ANKARA: The Ugly Truth About The Kurdish Question — The Armenian Qu

By Orhan Kemal Cenga°Z

Today’s Zaman
2-109-the-ugly-truth-about-the-kurdish-question-th e-armenian-question-by-orhan-kemal-cengiz.html
Jul y 31 2009

If we could discuss the Armenian question openly, if we could confront
the Armenian tragedy, there would not have been a Kurdish question.

We are far from understanding the Armenian question, yet can we be
close to solving the Kurdish question?

To answer this, we need to look at how the Kurdish question emerged
in the first place. The same state "problem solving" mentality was in
work for both the Armenian and Kurdish questions. Population exchanges,
forceful evacuations and atrocities directed at civilians. Nothing
has changed over all these years. The same "problem solving" mentality
created the very problem it was trying to solve. The Kurdish question
was very simple to solve in the beginning. There was a marginal armed
group (the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers’ Party) which used to carry out
sporadic attacks against security forces. Most Kurds did not like
them. But many Kurds also wanted to be recognized as Kurds; be able to
preserve and live their culture, speak their language and so on. At
that time, the Turkish official stance — dictated by the military,
basically — was very rigid on the Kurdish question. According to this
"understanding," there were no Kurds, there was no separate Kurdish
language. Kurds were "mountain Turks." They were called "Kurds"
because of the sound they make when they walk on snow: "Kart," or
"Kurt." For those of you who do not know the difference between Kurdish
and Turkish, they are about as similar as Chinese and English. So
basically, the official understanding of the Kurdish question was a
joke. If we did not know the sufferings of Kurds as a result of this
"unwise" approach, we could even say that the Turkish state has a
dry sense of humor because of the creation of this "mountain Turk"
concept. But it was not a joke, and this understanding of the question
caused a serious human tragedy in Anatolia once again.

The treatment of Kurdish prisoners in the Diyarbakır prison after the
1980 military coup was a turning point. The torture and ill treatment
of Kurdish inmates in this prison was beyond human imagination. The
Diyarbakır prison was like a Nazi concentration camp. The inmates
suffered so much that upon release almost all of them went to the
mountains to join the ranks of the PKK. People were imprisoned even for
just expressing peaceful ideas about the Kurdish problem. It would not
be an exaggeration to say that the phenomenon of the Diyarbakır prison
created the PKK we know today. With these "angry" militants in its
ranks, the PKK increased the number of its attacks dramatically. The
Turkish security apparatus started to seek new ways to handle this
"new phenomenon" and (not surprisingly, of course) came up with the
idea of using more violence. They created the concept of "fighting
terrorists with their own methods." Kurdish villages were set on fire;
3,000 villages were destroyed. The monster created by the Turkish
deep state, JÄ°TEM (an illegal gendarmerie unit), claimed more than
17,000 lives. People were abducted in broad daylight, and their dead
bodies later thrown onto streets, under bridges and into wells. No
person ever turned up alive after being taken by JITEM. The terror
they created, like the terror in the Diyarbakır prison, sent more
and more militants to the PKK.

Stuck between a rock and hard place

This is one side of the coin. On the other side, there is the PKK. It
was first established as a Marxist-Leninist organization and turned
into an extremely nationalist, violent structure. Many times, poor
Kurdish villagers were persecuted simultaneously by security forces
and the PKK, both of which accused villagers of aiding and abetting
"the other" one. The PKK killed many Kurds. The PKK tortured and
killed its own militants. The PKK used terrorist attacks, including
suicide bombings, exploding bombs in the most crowded streets, and so
on. The PKK was ruled by an iron fist. To be honest, for many years
I thought the worst thing that could ever happen to the Kurds would
be to live under the authority of the PKK, which has the potential
of becoming one of the worst dictatorships the world has ever seen.

Today we are at a point where Turkish state officers mention the
"Kurdish question" openly, and both the PKK and the Turkish state are
about to explain their "road maps" for a solution to the problem. In
the past, there were occasions when we all felt so close to the
solution. Each time, the "Turkish deep state" and the "deep PKK"
found a way to sabotage the whole process. Today, because of the
Ergenekon case, we are in a more advantageous situation. At least one
"party" has fewer options to sabotage the "process." But what is this
process? Does it include an open confrontation with our past? Does
it include both Turks and Kurds questioning taboos? Will it lead us
to confront older and deeper wounds in our past, like the Armenian
tragedy, which was created by Turks and Kurds together?

My observation is that no one in Turkey is ready for this kind of
confrontation. Instead, everyone waits for "the other" to accept their
responsibility without sacrificing anything. I strongly believe that
if we do not confront this ugly past, if we do not open our hearts
to the human suffering, no "solution" will be long lasting. If
Kurds do not open their hearts to PKK members who were tortured
and killed by the PKK or the Turkish victims of terror created by
this organization, likewise if Turks fail to understand the pain and
suffering of Kurdish villagers who were wrested from their very roots,
we cannot solve anything. This is the first level. At the second
level, we need a deeper understanding. Both Turks and Kurds need to
confront the Armenian tragedy, which they created together. If Kurds
start to understand this tragedy, they will get rid of the illusion
that they are the only people who ever suffered in Anatolia. If they
understand the Armenian tragedy, and how Kurds were used by the deep
state then, they would be much more humble, much less nationalist. We
need to question many things. Every answer will lead to other
questions. This is a process full of pain. Is anyone ready for that
much deep questioning? I don’t think so. Unless we engage this kind of
questioning, we will inevitably end up with shallow "solutions" which
will not be long lasting. If we had understood the Armenian tragedy,
we would not have become mired in the Kurdish question. Unless we
question our past, some people will try to restore the "deep state"
once again, some people will try to re-establish the PKK sometime in
the future. Everything depends on severing the moral bases of these
terrible structures, and this depends on an open confrontation with
everything in the past. Can we start?