The Kurdish Question

One of the most inspiring   scenes in recent history was the sight, of thousands of armed Kurdish women of the Women's Defence Units (YPJ) who helped defeat the fascist IS in Kobane, Rojava, on the border between Syria and Turkey. Since then they have helped to push IS back farther, toward Raqqa.

Kobane marked an important moment in many ways—it is one of the rare times when Kurds have become central to world history, and this should have a similar result as that achieved by the Kurdish uprising in Iraq in 1991 in regards to increased autonomy.

The heroic defence of Kobane stripped whatever veneer still stuck to Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan-who did what he could to undermine the Kurds. He holds the leftist Kurdistan Workers' Party to be a "terrorist" group, as does the US. But this is a convenient cover to his old school anti-Kurd ethnic politics, and it has blown back on him in the last election.

After the attack by IS on the Turkish Consulate in Mosul, in which all those present were taken hostage, the statement of the Foreign Minister of Turkey affirming that these people "are not hostages" involuntarily recognised the existence of relations between the Turkish government and this terrorist organisation. The rumours that the National Intelligence Agency of Turkey (MIT) had received information about the attack on the consulate, show that the Turkish government is colluding with the criminal terrorist organisation IS.

The Turkish government has a great responsibility for the worsening situation of growing  chaos in Iraq and Syria. It has intrigued behind the backs of its neighbours to become a regional power; it has become a bully against its neighbouring countries; it incites one against the other and continually threatens Alawite citizens in Turkey; it has done everything possible to inflame the war in Syria, while making it difficult for the Kurds to fight for self-determination.

There is growing unrest among Turkey’s 14 million Kurds, along Turkey’s desert border with Iraq. Turkey’s Government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has finally joined the international coalition fighting IS in mid-July 2015. On 20 July 2015, an IS suicide bombing, the first on Turkish soil, killed 32 students and young activists in the southern town of Suruc, on their way to help rebuild war-torn Kobane. Turkey has allowed USA to use its airbases, and launched immediate F-16 strikes against IS in Syria. But its main target has been the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) camps in northern Iraq, in what Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called a ‘‘synchronised fight against terrorism’’. Although a fragile cease-fire has been holding since March 2013, Turkey has fought for three decades against the insurgency of the PKK, deemed a terrorist organisation by USA and Europe as well. Kurds accuse Ankara of hijacking the war on IS, to stop them making further political and territorial gains. The Turkish government’s attempts to carve a buffer zone in Syria, all along the Turkish border, is viewed by the Kurds as a ruse to prevent the creation of a Kurdish entity.

Kurds control around half of Syria’s 560-mile border with Turkey. Assaults on the PKK by Turkey, have so far been much heavier than its strikes against   IS. The crackdown and strikes against the Kurds are a response to increased militant violence in recent weeks, including the targeted killings of at least 20 members of security forces. More than 2000 people have been arrested since Turkey launched its offensive against IS, though only 200 are suspected of links to the group. The Kurdish-Syrian Defence Forces (YPG) are insulted when the coffins of their fighters are held back at Silpoli, near the Northern Syrian town of Kobane, by Turkish authorities. Kurd forces have been among the most effective over the past eighteen months, in holding back the advance of IS, along Syria’s border with Turkey. Since beginning August 2015, Turkish war planes have bombed targets of the PKK, in their strongholds in the remote mountains of Northern Iraq, and South Eastern Turkey, 2000 members of the out-lawed Kurdistan Workers’ party have been killed, and hundreds injured.

Concerned people around the world know much about the plight of Palestinians—the stateless people. But how Kurds are being persecuted in Turkey and Iran doesn’t get much currency. Before the break-up of Iraq, they were treated as ‘animals’ even in Saddam Hussain’s secular entity. It was a criminal offence to speak Kurdish language in Turkey even a few years ago. Once Yielmiz Guney, the renowned film-maker, recollected how he learnt as a grown-up boy that he had a mother tongue of his own when he heard his parents talking in low voice in night in a language which was not familiar to him.

What is more communist influence among Kurds, in Iraq, in Turkey and else where is still very powerful and this is one reason why Kurds’ struggle for a state of their own is being ignored by the media.

Vol. 48, No. 12, Sep 27 - Oct 3, 2015