october 27, 2023
Call to Re-Discuss and Restructure Kurdish-Turkish Relations
One hundred years have passed since the foundation of the Turkish Republic. Now, there are debates in Turkey about what the second century of the Republic will look like. We consider it important to discuss the past century of the Republic correctly. Because the correct construction of the new century depends on a correct basis for this discussion, on learning the lessons of history and not repeating the mistakes of the past. Without this, a correct discussion of history and planning for the future is not possible. Especially when it comes to Turkey, no discussion can be correct and fruitful without taking the Kurds into account. This is nothing but a presentation of the past that does not even require discussion. The existence of the Kurdish people in this geography is a reality. They have been an essential element of the political and administrative structure that has been established both in the establishment of the Republic and in previous periods. Therefore, the correct discussion of the historical process, especially the republican period, has to be in the context of Kurdish-Turkish relations. A discussion of the Republic that is not in this context will definitely remain incomplete, erroneous and dangerous.
Unfortunately, with the establishment of the republic, the historical Kurdish-Turkish relations have deteriorated at the cost of Kurds, Turks and everyone, causing great suffering, loss and destruction. All the negatives described with the republican process have been experienced as a result of this deterioration. Since this reality has been ignored until today, none of the described negativities has been eliminated. Therefore, as the century of the Republic comes to an end, the first priority should be to reflect on and take into account this reality. This is definitely the most fundamental issue in Turkey that needs to be addressed properly. Only then can a correct discussion be held. If the right answer to the deterioration of the historical Kurdish-Turkish relations that started with the establishment of the Republic is found, then the wrong course of history can be corrected and the positive qualities attributed to the Republic or expected from the Republic, especially democracy, can be realized.
Kurdish-Turkish relations began with the arrival of the Turks in the Middle East and especially in Kurdistan. With the Battle of Malazgirt in 1071, this relationship reached a strategic level and has been on a positive course throughout history. Throughout this process, Kurds and Turks have acted and lived together, aware of each other’s importance. They have survived the critical stages of history with the unity and alliances they have developed. Undoubtedly, this success is based on the mutual acceptance of each other and coming together around common goals. History has never witnessed Kurds and Turks acting against each other. Problems and disagreements have been resolved under the motto of common purpose and future, and the strategic alliance has been preserved and maintained. The settlement problem of the Turkish communities who migrated from their homeland was also solved in this way. This problem was solved by breaking the sovereignty of the Byzantine civilization, the dominant imperial power of the time, in Anatolia and Kurdistan. As a result of this relationship and alliance, the Turks did not settle permanently in Kurdistan. When the Byzantine sovereignty was broken, Turkish communities moved westward to Anatolia and settled there. This is a situation that should be highlighted and lessons should be drawn from it. If history is a subject from which conclusions are to be drawn, there is no more instructive example for the basis and nature of Kurdish-Turkish relations.
The first Kurdish-Turkish relations and alliance, which resulted in the settlement of Turks in Anatolia, continued to develop in the following periods. The Kurdish-Turkish relations and alliance played an important role in the attack and invasion of the Western powers, known in history as the Crusades, which were based on establishing domination over the Middle East. The Ayyubids emerged as part of this relationship and alliance and played an important historical role for the entire Middle East. With the establishment of the Ottoman state, this relationship developed further. Especially during the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Selim I, this relationship grew stronger and determined the course of history. In the 16th century, the Iranian and Egyptian empires threatened Kurdistan and Anatolia. These two great dangers were once again eliminated by this alliance, which had a historical and vital importance for both peoples. As a result, the Turkish communities that left their homeland and migrated settled in the Middle East, especially in Anatolia, and the threatening forces were eliminated and the problem of existence was solved. All this was thanks to the relationship and alliance that was developed with the Kurds. It was also due to this relationship and alliance that the Kurds were able to preserve their autonomy, develop their language, literature and culture and survive.
As can be seen, in the historical Kurdish-Turkish relations, there has never been domination over each other, making each other dependent and exploiting each other. There has been mutual recognition and respect for each other. The wide autonomy granted to the administrative structures in Kurdistan during the Ottoman period shows this fact. Other places were not granted such autonomy. Therefore, this relationship has lasted for centuries. Since Rêber Apo [Abdullah Öcalan] considers this very important, he discussed the historical development of Kurdish-Turkish relations and the foundations on which they are based in this framework and stated that this relationship should be updated according to today’s conditions.
One of the historical turning points in Kurdish-Turkish relations was the period after World War I. The policies of capitalist modernity towards the Middle East had a disruptive effect on Kurdish-Turkish relations. In the 20th century, the historical relationship and balance between the two peoples was disturbed. With the arrival of the forces of capitalist modernity in the Middle East after the First World War, especially Great Britain and France, a new danger emerged. The geography of the Middle East, including Anatolia and Kurdistan, was occupied by the forces of capitalist modernity. This situation threatened the existence of the Turks and the autonomy of the Kurds. The conditions required their historical alliance once again. The protagonists of the time were aware of this necessity and achieved a historical success with this step. The process that led to the Republic was based on this historical alliance. The basis of this alliance was that Kurds and Turks should live together on an equal footing and coexist as two fundamental elements in the new state to be established.
Kurdistan was an important center in this process. Mustafa Kemal himself went to Kurdistan and participated in the meetings that were held there. It was in these meetings that the will and decision to act together against a common enemy was made. In these meetings, it was explicitly decided that Kurdish rights would be recognized, that there would be Kurdish autonomy and that Kurds and Turks would govern the state together as two equal peoples. This attitude was reflected in the constitution of 1921. The Kurds in the first parliament were present as deputies of Kurdistan and were summoned as such. There was no ban on Kurds in this period. Mustafa Kemal referred to the Kurdish autonomy and emphasized the importance of its realization in several statements. With these promises, the broken historical Kurdish-Turkish relations were restored and this critical period of history was successfully overcome. This process, which is called the War of Independence in Turkey, is based on these historical foundations and the relations established with the Kurds. Liberation from occupation and independence were achieved through a common struggle.
However, the subsequent process did not go as planned. After the dangers were overcome, the promises made to the Kurds were not kept and instead of a common homeland and state, the construction of a nation-state based on Turkishness was initiated. Through the Treaty of Lausanne with the forces of capitalist modernity, Kurdistan was divided into four parts. But not only was Kurdistan divided into four parts, but also the process of denial and annihilation of the Kurds began. In the constitution of 1924, the Kurdish identity was denied and the nation-state model based on a monist mentality was adopted. On the one hand, the Kurdish-Turkish relations were destroyed and on the other hand, the republican project was thwarted. Thus, the ground that would change the fate of Turkey, Kurdistan and the Middle East, that would lead the peoples of the Middle East out of the hegemony of the capitalist system of modernity and ensure the development of a democratic politics was eliminated. From now on, the plans of the system of capitalist modernity have worked in the Middle East. The peoples of Turkey and the Middle East suffered as much as the Kurdish people. This situation shows that the Turkish-Kurdish relations, which should have been approached strategically, were approached tactically. In the conditions of the First World War and its aftermath, it was necessary to establish relations with the Kurds due to the difficulties that were experienced, but this relationship was not maintained after the danger was overcome. When this relationship was ended, the imperialist policy of capitalist modernity towards the Middle East prevailed and has continued in this way until today.
Undoubtedly, the Kurds were the first to suffer from this process. Kurdistan was divided and a very painful and heavy process began for the people. This is the process of genocide of the Kurds. The nation-states that established sovereignty in Kurdistan started to carry out genocide against the Kurdish people. The Turkish state, which was established with the promises made to the Kurds and with the support of the Kurds, was the main developer and implementer of this genocide. Kurdistan was seen as the expansion area of Turkish nationalization and everything in the name of Kurdishness was forbidden. The process that came to be known as the Republic was built entirely on the Kurdish genocide in its ambition to create a nation-state. The nation-states of Iraq, Syria and Iran did the same. When they failed, the Turkish state itself stepped in and prevented developments that would endanger the Kurdish genocide. For the sake of the ambitions of the nation-state, the Kurdish people, one of the oldest peoples in history, who were the pioneers of the first socialization of humanity, who contributed greatly to the acquisition of language, culture and consciousness by humanity, and who are the ancient people of the Taurus Mountains, the Zagros Mountains and Mesopotamia, the cradle of democratic civilization, were to be destroyed. Unfortunately, we know very well that many peoples and communities in Anatolia and Mesopotamia, as well as in the Middle East and the world, have been genocided and their heritage destroyed for the sake of the ambitions of the nation-state. This has also been imposed on the Kurds and is still continuing. The objection of the Kurdish people against the denial and genocide has also been met with a great campaign of suppression. Kurdistan has been turned into a bloodbath under the pretext of Kurdish rebellion. Every valley, plain and hill of Kurdistan was turned into a place of massacre. Kurdistan was burnt and destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of Kurds were massacred in villages, towns, valleys and caves. Hundreds of thousands of Kurds were massacred in Amed [Turkish name Diyarbakir], Dersim [Turkish name Tunceli], Zilan Creek. Helebca [Halabja] and the “Anfal campaign” [genocidal attack on the Kurds by the Iraqi state in 1988, in which at least 100,000 mostly civilians were murdered] were carried out. The “Tunceli Laws” and the “Eastern Reform Plans” [after the massacre of the Kurdish population in the region] were implemented. They tried to destroy the Kurdish language and culture through assimilation and genocide policies. The Kurdish people were subjected to forced migrations and uprooted from their homes. They were subjected to all kinds of insults and humiliations. Not only cultural but also economic genocide policies were carried out in Kurdistan. While Kurds were exploited as the cheapest labor force, the geography of Kurdistan with its underground and surface resources was plundered unlimitedly. Kurds were even forbidden to speak their own language and to receive education in their own language. This prohibition continues to this day. This most shameful practice in history has been inflicted on the Kurds. So can the nation-state mentality that caused all this be considered right? Can a Republic that caused all this be seen as right and positive?
The deterioration of Kurdish-Turkish relations has harmed Turkey and the Turkish people as much as it has harmed the Kurds. Except for the interests of a handful of minorities, none of the ideals expected from the new state and republic have been realized. Turkishness and nationalism have become nothing more than a tool of power. The Turkish people have been constantly pushed around with Turkishness and nationalism. The society was poisoned with Kurdish enmity. As a result, the people were not allowed to make serious democratic demands and progress. The Turkish people have been made incapable of thinking and doing anything other than feeding themselves. The society was not allowed to have any say in its future. A caste has been created in politics and bureaucracy that rules the society by capturing the state mechanisms. Society has been exploited by this caste and a handful of capitalists. The working people, left to starve, defected to the centers of capitalist modernity. Society was handed over to sects, big landowners and usurious moneylenders. The new state and republic were even backward compared to the old. Those who rule the state take no social responsibility. They were able to make all kinds of relations and agreements with the colonial powers and reactionaries. The republic, which was founded on the relationship with the Kurds and the struggle against the policies of the capitalist imperialist powers towards Turkey, Kurdistan and the Middle East, has taken the opposite approach. The genocide of Kurds was determined as a fundamental policy and all kinds of relations were entered into with the forces of capitalist modernity to the detriment of society. In order to continue its policies of Kurdish genocide, it has become dependent on the support of foreign powers. In order to obtain this support, no concessions have not been made to foreign powers. Kurdish hostility has rendered the state completely unprincipled. It is as if only one principle and law has been applied, and that is Kurdish enmity. The state system based on Kurdish enmity and Kurdish massacres has turned like a boomerang and hit its owner every time. Capturing and ruling the state was only possible through war. The wars to seize and rule the state were not inferior to the dynastic period. There have been practices that surpassed even that. Endless coups, ambushes, betrayal, denunciation, executions and massacres have been experienced, too many to count. Even a look at today’s AKP-MHP is enough to understand the situation. The AKP-MHP government is at war not only with the Kurdish people, but with almost every section and every member of society. Both society and the state have been completely handed over to sects and moneylenders. Undoubtedly, all this is being done and legitimized on the basis of Kurdish enmity.
The deterioration of Kurdish-Turkish relations has harmed not only Kurds and Turks, but also all other peoples of the Middle East, especially Arabs, Armenians, Greeks, Persians, Jews and Assyrians. When Kurdish-Turkish relations deteriorated in the most critical period of history and a conflictual situation emerged, the policies of capitalist modernity and imperialism dominated the Middle East. The peoples of the Middle East were divided and fragmented, and peoples were made enemies with the developing nationalism. Only the forces of capitalist modernity benefited from this. The massacre and genocide of the Palestinian people, which is on the agenda of the world today, is certainly not independent of this. If the relationship that led to the foundation of the Turkish Republic had been preserved and maintained, the developments in the Middle East would have been different. The policy of capitalist modernity, which poisoned the nation-state and nationalism to make peoples turn against each other and make everyone dependent on itself, would not have prevailed and a process of democratization would have developed in the Middle East.
The PKK is a movement of rebellion, struggle and liberation of the Kurdish people against denial, massacre and genocide. In essence, it means restoring the broken Kurdish-Turkish relations. In this sense, it is an extremely important historical breakthrough. The PKK has succeeded in bringing the Kurdish people back to a level where they can play their historical role by making them conscious, willful and combative. This is a service not only for the Kurdish people, but for all the peoples of the Middle East, especially the Turkish people. It is very important that this reality is well seen and understood by everyone in Turkey. The military coup of September 12 was a step that aimed to completely end the historical Kurdish-Turkish relations. The actors who carried out this coup aimed to destroy Kurdishness completely. But as history and recent times have proven, there cannot be Turks without Kurds and Kurds cannot exist without Turks. Ending the Kurds also means ending the Turks. The PKK prevented this from happening by standing against the coup of September 12 and thwarting this move. In this respect, a legitimate and extremely necessary struggle was waged and a historical role was played. Unfortunately, the Turkish society has been prevented from understanding this reality. On the one hand, the propaganda of the forces in control of state power, on the other hand, the inadequacy of the left, socialist, democratic and enlightened sections of society who could not fully overcome nationalist influences, and the lack of a democratic public opinion have delayed the recognition of this reality. Even today, this reality has not been communicated to Turkish society. The Kurdish democratic forces as well as the Turkish democratic forces, socialist movement and intellectuals are responsible for this.
As the 100th anniversary of the Republic draws to a close, it is extremely important and necessary to refer to the international conspiracy that began on October 9, 1998 and culminated in the Imrali isolation on February 15, 1999, in terms of Kurdish-Turkish relations. Because the international conspiracy is one of the biggest blows to historical Kurdish-Turkish relations. The international conspiracy aimed to end the Kurdish-Turkish relations that the PKK was trying to re-establish, and to prevent the successful conclusion of this process. The fact that the US, Israel and NATO were the main forces that planned and carried out the conspiracy sufficiently demonstrates this fact. By revealing the inner face of the international conspiracy and what was intended by it, Rêber Apo prevented the realization of this goal. It is Rêber Apo who has been waging this struggle for twenty-five years under conditions of Imrali captivity. Now the international conspiracy is being carried out on the basis of absolute isolation and non-communication, cutting off all contact of Rêber Apo with the outside world. It is Kurdish-Turkish relations that are being held captive in Imrali and placed in absolute isolation. It is very important that the public opinion, intellectuals, democracy forces, socialist and libertarian forces in Turkey understand this fact and emphasize and voice it.
The aim of the AKP-MHP government is to carry out the Kurdish genocide through fascism and thus to completely destroy the historical Kurdish-Turkish alliance. This was a goal that was put forward with the military coup of September 12. Historically, the Unionists wanted to do this by basing it on Turkishness. The September 12 regime, on the other hand, planned to do this mainly on the basis of religion. Today, the AKP-MHP government is trying to do this by combining the two. By doing so, it has shown that it is the fiercest and most dangerous regime. So much so that the existence of the Kurds is considered dangerous for the future of the state and they say that the Kurds must be eliminated for the survival of the state. Not only does it say this, but in order for this to happen, it engages in an intense war with the Kurds, attacking, killing, arresting and imprisoning people everywhere. With an intensive special warfare, it tries to make the Turkish society accept that this is a ‘rational idea’. But this is neither rational nor moral, conscientious or legal. It is clear that this is as much anti-Turkish as it is anti-Kurdish and that it harms the Turks as well. The deterioration of Kurdish-Turkish relations and the quarrel between Kurds and Turks will only serve the interests of foreign powers. History has sufficiently proven this fact. This is also evident from today’s developments. Fighting with the Kurds will neither be a national quest, nor will it contribute to the Turkish people and Turkey. This approach definitely leads to the opposite results. The AKP-MHP government’s rhetoric of nationalism and the ‘fight against terrorism’ has nothing to do with reality. It is purely a means of gaining public consent for the war against the Kurds and covering up policies that ultimately benefit foreign powers. This creates the perception that all problems will be solved by destroying the PKK. The biggest distortion is created here. The reality is the opposite. The Kurdish question did not evolve with the PKK. There was a Kurdish question before the PKK. The PKK is not the creator of the Kurdish question, but is a result of it. Neither the Kurdish question can be solved nor the Kurds can be finished by destroying the PKK.
One of the realities that the AKP-MHP government has covered up and distorted with the lies of nationalism and ‘terrorism’ is Syria and Rojava. The Turkish society is being deceived with the lie: “The Kurds will establish a state in Rojava and attack and destroy us.” This is the basis for attacking, occupying and annexing Syria and Rojava. In reality, neither the Kurds are building a state in Rojava nor Rojava is hostile to the Turks. On the contrary, Rojava is the most friendly place in the world with the Turkish people. In Rojava, there is a structure formed with a democratic nation mentality, and this mentality is based on the brotherhood and coexistence of peoples. To derive enmity against the Turkish people from this can only be enmity against the Kurdish people. It is very clear that the current genocidal colonialist state, which puts forward these lies and harms the Turks as much as the Kurds, cannot represent the Turks and the peoples of Turkey.
Now as the 100th anniversary of the republic has been completed, an evaluation of the past century clearly shows that democratization in Turkey cannot be realized without a democratic political solution to the Kurdish question. Without the democratization of Turkey, the social, political, economic and cultural problems of Turkey and Turkish society cannot be solved. The change, development and progress expected from the Republic cannot be achieved. The independence of the state and the freedom of society cannot be ensured. The state cannot be taken out of the coup mechanism and out of the control of Gladio structures. All this is possible only through the democratization of the Kurdish question. Therefore, the most fundamental issue that is needed is to bring together and crown the republic with a real democracy. Within a democratic Republic, Kurds and Turks can live together with other peoples in Turkey. Therefore, as we enter a new century, there is a dire need to revisit Kurdish-Turkish relations and to develop a relationship in line with its historical meaning. Kurds act with this awareness and demonstrate this will. Kurds see the solution to their problems in the democratization of Turkey and at the same time struggle for it. The Kurdish people definitely see the solution here, believe in it and do not seek any other solution. This is our position as the Kurdish Freedom Movement. This is the solution method that Rêber Apo believes in and defends. The development of this will also be beneficial for the Kurds and Turks as well as the other peoples of the Middle East and will serve the solution of the problems in the Middle East. New Kurdish-Turkish relations crowned with democracy will also develop the democratic alliance of Arab, Armenian, Jewish, Persian, Turkmen, Assyrian and all other peoples of the Middle East and their will to live together. This means the beginning of a new process in the Middle East where historical problems will be resolved. The second century of the Republic must be characterized by development and transformation on this basis.
The democratic forces of Turkey, the socialist movement, democratic faith groups, intellectuals, writers, artists, all segments of society in favor of democracy and freedom and of course the Kurdish democratic movement have an important responsibility to accomplish this historical task. We call on everyone to act with this sense of responsibility, to initiate a process of discussion and restructuring that reconsiders Kurdish-Turkish relations, and to realize this by ensuring the democratic alliances of the peoples on this basis, and we state that we, as the Kurdish Freedom Movement, will be in the struggle for this.
KCK Executive Council