Günal Kurşun

From time to time, I think about the social roots of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict.

It is obvious that there is ongoing discrimination against and “otherization” of Kurds in society. It is still very hard for Kurds to become top government officials if they reveal their identity. Although there has been an improvement in recent years, measures to prevent discrimination are still insufficient. Social inclusion is the key aspect for a possible solution to the conflict, but it is hard to claim that there are real social policies and legal measures to prevent this discrimination.

In fact, there are dominant identities in Turkey. Turks against Kurds, Muslims against non-Muslims and Sunnis against Alevis are some of the examples of dominant identities that deserve a special approach. The Kemalist ideology, enacted even before Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, excluded and slowly isolated all sub-identities. The Committee of Union and Progress (İttihat ve Terakki), which ruled the last years of Ottoman Empire, saw all minorities as a threat to the existence of the state. This mentality resulted in the Armenian Genocide of 1915, aiming at the transfer of capital to Turks, and had an effect on the new republic with a huge perception that it was under threat. In Dersim in 1938, there was another genocide, which resulted with civilian massacres of Alevi Kurds.In reality, the last institutional solidarity between Turks and Kurds was between the years 1915 and 1925. During the 1915 Dardanelles Campaign and the Armenian Genocide and during the formation of the Turkish Republic in 1923, Turks and Kurds acted together against common “enemies” or “opponents.” A number of promises given during the Turkish War of Independence and the establishment of the new republic to Kurds were not fulfilled. After the Sheikh Said revolt in 1925, the new republic’s policy turned against the Kurds. The 1938 bombings in Dersim are a part of our history that has not been confronted.

Among Turks, there is an unspoken subconscious fear of Kurds about separation. Since we have problems with our self-confidence, we think that Kurds will stab us in the back. In fact, we do not trust anyone else. It is taught in schools that “Turks have no friends other than Turks.” I really don’t think that such a psychology exists in any other nations in the world. Is there something like “as strong as a Spanish person” or “Swedes have no friends other than Swedes”?

These false perceptions lead to Kurdophobia. Kurdophobia is the biggest obstacle preventing a possible solution. It creates an unreal and illogical hatred, poisoning both sides and creating a similar hatred on the Kurdish side. Forbidding the expression of an identity, torture and the ill-treatment of government officials has created a terrorist organization. Many observers share the idea today that the current acquisitions of the Kurdish movement — like the repeal of the ban on the Kurdish language, the expression of cultural symbols such as Kurdish music and TV channels broadcasting in Kurdish — are concrete successes achieved by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Maybe this is true and maybe not, but ordinary Kurds support the PKK today because they believe that the government has not given them anything but after the establishment of the organization and when its actions became visible, their rights increased. On the other hand, it led to a dangerous atmosphere, leading to widespread and systematic abuses of human rights. I sincerely believe that a true peace process can only be made possible by establishing social policies focused on preventing Kurdophobia.

Günal Kurşun