Tag Archives: Kurds

Violence In Iraq-So What’s New?

American troops have left the cities of Iraq, but violence continues as al-Qaeda pursues its program of war and destruction. General Robert Caslen, who is in charge of American forces in northern Iraq, said recent attacks in Mosul simply demonstrate that militants are still active and will not vanish just because Iraq soldiers are in the field. He noted there are still several issues which are causing violence in the area. Iraq and Kurdish leaders in northern areas of the country are still at odds over oil wealth near Mosul. Prime Minister Maliki has yet to extend the hand of friendship and cooperation to Sunnis.

The immediate issue is who is in charge in Mosul and Kurdistan. Kurds do not wish to once again be under control of Iraqis but Iraq hungers for the oil wealth in northern sectors of their nation. In the meantime, hovering in the shadows is al-Qaeda whose primary goal is fostering discontent and anger. At this point, the United States has lost power to foster peace.

Turkish Opposition Learns From US Republicans

It may or may not be comforting to know there are nut cases in Turkey who seek to emulate the hate being spread in America by right wing Republicans. Turkish opposition leader, Deniz Baykai blasted Prime Minister Erdogan for seeking to reach out to political officials in pro-Kurdish parties in an effort to end conflict and discord. The prime minister supposedly met with Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, but the government refuses to acknowledge the exact content of those discussions.

The Turkish government is acting responsibly be engaging in dialogue with those who believe Kurds have been mistreated in order to identify steps that can be taken to respect the rights and needs of Kurds. If Kurds believe they have equal opportunities to succeed in Turkey they will cease supporting terrorist forces which rely on violence to achieve their aims. Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arnc noted his party was taking a political risk which could backfire in elections by discussing issues with Kurdish rebels. However, they are to be commended for refusing to allow voices of hate to overcome possibilities for voices of peace to succeed.

Amnesty International has been pleased with positive moves on the part of the Turkish government to foster human rights. Irene Khan, speaking for AI, said the decision not to close down political parties, to initiate an investigation of military attempts to subvert the rule of law, and an apparent desire to open new possibilities of respecting the rights of Kurdish citizens are signs there is a willingness to foster the rule of law. Ms. Kahn supported the Erdogan government’s attempt to allow women to wear a headscarf while attending university classes. According to Ms. Kahn, Amnesty International regards the decision to wear or not wear a headscarf relates to “freedom of expression and freedom of religion.”

The controversy over the headscarf in Turkey relates to fears on the part of secular leaders that once women wear them in school it might lead to pressure being exerted on all students to wear one. The question is whether banning headscarves is simply another example of the state imposing its will on women as in Saudi Arabia or in Iran where women have to wear certain garments.

The major concern of AI is the presence of laws which restrict what people can say concerning certain topics like the Armenian genocide. Turkey no longer has need for such outdated laws.

Turkey Moves To Confront Kurdish Issue

The issue of rights for Kurds is among the most divisive in Turkey and Iraq. Both nations confront guerrilla warfare being conducted by members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party(PKK) which demands an independent Kurdish state. The government of Prime Minister Erdogan is attempting to open a dialogue with Kurds in their nation in order to address their legitimate anger at prejudice and lack of economic opportunities. The government on Wednesday said it would take “courageous’ steps to promote more democracy and work with Kurds. Instead of supporting such efforts, the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) denounced the move as an effort to legitimize ethnic separation. MHP leader Deviet Bahgeli interpreted the move as evidence the prime minister “shows no will to fight terrorism” and is prepared to “surrender to terror by acting as subcontractor of separatist demands.”

Erdogan is not seeking to encourage separatism but he is attempting to incorporate the people of his nation who are of Kurdish heritage by fostering a feeling that it is possible to be a Kurd and enjoy full benefit of Turkish law.

Obama Words Create Furor In Turkey

President Barack Obama responded to a question from a Turkish student who inquired about his ideas towards Kurds in his country. As an American, the president drew upon words and feelings that are common to most Americans, but, unfortunately, not to the people of Turkey. He said: “I think that it’s important that the Kurdish minority inside Turkey is free to advance in the society, and that they have equal opportunity.” Any American or European audience would applaud this expression of concern for Kurds, but both Kurdish people and other Turks were angry at the choice of words by Obama.Selahattin Demirtas, of the Democratic Social Party (DTP) which supports Kurds, responded by noting, “Kurds are a pople living in their homeland and they are one of principal founders of the Turkish Republic.”

In Turkey, a “minority” is considered to be a religious group, not an ethnic group as are the Kurds. The European Union and Americans use the word to define a group.

Kurdish Nationalism Rises In Turkey

Local elections in Turkey the past weekend revealed that Kurdish nationalism is alive and growing even stronger. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) encountered strong evidence that Kurds did not trust the stance of current Prime Minister Erdogan who they believe lied to them about his commitment to work through peaceful means in dealing with issues related to Kurds. The opposition Democratic Society Party (DTP) which has been championing Kurdish rights strongly increased their lead in Kurdish areas of the nation. In 2007, the AKP had a higher percent of the vote because Kurds accepted his pledge to work peacefully in dealing with their rights. However, he switched and backed military plans for attacking Kurdish rebels in northwestern Iraq.

The issue of Kurdish rights hangs like an albatross around the neck of Turks who seek entry into the European Union. The EU will insist on local rights for Kurds and if that is not forthcoming, they will reject Turkey’s application for membership.

Violence Escalates In Iraq

During the past several months, the media has been filled with stories concerning how the famous “surge” has resulted in a dramatic “victory” in Iraq. Lost in this euphoria is the reality that al-Qaeda, which arrived in Iraq courtesy of George Bush, is still active and may be laying low awaiting further reductions in US military personnel. Suicide bombers blew themselves up throughout Iraq yesterday as Kurdish areas were hit in anticipation of the arrival of the Turkish president who has led the fight against Kurdish rebels. Al-Qadea may be targeting Kurds because they collaborate with Americans, and there may be Kurdish rebels who are attacking any fellow Kurds who seek to work with Turks. In a word, this is one mess after another.

The situation appears to suggest there might be an escalation in fighting in northern areas of Iraq as both Kurdish rebels and al-Qaeda share a common animosity toward Kurds who collaborate with Americans or with Turkish authorities. Further south in Iraq there were other suicide bombers.

When all is said and done, President Obama has inherited a rather complicated situation and all talk about “victories” may well be a bit premature.

EU Court Says Kurdish Classes Legal In Turkey

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that peacefully petitioning for Kurdish language classes is a fundamental human right and it accused the Turkish government of violating a student’s right to an education. The decision arose from complaints by 18 applicants who attended Turkish universities and decided to petition their university authorities to provide optional Kurdish language courses. For daring to petition, the students were subjected to disciplinary action. The European Court ruled the petitions could not be “construed as an activity which would lead to polarization of the university population on the basis of language, race, religion or denomination.”

Kurdish was banned after the 1980 military coup as violence broke out between the armed forces and members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Even as the EU Court was ruling in favor of the students, a Turkish court acquitted a mayor on charges of using Kurdish in his celebratory message to his constituents.

It’s Not The Words, It’s The Language!

The majority of people in Turkey are not Kurdish, but there is a significant number who belong to that ethnic group. They have a distinctive language and culture which they regard as part of who they are as a people. The leader of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) was addressing the party’s parliamentary group when a Turkish television cut the live broadcast because Ahmet Turk was speaking in the wrong language– Kurdish. Mr. Turk said he was speaking in Kurdish in recognition of the UN cultural body, UNESCO’s International Mother Language Day which is designed to promote linguistic and cultural diversity. The television station, TRT, said that no other language other than Turkish could be used when making parliamentary speeches of group addresses.

A decade ago, a deputy from a pro-Kurdish party was jailed for speaking Kurdish in the parliament. Ironically, Turkey on January 1, 2009, established a TV channel which is entirely in Kurdish. How about a compromise agreement and make English the official language for all parliament discussions?

Obama Will Gradually Withdraw US Troops

Incoming Vice President Joe Biden on a trip to Iraq promised its government that Barack Obama will proceed in a gradual fashion to withdraw US troops in order to avoid creating any military issues for Iraq leaders. Biden visited the Kirkuk region where he urged the squabbling Kurdish and government representatives to resolve issues pertaining to the place of the oil-wealthy city in the Iraq nation. The Kurds want it to become part of their semi-autonomous region while the Maliki government will not surrender control of an area that promises to bea rich source of oil revenue in the coming years.

Regardless of whether American troops leave in 2010 or 2011 there will be unresolved issues remaining in Iraq pertaining to control of oil in the nation. The Kurds do not trust either Shiites or Sunnis to control them, given their experiences under Saddam Hussein. There is trouble brewing at the OK Corral and America will be unable to head off the shooting that eventually will erupt.