Oct 18, 2014

PKK, Turkey, and ISIS: Confusing and Problematic Issue

Those of you who have been following what is going on in the Middle East, the timeline of the Persian Gulf War, NATO and Turkey's part in it have heard of the plight and circumstances of the Kurdish people. However, like the Hamas, Kurdish organizations like the PKK has been misrepresented as victims instead of continued perpetuation of violence. [See Kurdish Timeline]

Kurds are primarily an ethnic Iranian, northern Iraq people; persecuted by Saddam Hussein who used chemical weapons on their villages. The Kurds, specifically the PKK, butted heads with the Turkish Armed Forces from 1984 to 1999 with violence flaring on into the 2000s.

Turkish-Kurd Fighter and Family against Jihadists
The Kurds, throughout their history have been a nomadic people, since being mentioned in Arabic sources of the 1st century of Islam. Indeed, the term Kurd in Persian documents means nomad and tent-dwelling people. Kurdish is the official language of Northwestern Iran originating from the early centuries AD. While their ethnic territory was once known as Kurdistan, historically they have never had a geographical nation, their society governed by warlords instead of any national system.

Iranian Kurds, Turkistan-Russia
Kurdish history is filled with rebellions, beginning in 641 against the caliphs of Baghdad. There have been Kurdish scholars, like Al-Dinawari who wrote a book about the ancestry of the Kurds. The most significant Kurdish dynasty occurred during the 12th century, when the great Saladin founded the Ayyubite (1171-1250) dynasty of Syria and the Kurdish chieftain/warlord system was established, west of the Kurdistan mountains in Syria as well as Egypt and Yemen.

When the Turkish Ottomans came to power and established itself as an empire, the Kurdish population in Kurdistan and the Caucasus was removed because of its strategic importance. By the 1500s, the Ottoman Empire had developed a scorched earth policy against any rivals of the empire, which included the systematic destruction of old Kurdish villages, cities and countryside that produced crops for local people. What was left of the Kurdish people caused them to scatter into the mountains and central Anatolia as refugees; which became the nucleus of the modern Kurdish people.

Western powers in Europe, especially Britain, who fought in Turkey for colonialism, promised the Turks freedom if they helped fight against the Ottoman Empire.

Ataturk and Kurdish Tribesmen
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, 1916
After World War I, Kurdish nationalism emerged as the Ottoman Empire crumbled and Turkey became the Republic of Turkey, a secular state, but still primarily Muslims. Its first president Ataturk, who commanded the Turkish army fighting against western powers to keep Turkey free, modernized Turkey; but the general Muslim Kurd population was against a centralized authority and Turkish nationalism – threatening their chieftains and Kurdish autonomy; despite some joining Ataturk in the fight to keep European colonialism out of Turkey.

Kurds gained political office in the 1950s, working within the infrastructure of the Turkish Republic, but the integration process stopped with the 1960Turkish coup d'état.

In the 1970s, Kurdish nationalists were influenced by Marxist political ideology and who opposed the traditional local feudal system becoming a military separatist organization known as the PKK. It remains listed (also as Kurdistan Workers Party) as a terrorist organization by the United Nations, European Union, NATO, and the United States.

Kurds Killed by Turks
About 50% of Kurds live in Turkey, moving there to escape persecution from elsewhere, specifically Iraq and Iran, which made up 17% of Iraq's population. The main issue between Turks and Kurds is that after crossing into Turkey, they began to demand that southeastern Turkey become Kurdistan, a sovereign Kurdish nation. This movement was encouraged by Marxist supporters. The Turks felt that their humanitarian aid towards the Kurds had been stained by their ungrateful attitude towards Turkish sovereignty.

The Kurds are primarily Sunni Muslim and those following the PKK have periodically waged war against Turkish nationals and among themselves. Indeed, during the humanitarian operation conducted by US Special Forces, Kurdish chieftains (warlords) bickered and fought against each for control over food and material dropped into their mountain areas as assistance to their plight at the hands of the Hussein regime after the Persian Gulf War.

During the conflict between separatism and nationalism, the Turkish government has been slowly deteriorating toward Islamism – yet still seeking benefits of its membership in NATO.

Kurds Fleeing Syria to Turkey
Recent reports, published by the Jerusalem Post, stated that an ISIS fighter stated that Turks are funding their Islamic Jihad group. A German media source showed footage of Islamic Jihadists coming from Turkey to join ISIS. Currently this does not seem to be the official policy of Turkish legislators in their government (parliament).

It has been documented that Turkish fighter jets have attacked PKK positions instead of ISIS in Syria.

The German Deputy Speaker stated in an interview that NATO must stop Turkey's support of ISIS – undeclared or not. Turkish leader, Erdoğan is well known to lean toward Islamists and had been part of the under-the-table arms deal that occurred the same night that the US embassy in Benghazi was attacked. The UK Telegraph reported that Turkey and ISIS share common enemies – the Kurds. Daniel Pipes, US Middle East and Arabian expert, has reported that Turkey is supporting ISIS – the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. [ISIS]

Erdoğan has made comments that Western powers are more concerned with Islamic terrorists than the PKK; ignoring that the PKK has been listed as a terrorist organization and threat.

Turkish Special Forces Protecting Southeast Turkey Villages
It has been reported that Ankara has ignored the smuggling of oil by ISIS, treating wounded ISIS militants, and foreign jihadi fighters crossing from Turkey to Syria.

It is true that the Kurds have been persecuted by several factions and nations, but it is also true that Kurdish militant culture and medieval warlord-feudal society has contributed to the anti-Kurd sentiment. It is definitely a complex issue and conundrum.
Many Kurds have assimilated into Turkish culture, like actress Hűlya Avșar, [photo left] whose father is a Kurd and mother a Turk becoming successful and productive Turkish citizens.
Not all Kurds are Muslim, some are Christians; both Muslim/Christian Kurds are fighting against Islamic Jihadists like ISIS, as depicted in the following video ...
 Throughout history women have played an important role in freedom fighting in Celtic, Jewish and other cultures; French women resistance fighters against the Nazi among them. The Kurdish defense forces have gained respect and recognition in fighting against evil that threatens to annihilate them and anyone who does not fall under the caliphate Islamic Jihad. PKK has accumulated a large force over the decades, instigated by Marxist factions; but it does not represent the ideology of all Kurds protecting the existence of the Kurdish people just as Jews have been doing since Israel became a nation in the 20th century. 

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