November 10, 2005


Why Turkey's Kurds matter: After five years of calm, the Kurdish insurgency in Turkey seems to be rekindling. But the government must not return to the heavy-handed methods of its predecessors. With EU membership now a real prospect, the best way to defuse the conflict is by reform (Jonathan Power, November 2005, The Prospect)

The Kurdish “problem” goes back to the collapse of the Ottoman empire, and probably further. The rugged mountains where Turkey, Iraq and Iran meet have been called Kurdistan since the early 13th century, and the Kurds’ roots can be traced back at least 2,000 years. Most of the world's 20m Kurds live in the region, although well over a million have emigrated to Istanbul, Baghdad, Tehran and Beirut, often assimilating well with the local people, and there are another million overseas. In Turkey, such Kurds are in prominent positions in many walks of life and a Kurd was prime minister not so long ago.

But just as the Kurds of Istanbul appear cut off from the political attitudes of the rural Kurds of southeast Turkey, so too the Kurds of Iraq, Turkey, Iran, Syria, Russia and Lebanon might as well be six different peoples. Of course, when Saddam Hussein made his notorious effort to bomb Iraq's northern Kurds in the wake of the ending of the first Gulf war, they poured across the mountains into Turkey and the Turkish Kurds helped them. And today, after the Iraqi Kurds have entrenched their autonomy in the new Iraqi constitution—and probably entrenched their hold on the northern oil fields—there is a lot of buzz on the Turkish side of the mountains about building a new, united Kurdistan. But most of the time Kurdish leaders from these countries do not meet, do not talk, and often speak different languages. Even in the remote villages of the stony landscape of the southeast, villagers preferred to talk to a visiting reporter about their urge for Turkey to be part of Europe than for a link up with their Asian brethren.

When the Ottoman empire collapsed, a casualty of the first world war, undermined by British arms and intrigue, most of its subject peoples knew what they wanted. Greeks, Arab, Armenians, Jews and Palestinians all demanded their own homelands, claiming a right to nationhood, in one case within God-given borders. The Kurds, distinct but indistinct, lacked the resolve that comes from possessing a single ethnic origin, religion, language or leadership, and thus were relegated to the sidelines of the nationalist drama. The opportunity passed them by, and has passed them by ever since.
Just because you were slow out of the gate doesn't mean you won't get self-determination...sooner or later.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 10, 2005 9:56 PM

Any mention of the Clinton administration's (and both Bushes, for the most part) policies in Turkey and the Turks towards the Kurds? Of how Turkey has killed more of its own citizens in the past 20 years than Iraq ever has?

Posted by: Jarhead at November 10, 2005 10:40 PM

Well, this is what I heard...give someone $5 if they can tell me who wrote this....

Why was Turkey getting such a huge flow of US arms? Well if you take a look at the flow of US arms to Turkey, Turkey always got a lot of US arms. Its strategically placed, a member of NATO, and so on. But the arms flow to Turkey went up very sharply in 1984. It didnt have anything to do with the cold war. I mean Russian was collapsing. And it stayed high from 1984 to 1999 when it reduced and it was replaced in the lead by Colombia. What happened from 1984 to 1999? Well, in 1984, [Turkey] launched a major terrorist war against Kurds in southeastern Turkey. And thats when US aid went up, military aid. And this was not pistols. This was jet planes, tanks, military training, and so on. And it stayed high as the atrocities escalated through the 1990s. Aid followed it. The peak year was 1997. In 1997, US military aid to Turkey was more than in the entire period 1950 to 1983, that is the cold war period, which is an indication of how much the cold war has affected policy. And the results were awesome. This led to 2-3 million refugees. Some of the worst ethnic cleansing of the late 1990s. Tens of thousands of people killed, 3500 towns and villages destroyed, way more than Kosovo, even under NATO bombs. And the United States was providing 80% of the arms, increasing as the atrocities increased, peaking in 1997. It declined in 1999 because, once again, terror worked as it usually does when carried out by its major agents, mainly the powerful. So by 1999, Turkish terror, called of course counter-terror, but as I said, thats universal, it worked. Therefore Turkey was replaced by Colombia which had not yet succeeded in its terrorist war. And therefore had to move into first place as recipient of US arms.

Posted by: Kurt at November 10, 2005 11:04 PM

i said that...where's my $5 ?

Posted by: mr logorrhea at November 10, 2005 11:12 PM

For what it's worth, "Jarhead" and "Kurt" are posting from the same IP address. That address has also been used by commenters "Fred", "Freedly", "Grake 16", "Phil", "Wil", "Kool", "Greg", a couple of Anonymouses, and "Dandroid."

Posted by: David Cohen at November 10, 2005 11:28 PM

Sounds like Brothers Judd vs. Delta Tau Chi.

Posted by: joe shropshire at November 11, 2005 12:14 AM


Anonymouses is right.

Posted by: jim hamlen at November 11, 2005 1:01 AM

You've gotta give the Chomskybot there props for enthusiasm. Partway offsets the loss of style points for quoting Ted Rall.

Posted by: Mike Morley at November 11, 2005 6:39 AM


Yes, Turkey is mean to the Kurds and it needs to either integrate them or free them.

in the meatime, Turkey has not only been an excellent ally -- especially helpful during the Korean War -- but has close military ties to Israel as part of an incipient Arab encirclement.

Posted by: oj at November 11, 2005 7:45 AM

dc: even if it were different individuals (biologically) making the postings, they would all be working from a shared mindset. when you have met one leftist, you have met them all. bring back longbud!

Posted by: lenins toe at November 11, 2005 10:51 AM

I miss the trolls too. Let's all try to be a little nicer to the next one.

Posted by: erp at November 11, 2005 2:30 PM