By Devriş Çimen, European representative of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), wrote an article for Italian portal DinamoPress (*).
There are very different reactions to Erdogan’s mendacious plan to sacrifice the Kurds in the debate on NATO enlargement. Sweden and Finland will join the military alliance in the near future. However, the agreement for the two countries to join NATO only came about when Erdogan’s Turkey gave up its veto – and only after a memorandum had been signed that would once again turn the Kurds into victims.
To the detriment of Kurds, the memorandum promises a lot for Turkey. After the NATO summit in Madrid on 29 and 30 June, the British paper “The Economist” wrote: “Recep Tayyip Erdogan returns home triumphant”. The ultra-nationalist Devlet Bahçeli, who is Erdogan’s unofficial coalition partner, said in this context: “It is a strategic gain for our country and at the same time a national success.” He is right to a certain extent when he says that it is a “national success” because the Turkish government is in a war against the Kurds and therefore needs “national successes”.
Instead of listening to the voices of the Kurds, space has been given to Erdogan’s threats and blackmail policy. Once again, people are talking about the Kurds, but not with them. It is therefore all the more necessary to look at the current discussions from the Kurdish perspective. Therefore, as the European representative of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), in which the Kurds play an important role, I would like to do just that in order to contribute to this important debate.
If we understand Kurdistan as the geographical area where the majority of Kurds live, we see that it has been under colonial rule since the partition of Kurdistan and thus, the founding of Turkey almost 100 years ago. The nationalism of the new, powerful military leaders in these countries has led to discriminatory and systematic bloody repression of the Kurds and their political movements for almost 100 years. Therefore, it is not wrong to say that Kurdistan is an international colony where everyone but the Kurds are enriching themselves. Therefore, in order to understand Kurdistan, it is necessary to look at it in the context of decolonisation.
The Kurds have been and are being patronised by the respective colonial states such as Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq. Deprived of their freedom, their culture is being assimilated and those who resist have been/are being massacred and criminalised. Thousands of depopulated Kurdish villages and unsolved murders, tens of thousands of political prisoners and bans on political parties, organisations and associations are just a few examples from a long list that can be attributed to the Turkish state in order to impose systematic repression against the Kurds,
This is precisely where security concerns arise for the more than 40 million Kurds. There is no official body representing Kurdish interests and rights internationally. They are patronised by the colonial states, as Erdogan’s Turkey has done in the recent discussions about Sweden and Finland joining NATO. It is the colonial powers that present the Kurdish resistance against the prevailing exploitation and exclusion as a security threat. If the Kurds could be accused of anything today, its that they did not resist enough in the past to prevent colonialism. This does not mean that they should necessarily build a nationstate, but rather that they should fight for freedom and recognise democratic rights with autonomous self-governing structures in the respective states.
Thus, the threat or the security concerns do not result from the legitimate struggle of the Kurds, but from the policy of denial and assimilation of the colonial states, especially of the Turkish state, which tries to suppress them illegitimately in a hostile way. In this context, the attacks and occupations in northern Syria and northern Iraq are a direct expression of this policy.
In short, oppressors cannot have legitimate security concerns. On the contrary, the oppressed have security concerns that should be morally, politically and legally supported by everyone else.
Therefore, the judgement of various international bodies that Turkey has “valid security concerns and the right to fight terrorism” is a manipulation and thus an instrument arbitrarily used by Erdogan’s Turkey to undermine the legitimate rights of the Kurds and other peoples.
We can not forget that, historically, the existence of the Turkish state is based on the genocides of the Armenians and Assyrians and the denial of other peoples’ existence, especially the Kurds. Consequently, all those who question the Turkish state doctrine are fought.
This is the reason why the Kurds in Turkey have such an existential problem. So, the 100-year problem and the 40-year conflict are a result of Turkish state ideology. It is not the Kurds but the Turkish state’s ideology that is the problem. The ideology has an anti-Kurdish character, which is also reflected in the constitution. In order to survive under these circumstances, resistance is practically a necessity for the Kurds. All forces that stand up for the legitimate security concerns of the Kurds, make policy and offer resistance, naturally receive the justified support of the Kurdish people. But how can one resist in a region where every colonial state is this brutal? From a Kurdish point of view, it is therefore understandable to say that Saddam Hussein and Erdogan are two different bodies, but one mind.
The preamble to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, human rights should be protected by the rule of law.”
Tyranny and oppression were and are arbitrary acts by the occupiers of Kurdistan. Therefore, according to international law, the Kurds are forced to revolt and their actions are therefore legitimate.
But those who declare in their preamble that insurrection and resistance against tyranny and oppression are a necessity, protect the tyrants and oppressors when it comes to the Kurds. This is not a blame game, but a painful reality.
Sacrificing the freedom and lives of one group for the sake of another group’s security is more than brutal and illegitimate. But this brutality always finds its place in the present state constellation, because of the states’ need to consolidate their positions. What is the role of the United Nations in allowing hundreds of nations to be exploited by some 200 nation states?
Kurds constantly have to justify themselves when they resist their oppressors. Why is there no international point for the Kurds where they can hold their oppressors accountable? What is the point of international law if it cannot protect the rights of a people like the Kurds?
What do Sweden and Finland have to do with the Kurds? Why do you promise compliance at the expense of the Kurds?
The security concerns expressed by Turkey during its opposition to Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO membership applications are “valid”, said Alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg in the run-up to the Madrid summit. Why is no one questioning this illegitimate statement by Stoltenberg, who is giving Erdogan a free hand for further oppression and attacks on the Kurds? Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson also showed understanding for Erdogan’s concerns and said; “We take the Turkish concerns very seriously, not least the security concerns in the context of the fight against terrorism”.
Where do the security concerns of a state that wages war equipped with all kinds of modern weapons begin and end? How can the security threat posed by Turkey to the Kurds be turned on its head? Whether inside Turkey or outside its borders in northern Iraq or northern Syria, Turkey is attacking the Kurds to prevent them from succeeding.
For geostrategic and geopolitical considerations/calculations, international bodies such as NATO, the EU and the EP attribute security concerns to Turkey that endanger the security of others, especially the Kurds. Let us briefly look at a concrete example. The European Parliament resolution of 7 June 2022 in the Commission’s report on Turkey 2021 states: “[the EP] recognises that Turkey has legitimate security concerns and the right to fight terrorism”.
The same Parliament passed a resolution on 11 March 2021 on “The conflict in Syria: 10 years after the uprising” with the following interesting resolution: “[…] calls on Turkey to withdraw its troops from Northern Syria which it is illegally occupying outside of any UN mandate; condemns Turkey’s illegal transfers of Kurdish Syrians from occupied Northern Syria to Turkey for detention and prosecution in violation of Turkey’s international obligations under the Geneva Conventions; urges that all Syrian detainees who have been transferred to Turkey be immediately repatriated to the occupied territories in Syria; is worried that Turkey’s ongoing displacements could amount to ethnic cleansing against the Syrian Kurdish population; stresses that Turkey’s illegal invasion and occupation has jeopardised peace in Syria, the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean; firmly condemns Turkey’s use of Syrian mercenaries in conflicts in Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh, in violation of international law”.
The resolution also speaks of “illegal invasion and occupation by Turkey” and “ethnic cleansing of the Syrian Kurdish population”. Before Turkey is allowed any “security concerns” again, Turkey should be held accountable for what it has done in Syria. Therefore, the public and politicians must not allow the new memorandum under the auspices of the NATO between Sweden, Finland and Turkey, which was adopted due to geostrategic and geopolitical interests, to endanger the security of the Kurds once again.
The Kurds are not part of a decision-making body when it comes to the question of whether NATO should be expanded, reduced or even dissolved. But they are right to demand a clear commitment to international law, democracy and freedom, which should also apply to the Kurds. No other body has the right to abuse them for its own benefit and profit, neither Turkey nor NATO.
The signed agreement means the following for the Kurds: The hostility of the Erdogan regime towards the Kurds and its hostility towards democracy are unmistakably documented. With the help of blackmail, Erdogan is trying to export his Kurdish hostility and war policy to Sweden and Finland. In this case, the applicable standards for democracy, freedoms and human rights are not formulated by Sweden and Finland, but by Erdogan himself. If there is no reversal, this agreement will go down in history as an official document of hostility towards the Kurds. It is therefore a disgrace to universal human values, which Sweden and Finland consider themselves to be, or would like to be, the vanguard of. Moreover, Erdogan is trying to criminalise solidarity with the Kurdish freedom struggle. No one should accommodate Erdogan with such compromises. On the contrary, the Kurds’ demand for freedom and democracy must be decriminalised.
M. Dragi had said the following on the subject of Erdogan last year: “With these dictators, let’s call them by name, but we need them, you have to be direct and make it clear to them that you have a different view of society,” Draghi said. “But you also have to work with them to ensure the interests of your own country. You have to find the right balance.” But one must not forget that such balances have painful consequences. Hannah Arendt said that no one has the right to obey. We, the HDP, the peoples and especially the Kurds represented in the HDP do not obey Erdogan and his authoritarian regime. Others should not either. It is not Erdogan but our universal values that should determine the future.
(*) DinamoPress is an Italian independent, left-wing online information and culture portal that publishes news and reports on movements, feminism, politics and labour since 2012.