Different Paths in the Kurdish Movement
The US invasion of Iraq has had, among other things, a profound effect on the Kurdish question itself. New alignments, new developments and dissociations are evident and three years after the invasion, there is a need to summarise new factors in this century-old ‘big game’.
Of course, one has to remember that the Kurdish people’s right to self-determination is, under all conditions, valid.
The US invasion created such conditions that, the Kurdish people who were under enormous state terrorism in all ‘parts’ of historical Kurdistan (historical Kurdistan is divided amongst four states today; Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, and this makes the Kurdish question unique) started to think that the USA, after all, could be a force of ‘liberation’ for them. This thinking was fomented by the feudal Kurdish forces in Iraqi Kurdistan (Barzani and Talabani), while it created an upheaval in Turkish Kurdistan.
This upheaval is important in many ways. First, Turkish Kurdistan is advanced in comparison to other sections; capitalism has penetrated deeply into this area. Also, about 15 million Kurds live in this section; while the total number of Kurds in all sections is around 22 million.
Under these conditions, it is only natural that the first modern nationalist Kurdish movement, PKK (Kongra-Gel), has taken root in the Turkish section. This modern, socialism-inspired movement radically differs from feudal leaderships in other sections; in essence it does not rely on feudal relations, but dismantles them.
The PKK, which is a force supported by millions of Kurds, is extremely cautious towards US imperialism; though its stance softens when it comes to Europe. This caution, together with the influence they command, resulted in a de facto situation in which the PKK is perceived by Washington as a ‘primary threat’ to US’ Kurdish policy. Thus, the leader of the movement, Abdullah Ocalan, was captured by the CIA and MOSSAD, and promptly given to the Turkish state. Ocalan is still a captive in Imrali, an island-jail in which he is the only prisoner.
The capture of Ocalan did not result in a weakening of the national liberation movement; rather, the movement changed policies and tactics. We can say that today, despite serious problems, the PKK movement still is the authority in Turkish Kurdistan; and also is actively struggling for influence in other parts; especially in Iranian Kurdistan.
The historical motive of all feudal Kurdish leaderships was ‘trying to find allies outside the region’ to gain the upper hand against Turks, Arabs and Persians in the region. This outside ally has been imperialist powers like Britain, France and the USA. Though the Kurds have always been deceived by the imperialists and left in the middle of hostile governments, they opted for cooperation with the US again in the Iraq war. Because of historical distrust, we can safely say that the Iraqi Kurds are extremely cautious while dealing with the Americans, and the feudal leadership has had to convince the people of ‘good American interests’. This distrust continues today. The PKK has refused this historical ‘tactic’. This movement, in essence, tried to help form a united Turkish-Kurdish front against the Turkish bourgeoisie. One of the founders of the PKK, Kemal Pir, is Turkish, by the way.
Feeding from this positive legacy, the captured leader of the PKK, Ocalan, has taken a very important stance vis-a-vis the American invasion. Ocalan has repeatedly said from prison that, an ‘independent Kurdistan’ under the wings of Americans will not be independent at all; rather, this would be a second Israel in the region, fomenting hatred amongst the peoples and in the end, bring great harm to Kurds. Though Ocalan has great authority, the ‘new player’ in the region, USA, is trying to use the Kurdish question in its own interests. Thus, while the Kurdistan government in Iraq strengthens, we see riots and revolts of Kurds against the reactionary Syrian and Iranian authorities. There have been major uprisings in both Syrian and Iranian Kurdistan over the last two years.
An Anti-PKK PKK ?
In Turkish Kurdistan, the ‘key’ to all Kurdistan, we see different developments. The US and its ally, the Turkish government, is actively trying to divide the PKK and create a ‘harmless’ PKK out of its ashes. The most important development in this sense was, Ocalan’s brother, Osman Ocalan. Osman Ocalan quit the PKK two years ago, declared that USA was a ‘democratic imperialist’ force and formed his own organisation under the wings of Barzani and the US army. This attempt to divide the PKK was thwarted, but new attempts may happen. Also, the forces of Barzani are undertaking serious political activity in Turkish Kurdistan, mainly through their own, young legal party, HAK-PAR.
Today, the dissociation in the Kurdish movement is also shaping in relation to the natural and definite dissociation of the Kurdish ‘upper classes’ and ‘lower classes’ from each other. It is evident that the pro-imperialist stances are related to the ‘upper classes, the Kurdish bourgeoisie and feudal forces, while criticism of these stances and attempts to create an alternative position are related to the ‘lower classes’, the Kurdish labourers.
US imperialism tries to use the Kurdish problem as a ‘wild card’ to tie Turkey further to its regional policies. But also, it tries to form a political dissociation among Kurds and create ‘its own’ Kurdish movement.
The European Union policies, in essence, are not different. These two main forces are exploiting the Kurdish problem in their rivalry over the Middle East. One side, with its ‘Greater Middle East Project’, is exploiting the issue actively. The other side uses ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ rhetoric to expand its influence among Kurds.
US policies are found to be ‘encouraging’ by the Kurdish reactionary circles and they are trying to create new opportunities for their class interests. After 1980 and during the rise of the PKK, the bourgeois-land owner-feudal lords have been ‘erased’ from the political processes; but now they are again on the rise, on the basis of an anti-PKK stance. This tendency , for the first time in many years, again puts itself openly in the political arena.
The dissociation in the Kurdish movement can be transformed to opportunity by the Turkish and Kurdish peoples. As practice shows, the identities of dissociaters (revolutionary, anti-imperialist or reactionary, pro-imperialist) are much more evident today. The exposition of this lackey politics will be a positive development for Kurds and also other peoples in the region.
There is nowhere left to escape from the Kurdish problem! The policies of the last 80 years have collapsed. Nobody believes the nonsensical thesis and claims such as: ‘There are no Kurds; they are in fact mountain Turks. Kurdish is not a language; it is only a dialect of Turkish’. The glaze of the supposedly scientific works like the ‘Sun Language Theory’ (claiming all present languages are derived from Turkish) and the ‘Turkish History Thesis’ (claiming that Turks are the origin of all human races) developed after 1925 in order to rivet these assertions have worn off, they have broken down. The policies of creating one nation, Turkification, melting all the other peoples and cultures into one pot have been condemned and defeated by the realities of life. Now it has had to be accepted that there is such a language as Kurdish! Even if it is for show only and even if it is limited to a few minutes a week, there are state radio and television broadcasts in Kurdish, along with other forbidden languages such as Arabic, Circassian and the Zaza language. Kurds are loudly demanding the expansion of the Kurdish broadcast to private radios and television channels as well as the right to education in their mother tongue. In spite of the various pressures and prohibitions, Kurdish language courses have been opened in Batman, Urfa, Van, Diyarbakır (Kurdish provinces in the East and Southeast regions of the country) and lately in Istanbul. Kurds as a people are demanding that urgent steps be taken in terms of their rights to language, culture, identity and politics.
It is obvious that the reactionary denial policies of assimilation carried out through the use of violence cannot continue. Struggling and not cowering in fear despite all the pain, massacres and the great price paid both physically and morally, caused by the inhumane policies executed throughout the decades; the Kurdish people, resisting for their linguistic, cultural, political and identity rights, are insistent on their demands. The resistance waged by the Kurdish people in spite of all their suffering from cruelty, historical injustice and all the destructions, has united with the common struggle of the workers, labourers and intellectuals of all nationalities and peoples of Turkey to compel the forces in denial and pro-assimilation to retreat.
However, the ruling classes do not want to accept the Kurds as a people or recognise their linguistic, cultural, political and identity rights. The national demands of Kurds do not have the guarantee of laws as yet. The Kurdish question and the demand for the rights of the Kurdish people are still considered as ‘separatist’ and within the framework of ‘terror’ and are responded to with violence. The ruling classes try to say that the Kurdish question can solved by a few small improvements. They try to make it seem as though the Kurdish question has been solved by the campaign by ‘democratisation’ and by the legal regulations within the framework of the Copenhagen Criteria through the process of membership in the European Union, which have been put on paper but still not put into practise. The government wants to make a show by the release of the four Democratic Party (DEP) MPs who were arrested ten years ago and put into prison as a result of a raid on Parliament. It has tried to make it seem as if this was an important phase in the democratisation process, but it did not take long for the falsity of this show to become apparent and for the government to exhibit its genuine character. The former MPs became the targets of the government and the military because of the speeches they made in the demonstrations. Lawsuits were filed against them once again. The meeting planned for Diyarbakir for September 1, International Peace Day, was banned on completely pathetic grounds.
Furthermore, operations are continuing in the region. The people there are being targeted for attacks on the grounds that they are ‘assisting and abetting’ terrorists. The demands of the KONGRA-GEL (the successor to the PKK) for a cease-fire, the taking of democratic steps, providing the opportunity for the armed guerrillas to socialise in everyday life but with the necessary guarantees, are rejected on the pretext that; ‘No negotiations will be held with the terrorists’. Attacks are continuing and the people of the region are being mistreated. There is no end to the claims of torture, and arrests and imprisonments are not decreasing. New Kurdish political detainees and prisoners are daily added to those already in prison. Provocative operations are carried out in the Kurdish provinces such as Diyarbakir, Van and Tunceli and the mayors elected by the people, as in Diyarbakir, are being targeted for attack and being made victims of political lynching.
The thousands of villages that have been forcefully evacuated, the nature that has been destroyed and the tens of thousands of Kurdish peasants who have been mistreated as a result of the policies of violence carried out for years continue to struggle with great difficulties. No steps are being taken to compensate them for all the massacres experienced, the thousands of murders by ‘perpetrators unknown’ and all the violations in the fields of human rights and freedoms. Believing that steps taken in this direction will result in a ‘rise’ in the consciousness of the Kurdish people and that hence new demands will be immediately brought to the agenda, policies of violence are insisted on. The policy of denial is being continued by military precautions and the systematic use of violence. The demands of the sections wanting to return to their villages are not being met. The wronged villagers hesitate to return as they do not believe that they will be able to lead safe and secure lives in their villages.
It is still forbidden for political parties to broadcast in Kurdish, to publish and distribute leaflets and brochures in Kurdish and for the political party administrators to deliver speeches in Kurdish. Lawsuits are filed against political party administrators for having greeted the people in Kurdish in demonstrations and various activities and they are often penalised. Besides the other antidemocratic practices, obstructions and pressures, the representation of the Kurdish people in parliament is prevented by the 10% election quota. The system of ‘rural guardianship’ continues to be enforced along with the military operations and the piling of military forces in the region. Instead of recognizing the Kurds as a people in their own right, meeting their national, economic and political demands and carrying out the necessities for an equal and free environment; the ruling forces and the government think that by hoodwinking the people with a few Kurdish language courses, a few minutes of Kurdish broadcasting every week and a few other crumbs thrown here and there, it will be possible to convince the people that Turkey has become democratised and that the Kurdish question has disappeared. On the other hand, those who are not convinced will be made the targets of violence as ‘terrorists’ by these forces.
The ruling classes do not want to understand that unless the Kurdish labouring people do not freely determine their own destiny and take their place in the course of history as a free nation, the Kurdish question will continue to be a fundamental one and neither acts of violence nor an approach of ‘we crushed them and that is the end to them’ will solve the problem.
Imperialism, the Collaborator Government and the Kurdish Question
The Justice and Development (AKP) government currently in power cannot overlook the Kurdish issue. The AKP has talked about democratisation and entering the European Union (EU) as a fundamental policy and claims that it will be able to solve all Turkey’s deeply rooted problems since the day it came to power. This places it under a great burden in terms of the Kurdish question and the Kurdish people. Stating that: ‘If you act as if there is no Kurdish problem, then there won’t be such a problem’, the Prime Minister has had to swallow his words and come face to face with solving the problem ‘in some way or another’. However the government thinks that it will solve the problem with the attitude we have pointed out above. At this stage, claiming that ‘There is no Kurdish problem’ has ceased to have any worth or plausibility. Certainly nobody believes this any longer. In place of this approach, in the region where the Kurds predominate the AKP is trying to dish out a new kind of relation similar to the one the USA has entered into with the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (PDK) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (YNK) [in Iraq]. This plan, in which the members of parliament who are Kurdish, religious sectarian and owners of capital of the AKP will also take part, has been established in order to divide the KONGRA-GEL.
Now the government is being dragged behind the US. The pro-denial and pro-assimilation forces which are being dragged behind the plan of using of the Kurdish question as a ‘trump-card’, as a continuation of the Iraqi occupation, are becoming partners with the ‘reformed’ and reactionary forces and are establishing a Kurdish political party under the protection of the US. The plan, which aims at the division, neutralisation and liquidation of the KONGRA-GEL or at least its reduction to a marginal level; is to create a Kurdish movement following the same political line as Talabani-Barzani in Iraq. The AKP government is at quits with the plan of the USA.
Though it may seem as if the rulers of the EU, the USA and Turkey are proposing different solutions to the Kurdish question, their moves actually fit into one another. As in the attempt to divide and liquidate the KONGRA-GEL, it seems that there is, at least at present, an agreement on the orientation of the party to be established by Osman Ocalan (Abdullah Ocalan’s brother).
Dividing the democratic Kurdish movement over the KONGRA-GEL, a division shaped by US pressure, aims to strengthen the reactionary, nationalist, feudal Kurdish alternative. The imperialist centres are acting very rapidly in trying to have the feudal-bourgeois collaborator circles form a power which will then be gradually presented as the representatives of the Kurdish people,. It is evident that the reactionary forces of Turkey are totally mobilizing for this initiative to be effective. The weakening of KONGRA-GEL is being seen as the hegemony of the political line of Talabani-Barzani and Osman Ocalan in the region.
This division in KONGRA-GEL is different from the problems, separations or divisions experienced previously. Using the present conjuncture of forces in the region, the imperialists and the reactionary forces of Turkey have made a crucial move in seizing a collaborator section within the Kurdish movement, which has not acceded to cooperating with imperialism. With this move, the US has succeeded in maintaining, through Osman Ocalan’s PWD, a similar position in Turkey to what it had previously obtained in Iraqi Kurdistan through the PDK and YNK administrators. The US has now found a Kurdish representative in Turkey which it will be operating through. The US has taken advantage of the ideological weaknesses of KONGRA-GEL, its delay in taking a definite and clear stand towards the US intervention to the Middle East and its occupation of Iraq and its hesitant attitude toward imperialism. The US is using this as an opportunity to open a breach and is now widening it.
The AKP has fastened itself to the helm of the US and is now aiming at reaching a solution to the Kurdish question within the framework of this plan. The inclination is to form a ‘Kurdish Platform’, a sort of Kurdish AKP in which Osman Ocalan and his supporters, the big landowners, the tribal chiefs, the representatives of Kurdish nationalist currents and even some of the AKP MPs will participate in some way or other. The EU is also playing this game. The EU is trying to manipulate the democratic longings of the people and the ‘interest’ demonstrated towards the EU and its policies by the Kurdish liberal bourgeois. In the future the EU hopes to increase its influence among the legal Kurdish politicians.
The Imperialists and the reactionaries in Turkey want to solve the problem of ‘representation’ in relation to the Kurdish question by using the Kurdish Platform as the ‘representative’ of the Kurdish people. KONGRA-GEL is being eliminated from this process. The same tactic is being used against the Democratic Peoples’ Party (DEHAP), which is regarded as a supporter of the same political line. For these reasons, to evaluate this latest division within KONGRA-GEL over Osman Ocalan as being in the same category as previous divisions within the organization would be incomplete and even more importantly would be a major mistake.
In this sense, the DEHAP line is also at a crossroads. The interviews held with Osman Ocalan and his statements in the newspapers and on television recently also indicate this fact. The names of the former Democracy Party (DEP) deputies and certain Kurdish politicians are being mentioned and as well as their readiness to be included in this plan. Under these circumstances, DEHAP will either go forward as an anti-imperialist, anti-US Kurdish democratic movement, or if it hesitates it will fall into the trap of this operation. Its progress along its current political orientation will mean taking its place among the front ranks of not only the struggle for the democratisation of Turkey but also the struggle against US hegemony in the Middle East and against the Greater Middle East Project as a tool of this hegemony. Otherwise it will become just another ordinary Kurdish nationalist movement.
DEHAP advancing along the same platform as the Kurdish and Turkish labourers, with the labour and democratic forces, is significant in terms of the democratic movement and its future in Turkey. A DEHAP acting in this direction will also bring the collaborator “Kurdish Platform” being hatched up to nought.
The Party of Labour (EMEP) and the Kurdish Question
All the labour and democratic forces in Turkey are faced with an important duty of rendering the alliance between imperialism, the reactionary forces of Turkey and Talabani-Barzani-Osman Ocalan unsuccessful. EMEP, as the party of the working class and labourers of all nations in Turkey, will continue with all its efforts for the Kurdish workers and labourers to overcome this danger. Attaching great importance to acting together with DEHAP against this reactionary plot and to struggle, our Party will carry on its struggle with all its organisations, both in the Kurdish region and all over Turkey. It is necessary in this period to be strengthened and united around an anti-imperialist political line. Our party, which established an election front with DEHAP in both the general elections of November 3, 2002 and the latest local elections, will carry on its fight for the advancement of the struggle of all the people of Turkey, whether Kurdish, Turkish or any other nationality, against imperialism and the collaborator reactionary forces of Turkey.
On the other hand, the dark contra-guerrillas, the drug related forces, and the military and paramilitary forces have started to become active again. These developments are also being manipulated to cause panic among the people, to provoke divisions and to incite an oppositional attitude towards the Kurdish democratic movement which is refusing to collaborate. These kinds of provocative initiatives have been brought to the agenda in Van, Diyarbakir, Tunceli and other Kurdish provinces. Our Party will be even more careful to warn the people in the face of the explosions and assassination plots by unidentified forces and in condemning initiatives of this kind.
Again this period in the region is clarifying the demands of the workers and the labourers. It is to be expected that the big landowners, the tribal forces and the despots, who have been left motionless due to the hegemony of the Kurdish movement, will become reactivated and make new moves to regain their previous prestige and privileges. The AKP handing out ‘small bribes’ to the labourers of the region, who are in the claws of unemployment and poverty, are among such moves. The demands of the agricultural sections will become even more fervent. It is to be expected that developments similar to those in Maras and Diyarbakir (two Kurdish provinces in which the poor sections of the Kurdish people partially united to demand land from the big landowners) will take place in other provinces. Taking into consideration that the landowners and the tribal forces will go into action, it will be necessary to take more advanced steps for the organisation of the class struggle in the Kurdish villages. Considering that unemployment and poverty are prevalent in the Kurdish regions, putting forward demands particular to these regions will play an important role in unifying the people and repulsing the attacks.
What is at the head of the agenda in this particular period is to carry forward the anti-imperialist attitude of the Kurdish people and to spoil the games of the feudal nationalist forces. In addition, one of the most important duties of our Party is to develop the struggle in order for the Kurdish workers and labourers to intervene in this process and to stand up to the attacks and resist with their own demands the attacks of the bourgeoisie as well as all other kinds of attacks.
The Current and Urgent Demands of the Kurdish People
A general political amnesty and a cease-fire must be declared and the Kurdish question must be solved as a democratic and political problem. All the mistreatment of the people of the region stemming from the Kurdish question must cease and they must be compensated for their damages. Industry, agriculture and stockbreeding must be supported. The Southeast Anatolian Project (GAP) must be rearranged to the benefit of the people and it must be put to their service. All the enterprises within the scope of privatisation must be removed from such a plan, all the workplaces that have been privatised and closed down must be reopened and work must be provided for the unemployed. The right to education in the mother tongue must be recognized and chairs for the Kurdish language must be opened at the universities. Publishing and broadcasting in Kurdish must be backed up and all relevant bans must be abolished. The system of the rural guard (which completely serve to inform on the Kurdish people) must be eradicated and all special organisations in the region, including the special teams, must be dissolved. A commission to investigate the murders by ‘unknown perpetrators’ must be established and those responsible must be judged and punished. The September 12 Constitution, acting as an cover for the Political Parties Act, the 10% election quota and all other antidemocratic laws must be annulled and the Kurdish people must achieve an equal and free status.