An independent Kurdish state seems unlikely, because...
A Hürriyet Daily News reader from Santa Barbara has written me a detailed and lengthy letter that actually echoes similar letters from other parts of the world. The U.S. military cooperation with Kurdish militants against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) in the Syrian civil war has increased interest in the Kurdish question in the Middle East among American and European intellectuals. And the fact that the militants belong to the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting with NATO member Turkey since 1984, confused the minds of Western intellectuals.
Despite being founded on a Marxist-Leninist ideology with a program to fight against “American imperialism” and “Turkish colonialism” with the goal of carving out an independent Kurdish state from the territories of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, and being designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union, the PKK is seen in some Western eyes as the best partner against ISIL terrorism.
The HDN reader, also summarizing a number of recent letters, simply opposes the “terrorist” designation of the PKK by the U.S. because they are fighting for a cause to establish a state of their own (as if ISIL is not claiming the same thing) and asks why Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria do not agree to give the Kurds land as the PKK desire instead of trying to suppress it with military power. The reader asked me to give answers to a couple of questions, and I want to share parts of it with you:
* Kurds in Turkey do not live in only one part of the country, i.e., the southeast, bordering Iraq, Iran and Syria. That is a big difference when compared with the three other countries. The biggest Kurdish-populated city in the world is neither Diyarbakir nor Arbil, but Istanbul.
* Turks and Kurds are intermingled through mixed marriages; there are an estimated 2.5 million families like that across the country, mostly Western parts. That is a major difference of Kurds in Turkey from Kurds in the other three countries. That is why the PKK could not manage to ignite a Turkish-Kurdish fight despite all its efforts. Hypothetically speaking, if you want to draw a line, it is not possible as in Iran, Iraq or Syria.
* Not all Kurds in Turkey vote for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which focuses on the Kurdish issue. Actually, it’s less than half of them. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) gets more Kurdish votes than the HDP in elections. Although not as many as before, the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP) also gets some Kurdish votes, especially from western parts of the country.
* It is a pity that a number of HDP members of parliament are in jail now, including its co-chairs, on charges that they supported the terrorist propaganda of the PKK. On the other hand, the HDP failed to draw a clear line between its political activities and acts of terror by the PKK. Parliamentary politics cannot go hand in hand with armed campaigns with a lot of bloodshed; the Irish example is a good one.
* Not all the Kurds support the cause of the PKK either. There are more Kurdish fighters on the Turkish government side than PKK militants; the government has paid village guards fighting against the PKK.
* It may sound romantic for ears sensitive to human rights in the West, but what the PKK has been doing since 1984 cannot be justified with the moral high ground. More than 40,000 people have been killed in that fight so far. There is no moral upper hand in detonating suicide bombers in the middle of cities for example; with the same logic, legitimate causes could easily be found for al-Qaeda or ISIL.
* When Kurds of Syria, Iraq and Iran want to escape from their lands, they come to Turkey. When Kurds living in southeast are fed up with confrontation and fight between the PKK and the security forces, very few of them go to Western countries, but to Western cities of Turkey and settle there.
* I believe that a peaceful political settlement must be found for the Kurdish problem in Turkey to end this bloodshed. Military methods on all sides will not bring any good solution. But the solution is to live and enjoy the resources of this Turkey together with more democratic rights, which will bring prosperity to be shared. I can see that for dialogue, the secession of armed attacks by the PKK is necessary.
* Carving out territory in Turkey (not a banana republic, Turks and Kurds have lived together on this land for nearly a thousand years) would not be that easy, to be frank and clear – that applies to Iran, Iraq and Syria, as we have been seeing since the eruption of the civil war there, despite a lot of U.S. support.
The bottom line is that the PKK does not represent the majority of Kurds in Turkey. The majority of Kurds in Turkey want more peace, democracy and prosperity like a majority of Turks.
A better way for Western intellectuals with sincere humanitarian feelings that are concerned by the situation in this part of the world would be to encourage the PKK and its affiliates to cease their armed attacks and acts of terror against Turkey and get back to the dialogue table for a peaceful solution, as in the case of 2012-2015 period.