Islamic civilization and a guiding beacon for Christian, Jewish, and Islamic scientists and scholars to work and live together in harmony. After the capture of Baghdad, the Islamic civil society was superseded by the characteristics of uncivil Turkish tribes, and the Islamic civilization was destroyed. Since then Muslims have not been able to retake Islam back to the glorious days of prior to the Turkish invasion of the region.
After some forty years, when these Turkish tribes converted to Islam, they already had established control over the region. Later, when they established Ottoman Empire and in the centuries of their reign, using the name and defense of Islam as justification, they were able to use non-Turkish Muslims including the Kurds to expand their empire.
During the rise of the empire in 1299 until its dissolution in 1922, the style of the Ottoman Empire governance, for the most part, was premised on the mono-rule of the elder brother—meaning, when the Throne was given to the elder son of the Sultan, he could liquidate all the other male siblings. This savage practice was premised on the notion that by liquidating other male siblings they would liquidate the slightest chance for a power struggle among the brothers. This notion led the Turkish monarch to believe that the reign of the Sultanate would continue unopposed at least from internal feuds.
For some 623 years, the Turkish Sultans reigned the Ottoman/Islamic Empire with a such heathenish culture that brother was killing brother, despite their supposed adherence to Islam, which prohibits such a practice. Consequently, one could ask if this was the mentality of the Turkish Sultans, how could they promote the good Islamic values and protect human dignity?
The demise of the Ottoman Empire coincided with the appearance of the Western powers in the region and several important international treaties, which caused the division of the empire. The most pivotal treaties were the Sèvres and Lausanne treaties.
Treaty of Sèvres
THIS TREATY OF SUPPOSED PEACE between the allied and associated powers including France, United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, and Turkey was signed in Sèvres, France on August 10, 1920. The purpose of the treaty, allegedly, was to have every ethnicity enjoy its national identity with internationally recognized national borders. However, the composition of the committee and the conformation of Iran and others would have made it difficult for the treaty to be implemented.
- In Article 62 it was determined that a commission that consisted of three members appointed by the British, French and Italian governments would draft a geo-ethnic map that shows non-Turkish areas. It stated, “… within six months from the coming into force of the present Treaty a scheme of local autonomy for the predominantly Kurdish areas lying east of the Euphrates, south of the southern boundary of Armenia as it may be hereafter determined, and north of the frontier of Turkey with Syria and Mesopotamia, as defined in Article 27, II (2) and (3). If unanimity cannot be secured on any question, it will be referred by the members of the Commission to their respective Governments. The scheme shall contain full safeguards for the protection of the Assyro-Chaldeans and other racial or religious minorities within these areas…” Further, the Treaty in Article 63 stated, “The Turkish Government hereby agrees to accept and execute the decisions of both the Commissions mentioned in Article 62 within three months from their communication to the said Government.” Furthermore, the Treaty in Article 64 explained, “If within one year from the coming into force of the present Treaty the Kurdish people within the areas defined in Article 62 shall address themselves to the Council of the League of Nations in such a manner as to show that a majority of the population of these areas desires independence from Turkey, and if the Council then considers that these peoples are capable of such independence and recommends that it should be granted to them, Turkey hereby agrees to execute such a recommendation, and to renounce all rights and title over these areas. The detailed provisions for such renunciation will form the subject of a separate agreement between the Principal Allied Powers and Turkey. If and when such renunciation takes place, no objection will be raised by the Principal Allied Powers to the voluntary adhesion to such an independent Kurdish State of the Kurds inhabiting that part of Kurdistan which has hitherto been included in the Mosul vilayet.”
The Treaty of Sèvres was signed by the last Turkish Sultan. However, it never was ratified, because the Sultan referred to the pact as an act of “Devils” and refused to honor the treaty until the fall of the empire in 1922. Nonetheless, Turks were not the only obstacle before the implementation of the Treaty; the Western powers, particularly Britain and France that were the guardians of the treaty, who had concocted it in order to divide the Middle East and were the signatories of the Sykes-Picot Treaty, anticipated the downfall of the Sultanate. Therefore they took no serious steps forward to implement the treaty. They were hoping for more territorial gain in the region after the dissolution of Ottoman Empire.
The Treaty of Sykes-Picot was an agreement between the United Kingdom and France with consent of Tsarist Russia. In this treaty, Britain and France, expecting the imminent fall of the Ottoman Empire, defined respective realms of their influence and political-economic control in Western Asia. The treaty effectively divided the Arab, Armenian, and Kurdish provinces of the Ottoman Empire into areas of future British and French control/influence. The Sykes–Picot Agreement was concluded on May 16, 1916 and implemented after the WWI.
The lack of a genuine commitment on the part of the signatories of the of Treaty of Sèvres and the British and French secret plans laid out in Sykes-Picot agreement to divide the region, not only dashed the dream of independence for the Kurds, but also paved a way for the Lausanne Treaty which created some arbitrary and enfeebled states (i.e. not drawn to reflect true demography of the region and its peoples) in order to protect the interests of Western colonialism.
Treaty of Lausanne
THE TREATY OF SÈVRES WAS soon paralyzed and proven to be nothing but a sordid scheme of the British and French to buy time with the non-Turkish ethnicities in the Ottoman Empire by suggesting that they would redraw the map of the Middle East in the way in which every ethnicity could have a national state of their own. Although the Arabs benefited most from the terms of the Treaty of Sèvres by gaining status as nations after the demise of the Ottoman Empire, the Kurds were the main victims of the political maneuvering of the new Western colonial powers. The more France and Britain tightened their grip on the region, the less enthusiastic they became about the full implementation of the treaty to bring about future tranquility to the historically most “disputed” area in the world. They saw their interests in making the Treaty of Sèvres defunct, and surpassed it with a newly designed treaty, which gave them wider sphere of influence in the region. France and Britain along with Italy, Japan, Greece, Romania, Yugoslavia, and Turkey were the signatories of the Lausanne Treaty signed on July 24, 1923 in Lausanne, Switzerland. To ensure that the Kurds would not be represented in the new treaty, British and French prevented General Sharif Pasha, the only Kurdish diplomat at large from representing the Kurdish interests at the Lausanne Treaty negotiations. He was kept in Syria and was not allowed to partake in crafting of the treaty. Therefore, the new treaty was signed without Kurdish concerns being addressed. The new treaty literally gave the ownership of the Northern part of Kurdistan to the newly established Turkey.
The Treaty of Lausanne was good for the Turks, but it was disastrous for the Kurds. It recognized Anatolia as the new Turkish republic with no mention of Kurdish national rights. The treaty was ratified by the Greek government on February 11, 1924, by the Turkish government on March 31, 1924, and by the governments of Great Britain, Italy, and Japan on August 6, 1924. It was registered in the League of Nations Treaty Series on September 5, 1924. It stated:
- Turkey as the principal signatory of the treaty was expected to honor and implement the articles relevant to the non-Turk ethnicities. Further, the treaty in Article 38 clearly defined the Turkish responsibility towards non-Turk ethnicities that were “shackled and forced” to remain in the newly created Turkish republic. Article 38 averred, “The Turkish Government undertakes to assure full and complete protection of life and liberty to all inhabitants of Turkey without distinction of birth, nationality, language, race or religion…”
The future Turkish form of government should have been established on a Constitution that would honor the “life and liberty to all inhabitants of Turkey” and treat them equally before the law. Ironically, Turkey premised its foundation on a racist Constitution that recognized no ethnicities other than the Turkish ethnicity. In the new Turkish republic, the Turks became the “lord of the land” and other non-Turks were vassals of the Turks—exactly like the era when the American colonial power captured African blacks from Africa and forcefully took and enslaved them in America—the slave owners stripped the innocent Africans from their native identity and gave them their own European family names. Likewise, under the new racist Turkish Constitution, the identity of the Kurds was “transformed” to that of “Turks.”
Birth of the Turkish State
ACCORDINGLY, THE CONSTITUTION OF THE newly established Turkish republic should have been based on the “complete protection” provided by the terms of the treaty for “life and liberty to all inhabitants of Turkey without distinction of birth, nationality, language, race, or religion.” But, when on October 29, 1923, the new Turkish republic was officially proclaimed with Mustafa Kamal Ataturk being its first president, before long, Mr. Ataturk and his government categorically disregarded the concept of equality of all inhabitants in the newly born nation.
Turkish authorities under Mr. Ataturk then disregarded their prior commitment to honor the Lausanne Treaty and adopted what is best described as a racist Constitution, in that it referred to all citizens of Turkey as “Turks.” In Article 69, the Constitution of the 1924, stated, “All Turks [not citizens of Turkey] are equal before the law and are obliged to respect the law. All privileges of whatever description claimed by groups, classes, families, and individuals are abolished and forbidden.” Sadly enough, in this portion of Article 69, it appears that in the language of this clause, was used by the majority culture (Turks) to deny the identity of other ethnicities (as ‘privilege’) or to contradict “the complete protection of life and liberty to all inhabitants of Turkey without distinction of birth, nationality, language, race…” of the Lausanne Treaty. The clause “without distinction of birth, nationality, language, race” of the Lausanne Treaty implied that ethnic group identity would be safeguarded. In reality, except for the Turkish identity, the identities of other non-Turkish ethnicities were constitutionally liquidated.
During his behind-the-curtain maneuver with the allied nations to make the Treaty of Sèvres futile, Mr. Ataturk visited Kurdistan, met with Kurdish leaders, and promised to respect their national rights after the Turkish Balkan War was over. He promised them their rights in return for their support of the Turks during the war. The Kurds fulfilled their commitment, but after Turkey’s victory in the Balkan War, Mr. Ataturk not only did not keep his promise, but also adopted a policy of physical destruction and cultural annihilation vis-à-vis the Kurds. Months after the adoption of the unbalanced and biased Constitution in 1924, Ataturk’s government unleashed its brutal and bloody campaign against the Kurds. In 1925, they suppressed the Kurdish national movement led by Sheikh Sa’eed Pîran—an armed movement to secure the national rights for the Kurds, the same rights which Mr. Ataturk fought for in order to establish a new Turkish national identity.
Ataturk’s forces in the North of Kurdistan (Turkish occupied Kurdistan) massacred thousands of defenseless Kurds including women, children, and elderly. Additionally, they banned the words “Kurd and Kurdistan” and referred to the Kurds as the “Mountainous Turks,” and Kurdistan as “East and South East of Turkey.” Speaking Kurdish in public was considered as an insult to the Turkish “honor" and punishable by imprisonment. Later, other national movements including the Xoyî Bûn led by General Ihsan Nuri Pasha in 1931, and the Dersim uprising led by Sayid Reza in 1937 were brutally put down.
On October 20, 1927, in Ankara, in his speech to the Turkish youth, Mr. Mustafa Kamal Ataturk stated, “Turkish Youth, Your first duty is to preserve and to defend Turkish Independence and the Turkish Republic forever.” Further, on October 29, 1933, on the tenth anniversary of the republic, Mr. Ataturk promulgated, “Happy is he who says ‘I am a Turk.’” Such a statement by Ataturk as the head of state can only define him as a person of a deeply chauvinistic view and who had no regard for human dignity beyond Turkish identity.
Ataturk’s racist school of thought continued its influence among the Turkish nationalists, and consequently plagued the new republic in a recurring cycle of fear, distrust, and hate. Its impact became more patent after the military Coup D’état and the subsequent adaptation of the new Constitution in 1961. In Section Four: Political Rights and Duties, I. Citizenship in Article 54, the Constitution proclaimed, “Every individual who is bound to the Turkish State by ties of citizenship is a Turk.”
Such an amendment in the Constitution literally was the “constitutional genocide” against all the non-Turks in Turkey, particularly the Kurds who are the second largest ethnic nation after the Turks and who had been struggling for decades to create a better environment in which their national identity was recognized and respected. Predictably enough, the new Constitution brought more misery to the Kurds—persecution, imprisonment, torture, and oppression of the Kurds continued. Every measure of uncivilized forcible means was implemented in Kurdistan-Turkey. The Kurds were further driven deep into a more economic and cultural destitution. The Turkification policy through assimilation and physical destruction in Kurdistan was aggressively implemented.
Moreover, in another military Coup D’état in the 1982, Turkey remained as a country under Turkish supremacy and mono-Turkish culture over all the other non-Turkish inhabitants. The new Constitution in Chapter Four, I. Turkish Citizenship, Article 66 (as amended on October 17, 2001), states “Everyone bound to the Turkish state through the bond of citizenship is a Turk.” The only difference between this piece of the Constitution and the piece of the Constitution of 1961 is the word “ties,” changed to “bond.” The chauvinistic school of thought remained unchanged. According to such a xenophobic Constitution, for example, if an American citizen marries a Turkish citizen and later obtains Turkish citizenship he or she becomes a “Turk” and “not a citizen of Turkey.”
This racist Constitution continued to teach hate and cynicism to the Turks that they are the masters of the country and all the other non-Turks are inferior to them. Consequently, such a discriminatory teaching has always been a huge obstacle before the greater majority of the Turks to realize that Turkey is not a homogeneous society, but rather it is a “mosaic” of diverse ethnic and linguistic groups with two major ethnicities, Turks and Kurds also including Armenians, Arabs, Laz, Dönme, Greeks, and Jews.
Although, Turks might not be aware of its negative impact, they are the main victims of such a myopic teaching under the Turkish Constitution. This Constitution has prevented them from realizing the truth about Turkey and restrained them from getting to know other non-Turks who have different nationality and cultural backgrounds. Therefore, as long as Turkish legal sources and political mindset stem from such a bigoted Constitution, Turks will never be able to transform Turkey into a tranquil and prosperous society that looks forward to a brighter future rather than living in the fearful past unless they rid themselves of and leave behind the cycle of hate, and establish internal trust and genuinely believe in the equality of all races/ethnicities.
Kurdish people and the Turkish school of thought
TURKEY’S LARGET NON—TURKISH ETHNICITY, the Kurds, have been living in the Eastern and South Eastern provinces—the same geographical area that their ancestors inhabited when Xenophon first mentioned the Kurds/Medes in the fifth century B.C.E.—the century in which the forbearers of modern Turks were still living their nomadic and primitive life in Mongolia and possibly had not heard of the Kurds.
Turkey has not only systematically tried to suppress and trivialize Kurdish identity and culture, but also has used the census to under-report the Kurdish population in Kurdistan-Turkey. The largest Kurdish population worldwide live in Turkish occupied Kurdistan. The rest of the people of Kurdistan live in the adjacent contiguous regions of Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Nonetheless, Turkey’s censuses, like the censuses of other occupying countries, for political purposes, do not register Kurds as a separate ethnicity. Consequently, there is no accurate data on their total number. The 1995, the Turkish census estimated Kurds in Turkey at about 12 million. However, the figure used by the Kurds is that the number exceeds 25 million Kurds living in Turkey.
Additionally, since the founding of the Republic of Turkey, as noted earlier, the government has sought to diminish the significance of ethnic and linguistic distinctions. During the 1930s and 1940s, the government had aggressive policies to disguise the existence of the Kurds statistically by classifying them as "Mountainous Turks." However, in the 1980s, they replaced the pseudo-label of “Mountainous Turks” in favor of a new epithet, "Eastern Turks." Turkish officials started using all the means available to them including the so-called “Scientific Institutions” and encouraged some Turkish scholars to suggest that the Kurdish language, which (they agreed) is part of the Indo-European languages and is closely related to Persian, was actually a dialect of the Turkish language.
Well, one could argue, if the Kurdish language that is “closely related to Persian” was a dialect of Turkish language, are not the Turks by proxy claiming that the Persian language is also a “dialect” of the Turkish language? Consequently, one may also ask, do the Turks know that if words of Arabic, Kurdish, Latin, and the Persian origin were removed from their “unique” Turkish language, it would, probably, be difficult for the Turkish language to claim a language identity?
Because of the large size of the Kurdish population in Northern Kurdistan, the bigoted Turkish state has always perceived the Kurds as a threat to Turkish national unity. Thus, since the inception of the republic, every Turkish government has emphasized the strategy of assimilating the Kurds through the suppression of the Kurdish language/culture! Yet, despite official attempts over several decades to impose the Turkish culture upon them, Kurds have retained their native language and refused the Turkification policy of the racist Turkish state.
In spite of the peaceful Kurdish approaches to find a viable political solution to the Kurdish claim, the Turks have escalated their brutality against the people of Kurdistan. Particularly in the wake of the military coup led by General Kenan Evren in 1982. The military junta took its ferocious measures of violence to an unprecedented level of oppression since Ataturk’s reign including mass killings, arbitrary arrests, persecution, imprisonment, torture, and execution.
As a result of the inhumane and belligerent Turkish oppression and “constitutional genocidal policies” against the people of Kurdistan, the Kurds were left with little or no option to defend their national integrity but to unleash an armed struggle “only” to preserve their God-given identity. Consequently, in the wake of the Turkish repressiveness, Kurdistan Workers' Party (Partîya Karkerên Kurdistan “PKK”) under the leadership of Mr. Abdullah Ocelan was established and refuted the Turkish policy of denial against the Kurds. The PKK exhumed the close-to-lifeless Kurdish identity in Turkey and put it back on the Turkish, regional and international political stages.
Birth of the PKK
TURKISH ATROCITIES IN KURDISTAN COMPELLED the Kurds to look for another option to slow down, if not stop the Turkish policy of annihilation in Kurdistan. Partîya Karkerên Kurdistan (PKK) was given birth in 1978, and soon was known as one on the most disciplined political-military organizations ever established in the history of the Kurdish nation. It soon became a force to be reckoned with in Turkey. The PKK, under the leadership of Mr. Ocelan, adopted a leftist-nationalist ideology (as leftist ideology was popular in the region at the time) and practiced guerrilla warfare against the Turkish oppressive state. Before long, the impact of the PKK’s activities compelled Turkey, although reluctantly, to acknowledge the Kurdish “problem” in Turkey. Although the PKK began with the motto of an independent state for the Kurds, but later it retreated from its prior goal and relinquished its leftist ideology, and settled for cultural/national recognition and rights for the people of Kurdistan in Turkey.
Turkish authorities, assuming that they had suppressed and uprooted the Kurdish national ambition after the suppression of the Kurdish uprising in 1937, not only categorically rejected the PKK as a Kurdish entity, but also stigmatized it as a “terrorist” organization.
Against all odds and Turkish repressive measures, the PKK was able to withstand its ground against the racist Turkish state and continued its activities. The PKK reeducated the people of Kurdistan about their national identity, rich culture, and their proud ancient history.
Turkish State and the PKK
IN THE WAKE OF THE TURKISH MILITARY COUP OF 1982 and the Turkish brutality that followed in Kurdistan, the Partîya Karkerên Kurdistan (PKK) armed itself in 1984 and renewed the decades-old struggle for self-determination. This was the first Kurdish national movement after some 47 years.
The Turkish response to the Kurdish demands proposed by the PKK had a reactionary measure. They adamantly remained in their closed biased school of thought and continued their chauvinistic policies toward the people of Kurdistan. The initiation of the armed insurrection by the PKK was faced with fierce Turkish military campaigns in Kurdistan. After some five years of bloodshed and the killing of both Kurds and Turks—the Turkish government began to feel the burden and dire consequences of the bloody conflict. In 1989, Mr. Turgut Özal became the president of Turkey, and, for the first time since Ataturk’s era, he used the term “Kurd” in public to refer to the so-called “Eastern Turks.”
As a visionary leader, President Özal acknowledged the presence of the Kurdish people in Turkey and conceded that if the Turkish government would not take a proactive measure to find a peaceful political solution for the Kurdish issue, others (referring to external forces) might do it for Turkey. He was in favor of having a dialogue with the PKK. However, the myopic mentality of the Turkish Generals and the old school of Turkish politics vehemently opposed his vision and practical approach. Not long after President Özal’s view for a political solution was noticed by the Turkish political and military elites, he mysteriously died on April 17, 1993. His successors continued to employ the ultra-nationalist tradition of Turkish politics and atrocities in Kurdistan-Turkey.
Despite this ongoing campaign against them, the PKK leadership occasionally, has unilaterally ceased hostility with a hope of finding a political solution and called on the Turkish authorities for dialogue and a peaceful solution to the Turkish-Kurdish conflict. However, every time the Turks have trivialized the PKK’s call and warned the PKK to lay down their arms in order to benefit from “government amnesty.” In reality, this call for government amnesty was a means to get them to surrender to the repressive Turkish state. The PKK’s position was to continue its armed struggle to defend the national identity of the people of Kurdistan.
As mentioned above, the PKK’s calls for a political settlement fell on deaf ears—the Turkish authorities preferred a military solution—bloodshed and widening the cycle of hate and distrust in Turkey’s society continued. They maintained their prejudicial and cynical campaign against the PKK as a “terrorist” organization.
Although there is no universal definition for it, “terrorism” refers to acts of violence that are intended to create fear in society without having legitimate goals or objectives. Terrorists disregard the values of human rights and violate human dignity. Terrorism has no popular support and terrorists are hated by the masses. Contrary to the common Turkish perception—the PKK has a nationalist agenda for the ancient Kurds—the agenda that is supported by legal concept for a people’s right to self determination, the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights, the UN general platform, and democratic values and principles. The PKK was created to draw the world’s attention to the repressive Turkish policies against the people of Kurdistan. The PKK is a product of the Turkish racist constitutional oppression of the Kurds. If Turkey had a balanced Constitution, recognized the Kurdish existence, and respected Kurdish national identity, the PKK would not have to come into existence in its present form. If it were in existence under a tolerant Turkish Constitution, it probably would be nothing more than a political faction.
Further, to put the definition of “terrorism” in perspective, one could argue which side fits the definition of terrorist, the Turkish state that constitutionally has a policy of systematic genocide against the people of Kurdistan or an organization that was forced into an armed struggle to stop the genocidal Turkish policies in Kurdistan-Turkey? The answer, I believe, is clear.
Thus, as long as the Turkish authorities continue their stubborn and repressive policy of denial against the people of Kurdistan, the Kurdish national struggle will continue whether through the PKK or other Kurdish national organization(s). Moreover, the Kurdish political leadership in Northern Kurdistan should take these demonstrations that occasionally erupt in various cities in Kurdistan-Turkey, mainly in Diyarbakir, out of their sporadic status and organize future demonstrations that are not sporadic, but rather are planned and coordinated under a unified leadership. These demonstrations must spread to and include majority of cities and towns of Kurdistan, if not all. The Kurdish political leadership should adapt a Gandhi style non-violent movement across Kurdistan. They should organize these demonstrations in the way in which even “stone throwing” will not be allowed. They need to prepare the masses to just “sit-in” and non-violently disobey inhumane Turkish course of actions. Using such a peaceful approach to continue the Kurdish national movement will gain more support for the cause regionally and internationally with minimal sacrifice.
At such time when the Turkish government constitutionally acknowledges the Kurdish existence and respects Kurdish national and democratic rights, then, if the PKK continued its armed activities against the Turkish state, only then can the PKK be blamed and should bear the burden of guilt. But, as long as it is the terrorist Turkish state that constitutionally justifies genocide against the Kurds, subsequently, it is the Turkish state that is “guilty until proven innocent.”
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party/Government and the Kurdish Issue
THE JUSTICE AND DEVELOPMENT PARTY (DJP)—Adalet va Kalkinma Partisi (AKP) in Turkish, is a center-right political party in Turkey. The party is the largest in Turkey, with 327 members of parliament. Its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is Prime Minister, and another AKP member, Abdullah Gül is President. The AKP was established in 2001, and in the November 2002 election, it became the largest political party in Turkey.
The AKP party, by all means, is the most successful Turkish political party ever established since the demise of the Ottoman Empire. This party promoted Turkey’s image at the regional and international levels. Although, it continued the inherited policy of striving to become a member of the EU, it expanded Turkey’s political and economic relationships with countries around the world. In the wake of such a wise policy, the AKP leadership, changed the political mentality of the Turkish people and showed that it is not necessary to “beg” the Europeans for an EU membership in order to have status in the global political and economic arena.
The AKP party, before long, transformed Turkey into a global economic power—and became a member of the G-20 (group of nations that are economic power/superpower). This proved especially vexing to other EU members who were not yet able to achieve membership in the G-20, which Turkey so readily achieved.
Politically, under the AKP party, Turkey became a strong voice in the region and occasionally, Erdoğan’s government “cast ballots” against Israeli policies vis-à-vis the Palestinian plight. Although triumphant in certain areas, the AKP government under Mr. Erdoğan’s leadership has had a muddle and mixture of hypocrisy in its domestic and foreign policies. While Mr. Erdoğan has been one of the strongest voices of support for the Palestinian cause in the non-Western world and showed concern for Palestinian children—he has been continuing the war against the people of Kurdistan and denied Kurdish children to claim their Kurdish names; because under the Turkish Constitution only Turkish language/culture is allowed; anything outside of the Turkish culture is prohibited.
Whilst showing sympathy for Palestinian children, the so-called Turkish “anti-terror law” was amended as recently as 2005 under Mr. Erdoğan’s tutelage. This law allows Turkish security forces to crackdown on Kurdish children and labels them as “terrorists.” In 2006, a few months after a demonstration against Turkish brutality began in Diyarbakir, Turkey's Supreme Court ruled that the 2005 anti-terror law now could be applied to children of 15 to 18 years of age. Since then, Turkey has been putting Kurdish children on trial in “Heavy Penal Courts.” These courts are authorized to review and try cases of organized crime, terrorism and state security. In 2006, the Turkish Supreme Court modified the interpretation of the anti-terror law, and updated it to “whenever somebody is involved in a demonstration, carries a flag or does any other kind of propaganda for an illegal organization, he or she is considered to be part of this organization and defined as a ‘terrorist’.”
To show his support for this amended inhumane piece of the Constitution, Mr. Erdoğan threatened the Kurds against participating in any demonstration against the Turkish government. He stated, “whether men, women or children, the security forces will react with disproportionate force.’' Thus, in a subsequent demonstration, ten Kurds were shot, among them were five children.
To be clear, this Anti-terror law allows the Turkish security forces to severely punish Kurdish “children” for “throwing stones” and equating throwing stones with “armed resistance,” and the charge of affiliation with a banned organization. Hence, Mr. Erdoğan should be reminded of the statement of a Kurdish mother whose teenage daughter was jailed in Diyarbakir’s “heavy security” prison for throwing stones at the Turkish forces during the unrest. She stated, “How would Mr. Erdoğan feel if it were his teenage daughter jailed and labeled as a “terrorist” for throwing stones?” Perhaps only Mr. Erdoğan can provide an answer to this Kurdish mother.
After amendments were made to the country's anti-terror law, children who are charged as terrorists could receive up to 50 years in prison. Since 2006, when the crackdown on Kurdish children began—according to official figures in 2009, there were 2,622 minors serving time in Turkish prisons. Considering that Turkish atrocities in Kurdistan have continued, the imprisonment of Kurdish children has not abated. This is Turkey’s human rights record that has full political blessing of some of the Western “democratic” nations.
Ironically, the AKP government and its so-called “Judicial system” fail to recognize that 90 percent of the imprisoned Kurdish children are students. These under-age students are likely not able to even define “terrorism.” If they knew the definition of terrorism, they probably would draw attention of the prosecutor(s) and others in the Turkish judicial system to the inherently racist Turkish Constitution as a basis under which Turkey has become an oppressive state.
In Turkey, the AKP Party’s image is somewhat different than the image it has created abroad. Under the AKP party, Turkish officials continued prosecuting and persecuting mainly the Kurds for using languages other than Turkish. Consequently, many Kurdish citizens have been prosecuted on charges relating to the public use of Kurdish and spreading separatist ideology, because speaking Kurdish is considered a “separatist” act by many Turkish oligarchs.
In recent years, speaking or reading Kurdish apparently is no longer a cause for arrest, but at an official level, there remains an ensconced bias against the use of the Kurdish language. Imprisoned Kurds still are required to communicate with their lawyers and visiting family members in Turkish, even if they do not speak/understand the Turkish language.
According to Today’s Zaman (Friday, June 3, 2011) issue, members of the Doğubeyazıt Municipal Council in Ağrı province were given one-month and 20-day jail sentences, for naming a park in their district after Kurdish poet and philosopher Ehmedê Xanî. Along with them, the district's mayor was sentenced to six months in prison. According to the prosecutor who took the park's name case to the Doğubeyazıt “Criminal Court” of 1st Instance in 2008, the letter “X” in Xanî's name was problematic; because the letter “X” used in “Xani” was perceived by the Court as a violation of an earlier republican era law on the Turkish script which only allows the Turkish alphabet to be used in Turkey.
While using the letter “X,” under the Justice Ministry of the AKP party is a “crime” which must be dealt with in the Criminal Court, Mr. Erdoğan alluded to Xanî's “Mem û Zîn, as “an epic love story, [that] is considered as one of the most important works in Kurdish literature.” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan quoted lines from it during an election rally, and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism published a Turkish translation. Mr. Erdogan’s mentioning of Xanî's work, perhaps was to gain more Kurdish vote. However, he was not criticized for praising Xanî's work that contains the prohibited “X” from Kurdish literature.
Murat Roha Özbay, a lawyer for the defendants, said that the letters, X, W and Q, although not included in the 29-letter Turkish alphabet, are used frequently in all public agencies with no legal consequences. He noted that the state-owned Kurdish language TRT 6 station frequently made use of the “banned letters.” He said the court ruling was hypocritical, adding, “If it is really a crime, then we will file criminal complaints against the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Although, the sentencing was later suspended, the Turkish officials intended to remind the Kurds during this three-year long trial, that in Turkey “only” Turkish culture/language is allowed.
Additionally, Erdoğan’s manipulative “real politick” towards the Kurds continued. He pioneered an opening of a state sponsor television channel—TRT 6—in Kurdish—and on January 1, 2009, the TRT 6 was launched. He even visited Diyarbakir and in “Kurdish” congratulated the Kurds on the new TV station. Turkish officials claimed that the new channel will help contribute to build unity of Turkey's citizens. But the fact of the matter is that the notion behind the creation of the TRT 6 was to counter the PKK satellite channel Roj TV. However, the TRT 6 does not broadcast under the “Kurdish” language, but rather it broadcasts under an “unknown” language (i.e. unidentified language). Imagine, the TRT 6 operates 24/7 in Kurdish, but cannot mention the identity of the language it uses. Here, one could argue, how could the Turks use this TV channel to “build unity” among Turkey’s citizens when they do not show enough courage to first acknowledge the identity of the language used by the TRT 6 and the reality of Kurdish existence? Further, how can they be so confident that their TRT 6 will have impact on the Kurds in Turkey when there are more than a dozen of Kurdish satellite televisions broadcast worldwide not only in Kurdish, but also for preserving the Kurdish identity? Do the Turks think that the Kurds in Kurdistan-Turkey really care about a Turkish “mouthpiece” television that is state-monitored propaganda machine? The Turks were not sincere in their approach, if they were, they should have used KRT, which stands for “Kurdish Radio and Television,” and not TRT, which is an abbreviation for “Turkish Radio and Television.”
Moreover, the Turkish decision to create TRT 6 did not seem to reflect the Turkish good-will gesture to promote Turkish-Kurdish relation for long. On February 24, 2009, about two months later, Mr. Ahmet Turk, the Head of the then “Democratic Society Party (DTP),” started speaking in Kurdish in the Turkish Parliament. He stated, “Kurds have long been oppressed because they did not know any other language. I promised myself that I would speak in my mother tongue at an official meeting one day,” he said to a standing ovation from his party in the Turkish Parliament.
The state controlled TV immediately stopped broadcasting, and the parliament speaker, Mr. Koksal Toptan, stated after Mr. Turk spoke, "The official language is Turkish. This meeting should have been conducted in Turkish." However, Mr. Turk said he gave the speech in Kurdish in recognition of UNESCO world languages week. Later, Mr. Turk was harshly criticized by the state controlled media and even physically attacked by Turkish nationalists.
Similarly, in 1991, Mrs. Leyla Zana, the ﬁrst Kurdish woman elected to the Turkish Parliament, spoke the latter part of her oath of office in Kurdish. She later was stripped of her parliamentary immunity, and charged with subversion and having links to the PKK. She served 10 years in prison. I believe one could ask an ethical question here, when there is 24/7 Turkish state sponsored Kurdish Television—when Mr. Erdoğan as the Turkish PM speaks a few Kurdish words in Diyarbakir, why then it is “taboo” for Mr. Ahmet Turk or any other Kurdish officials in Turkey to speak their ancient mother language? One could clearly see how hypocritical and myopic Mr. Erdoğan and his government have been in their purview with regard to the Kurdish status in Turkey.
In the June 2011 Turkish parliamentary election, six imprisoned Kurdish politicians, nominated as independent candidates for the pro-Kurdish Freedom and Democracy party, were elected to the Turkish parliament. Among these imprisoned politicians are Faysal Sarıyıldız from Sirnak, Gülseren Yıldırım from Mardin, İbrahim Ayhan from Urfa, Kemal Aktaş from Van, Selma Irmak from Sirnak, and Hatip Dicle, from Diyarbakir. These were lawfully elected representatives. Rather than being able to take the oath of office for which they were democratically elected, they have been held in prison. Erdoğan’s government has stubbornly maintained its hard position and rejected the calls for their release. These future Kurdish deputies who have been held in prison have the support of the “rule of law” through their democratic election. Therefore, they should be freed and allowed to take the oath of office. Turks cannot continue using a “pretext” of having affiliation with an outlawed organization against Kurdish activists. By refusing the release of the imprisoned Kurds, the Turkish government has continued to be entrapped in Turkish chauvinism, which has brought nothing to Turkey but imprisonment in its excruciating phobia. Thus, the Turkish government must be reminded that the Turks cannot be part of the solution to the Turkish-Kurdish conflict if they maintain using their unwise approach towards the Kurdish issue and try to have everything resolved on their terms without listening to the Kurdish side.
Further, Mr. Erdoğan has been outspoken against Germany about the Turkish minority living in that country, and warned Germans not to assimilate the Turks in Germany into the German culture. He called the policy of assimilation “inhumane.” Well one could ask Mr. Erdoğan how could he justify his position against Germany vis-à-vis the policy of assimilation of the Turks when that has been his government’s practice against the Kurdish people in Turkey? Perhaps in today’s morally corrupt global politics it is possible for one to be a democrat and advocate of human rights abroad, but an oppressor at home.
Mr. Erdoğan and his AKP Party have a pro-Islamic ideology, and apparently have a modern world view—nonetheless, they are still bound by a mono-Turkish mentality protected by the Turkish Constitution. Therefore, Mr. Erdoğan as a follower of Islamic teaching and principles should be reminded that Islam, vehemently, is against racial inequality.
The Turkish Constitution is premised on a racist intention—and racism whether in the open or hidden, is a malicious and evil characteristic among human societies, which Islam (and other religions) seek to eliminate. It is clear from the verses of Quran—the holy book of the Muslims (including Mr. Erdoğan) that in many places in the Quran, God commands human beings that the differences in gender, color, tribes, races, or traditions should not be used as a pretext for unjust and inhumane treatment. Almighty God calls for an end to racial discrimination among societies. He says:
Oh Mankind, we created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and made you into tribes and nations so that you may know each other (not that you despise each other). Verily, the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is he who is most righteous of you. (Quran, Chapter 49, Verse 13)
God clarifies the reason for creating human beings into different races, tribes, and nations. He removes any doubt to implicitly and explicitly convey His message: "That you may know each other."
This holy verse left no ambiguity for Mr. Erdoğan and his AKP Party leadership/government to thoroughly comprehend that racial discrimination is against God’s will. Consequently, one feels compelled to say that Mr. Erdoğan as a “democrat” clearly violates democratic principles and human rights, and as a fellow “Muslim” he certainly breaches his own faith by ignoring God’s command for racial/ethnic equality.
Furthermore, although America and other hypocritical Western nations refer to Turkey as a “symbol of democracy” in the Islamic world, and have given the Turks a “Certificate of Support,” the Turkish democracy is not a democracy—it is a monocracy—and best, it can be defined as “Turkocracy.”
The Capture of Mr. Abdulla Ocelan
ON FEBRUARY 15, 1999, MR. OCELAN was captured in Kenya with the help of Israeli Mossad and the CIA, and was handed over to the Turks. He was immediately transferred to Turkey. Early in the morning circa 3:00 am he arrived in Turkey while handcuffed and strapped to a seat.
Nevertheless, there are some conflicting accounts of how Mr. Ocelan was captured. At the time, the BBC reported he was lured out of hiding by those who promised him safe passage to Holland. Greek foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos stated, “Ocelan was tricked into leaving his hiding place.” Interestingly, one could ask how and who tricked him while he was under Greek supervision, if indeed, Greeks were not complacent if not cooperative with the abductors? According to the Greek Embassy, Mr. Ocelan “chose” to leave the embassy “despite” their advice, and went with “the Kenyan authorities to the airport." However, according to a guard at the residence, and Kurdish guards who were with Mr. Ocelan, he was snatched out of the embassy by Kenyan security men.
Thus, Mr. Ocelan’s capture was not as easy as Mr. Bulent Ecevit, the then Turkish Prime Minister, stated when he informed members of the press on February 16, 1999. He said, “We had stated wherever he might be in the world, our state would be able to capture him.” The fact of the matter is that it was a “mission impossible” for Turkey to even know Mr. Ocelan’s exact whereabouts let alone being able to capture him in a faraway continent, abduct and take him back to Turkey. Mr. Ocelan’s capture took place as a result of CIA and Mossad cooperation with the full knowledge of then-US President Bill Clinton. This was the action of a President of a nation that claims to be the guardian of human rights and oppressed people, and protector of democracy.
Prior to his capture in Kenya, Mr. Ocelan odyssey began in 1984 when the armed struggle began against the oppressive Turkish state and he was forced to leave Turkey and flee to Syria. Later, he was forced to leave Syria and sought asylum in Italy, Netherlands, and Russia. He was turned away by each of these countries. Clinton’s administration applauded the actions of these nations. The US government exerted its influence to make sure that Mr. Ocelan could not find a sanctuary. This was an ugly chapter written by the US administration—but it was not the first time such a chapter was written—in 1962 the CIA assisted the apartheid South African regime in finding Mr. Nelson Mandela, who was, at the time, like Mr. Ocelan, also labeled as a “terrorist.”
AFTER THE DEMISE OF THE OTTOMAN Empire—acting as the “Turkish quisling”—the Western powers betrayed their initial position, which was engraved in the Treaty of Sèvres that had granted the Kurds their nationhood state. Through their cynical maneuvers, modern Turkey came out of the womb of the Treaty of Lausanne to serve and preserve the Western colonial interests and influence at the expense of the Kurds. France and Britain allowed for the Treaty of Lausanne to supersede the Treaty of Sèvres, and granted the ownership of Northern Kurdistan to the mono-culture Turkish state. The Treaty of Lausanne offered minimal rights to the people of Kurdistan—recognizing that there were Kurds living in Turkey. Nonetheless, the racist school of thought of Ataturk not only breached the honor they had pledged even in the Lausanne Treaty to recognize Kurdish rights, but also created constitutionally genocidal policies against them—a brutal policy that exists to date. Sadly enough, all these atrocities happened on the Western watch.
For Turkey to go beyond its xenophobic past is to find a way out of the plague of radical “Turkish nationalism.” To achieve this, Turkey must adhere to the democratic and human rights principles, and the Turks need to rid themselves of the “ego” of a superior race/ethnicity—and see themselves as an ethnicity that is neither inferior nor superior to any other ethnicities—and see themselves and others as equals. Only then can Turkey find serenity at home and a decent place among the family of nations.
Since the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, some 88 years have passed—only in recent years the Turks have started to offer a limited talk about the Kurds who are, as mentioned, the second largest ethnicity of more than 25 million in Turkey. This reminds the world that even if “right now” Turkey amends its Constitution, acknowledges and respects the Kurdish national and cultural rights, Turkey is still some 88 years behind.
What Turkey has done for 88 years is no less than a breach of honor of its own dignity by denying the reality of the Kurdish existence. They talk about democracy, but practice repressive policies towards the Kurds. However, for the Turks to have a genuine democracy and prosperous future—they need to free themselves, as mentioned, from the “ego” of oppressing other people—because one cannot be free while oppressing others. Their brutal and inhumane behavior with regard to the Kurds have insulted the universal “common humanity.”
Turks should know that just as after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the non-Turkish lands were returned back to the native people, they must realize that this land they now call it “East/South East of Turkey” in reality is “Northern Kurdistan” and belongs to the ancient indigenous Kurds. And sooner or later, it will have to be given back to its native people.
Finally, it is imperative to remind the Turkish state of a historical lesson. After some 27 years in prison when he was labeled as a “terrorist,” a moment of truth arrived; the whole world watched to see the triumphant return of Mr. Nelson Mandela. He left his prison gate and returned as a national hero. As the Kurd’s own freedom fighter, Mr. Ocelan might have the same or similar destiny (God grant him longer life). Mr. Mandela’s continuous struggle in prison—without wavering or compromising the integrity of his people—demarcated the beginning of the end of ugly “apartheid regime” of South Africa. I believe, it is equally fair to say that the Kurdish struggle will continue until the ugly “Turkish apartheid rule” ends in Kurdistan. Turks must realize that they can no longer constitutionally genocide one of the most ancient ethnicities in the world. They must know that freedom belongs to those peoples who in the words of a Kurdish poet, Bla “do not live to die, but die to give life” to their future generations. Therefore, the people of Kurdistan are elated to have paved such a glorious path towards freedom through their struggle to secure life for future generations.
Kirmanj Gundi is a professor at the Department of Educational Administration and Leadership at Tennessee State University.
-AK Party Website: http://eng.akparti.org.tr/index.html
-Ataturk Web. THE TRUTH ABOUT THE PKK. http://pkk.ataturk.org/capture.shtml
-Ataturk quotes and speeches. All About Turkey. (Website).
-Brief History of Republic of Turkey.
~turkish/links/reptr_brhist.html) Retrieved on May 29, 2011
-Holly Quran: Chapter 49, Verse 13.
-Islam: Empire of faith. Documentary film.
-Islam & Racism. (2001). http://www.inter-islam.org/Prohibitions/RACISM.htm#views
-Jailing Kurdish Children to Undermine Dissent
By Daan Bauwens “http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=49558”
Inter Press Service News Agency: http://www.ipsnews.net/index.asp--July 27, 2011.
-KURDISTAN COMMENTARY. Thousands march for Kurdish language rights. 22 February 2011 by KB. http://kurdistancommentary.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/thousands-march-
studies/turkey/SOCIETY.html retrieved on May 30, 2011.
-Nichole Sobecki. (2009). Turkey's forbidden tongue. Global Post website:
forbidden-tongue. March 5, 2009.
-Per Fagereng. (1999). The Capture of Abdullah Ocalan: Having their way with the Kurds.
-Serbesti Website: SOCIETY FOR THREATENED PEOPLES. Göttingen, June 14, 2011
-The Standard for fairness and Justice.(2011). http://www.
-TRT 6 website: http://www.odyovi.com/turkey/ankara/free-online
-Turkish Constitution of 1924.
-Turkish Constitution of 1961.
-Turkish Constitution of 1982.