Friday, June 21, 2024
 
 

For Turkey, the Kurds are always considered terrorists

A Kurdish woman weeps after Turkish forces attacked the town of Tal Tamr.

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“Hamas is a reality for Palestine. It is a political party … it entered the elections as a political party and won,” said Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Unsurprisingly, Turkey doesn’t view Hamas as terrorists, despite the US, UK, and the European Union having designated Hamas as a terror organization.

For Hamas, Turkey is considered a safe haven where they’re able to recruit and gain more legitimacy.

A simple fact also exists in Turkish society – the Kurds are also a reality in Turkey, yet Erdogan considers them terrorists.

The Turkish government, since its foundation as a secular republic in 1923, has waged a war against its Kurdish population. This has resulted in ethnic cleansing, massacres, and economic oppression; with the goal of forced assimilation or death.

The atrocities by Turkey has forced the Kurds to take up arms, which led to the formation of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or the PKK, in 1978. In 1984, the PKK started its armed campaign against the Turkish government, resulting in tens of thousands of lost lives on both sides of the conflict.

But unlike Hamas, where it calls for the destruction of Israel and targets Jews, the PKK has no issue with the existence of the Turkish state or the Turkish people, but strictly with the rigid approach of the Turkish government towards the Kurdish population. Dissimilar to Hamas, the PKK is not at war with the West, in particular the United States, Europe, and its supporters, but strictly with the Turkish government. The PKK, unlike Hamas’ extremists, has called for peace between Turkey and the Kurds on several occasions.

The reality is, Erdogan’s Turkey has a lot in common with Hamas, not the other way around.

Despite the facts presented, many still argue that the PKK is a terrorist organization. If that’s the case, let’s dive into another example – Erdogan’s statement that “Hamas is a reality for Palestine.”

Outside of the PKK, the Kurdish people have also formed political parties, and they too have won elections. Yet, the Turkish government still accused them of being terrorists. Kurdish leaders have been purged, imprisoned, and barred from participating in politics.

The hypocrisy stemming from the Turkish government since the October 7 murder of innocent Israelis by Hamas is no surprise to Kurds anywhere. In fact, at the time Hamas was committing massacres against Israeli civilians , so too was Turkey against the Kurds. The Turkish military bombed schools and hospitals; killed civilians, including children, and even halted the ongoing fight against ISIS.

To add insult to injury, Turkey is also in support of a two-state solution for the Palestinians, with Hamas being directly at the negotiating table. The Turkish government, however, is against a two-state solution for the Kurdish population inside Turkey.

For a century, successive Turkish governments have violently opposed any degree of autonomy for the Kurds. Turkey stood against an independence referendum that the Kurds in Iraq held in 2017, threatening war against the entire Iraqi Kurdish population. In northeast Syria, the Kurds have managed to put together a fragile autonomous government in partnership with the ethnic and religious minorities of the country, mainly due to support from the United States.

Unsurprisingly, Turkey has done everything in its power to dismantle the Kurdish-led government in northeast Syria. These are the same Kurds that defended the world against ISIS in 2014 and continue to do so today.

Why the double standards? Why can’t Turkey and Erdogan’s government be an advocate for peace at home with the Kurds as it is for Palestinians?

The truth is Turkey doesn’t care about Kurdish lives, and it is using the Palestinian issue to its advantage. Turkey wants to revive the Ottoman Empire. Turkey’s goal is to expand into northeastern Syria and northern Iraq and eventually claim Jerusalem as part of Turkey. In the last 50 years, Turkey has occupied the northern third of Cyprus, aided Azerbaijan against Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, and is currently laying claim to several Greek islands.

This is not simply Erdogan alone; this has been the irredentist goal of Turkey since 1923—to enlarge its borders, occupy land that does not belong to Turks, and annex the land even if it means ethnically cleansing the indigenous population.

Turkey’s deep hatred towards the Kurds existed long before Erdogan; but has reached a new level of aggressiveness during Erdogan’s two-decade dictatorial rule.

It will continue long after Erdogan.

Erdogan is correct when saying that a two-state solution is the answer. He should be focused on peace at home and the establishment of a two-state solution where Kurds have the power to form their future without being labeled terrorists by the Turkish government.

A future Kurdish state would allow Kurds to freely speak their own language, sing Kurdish songs, wear traditional clothes as they please, and be able to defend themselves from those that want their complete destruction.

A man looks out at ruined houses of Cizre, Turkey. The Turkish Armed Forces nearly flattened the Kurdish city in 2016 after three weeks of intense bombing.

100 years later, the denial of basic human rights for the Kurdish people in Turkey must no longer be accepted. It is time for an independent Kurdistan.

No matter which path the Kurds take in Turkey, armed resistance or non-violent protests, for Turkey, the Kurds will always be considered terrorists.

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Founder and president of American Friends of Kurdistan, an independent advocacy and education organization based in Washington, D.C.

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