The Kurdish issue in Turkey need political solution

  • - By Mufid Abdulla
  • 26/10/2007 00:00:00


Historically, the Kurdish national movement originated in Turkey from the time when the Ottoman Empire controlled that region. The main rebellion which dominates the history of the Kurds in Turkey is that of the 1925 rebellion in Kurdistan region of Turkey which was led by Sheikh Said.

The suppression of the semi-independent Kurdish principalities by Ottoman Empire (1808 – 1839) caused the Kurdish movement to emerge as a national movement and did not originate due to any religious convictions as has been claimed by some historians. The Ottoman Empire was unable to centralise control however, but despite all these problems and further obstacles put up by their enemies, including European interference, the Kurds were able to demonstrate their determination to fill the vacuum which had been provided for the Sheiks to become more powerful and readied themselves to fill the vacuum that had been made possible to install a religious leader with the intention of proclaiming him national leader for the Kurds in both Iraq and Turkey.

Kurdish history has always shown the Kurdish nation to be a disintegrated people. This is recognised to have evolved, not only having suffered geographical dispersal, which in turn caused new dialects to emerge: yet another argument used against recognising the Kurds as a nation; but travelling problems and restrictions did not enable the Kurds to present themselves as a united people. In addition to the urban-rural dichotomy which undermined development of unified Kurdish nationalist organisations, intense rivalry among prominent feudal families further undermined this intent.

Each and all of these culminated to make the Kurds more vulnerable to their enemies whilst also making economic and social changes even more challenging and slow and encouraged further subordination to Central State.

Kurdish Nationalist movement in Turkey

When Sheik Ubaydallah established his position of power he believed he could use it to extend to Turkey and claim independent Kurdistan. But Sheik Ubaydallh’s dream was shattered when the local tribes betrayed him and Turkey took action against him to suppress the Kurdish nationalist movement. Ubaydallah,was captured by Ottoman empire forces in 1881 and eventually he died in exile 1883.

It is difficult to determine the population of Kurds in Turkey during the days of Ottoman rule as there had never been an independent census and the motion of the Kurds to be counted was ignored due to claims of ‘national security’ but has been estimated at 20 million people in Turkey .

In 1919 Mustafa Posh went to Istanbul in order to attempt to establish autonomy for the Kurds and to set up branches of the society for the rise of Kurdistan .These efforts attracted the attention of Mustafa Kemal Attaturk in early September 1919 who began discussions with Alishan Beg, the son of Mustafa Pash the main leader of the Kachgirei tribes who told Mustafa Kemel that the Kurds in Turkey should follow the advice of President Wilson who had laid out a document establishing fourteen points. Mustafa Kemel replied that American President Wilson’s points were not for the Kurds and indicated that the fourteen points would not help the Kurds to work in support of the rise of Kurdistan.

The repression and aggression of Kemalist secularism followed and all public manifestations of Kurdish identity was outlawed which, in turn, prepared Kurds for more rebellion. The revolt of Sheikh Said of Piran began in February 1925 .Of almost 15000 fighters who participated in the rebellion against the 52,000 genderma (Turkish soldiers), the main Kurdish tribes participating in the rebellion came from Zaza. The rebellion covered most of the part of Amed (Diyarbakir) and Marden. The Sheikh Said rebellion was the first large scale rebellion of the Kurdish national movement in Turkey. The main organiser of this rebellion was the Kurdish Independent Society, Azadi. Azadi’s intention was to liberate Kurds from Turkish oppression and thus deliver freedom and further, develop their country.

The rebellion failed however and, by 1929, Ihsan Nuri’s movement was in control of a large expanse of Kurdish territory and, with help from Iran, the revolt was put down by the year 1930.

The third largest revolt of Shaikh Sayyed Reza’s took place in Dersim in the north western region of Turkish Kurdistan. This revolt started in1937 and lasted till 1938 but was crushed by the Turkish army. From the trauma and agony of Dersim emerged a new quiet phase of the Kurdistan struggle for independent in Turkey ,which phase lasted till 1960.

In the aftermath of the rebellion Turkish policy became clear as they conducted mass killings and deportation of villagers throughout the Kurdish area wherever it was suspected that there was support for the uprising.

The PKK and the fight for Kurdish Independence

In the summer of 1984, the PKK announced the formation of the Kurdistan Liberation Brigades. These brigades had arisen as a result of suppression of the Kurds by Kemalist policies. The PKK was born in response to inequality, torture, suppression and alienation of the Kurdish people in Turkey. From the early days the PKK advocated the Stalinist style of power and military .Desperation and depression drove them to plan violence against their enemies. They were ruthless to the extent that, should anybody try to leave the party they would be summarily executed. They did not have the support of the Kurdish majority other than in Turkey where those Kurds adopted them, giving them shelter and protection.

The rise of PKK in 1980s gave power to the movement which enabled them to dominate in Turkish politics to the extent that Ozal’s dramatic admission of Turkey’s multi-ethnicity to the government’s inability to win the hearts and minds of the Kurdish people.

Dr Ismail Besikci, writer and historian, was given a long prison sentence simply for defending Kurdish rights; he had become a leading advocate, attracting international attention to the abuse of Kurdish rights in Turkey. On his release he published a further three studies on the same subject of the Kurds in Turkey but, in 1979, was yet again arrested and what was essentially the same charges that had been levied against him a few years earlier: his absolute intent to give support the establishment of a Kurdish state:

“The Kurds have lived in Kurdistan for 4000 years, whereas the Turks started to move from Central Asia through Khorssan into Iran, Kurdistan, Iraq, Syria and Anatolia in the second half of the eleventh century … they have lived on these lands for less than a thousand years. They have humiliated and degraded the original owners of these lands…. To wipe out the Kurdish nation ,its language and its culture is barbaric….The Turkish nation does not deserve to be known as the perpetrator of such barbarism….I want to dwell a little upon the concept of (national pride) wanting the Kurdish people to be free wanting them to live in equal conditions with the Turkish people Is taken to be propaganda undermining the national pride of the Turks .In fact ,demanding equality of the Kurdish people, or the removal of bans or Kurdish language and culture, definitely cannot undermine the national pride of the Turks .On the contrary, it would strengthen it since defence of human rights and freedoms strengthens national feelings.”

That this writer and historian gained such international acclaim and recognition for his work to ensure that the world has knowledge of the Kurdish issue and the Kurdish plight in Turkey created a large scale political dilemma for the Turkish government. Rather than changing things in response to the calls of the people of the world they appear to have resorted to even more acts of torture and repression. Thus, the cycle of seemingly inescapable poverty and desperation grows.

The PKK emerged from the ashes of Kurdish people in Turkey but should take time to consider their position and ensure their policies and actions are actually there to protect the Kurdish people. Also the Turkish establishment must realise that they cannot solve this problem militarily; especially after the capture of Abdulla Ocalan the leader to PKK in 1999 at which time they were adamant that the Kurdish problem in Turkey had been eradicated. That was and is certainly not true as the Kurds have a right for self determination. What has and is happening in Turkey has come about because of Turkish stubbornness: the Turkish state can not root out the PKK and the political solution, which should be the real answer to it all, is not being satisfactorily addressed. The Turkish state can not suppress the hopes and dreams of a better future and an honest democracy for all the poor people in Kurdistan.

The postponement of the Turkish invasion to Northern Iraq is hard to credit the Turks with: the reasons are a blend of antique ideology and cynical opportunism.

The Kurdish people in Turkey ask for simple liberty and freedom.

Let me outline the most frightening aspects of Turkish invasion of Northern Iraq which appears as follows:

• Further chaos and unrest will bring more recruit willing to lay down their lives to the terrorist and armed militia group in the middle east in the belief that this will speed up the process which, after all has been ongoing for centuries

• The Kurds are a peaceful nation who want only to live with a national identity and further invasion or threats of invasion will jeopardise the policies set out by the Kurdish government. It appears clear that the Turkish agenda is actually to attack the Kurdish government and are using the PKK as an excuse.

In conclusion, the problems of the Kurds in Turkey does not require military or aggressive attention rather it needs sensibly projected political solutions which should be clear as military aggression has failed to solve anything over the last two decades. The Turkish establishment would begin to make ground to solve the prolonged problems in the following ways:

• As the Kurdish people make up one third of the Turkish population it is desirable that the Constitution is amended to include the rights of those people thus giving the Kurds the right to self-determination

• Follow the example of the British who called the IRA to the conference table, or as the Israelis’ did when they talked with the PLO and invite the PKK to the conference table

• Call an armistice by releasing prisoners who have been unnecessarily jailed and compensate the villages which have lost so much as a result of futile war.

• Allow democracy to shine through by allowing non violent Kurdish political groups and parties to participate in general policy making of the country. Through a change in Constitution it would be possible for International protocol to protect the rights of the Kurdish people

• Withdraw all military threats and outfits from the Kurdish areas.

  • - By Mufid Abdulla
  • 26/10/2007 00:00:00