Sign In / Up

Add contribution as a guest

Your email will not be displayed publicly
Benefit of signing in/signing up to personalize comment

Comment as a guest

Your email will not be displayed publicly
Benefit of signing in/signing up to personalize comment

Login

Not a member Register   Forgot Password
or connect using
 

Email

 

Rudaw

Opinion

Kurdish Ambivalence Toward Turkish Protests

By DAVID ROMANO 13/6/2013
column
column

Many Kurds appear unsure about what their attitude should be towards the protests against Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and his government.  Prominent amongst the protesters are Kemalists from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and nationalists of the National People’s Party (MHP)–two political groupings that historically played a large role in suppressing Kurdish identity and rights in Turkey.  During his tenure in power Mr. Erdogan also went further than previous Turkish leaders in recognizing the Kurdish reality, even making an agreement of sorts with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that saw PKK fighters withdraw from Turkey these past weeks in return for promised democratic reforms.  Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) also has good relations and cooperation with the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq.

As a result, some Kurds react to the ongoing protests against Mr. Erdogan with indifference or even antipathy.  “I never heard these Kemalists speaking up or protesting when Kurds were being beaten by police” is one refrain we hear.  Others worry that the protests may subvert the peace agreement with the PKK, leading the Turkish government astray before it fulfills its side of the deal.  Especially if Kurds are seen siding with the protestors in force and protesting as Kurds, the government may turn against them again, as Kurds.

  Some Kurds react to the ongoing protests against Mr. Erdogan with indifference or even antipathy. 

 

Despite this, the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) expressed its support for the protests.  One of the most prominent members of parliament involved in the protests is  Sirri Sureyya Onder, a BDP MP representing a district of Istanbul.  Many of the protestors on the streets in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and other cities are ethnic Kurds as well.

These people are right to support the protests.  Just as Turkish democracy could never be truly healthy as long it suppresses ethnic minorities like the Kurds, Kurds will never be free under a government that ignores the rights of other groups.  The protests that started in Gezi Park are no more about trees in a park than the civil rights movement in America was about one woman’s right to sit where she wanted on a bus in Alabama.  These protests are about a dictatorship of one elected party, a party that rules more and more on behalf of only “its people.”  It’s about a system of government in Turkey that is too centralized, to the point that the Prime Minister makes decisions about trees in a park, bridges across the Bosporous, statues on the Armenian border and every little thing municipalities, districts and even private individuals can and can not do.  As is, such a government will never deliver the democracy package Kurds need and deserve.  The fighters who withdrew to the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan will be betrayed when the Sultan in Ankara refuses to decentralize the political system or concede any substantive power.

  The fighters who withdrew to the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan will be betrayed when the Sultan in Ankara refuses to decentralize the political system or concede any substantive power. 

 

Kurds like anyone else are also not solely defined by their ethnicity. They have many identities.  Some are religious and some are secular.  Some are democrats and some not so much.  They can be workers, businesspeople, students, socialists, Islamists and liberals.  I know a good many secular, liberal Kurdish democrats who spent the last two weeks protesting side by side with their secular, liberal, democratic Turkish compatriots–people who supported the Kurdish struggle for rights in Turkey even though they are not Kurdish.  So when the AKP reneged on the tacit bargain it made with the Kemalists some ten years ago–that they would leave secular Turks to live their lives in peace without religiously-inspired harassment–many Kurds saw basic principles of liberalism, democracy and good governance under threat and rallied to the protests.

The issue is thus one of principles and solidarity.  The logic should not be hard to understand.  One need only think of a famous speech by the German pastor  Martin Niemöller to realize where Kurds should stand on this issue and others like it:
 

    First they came for the socialists,

    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,

    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews,

    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

    Then they came for me,

    and there was no one left to speak for me.

David Romano has been a Rudaw columnist since August 2010. He is the Thomas G. Strong Professor of Middle East Politics at Missouri State University and author of The Kurdish Nationalist Movement (2006, Cambridge University Press).

Comments

 
bayatintihar | 19/6/2013
Kurdish Ambivalence Toward Turkish Protests .this is a very descriptive sentence
Tags :
Print Email to a friend
Save this story
844 Views

Be Part of Your Rudaw!

Share your stories, photos and videos with Rudaw, and quite possibly the world.

What You Say

richard40 | 10/22/2014 10:24:40 PM
The Kurds seem to be the only ones that are really fighting ISIS effectively. We should be giving them any arms they ask for, but unfortunately they...
MadMatt | 10/25/2014 12:55:27 AM
I'm in the US, but I served with the 173d Airborne Brigade Combat Team in the GWOT, I would love to get some ISIS! Peshmerga, militia, anyone, give...
Peshmerga Forces Recruit Christian Fighters, says Local Official
| 14/9/2014 | (50)
Free Kurd | 10/24/2014 8:36:33 PM
The Basque nation is with the Kurdish people,and we highly appreciate their freindship and noble sensitivity.As to Spain,there are disturbing and...
Paul | 10/25/2014 12:51:07 AM
Send them back where they came from. They will just cause trouble and do not deserve to be there.
ISIS family members among refugees, Kurdish official says
| 18 hours ago | (2)
Che guevara | 10/25/2014 12:30:50 AM
All of Facts show us that Turkish government organization system is one of awful enemies of Kurds. So let's say down with Turkish government...
homayoun | 10/25/2014 12:32:23 AM
Homayoun: Why Peshmarga takes for ever please this is Emergency situations. Turkey putting all there effort to bring all ISIS forces to fight Kobane....
Kurdish defenders retake Kobane hill; Peshmerga reinforcements reduced
| 21 hours ago | (24)
Afshien | 10/20/2014 8:57:48 PM
Pan Turks, you should be shame of yourself, you country is setting on loser side of the world, and helping ISIS to fight the humanity, ISIS is is a...
Ryan Page | 10/24/2014 11:57:16 PM
There are many around the world, former soldiers who are considering and hoping to join with the KRG Peshmerga (the only Patriotic, courageous, and...
Pro-Kurd European volunteers urged to think twice
| 18/10/2014 | (13)

Elsewhere on Rudaw

Kurds closer to participation in Iraqi government 13/10/2014 | (11)

Kurds closer to participation in Iraqi government

The formation of a new Iraqi government was a more
Jihadists control all exits from Mount Shingal, says Peshmerga official 13/10/2014 | (11)

Jihadists control all exits from Mount Shingal, says Peshmerga official

"10,000 people were still on the mountain and as more
Hundreds of European Kurds join Peshmerga and YPG 13/10/2014 | (27)

Hundreds of European Kurds join Peshmerga and YPG

"My ancestors have given their blood for us, so more
0.577 seconds