Turkey and the Kurds

A Message For Two Friends…

By Gerald A. Honigman (Jerry is an expert on the history and plight of the Kurds.)

Don’t do it! There is a better way.

Recent reports tell of Turkey crossing the Iraqi border in pursuit of Kurdish terrorists tied to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). I will call them terrorists, even though I have misgivings doing so. Since their victims have included innocents, in addition to military targets, I will do this.

I have misgivings because Arabs who deliberately target Jewish innocents are routinely called “militants” by the same folks who are quick to call Kurds terrorists. And even the Kurds’ terrorists don’t seek the destruction of Turkey… just justice for their people. Now think about what Hamas, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, Abbas and his sweet-talking Fatah Arafatians, and so forth have planned for Israel–with or without the disputed territories.

While I don’t advocate violence against the Turkish military either, the latter has been, after all, the tool by which the subjugation of about one fifth of Turkey’s seventy million people who are Kurds has been carried out.

Over the past century in particular, after the collapse of the Ottoman Turkish Empire in the wake of World War I, the Kurds were renamed Mountain Turks, had their language and culture outlawed, etc. and so forth to insure that the new, constricted Turkey which arose with Mustafa Kemal–Ataturk–would suffer no further geographical losses.

I applaud the Turks for many reasons. When Spain was holding inquisitions and exiling some of my own relatives, the Turks took them in. Turkey has been a valuable ally of America and has resisted Islamic extremism better than any other Muslim country. Turkey has relatively good relations with Israel…especially when its relations with neighboring Syria take a dive.

So, I truly wish nothing but good for our Turkish friends. But friends should be able to disagree and remain friends.

Not long ago, when Israel went after Hamas terror masters, Turkey was quick to criticize Israel and lecture her about the need to create the Arabs’ 22nd state and second, not first, one in “Palestine”–Jordan having surfaced on some 80% of the original April 25, 1920 territory over the past century.

Turkey knows full well what the Arabs’ plans are for the Jewish State, yet makes these demands anyway.

As I’ve pointed out before, Turkey is almost forty times as large as Israel geographically and eleven times as large in population. Despite this, it sees nothing wrong, after demanding the creation of the Arabs’ 22nd state, with telling thirty million truly stateless Kurds–who have been massacred and subjugated in all the lands where they have lived in the new nationalist era–that they must remain forever in that stateless condition because of the potential threat independence in Iraqi Kurdistan might have to Turkey. The Turks fear the effect this will have on their own large, adjacent Kurdish population.

The fear is well founded, and I understand it.

A look at what is now happening in Kosovo/Kosova is a case in point. The Turks defeated the Serbs there in 1389. What would later be named Albania became Muslim with continuing Turkish conquests of the region.

Turn the clock ahead six centuries, and ethnic Muslim Albanians have spread outside of their independent state of Albania into an ethnically fractured Yugoslavia held together only by the glue of Marshal Tito. When he died, all knew that Yugoslavia’s days were numbered.

Indeed…America led the dismemberment.

Some say that America needed to show that it was supporting Muslims elsewhere since it was also in conflict with them in so many other places.

And now, there is a drive to create an independent Muslim Albanian Kosova in traditional Serb lands…in addition to the already existing Muslim state of Albania.

So, such things do happen.

But if a Turkey which dwarfs Israel in size and population has reason to fear this, then what is Israel to say?

One fifth of Israel is Arab…like the fifth of Turkey which is Kurd. Yet the Jews are told by virtually all–including Turks–that they must allow yet another Arab state, dedicated to their destruction, to be set up in their backyard.

Keep in mind that even the PKK doesn’t seek Turkey’s destruction.

Despite the potential for problems, justice does not demand that Kurds should remain forever stateless in the nationalist age. Kurds lived in the area for millennia before imperialist Turks arrived there from Central Asia or imperialist Arabs arrived after bursting out of the Arabian Peninsula. Both would occupy and settle Kurdish lands. An independent Kurdistan was promised after World War I in Mesopotamia before it was aborted on behalf of British petroleum politics and Arab nationalism. If expansionist Albanians can lay claim to Kosovo, then what are Kurds due in lands they have lived in since biblical days?

So, what’s to be done?

There is no doubt that the Kurds must do what the Arabs refuse to do… They must show their Turkish neighbors that an independent or highly autonomous Iraqi federal Kurdish region will not be a threat. They must have serious discussions with the PKK about what the greater good for Kurdistan will require. That means Kurdish leaders must get their own acts together as well…beyond protecting their own virtual fiefdoms. And, if need be, they must use military force to subdue their own extremists.

Hopefully, it will not come to this. And nothing will be expected in this regard if the Turks don’t show that they will be willing to grant Kurds the same right to have in one of which they expect Israel to allow Arabs to have almost two dozen of.

Notice, please, while we’re on the subject, the absence of voices in academia and elsewhere…the same ones demanding that 22nd Arab state, knowing full well its murderous intentions regarding Israel.

In the late ‘70s, the only time my tenured professor at Ohio State University even mentioned Kurds is when he mocked their aspirations while telling of his travels through Turkey. Like many others, he knew who buttered his bread and who and who not to put under the high power lens of moral scrutiny. This was the same guy who lionized the Arab quest for state # 22 and Hitler’s good buddy, the Mufti of Jerusalem.

There is room for coexistence and cooperation if both peoples can get beyond their fears. Besides real problems with the PKK (for which Turkey shares part of the blame), there already are real benefits materializing for Turks in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Turkey can establish good, working ties with Kurds who, like Turks, can also hold their own heads up high as a free and proud people. Both have a history of opposing Islamic extremism, though some are to be counted amongst both populations…more with the Turks than with the Kurds.

Kurds from Turkey, Syria, Iran, and elsewhere wanting to live in an independent Kurdish state can have in Iraqi Kurdistan what Jews have in a reborn Israel.

Like formerly truly stateless Jews, Kurds have suffered greatly because of this statelessness. Renaming Arabs “Palestinians” does not change the fact that Arabs have almost two dozen states–conquered from mostly non-Arab peoples. If there is a rough analogy to the Jews, it is the Kurds, not the Arabs.

Both Turks and Kurds must examine each others needs and fears. The future can be a promising one for both peoples.

While Arabs of different stripes blow each other apart, Turks and Kurds have mostly shown that they want no part of this sort of thing. Think of the possibilities which can arise if both peoples can get themselves to grant each other the humanity and respect both deserve.

The realm of the Turks will not see itself geographically split again. The Kurds must understand this. But this does not mean that Kurds should be suppressed in Turkey. To insure Turkey’s integrity, the Turks have demanded Turkification of all who live there. This needs to be moderated. Imagine the outcry if Israel was doing this sort of thing to its Arabs.

Ironically, Kurdish autonomy or independence in Iraqi Kurdistan has the potential to ease these very problems…under the right conditions. Having the potential to live in a Kurdish-ruled area will give Kurds everywhere less grievance and reason to resort to violence.

Will there be risks and problems?

Of course. There is much that will be needed to be worked out. And all thirty million Kurds will not fit into Iraqi Kurdistan.

But reasonable people can come up with reasonable solutions.

My advice to my Turkish friends… Invade Iraqi Kurdistan? Don’t do it! There is a better way…

June 8, 2007 | 1 Comment »

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1 Comment / 1 Comment

  1. When the world supports their cause, they are called militants. When it doesn’t, they are called terrorists or suicide bombers. Either way they are all assassins.

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