Turkey-Kurdish Conflict in Afrin constrains the Key-Players to Re-Estimate Their Interests in Middle-East -Abdullah Al Mahmud

International, Issue

The reason why Turkey is going to impose an extra regime-power over Kurdish people in Afrin has come to the front line to rethink about Middle-east politics. Geo-politically turkey is one of the most important countries in middle-east as well as in Muslim world. Few months ago, turkey went over Kurds area with a militant step. So what are the reasons that worked as connector for turkey to take a military step over Kurdish people? Looking back to the historical stage where Kurdish nationalism emerged at the end of the 19th Century around the same time as Turks and Arabs began to embrace an ethnic sense of identity in place of earlier forms of solidarity such as the idea of Ottoman citizenship or membership of a religious community, or millet. Revolts occurred sporadically but only in 1880 with the uprising led by Sheikh Ubeydullah demanded an identity of ethnic group or nation. Ottoman sultan Abdul Hamid responded by a campaign of integration by co-opting prominent Kurdish opponents to strong Ottoman power with prestigious positions in his government. That appeared successful strategy ensured the loyalty displayed by the Kurdish Hamidiye regiments during World War 1.
The Kurdish ethno-nationalist movement that emerged following World War I and end of the Ottoman empire was largely reactionary to the changes taking place in mainstream Turkey, primarily radical secularization which the Muslim Kurds strongly abhorred, centralization of authority which threatened the power of local chieftains and Kurdish autonomy, and rampant Turkish nationalism in the new Turkish Republic which obviously threatened to marginalize them. So the overall geo-politics of turkey was not in favor of Kurds.
During the relatively open government of the 1950s, gaining political office and starting working within the framework of the Turkish Republic to further their interests, Kurds found a little bit level playing fields that were denied before. But this move towards integration was halted with the 1960 Turkish coup. The 1970s saw an evolution in Kurdish nationalism as Marxist political thought influenced a new generation of Kurdish nationalists opposed to the local feudal authorities who had been a traditional source of opposition to authority; eventually they would form the militant separatist PKK – listed as a terrorist group by the United Nations, European Union, NATO and many states that includes United States, or Kurdistan Workers Party in English.
Now, let us talk about the Kurdish condition in turkey. About half of all Kurds live in Turkey. Rest of them is living in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. According to the CIA’ claim, they account for 18 percent of the Turkish population. They are predominantly distributed in the southeastern corner of the country. The best available estimate of the number of persons in Turkey speaking the Kurdish language is about five million (1980). About 3,950,000 others speak Northern Kurdish (Kurmanji).While population increase suggests that the number of speakers has grown, it is also true that the ban on the use of the language in Turkey was only lifted in 1991 and still exists in most official settings (including schools), and that many fewer ethnic Kurds live in the countryside where the language has traditionally been used. The number of Kurd speaking people who identify themselves as ethnic Kurds is clearly less than 15 million.
The reason that influenced and fired Turkey-Kurdish conflict is, from 1915 to 1918, Kurds struggled to end Ottoman rule over their region. They were encouraged by Woodrow Wilson’s support for non-Turkish nationalities of the empire and submitted their claim for independence to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. The Treaty of Sevres stipulated the creation of an autonomous Kurdish state in 1920, but the subsequent Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 failed to mention Kurds. In 1925 and 1930, Kurdish revolts were forcibly stopped.
Following these injurious events by Kurdish people, the existence of distinct ethnic groups like Kurds in Turkey was officially denied and any expression by the Kurds of their ethnic identity was harshly repressed. Until 1991, the use of the Kurdish language – although widespread – was illegal. As a result of reforms inspired by the EU, music, radio and television broadcasts in Kurdish are now allowed albeit with severe time restrictions (for example, radio broadcasts can be no longer than sixty minutes per day nor can they constitute more than five hours per week while television broadcasts are subject to even greater restrictions). Additionally, education in Kurdish is now permitted though only in private institutions.
As late as 1994, however, Leyla Zana, the first female Kurdish representative in Turkey’s Parliament, was charged with making “separatist speeches” and sentenced for 15 years. At her inauguration as an MP, she reportedly identified herself as a Kurd. Amnesty International reported that she took the oath of loyalty in Turkish, as required by law, and then added in Kurdish, I shall struggle so that the Kurdish and Turkish people may live together in a democratic framework. Parliament erupted with shouts of ‘Separatist, Terrorist and ‘arrested her!'”.
The next cause that may also responsible for uprising this conflict between Turkey and Kurds is genetic. There also appear to be some links to northern Semitic people such as the Syrians and possibly ancient Hebrews, but fewer links to southern Semites in the Arabian Peninsula in spite of the region having been conquered very early by Muslim Arabs. In 2001 Nebeletal compared three Jewish and three non-Jewish groups from the Middle East: Ashkenazim, Sephardim,and Kurdish Jews from Israel; Muslim Arabs from Israel and the Palestinian Authority Area; Bedouin from the Negev; and Muslim Kurds. They concluded that Kurdish and Sephardic Jews were indistinguishable from one another, whereas both differed slightly, yet noticeably, from Ashkenazi Jews, Nebeletal, had earlier (2000) found a large genetic relationship between Jews and Palestinian Arabs, but in this study found an even higher relationship of Jews with Iraqi Kurds. They conclude that the common genetic background shared by Jews and other Middle Eastern groups predates the division of Middle Easterners into different ethnic groups. So as they (Kurds) have a genetic relation with Jewish people. The common countrymen of turkey do not think them as a part of “Muslim millet” and the effect of this countrymen’s sentimental pressure was duly imposed on Turkish government.
The hidden fact that is being considered as the most important key factor in turkey-Kurdish conflict is nothing but a Middle-east controlling power and its distribution. Till now Turkey play a great role in middle-east. As Kurdish fighters got a great help from Woodrow Wilson, the ex-president of USA, at the time of their flourishing and as also USA wants to retain the solidarity-motto announced by turkey in middle-east, it’s been assumed that there is link and cooperation between Kurdish fighters and USA. Some hypothesis also taken that USA wants to divide turkey and break the solidarity in middle-east. Almost all of the fighters among Kurdish people led by a group of people detached from the mainstream Turkish ideology including ottoman-empire. Who wins in this bloody war is not the matter; the matter is who is being used by someone from so far? Another Iraq or Syria is not expected for sake of middle-east solidarity.

The writer studies Economics at University of Dhaka.

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