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Kurdish Nationalism versus Turkish Nationalism

According to Sumerian inscriptions of 2000B.C and Assyrian inscriptions, Kardaka, Kurtie or Guti in the neighborhood of Lake Van are the ancestors of modern Kurds. The first the modern name of ‘Kurd” was seen in Arabic writings of ninth century A.D

with the plural from of ‘Akad’. Kurdish territory had been invaded by different civilizations like Caucasian, pre-Iranian and around 700 B.C Iranian elements were effective, and Kurds had been in struggle with them to protect their territorial unity. “The modern Kurds are therefore descendants of several ancient peoples, mainly Iranian. They include Caucasian strains in the north and some Semitic strains in the south. They are, however, bound together, by a purely Kurdish influence which probably derives from the original mountain tribes which have inhabited these regions from earliest times” (The Kurdish Question, W.G Elphinston, International Affairs(royal of International affairs 1994-), Vol.22,No.1(Jan,1946), Pg.92).

In the seventh century, by the influence of the Islam in the southern part of Kurdish Mountains, Kurdish families began following their ancestry to early Arab heroes. They began working in the Arab armies as levies during Omayyad and Abbasid Caliphates terms. Until Kurdistan was a big conflict between the Turks and the Safavi dynasty of Iran, it had been ruled by different dynasties, Hassanawaih, during 959 to 979 A.D, Khorremabad and Sarmaj. Before the invasion of the Seljuk Turks, Diyarbakir and Urfa were ruled by Marwanids. However, without any sovereigns but different group of dynasties were not able to sustain Kurdish unity and Western part of Kurdistan became part of the Ottoman Empire and Eastern part became part of Iran.

According to Adam Smith, there is two different ways of nationhood which take their origins from ethnie or ethnic community. According to him, Human beings have multiple identities. Thus, in prehistoric areas, the family, clan and settlement competed for their loyalty. He defines ethnie “communities that not only share certain myths of origin and descent, the association with a certain territory and at least some common elements of culture, but also a sense of solidarity among (most of) their members.” (The Kurds, Pg.32). This explanation shows the difference between ethnic category, people share common culture and a myth but lack of solidarity, and ethnic community. Nation is the place which every feature assembles; public culture and a certain political and economical integration. He does not believe that culture is constructed or given and fixed. He does believe that culture “whole set of representations and principles that consciously organize the various aspects of social life, a set of norms, positive and negative, and the values attached to these ways of acting and thinking” (The Kurds, Pg.81). He examines ethnie in two groups; lateral-aristocratic ethnie, “whose members constitute a military-aristocratic stratum, which has little social depth but may be widely extended in geographical space.” (The Kurds, Pg.33) , and vertical- demotic type; “different social strata share in (more or less) the same culture and are held together by a belief in common origins and a strong commitment to a common religion” (The Kurds, Pg.33).

If there is a cultural integration between different communities that they dominate, lateral aristocratic ethnies can grow. On the other hand, for vertical one, there should be a process that integration is created by nationalist intelligentsia. Reinvention of ethnic past and claim of sacred ties to a homeland can appear in the earlier nation states but also it can be inside and against them. To accept the other individuals’ ethnic identity means that being aware of their different but common language and following similar cultures and princinbles. However, this reorganization will not prevent the war because ethnicity does not provide certain kind of guarantee to territorial access or material wealth. Certain kinds of marriages do not either. “It is the individual’s membership in a local solidarity group, tribe, clan or household that will, up to a point, ensure that s/he has access to these three advantages” (The Kurds, Pg.87). Dominant ethnie or religion group or tribe is the head of the state or has the power of the state. Thus, being a member of a common ethnie also means that classifying in higher or lower positions according to their ethnicity and tribal membership in the bureaucratic hierarchy of the state. According to Fredrik Barth, people feel that have to belong to some ethnie because the sense of the security and stability in their boundaries. They have always wanted to maintain their order, in order to build, negotiate and reproduce its self-identity.

Thus, “ethnicity results from the constantly renewed codification of cultural differences between neighboring groups” (The Kurds, Pg.82). Therefore, different cultures create different ethnic boundaries. On the other hand, for modernist, ethnic groupings are flexible. It can be constructed, adopted, or rejected according to will. Individuals can have two different identities. Their identity does not depend on where they were born, but their role in a given society. Pure etnie cannot be possible for anybody else. Nobody can talk about one’s pure ethnie, but population’s origin. Circumstances are the defining factor for individuals’ ethnic identity. It is a matter of choice according to these circumstances. Therefore, ethnic identity does not belong to common kinship, religion or history. It is constructed by individuals. Benedict Anderson mentions that “… a historical identity contains imagined and imaginary fact that any claim to a historical identity contains imagined and imaginary elements, objects of dream and desires, always easily manipulated as the historical context evolves. The role of the intellectual elite in the creation of these movements is essential: they are the ones who first speak out specific markers or diferentia specifica in the culture and history of group” (The Kurds, Pg. 86). Assimilation via education, forcing the dominant group’s language to hide the ethnic communities for their nation building process or end the conflict between ethnies in the state are the ways to construct an ethnic identity for individuals.

The question is that how Kurdish Nationalism occurred although they had different dynasties and approximately no unity between each other? Was that because of the modernization or primordial reasons or the balance of power? How come, their struggle sparkled and the big conflict began and has been escalating with Turkey and how this conflict has become a big question about ethnie in international arena, and will there be a solution for that conflict?

Kurds had two aspects of society. One of them was primordial aspect; aga, sheikh, tribal leader as a traditional forms of power. Other one was modernist aspect; intellectuals, businessman, new leading groups among Kurds and merchants as a result of modern education and immigration. In the major cities of Kurdistan, there was an effect of Turkicized culture. In the shehri (urbanities) provided a distinct social group s of the vernacular rural groups. The tribesmen defined themselves as ‘ashiret’ (tribal) or as Kurds. Whereas, in the urban population, some of them referred themselves as Turkish others referred as Kurds.

Religion, ‘communalism’, was an important factor for Kurdish solidarity during their national building process. In modern times, Kurds emerged as Sunni Muslims with Sufi effect. Also there were many Kurdish Shi’ite communities with different ethnic identities and dialects like Zaza and Alevis. During the 19th century, religious separists movements in Ottoman Empire, Sunni Kurds were recruited by sultan Adul-Hamid. In WWI, they had religious identity.

They struggled against Christian invaders, Allies and Greeks, with Ottoman Empire. Religious identity created strong ties between Turks and Kurds against communist Alevis. When the clashes took place between Turks and communist Alevis, to be a Kurd or a Turk was not an issue because the first identity was the religious one. Sunni Kurds supported the pan Turkish Nationalist Action Party and young Turkish speaking Alevis declared themselves to be Kurds.

Some Sunni Kurdish shaykhs and intellectuals were the supporter of Kemal’s pan-Islamic movement to protect the caliphate in the Turkish Muslim Empire. “Naqshbandiyya supporters of the Turkish independence movement, garnering financial support for the military, spreading the goals of Mustafa Kemal, and discrediting the Istanbul government”( Denise Natali, The Kurds and the State, Evolving National Identity in Iraq, turkey, and Iran, Pg.76). in 1919, Erzurum congress, Kurds mentioned that they were the supporters of both Mustafa Kemal and Turkish liberation, as long as it was aware of the Kurdish autonomy. “…Kurds were the legitimate brothers of the Turks and demanding not to separated from their compatriots, Kurds who demanded independence, claiming it was indignant to Kurdish honor” (The Kurds and the State, Evolving National Identity in Iraq, turkey, and Iran, Pg. 77).

However, when tribesmen realized the modern developments, education and modern health services and intercommunication, at the same time they realized that their power was going to be getting weaker. Even though, tribesmen power was getting lesser, the concern about the race as a Kurd was getting stronger. Tribesmen were still expecting the new local chief Kurd or at least speak and understand Kurdish.

According to Kurdish primordialists’ believers, Kurdish language and people have existed for millennia, but Kurdistan was isolated because of the modernism. Thus, for those people, modernism was seen as a conflict rather than the solution for their conflict with Turks. “Said Nursi criticized the idea of nationalism and ethnicity as a poison, arguing: I refuse one hundred million times to sacrifice 350 million brothers among whom are absolute majority of Kurds, who have a certain fraternity and who assist me with their prayers…to the idea of a negative ethnicity and nationalism. I refuse one hundred millions times to abandon these numerous sacred brothers, to win over some small impious numbers who have entered a profession without confession and who carry the name of Kurds” (The Kurds and the State, Pg.76).

During Ottoman Empire, minority was defined by religion. Minorities’ rights were recognized. Their ethnic and linguistic differences among them did not have any legal consequences. The Kurdish National Movement began in 1826 because of sultan Mahmut’s changing policy for local governors and it escalated after the Young Turk revolt and got worse in Mustafa Kemal’s modernization term. In 19th century, Kurds realized their different cultural and linguistic features. In 1887, Midhat Bey and friends, generally well known families sons and had good background, published newspaper was called Kurdistan. “The paper, which violently attacked Turkish policy towards the Kurds, is said to have done much to consolidate the idea of Kurdish independence and to have led to the formation of Kurdish communities in various European countries, in Constantinople and in other Turkish towns”(The Kurdish Question, W.G Elphinston, International Affairs 1944-, Vol.22, No.1). Thus, this was the beginning of their revolt against Ottoman Empire; because nationalism was not well formed in those ages, their movement was religious (tariqats) rather than a nationalist movement. Sheikh Said, was the one of the most important religious revolt against Turks. And other revolts, trying to prove Kurdish independence, continued between 1930 and 1938. They were suppressed by Turkish military. Kurdish nationalist were apprehensive about cultural division because they needed a unity for self-determination. Stalin’s definition about nation was a remedy for their action and self-determination process. According to Stalin, nation have to five main characteristics to be a nation; common history, language, territory, economic life and culture. From 1923 to 1938 Kurdish nationalism had been revolting against Turkish government for Kurdish language and its deep root. “ Kurdish intellectual Nuri Dersimi wrote a letter to the secretary general of UN in the name of the tribes of Tunceli (Dersimi), warning about the Turkification of one part of the Kurdish nation and extermination of other” (The Kurds and the State, Evolving National Identity in Iraq, turkey, and Iran, Pg. 83). By the early 20th century, Kurdish ethnie became defined Kurdish-speaking Muslim tribes like Zaza and Gurani speaking tribes. Sunnis, lived with them in similar ecological environments and shared common history became Kurdish core. Tribal peasantry groups like Alevi, Yezidi, Shi’I and Ahl-I hagg tribes, speaking same language and believing in same religion, became defined as Kurds. By the 1960s, Kurdish nationalist, had the elite backgrounds, “decided that the non-tribal peasantry were real Kurds and directed their nationalist propaganda at them. The subject peasantry were gradually incorporated into dominant ethnie” (The Kurds, pg.34).

The question in people’s mind is that the reason of Kurdish nationalism can depend on the modernist approach. Was that really because of the unity of the Kurdish workers in three different areas, Turkey, Iraq and Iran, as Marxist ideology claim? Some primordialists believe that it was not the main reason because Kurdish workers united with other workers in their multiethnic states and plus the areas that Kurds survived never concentrated Kurdish communities’ industrialization process, Hence, they migrated to the west, Izmir, Istanbul and Germany, in 1960s because of their financial situation and support for their ideology but not for their nationalism movement. “The saliency of socioeconomic, tribal and localist identities prevented a unified sense of Kurdayeti (mobilization of Kurdish identity) from emerging across Kurdistan. Most Kurds were more interested in protecting their personal religious and tribal interests than in turning to Kurdish organizations to advance nationalist claims”(Denise Natali, The Kurds and the State, Evolving National Identity in Iraq, turkey, and Iran, Pg:75). Thus, modernization does not have any relevancy with Kurdish nationalism and reason of conflict with Turkey.

Beginning of the modernization area and by this way increasing of the nation states and the spread of the democratization process and importance of the human rights increased the awareness of nationalism ideas and escalates the domestic conflicts. Increase of the communication between all Kurdish groups improved the political expectations. Thus, as Earnest Gellner mentions that nationalism as a result of industrialization and the impact of the state and society of process. However, this modernization process and nationalism appeared in Kurdish community a little bit late. Because of their geographical position, as a nomadic life style, diversity isolated them in different places. This strengthened the different Kurdish dialects. “Isolation and pastoral way of life in many areas contributed to the development of a strong clan and tribal structure that perpetuated political and regional division” (Turkey’s Kurdish Question, Henri J. Barkey and Graham E. Fuller, Pg.6). Another reason for the delay of the Kurdish nationalism was that their division between Persian and Ottoman empires and so divergency of national views.

Increase of the nationalism ideas caused the clash of states and awakening the transformation of dominant states. Because of the emergence of the nationalism, conflict escalated between the great powers. During the WW I, first Kurdish nationalism emerged in Turkey. The decline of Ottoman Empire gave the huge change for the Emergence of the idea of self-determination so, Kurdish nationalism. Lenism with Bolshevik Revolution and Wilson with American Liberation inspired Kurdish nationalism and their demand for their independence. Thus, it is unavoidable the importance of the modernization over the spread of Kurdish Nationalism and the struggle with Turks. Late 19th century, Kurdish nationalism became more effective because of the increase of modernizing states and nationalism among the majority peoples who dominated them, Turks, Iranian and Arabs. Turkey was the under the pressure of Western powers during the 18th century and was preparing to its end. During this transformation term, Kurdish people had a chance to express their ethnic identity, participate the political affairs, speak their own language, and assemble as a national group. Western power pressure over Ottomans but their friendship with Kurdistan assembles Kurds under their umbrella. Kurds were supported by British society; Friends of British society and Committee for the Independence for the Independence of Kurdistan. Bedir Khan, a representative in the Ottoman Parliament and secretary of the Committee for the Independence of Kurdistan, complained about Kurdish nationalism’s difficult situation in Turkey and its difference from Turkish national identity to British Society; “We have nothing in common with the Turks. They are of the Turanian race; we are of the Aryan race. Pour language is different. The Turks speak a language composed of Chagatay, Arab, and Persian, while Kurds speak their own language with its origins from Pahlavi (The Kurds and the State, Pg.74).

Nation building policies of Turkey, improved communications, mass education and mass literacy, increased geographical and social mobility, political an military struggle of Kurdish nationalist parties, the ruin of traditional village life and the emergence of highly educated middle class have been such a profound effect over Kurdish nationalism movement during 20th century. However, this changes do not only have a positive effect over their nationalism but integration economically and socially to big cities caused weakening of Kurdish ethnicity too. In Urfa in 1960, Said Nursi, who identified as a Sunni Muslim, mentioned: “I have a friendly and brotherly relation with true the Turks….. Yet, you take the identity from millions of Kurds who are real Turkish citizens, brothers in combat in the holy war of the Turks. You make them forget their identity and their ancient language… This is a barbaric procedure. This submission cannot be imposed on me and we will not submit”(The Kurds and the States, Evolving National Identity in Iraq, Turkey and Iran, Pg.96). For sharpening the ethnic boundary with the dominant ethnie and awakening the Kurdish nationalism, Kurdish intellectuals has been studying historiography, linguistics, folklore studies and most of all poetry and literature. Some secularized and urbanized Kurdish intellectuals such as Mehdi Zana and Musa Anter published journals in Kurdish and Turkish and showing the significance of the Kurdish ethnicity by proving the difference of Kurdish language. Until the 1960s and 70s, Kurdish identity was undermined as state based national identity. 1960s was the awakening and reemergence of Kurdish nationalism. Displacement policy in new areas like western Anatolia and also Germany, and by this way, attending new jobs such as seasonal workers or some construction sectors and automobile factories, Kurdish nationalism assembled around the leftist worker groups. As a reborn left movement, it was for recognition of the existence of Kurds, their cultural rights and economic development. In 1965, Kurdistan Democratic Party of Turkey, emphasized the Kurdish identity and economic development but not the religion, was established by Faik Bucak and Said Elci. The new Kurdish movement became stronger with mass education and urbanization process. Kurdish students, intellectuals and labor immigrants became aware of their difference from dominant ethnie. “During the dozens of meetings held by Kurdish and Turkish intellectuals and working classes during 1960s, the participants protested against the underdevelopment of southeast Turkey. They demanded teachers and schools and not police. Kurdish nationalist also criticized education without the Kurdish language and life in Kurdistan without water and food” (The Kurds and the States, Evolving National Identity in Iraq, Turkey and Iran, Pg.100). In 1969, as another modernist approach, in the Eastern Turkey, new Kurdish organizations were established to mention the importance of the Kurdish nationalism. Devrimci Dogu Kultur Ocaklaris was one of them. These organizations published journals and newspapers in Turkish and Kurdish to emphasize the “eastern problem”. During 1970s, when Kurdish agas became loosing power, Kurdish Leftist groups cooperated with Turkish Leftist parties to get some support for their movement. Others, who were against leftist groups and Alevis, joint the right wing Turkish parties like Alparslan Turkes’s MHP.

However, after the 1970 coup d’etat and so weakening leftist workers group caused the declining of Kurdish nationalism. Their right wing Kurds became closer to Turkish government and reached and agreement with it increased the Kurd’s claim for their distinct ethnic identity. Thus, the hatred against the Turks and right wing Kurds escalated. “In the highly ethnicized and militarized political space, and in the absence of open political alternatives, Kurdish nationalist sentiment and organizations became highly ethnicized, violent, and diversified. Urbanized Kurdish nationalists produced clandestine journals such as MEDYA Gunesi, Toplumsal Dirilis, Ozgur Gelecek, and Vatan Gunesi that criticized the state’s military warfare in Kurdistan and emphasized the distinct Kurdish language. Still prevented from using in term Kurd, they created secular, pro-Kurdish parties, including the People’s Labor Party (Halkin Emek Partisi (HEP)” (The Kurds and the States, Evolving National Identity in Iraq, Turkey and Iran, Pg.110). Also, some of illegal parties like the socialist Party of Kurdistan in Turkey, the Kurdistan Workers’ Vanguard Party, and the Liberty Party was established with the slogan of “Kurdara Azadi”(Freedom to Kurds). Beside these parties, some nationalistic ones like National Liberators of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Worker’s Party took violent nationalist actions Turkish government.

PKK, terrorist organization, was represented as a least assimilated group in Kurdistan. Abdullah Ocalan, in 1972, became a president of this terrorist organization. They made an agreement with Syrian terrorist organization as well as the Palestinian one to increase their violent attack. This is a mainly leftist students group in Ankara, and grew out of anarchy. In 1985, they created National Liberation Front of Kurdistan (ERNK). By this organization, they had a chance to recruit leftist students, provide intelligence and spread their propaganda activities in Turkey as well as abroad. In 1986, People’s Liberation Army of Kurdistan was established to pursue the same aims with ERNK. Their aim was that create independent Kurdish state which was against to Western imperialism and of course the Turkish one. This Marxist-Lennist organization aimed to show that it was a ‘national liberation’ organization, organizing congress and taking decisions democratically, against the Turkish nationalist movement. They tried to establish socialist state by aggressive military and nationalistic movement. Ocalan stated: “I did not emphasize Kurdayeti along with other Leftist during the 1960s-1970s because the extreme left was very strong and the Kurds lost their confidence. Also, there was a no dictatorship in Turkey during this time. We created PKK in 1978 at the time of the massacres in Karamaras. Still it was not a party uniquely for the Kurds or for Kurdayeti. It was an idea of the socialists… our route to revolution was socialism” (The Kurds and the State, Evolving National Identity in Iraq, Turkey and Iran, Pg.112). The recruitment by PKK increased really fast against Turkish government. Growing number of Kurds increased their propaganda in the streets in 1990. “mass demonstrations, together with strikes and subsequent unrest, racked the frontier towns of Nusaybin and Cizre, with the disaffection spreading to regional city of Diyarbakir, The protests were ominously labeled the beginning of a Kurdish intifada by members of the Kurdish nationalist movement” (The Overload State: Turkish Policy and the Kurdish Issue, Phillip Robins, International Affairs, Vol.69, No.4, Oct.1993, Pg. 665). To reach their goals they also killed Kurdish people, village guards. In 1985, ANAP (Anavatan Partisi, Motherland Party) was under the control of Turgur Ozal decided to use village guards in South-east, to protect the order in that region against PKK. “The creation of these groups would also serve the purpose of showing outsiders that the Kurds in the south-east were far from united in their opposition to the Turkish states. The village Guard system soon became embroiled in the tribalism of the region. With the PKK using violence as an instrument of terror against members of the militia and their families, those attracted to membership of the Village guard have often been clans who are traditionally loyal to state”(Turkey and Kurds, Pg.664). PKK believed that these guards were also big impediments for them to create unified and independent Kurdistan. Since, these village guards were working with Turkish government and taking money from it, they had to be killed or that had to become PKK members and supply money for that terrorist organization. This forceful PKK pressure over the village guards, created tension in local areas, and PKK took advantage of this division between the local guards and exploited some exiting tribal divisions. In 1990, Ocalan established Patriotic Union of Mullahs of Kurdistan, the Islamic party of Kurdistan, and the Kurdish-Alevi Union to declare jihad against Turkish government. Basically he used religion as a tool for their violent nationalistic action. “Kurdish nationalists, in turn, have sporadically used religion to advance their nationalist agenda. After 1990 some Kurds in Turkey reconfigured Kurdish Liberation in the context of Islam as a way of countering the state’s Islamic policies. Ocalan declared the PKK more Islamic than the Islamists and said that he too, prayed during his youth” (The Kurds and the State, Evolving National Identity in Iraq, Turkey and Iran, Pg.115).

To attract the attention of public opinion and gain international and local respect, between 1991 and 1993, their actions became more lethal. They had attacked government institutions, schools, teachers, and political parties in the East and South East. According to Amnesty International, as of 1997, 124 teachers were killed by members of the PKK. “PKK members abducted and killed 19 teachers in the autumn of 1994; it appears that the Kurdish Workers’ Party, PKK, is resuming its repugnant policy of murdering teachers in southeast Turkey”( In 1993, Abdullah Ocalan declared ceasefire unilaterally. Howeer, it was not such a long ceasefire because then he suddenly broke the ceasefire and appeasement term with Turkish goverment. “Ocalan put forward two reasons for his return to arms: the absence of any political gestures, such as allowing Kurdish Language radio and television broadcast; and the fact that military action had been resumed by the government”( The Overload State: Turkish Policy and the Kurdish Issue, Pg.669). However, it was not realistic that, because he declared ceasefire, it did not mean for Turkish government, Turkey could trust PKK and help the Kurdish development process. And also although during the ceasefire period, Turkish military was in the South East , they were not such a big threat for Kurds.

To cover its terrorist facets, PKK created the Kurdish Parliament in Exile. “To establish national institutions in cultural fields, to establish a national congress and national parliament of a free Kurdistan, to prepare draft resolutions relating to a constitution, citizenship laws, conscription laws, civil laws, tax laws, penal laws and environmental protection act, to work with youth to put an end to its alienation, to ease the return of the Kurdish people to Kurdistan, to enter into voluntary agreements with the neighboring peoples, guided by the principle of self –determination of Kurds, to undertake to improve the Kurdish Language” (Turkey’s Kurdish Question, Pg34-35), this organization was created. However, even though they wanted to reach a so-called compromise with Turkish government, the demanded also military, economic and political embargo from international community.

On the other hand, Some Kurdish people attended to Turkish parties, to seek solutions for the South East problem. These parliamentarians tried to find projects and tried to help the Kurdish people in that area. Also, they had a chance to protect their family against PKK. These Kurdish parliamentarians became closer the Turkish government not only because of their security concern or earn money but also they began believing that Because of PKK’s violent actions, Kurdish people having less political freedom than before. In south east, Kurds stopped their demonstrations, closed their shops and stooped their strikes. Thus, in this area, right now, two different types of village guards, one of them was forced by PKK to be a member of this terrorist organization and revolt against Turks, and other one was totally against PKK and struggled with them. Because of this tribal division and PKK’s propaganda; “all those that are not with us are against us”, Kurds unfortunately did not have a chance which one really against PKK which one was forced and which one the real PKK member. Additionally, besides these parliamentarians, against PKK, Kurdish right-wing religionist occurred like Hezbollah. They killed lots of PKK intellectuals and journalists.

Beginning of the War of the Independence, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, first president of Turkey, mentioned the equality of Turks and Kurds and their common struggle to protect the millet (nation) in April 1920. Also, Mustafa Kemal mentioned that, Parliament was not the arrange of representatives of Turks, Kurds and Laz but the representative of the Islamic community. Unfortunately, Kurds revolt against Turks continued. In 1920, Koagari was the most important one. This revolt, forced Ataturk to gather Turkish troops against Kurds from the real war arena to deal with that insurgency which later led to big gap between Kurds and Turks. 1920 was an important year not only for Turks but also Kurds because they had a chance to persuade Turkish government for their distinct ethnicity with the Treaty of Sevres. According to that agreement; “If within one year from the coming into force of the present Treaty the Kurdish people… show that majority of the population of these areas desires independence from Turkey, and if the Council then considers that these people are capable of such independence and recommendation, and to renounce all rights and title over these areas” (Turkey and Kurds, Pg.659). If Turkey had not won the Turkish War of independence, today talking about Turkish existence would be so difficult. By that victory, treaty of Lausanne was signed, and that treaty determined the minority according to religion but not ethnie. “No reference was made to non-Turkish minorities, though there were some very general provisions on the rights of Turkish nationals. This effective exclusion of the Kurds from definition of a minority has been referred to countless times by Turkish politicians to justify the lack of any special status or provisions for the Kurds of Turkey”(Turkey and Kurds, Pg. 660). During the Lausanne Conference, Ismet Inonu Mentioned that. That was not true that Kurds did not want to live with Turks. For centuries, Turk and Kurds had been sharing same culture, tradition, ethnie and living in harmony. Kurds preffered Turkish governance by their will and decided to have same destiny with Turks. “In Turkish Grand Assembly, they have their own, mayors and representatives and so this assembly is not only for Turks but also as well as its Kurds. They have the same rights with Turkish mayors to talk about state’s future” (Lozan Baris Konferansi,Tutanaklar-Belgeler, 3.Baski, 2001, Pg. 349).

During the one party area in Turkey, Kemalist regime reinvented the Turkish ethnie. Actually, during that term, not Kurdish and Turkish nationalism was in conflict but the primordialism and modernism were struggling against each other and were used by Turks and Kurds to unify their nations according to their interests. In 1925, Ismet Inonu, Ataturk’s confidant and successor, in his speech proved the effect of primordialism in Turkish domestic policy; “We are frankly nationalist and nationalism is our only factor of cohesion. In the face of a Turkish majority other elements have no kind of influence. We must Turkify the inhabitants of our land at any price, and we will annihilate those oppose the Turks…” (Turkey’s Kurdish Question, Pg.10). In 1924, demolish of Caliphate and reduce the importance of religion as defining factor for identity, idea of citizenship was shaped in Turkey. Citizenship meant that Turkishness. “Mustafa Kemal had begun to develop an ideology based on ethno-nationalsim, drawn from the European experience. The essence of this ideology to which Mustafa Kemal gave his name as it related to the national question was that those disparate people of the modern state were to have their previous identities subsumed under that of being Turkish…Kurds by categorizing them as ‘Mountain Kurds’… and their traditional costumes wee banned because of the Turkish Dress Code, village names got Turkish names and various restrictions on the use of the Kurdish language were introduced” (Turkey and Kurds, Pg.661). Kurd could be called Turk, if they rejected their own ethnic identity. Also, if Kurds wanted to be a member of the parliament they had to accept the Turkish identity. This situation caused Kurdish dissatisfaction. Shaykh Said, first religious and nationalistic rebellion, changed the relationship between Kurds and Turks. Kemalist government believed that if never government was established, there would be no homogeneity. Therefore, Kurds were not able to use their language and live their culture. As a result, some of them accepted Turkish identity and got some important positions in military, politics like President Turgut Ozal whose Grandmother was Kurd.

Turkish nationalist idea was both civic and ethno-cultural. Its ethno-cultural aspect prepared a base for assimilation of Kurds, did not accept the higher Turkish culture, and civic one made possible the rise of assimilated Kurds. These assimilation process were as a result of some limitations such as education, economic resources. For instance as aresult of assimilation process by language, Ziya Gokalp, who was originally Kurd, opted Turkish ethnicity and became one of the Chief ideologies of Turkish nationalism. In 1915, he mentioned that shehrinin millleti yoktur wich means that the urbanite has no ethnic identity” (The Kurds, Pg.31). Currently in the Southeast some Kurdish people are barely speak any language but Kurdish.

During the Democratic Party area, Turkish stated reduced their secular aspect and ease some cultural restrictions in the east. Kurdish people had a chance to benefit form commercial bourgeoisie even though it was in the west side of Turkey. Also they had a chance to express themselves in their own language because of the Freedom of expression. However, after that freedom of expression period, Democratic Part was overthrown. In 1960s, emergence of the trade unions and student groups, new political organizations were created for Kurds like Turkish workers party (TIP). It mentioned that there was an ethnic problem in Turkey. After that in 1971, because of the coup, this party was closed.

In 1980s, Turkish government was afraid of growing trend of Kurdish nationalism and their strike in Southeast, so coup d’etat was happened. In the short term struggle with these terrorist were seen successful; lots of Kurdish nationalist were jailed or killed, but in the long run, it showed that this struggle did not bring success to Turks because some of the Kurdish nationalists escaped some underground or refuge boards. For instance, for PKK, Syria became a safe heaven. 1983 was another turning point both for Kurds and Turks because Turkish was declared as an only language for its citizens. However, in 1991, with Turgut Ozal, Kurdish people had their own publications in their own language and also had their own cultural organizations. These organizations aim were to teach Kurdish history and culture.

According to Turkish public, although Turkey has three important features; Democratic process and governance, the existence of a large and vibrant civil society and open press, these feature do not work in the same way for Kurdish people and Kurdish problem. People’s labor party (HEP), Democracy Party (DEP) and People’s Democracy Party (HADEP), PKK affiliated parties, were banned. However, some civil organizations did not have the same strict ideas against Kurdish problem and also Turkish government has not been always ignorant. . Since the economic problem, which has been such a big deal and the reason of the conflict fro 1980, “Turkish government has recognized the centrality of the economic issue to Kurdish unrest. The South-east Anatolian Project (GAP) is aimed at regenerating the economy of the south-east. Countless other plans for rapid economic transformation have also been unveiled” (Turkey and Kurds, Pg. 663). As it is known that Southeast is the poorest area of Turkey and it has been run on a semi-feudal basis. People did not have enough economic development. And although there has been such a big economic growth in Aegean and Mediterranean, in southeast, per capita has been at the lowest rate. Also, during Ozal’s term, “the government introduced a state of emergency, though falling short of martial law, effectively curbed he application of Turkey’s emerging political liberalization process in the region”(Turkey and Kurds, Pg. 664). The New Democracy Movement (Yeni Demokrasi Harekati), was established Cem Boyner, is a businessman and former head of TUSIAD (Turkish Businessmen’s Association), tried to find a solution for the big economic gap between Southeast and West of Turkey by including Kurds to develop their own local policies along their own forms. He has succeeded to open an arena to answer the problems of Kurdish questions for future. Also, Turkish government showed some progresses for other areas to improve Kurdish peoples’ life standard like language; “ since 2002, as part of its reforms aimed at European Union integration and under pressure to further the rights of Kurds, Turkey passed laws allowing Kurdish radio and television broadcasts as well the option of private Kurdish education”( On the other hand, lots of Kurdish families did not let their girls so to school because they thought that girls had to stay home and married rich husband. Unfortunately, families had the same tribal and traditional families for their girls. Their girls were only able to go to elementary and middle school. However, “The Turkish state is actively trying to put an end to these feudal practices by a variety of educational and political campaigns, along with nation-wide television campaigns and the personal involvement of the prime minister. It has been estimated that thanks to these determined campaigns, hundreds of thousands of girls in the region are now going to school for the very first time” ( However, although there are some progresses like that some of the, unfortunately are not satisfying. According to European Commission progress report As regards cultural rights, permission was granted to two local TV channels in Diyarbakir and to one radio in Sanliurfa to broadcast in Kurdish. However, time restrictions apply, with the exception of films and music programmes. All broadcasts, except songs, must be subtitled or translated in Turkish, which makes live broadcasts technically cumbersome. Educational programs teaching the Kurdish language are not allowed. The Turkish Public Television (TRT) has continued broadcasting five languages including Kurdish, however the duration and scope of TRT’s national broadcasts in five languages is very limited. No private broadcaster at national level has applied for broadcasting in languages other than Turkish since the enactment of the 2004 legislation”.

However, general public opinion has been really aggressive against Kurdish problem. Most of people believe that Kurd means that terrorist or problem. All Kurds are Terrorists and members of PKK. May be it is the because of the “Many Families have now lost their sons in the army to the conflict, and many parents speak with great anxiety about their sons’ early due dates for military service and the risks entail. Bodies have been coming back from the southeast on a regular basis; and the height of the insurrection, the number of coffins brought to the main Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara for funeral ceremonies before being sent back home would sometimes reach ten a day”(Turkey’s Kurdish Question, Pg.116). For general public, Kurds are mountain Turks. Although they speak different language, their language based on Turkish, it is a dialect of Turkish. Thus it is not such a serious tool for communication and so it is ridiculous to demand for special linguistic rights. It means that Kurdish identity is meaningless and unnecessary and if somebody is dare to talk about their rights, this person is terrorist and enemy of the nation.

Is there any solution for Kurdish and Turkish conflict? Are they going to live in the same territory as enemies or going to reach a compromise? Is there any trust between each other after their complicated history? Did primordialism and modernism help them for their national building or did they cause more conflict between each other? Both of them used both nationalistic ways in different period to build their nation. However, they have never ever exactly reached an agreement with each other. Maybe these approaches were as tools to damage each other’s nation building process. First of all both Kurds and Turks lost their trust to each other. “Turks and Kurds are coming to live in their separate psychological worlds- working jointly in society but increasingly nourishing suspicious about each other’s intentions and identifying with different things. It is this growing psychological gap between Kurdish and Turkish is the most dangerous feature of Kurdish issue in Turkey”(Turkey’s Kurdish Question, Pg.17). Russian help to Kurds and also Britain cause a question mark in minds. Why did those nations help Kurds? Was that really because of to protect of their rights or to use them as a tool and reach their aim over Turkey? Then, can we say that balance of power escalate the conflict between Kurds and Turks? Why have these nations become a financial support for PKK and Kurds? Still people have suspicion about the future of this conflict. Both Kurds and Turks do not really do not know who they can trust. Do they trust each other or European powers to solve this problem? Is it really true that if Turkey increases its progress in the South-east and give more opportunities to Kurds such as they have more freedom about using their language, foreign powers, using Kurds for their geopolitics aim over Turkey, will able to Separate Turkey and give Kurds little federation under their control? These questions have not been answered yet, but conflict between Kurds and Turks has been still escalating. And both sides become more pessimistic about their future because of their past.