Kurds are one of the oldest peoples of the Middle East. According to various estimates, 20-30 million Kurds live in divided Kurdistan territory today. Kurdistan is a region of high economic value, with very rich oil resources, important crossings and water resources. Kurds in Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria, as well as Armenia, also live in Afghanistan and Central Asian countries …
By Hakkı Yükselen
History of the problem…
Although it gave its first signs with various uprisings in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Kurdish issue started to take its current form a hundred years ago. After the Ottoman Empire was defeated in the First Imperialist War, the division of its territory in the Arab Middle East by the British and the French is the “new milestone” of the problem.
This also means that the Kurds, most of whom live in Ottoman-dominated territory, are divided. (In some places, villages, families and tribes is divided even!) So while the major part of the Ottoman Kurdistan rested in Turkey, at that time other parts are shared between the British and French mandate of Syria and Iraq. Thus, the Kurds and Kurdistan are divided into four parts together with the Iranian Kurdistan. In short, it can be said that a new regional status quo formed by imperialism is at the heart of the problem.
The history of the Kurds is the history of deep frustrations, as well as freedom struggles, in the four countries where they are divided. In Ottoman Turkey, despite pro-independence Kurdish nationalism which has begun to organise especially in urban based and educated intellectuals, Northern Kurdistan kurdish people, they supported “National Struggle” which was aiming to save the occupied Anatolia. This support generally comes from traditional forces that influence the people in the countryside, such as large landowners, tribal leaders, religious leaders, notables. The main motives that pushed them to act in this way are “Islamic brotherhood” against local and foreign Christian forces (Kemalists also use an Islamic language during this period!), loyalty to the “captive” Caliph and caliphate in Istanbul, various promises given to them. And very important reason was the possibility of the return of Armenians people who were killed and whose properties and lands were confiscated in 1915-16 with the participation of Kurds.
However, despite the rhetoric that the Kemalist leadership in Ankara that the national struggle was a commun struggle of Turks and Kurds, it suppresses a bloody local revolt in 1921, initiated by Alevi Kurds with autonomy and various claims. However, the Kurds, who are mostly from the Sunni-Shafii sect, continue to support the Kemalists. (The Turkish state continues to use these sect differences later.)
The military successes and reconciliation and agreements with the imperialist states against the Greek army, strengthen the hand of the Kemalist leadership, and the discourse of Islamic brotherhood and unity gradually leaves the discourse of a Turkish nationalist. However, the leader of the movement, Mustafa Kemal, continues to talk about autonomy and the national and administrative rights of the Kurds, although they are limited at local administrations.
After the victory of “National Struggle”, from 1923 a new state (Republic of Turkey) has begun to built but so soon it was understood that it will be completly a “Turkish” state.. After the abolition of the caliphate, the symbol of the Islamic union and fraternity (1924); the abandonment of Mosul Province, rich in oil, formed by the majority of Kurds, to the British-Iraqi administration (1925) disappointment among the Kurds increases rapidly. No longer Kurdish autonomy is mentioned; and the state started to be strongly centralized… This opens the way for traditional Kurdish leaders in the countryside to cooperate with nationalist Kurdish intellectuals.
The steps taken towards the construction of a central nation-state based on one language (Turkish) and one nation (Turks) lead to an increasingly unrest among the Kurds. The state also tightens the policy of repression. After the “liquidation” of millions of Christians living in Anatolia, while and after the First World War, with massacres and exiles, a strong assimilation campaign is launched that aims to nationalize the Muslim peoples of the country has begun. These policies, at 1930’s, which reached the summit with fascist theories based on the claim that the whole world originated from Turkish and that all languages originate from Turkish, are mainly based on the denial of the existence of the Kurdish masses and to the thesis that there is no Kurdish language.
Nationalism, which gave other peoples the right to live on the condition of “Turkification”, gradually gains a racist and ethnic character. The policy of denial of the Kurdish existence finally reaches the point that the Kurds are actually “mountain Turks”! In the “scientific” congresses held to prove the Turkishness of Anatolia with reports of skull measurements of some experts. At 1930’s Kurdish language is officially banned, Kurdish speakers are punished by penalty. For this reason, the history of the building of a Turkish nation state also turns into the history of the Kurdish riots. There were 16 Kurdish uprisings between 1924 and 1938. Some of these are very important with their diameters and political consequences.
The Sheikh Said (Şeyh Sait) Uprising…
Sheikh Said rebellion in 1925, was a national character reaction that started after the Beytüşebab uprising in 1924 and it was based on a religious discourse, and caused military spending, which cost a third of the state budget. However, the political consequences of the uprising are much more important than their military-financial consequences. As soon as the new Turkish state survives the shock of this unexpected reaction, it crushes the Kurdish forces that have taken over a large area with large-scale military operations. French imperialism, which opened the Syrian territory to the Turkish army also played a role in this military success.
The captured leaders of the uprising, especially Sheikh Said, are executed. But not only this; after the riots “Takrir-i Sükun Law” (for “calmness” or “preserve peace”) covers all Turkey. All kinds of opposition is banned; the country’s only bourgeois opposition party is closed. All opposition media are silenced, especially those with a tendency to the left. Opposition journalists are judged, some are sentenced to prison. Class-based organizations, trade union activities and all actions, especially May Day demonstrations, are prohibited. The pressure on communists is further increased. The result is a Bonapartist regime based on one-party rule.
Another major Kurdish uprising took place in the Ağrı region between 1926-1930. This uprising has some important features: The movement, in which the Kurdish Hoybun organization based in Syria played an important role starting from 1928, and which was lead by İhsan Nuri Pasha (formerly an officer in the Turkish army), was well organized in military and technical terms. The rebellion has grown rapidly with the military support of the Kurds in all parts of Kurdistan, taking control of a large area centered around Mount Ararat. The military power of the insurgents, with the participation of the Barzanians coming from Iraq with a force of 500, as well as the warriors from Iran and Syria, and various tribal forces, reaches thousands. The Syrian Kurds attack the southern region with the participation of the Syriacs and support the forces in Ağrı. Numerous settlements and regions around East Beyazıt and Van Lake fall into the hands of Kurdish forces. The attacks of the Turkish army are repulsed many times. In 1927, the Republic of Ağrı was declared. (1927-30)
The Turkish state made an agreement with Iran in order to suppress the uprising that passed through various stages for four years. Already the Kurdish problem in Turkey, likewise, has a significant Kurdish population is a problem in Iran; it would not be difficult to agree this way! Small Mount Ararat, which is located within the borders of Iran and which is an important transit and support point, is given to Turkey in exchange for a piece of land.. In this way, while the support provided by the Iranian Kurds is cut, the withdrawal of Kurdish forces to Iran is also prevented. In June-July 1930, the Turkish army launches Operation Zilan; Mount Ararat is completely surrounded. With the land and air operations on 13 July, all villages on the skirts of Mount Ararat are burned and destroyed and the people are driven from the region. 15 thousand people are killed. Cumhuriyet Newspaper reports that Zilan Creek is full of human bodies. Kurdish forces are defeated in the clashes that last until September 25. While İhsan Nuri Pasha took refuge in Iran, 34 captured leaders are executed.
The uprising increases racist oppression and assimilation policies of the state. In 1934, the “Settlement Law”, whose main purpose was aimed at the assimilation of non-Turkish elements, especially the Kurds, was enacted. The law aims to Turkishize the regions where Kurds (of course other minorities) are majority or dense and to distribute some of the Kurds to the western regions of the country where the Turkish majority lives. The law also prohibits deported communities from setting up mass settlements in the places they go!
Meanwhile, the eye of the state was on the Dersim (Tunceli) region, where Alevi-Kurds lived, who had maintained an actual autonomy without submitting to any state authority. Despite the crushing of the entire Kurdish movement, Dersim continues to experience this de facto autonomy. The “Tunceli Law” was enacted in 1935 in order to end this situation and to dominate the central authority in Dersim. And “Dersim” city name changed to “Tunceli”(meaning is Iron-Hand or Iron Punch) by government. According to this law, Dersim region is appointed as the governor of Dersim as General Inspector, according to this law, the Lieutenant General Abdullah Alpdoğan, who is now an extraordinary person; a special court is established for the region. In addition, Dersim is declared as a “forbidden area”. According to this law, the Dersim region will now be governed with colonial rules, with the exception of the constitution and existing laws by a “general governor” with all sorts of extraordinary powers. Lieutenant General Abdullah Alpdoğan is appointed as the governor of; a special court is established for the region. In addition, Dersim is declared as a “forbidden area”.
From some secret official documents we are learning that from 1930-1931 the state’s preparations begun to crush completely. Dersim’s people and to leaders families distributed to other regions. In a 1930 gendarmerie command report, it is suggested that Dersim be treated as “a colony” first, and that “the dissolution of Kurdishness time over in Turkishness”.
Understanding that the state is pursuing a “deep-rooted solution” this time, some tribes started resistance in 1936. They oppose military infrastructure activities initiated by the state for a comprehensive operation. For this purpose, the military center, police stations, bridge construction etc has been completed. Armed attacks are organized to prevent activities. However, a significant part of the tribes remain neutral and unresponsive, considering that the state will not touch them or will not be harmed if they do not resist. The state, meanwhile, starts recruiting peoples with money in order to use some regional forces.
In March 1937, a new revolt begins and the ongoing clashes intensify after the government’s provocation, according to one allegation, and another allegation that Kurdish tribal forces attacked the police station that guarded a bridge and killed 33 soldiers. Kurdish forces attack many military centers and police stations. The army, which could not be effective against guerrilla warfare in the beginning and failed to overcome the mountains, but then attacked with great force. This time air force is also used. Kurdish forces are tried to be neutralized by air bombings using toxic gases. The leader of the uprising, Seyit Rıza was arrested in Erzincan, where he went to meet with government representatives and then executed. (According to some sources, he was caught.) Army forces, which started to take advance as a result of attacks from land and air, started massacres against those who participated in the uprising. In these massacres, toxic gas is used against the rebels and the people who hided in the caves. (Government representatives proudly say that the gassed Kurds were killed like “mice.”)
The second phase of the operation is launched on January 20, 1938. This time, the target is not only the forces that continue to resist, but the tribes and the people of Dersim, who have remained neutral until that time. Whether or not joins the revolt, the operation it becomes a crime against all the people of Dersim and results in crushing the Kurdish revolt. The number of deaths is between 13-40 thousand according to various sources. Many survivors of Turkey’s Kurdish children is distributed to Turkish officers family to be trained as “Turk”. The fortress of Kurdish resistance Dersim is largely emptied…
The attitude of Stalinism towards this massacre was a disgrace. The view of the Stalinist TKP(Turkish Communist Party), which does not consider the problem as the “Kurdish national problem”, is that the Dersim uprising is a reactionary uprising caused by the feudal elements against the energetic reforms of the Kemalist government.
After this crushing in Dersim, the Kurdish problem in Turkey, almost enters a period of silence until the early 60s. In the multi-party period that started in 1950’s and the “liberal” opposition came to power, the assimilation policy is somewhat relaxed. Kurdish ruling classes find indirect political representation within the various bourgeois parties. Meanwhile, while the pressure on Kurdish intellectuals continues, some Kurds close to order find the opportunity to rise in politics and even in the life of the state, except for some critical institutions and duties, provided that they do not talk about the Kurds which they all know. In short, a period begins, when the Kurds can be anything other than Kurdish.
After the 1960 military coup, army was uncomfortable with the visibility of the Kurdish presence in the country and it wanted to return to past assimilation policies. Village and town names in Kurdish begin to be translated into Turkish; Many prominent Kurds are deported. But to turn back was impossible!
A new era …
The construction process of a modern and central national state and its economic, social and cultural effects have led to the emergence of a modern Kurdish intellectual layer (intelligentsia) despite any assimilation policy. This also means the formation of political leaderships that exceed the perspective of traditional leaderships and begin to look at the problem as a whole in the national plan (taking into account all parts of Kurdistan). Thousands of Kurdish youth who go to universities in big cities meet left ideas with the effect of general social change and rising workers’ movement in the country. This process enables the emergence of a socialist-Marxist perspective and organizations through publications and organizations that gradually diversified in the 60s and 70s and began to reach a certain mass. The “Eastern Meetings”, one of the milestone of the Kurdish movement, are held in this period. (Because it is formally prohibited using the Kurdistan word, “east” word is used and problems called as “Eastern question” ) The Kurdish national movement in Turkey largely began to be represented by the left-wing forces that identifies themselves as “Marxist-Leninist”.
Towards the end of the 70s, the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) emerges and declares its aim to save all parts of Kurdistan through a guerrilla struggle that will turn into a “popular war”. PKK was in conflict with some pro-state local powers and also begins to clash with other left Kurdish organizations that it wants to erase from the region.
The 1980 military coup was a turning point for the Kurdish people and, of course, the Kurdish political movements. The aim of the military dictatorship is to complete the job this time! Therefore, the state in all of Turkey’s Kurdistan for a long period conducted a violent campaign of terror for all Kurdish people. The goal is to make Kurds give up and regretting Kurdishness for the people were borned Kurdish! However, this goal cannot be achieved despite intense pressure and state terror. Moreover, as a result of the almost complete crushing of the Kurdish political groups, the “monopoly” of the struggle came to the PKK alone. The PKK, which has been preparing for war in Syria and Iraqi Kurdistan, where it has been settled for a long time with the support of the Syrian government, starts the war in the summer of 1984 by attacking two large settlements (Eruh and Şemdinli) with hundreds of militants. PKK militants, who attack to military units and various state institutions, retreat with weapons and ammunition, they seized after holding the two districts for a short time and making propaganda. The Kurdish national movement had entered a new phase…
Years of war…
PKK forces seized the initiative in the region in the early 90’s through guerrilla war spread all over the region. The PKK has as many as ten thousand guerrillas, as well as thousands of militia. In the same period, large mass riots called “serhildan” (intifada) begin in the large Kurdish settlements. The PKK now had a huge mass support. The Kurdish movement establishes its own independent political party (which will be closed several times later) during this period. He enters the parliament by forming an alliance with the social democrat party (SHP).
In order to put an end to this situation, the state implements the strategy of “total war” under the name of “new concept” after a short ceasefire in 1992. The army takes action to seize area domination with two hundred thousand soldiers and special operations units formed within the police. The villages that are supposed to support the guerrilla are emptied and burned; Villages that refuse to be pro-state “village guards” are evacuated and their people are driven away. The number of paid Kurdish guards reach 70,000 over time. The underground organizations of the state also murder hundreds (thousands!) Of people by using “dirty war” tactics by using confessive and collaborative Kurds. Meanwhile, Islamist Kurds (Hezbollah) are mobilized to suppress the Kurdish national movement through terrorism. The PKK-Hezbollah conflict that continues in the cities results in the deaths of hundreds of people. The army, with thousands of soldiers, carries out numerous military operations to Iraqi Kurdistan (South), undertaken by the PKK. Meanwhile, the air forces of Turkey, Kurdistan (North) is also bombed for the PKK targets in a large number. At same period elected Kurdish parliamentarians are sentenced to heavy prison terms. The parties representing the Kurdish national movement are constantly closed, and the movement sets up a new party each time.
The war continued with all its violence until 1999, even if it stops short interruptions with temporary ceasefire periods. In 1999, PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan is first removed from Syria by Turkey’s threats of war, then he is delivered to Turkey by the United States.
In fact, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, A. Öcalan gradually gave up the goal of “Independent Kurdistan” in parallel with the changes in international conditions and power balances in the 90s. Meanwhile, starting from the reality of “new world”, the organization was moving away from the idea of “Marxism-Leninism”. With the strong influence on the Kurdish national movement “Leader Apo” (A. Öcalan), it has given up its idea of an independent Kurdistan. A. Ocalan and movement in his leadership who thinks that they “exceeds” Marxsizm, begun to defend an expanded form of liberal democracy as “radical democracy” for all of Turkey on the basis of “democratic republic”, inside Kurdistan possible “democratic autonomy” . The Kurdish national movement, which declares that it has abandoned the idea of the national state, argues that the fragmented Kurdistan and the integrity of the Kurds can be achieved on the basis of a “democratic confederalism” that refuses to nationalize and operates on the basis of democratic institutions in each region.
Arrested A. Öcalan, using her absolute authority over the PKK and the Kurdish people, starts negotiations with the state on the path of a peaceful solution policy of the Kurdish problem. In this period, PKK forces left Turkey’s Kurdistan. After the period of calm when the weapons were largely silent, at 2004 clashes continued and sometimes intensified.
Turkish state, accepting that it cannot repress the Kurdish national movement by military means (after clashes that killed a thousand soldiers and guerrillas), first secretly met with representatives of the PKK. Then, in March 2013, with Öcalan’s call from İmralı Island where he was imprisoned to end of the war and the guerrillas to go out of the border, solution negotiations were officially started with the “legal representatives” of the Kurdish national movement. During the 30-year war that passed through various phases, 40-50 thousand people died. many people are still missing…
This was an extremely “insincere” process; especially in terms of government. The real aim of the government was to extend the status of non-conflict and continue negotiations as much as possible, while at the same time depressing the Kurdish national movement with various tactics. After liquidating the Kurdish movement, aimed to reach a limited solution with the Kurdish bourgeoisie and religious Kurdish reactionary forces on a plan that Turkish nationalism could accept. For this reason, the government continues to persistently reject basic demands such as “self-management” and “education in mother tongue”.
The “peace process” ends in the summer of 2015 by President Erdogan, who understands that he cannot get the support of the Kurds in building a presidential regime. Explaining that he does not recognize the agreement reached between the two sides, Erdogan restarts the war.
AKP (Erdogan’s party) votes decreased in June 2015 elections but HDP which is built by Kurdish political movement with some parties of Turkey’s socialist left, gained 13 percent of the votes and has become the third party in the parliament. This situation was perceived as a sign of danger by both the governement and the nationalist elites. HDP President Demirtaş said, “We will not make you president!” explanation is an important turning point in ending the peace process.
One reason that the government started the war was to run a terrorist campaign against the Kurds and to win the votes it lost and the support of Turkish nationalism. Another reason was to stop the impact on Turkey Kurdistan, of the autonomous government and cantonal model formed by the Kurds in Syria. This was a period that in line with Öcalan’s views, “democratic autonomy” has been declared in the major settlements of Turkey’s Kurdistan.
Both this declaration of autonomy and the ditches dug around some neighborhoods in these regions against army were used as a reason for war by the government. After some “live bombs” from ISIS (possibly within the knowledge of the state), on July 7, 2015, state forces started operations with heavy weapons against Kurdish settlements surrounded by ditches. The armed resistance of the PKK’s youth organization has gradually turned into a city war. As a first in Turkey’s history, urban settlements were razed to the ground by tanks and artillery fire. The conflicts, which lasted for 265 days in ten large settlements, ended with the seizure of these places on 27 March 2016 by the state. It is said that in the conflict 2 to 4 thousand people died from the conflicting parties and civilian people.
New-Bonapartist regime, continue the fight against the Kurdish people and political movements not only in Turkey side, also continues through Syria and Iraq with army operations and military occupations. The aim is to occupy “cross-border” Kurdish lands when appropriate conditions are met.
After the Ottoman empire’s division the struggle in Iraqi Kurdistan begun. The traditional leaderships defended that the Kurds, can rule themselves without the sovereignty of an Arab government. The British who defeated the Ottoman Empire in the war and occupied the region were the interlocutors. Kurds demand an “autonomous and central” state under British protection. In the period of vacancy and indecision in the region, a “Kurdish administration” was established under the supervision of British consultants and Sheikh Mahmut Berzenci, who was supported by other chiefs of tribes, was appointed as governor. However, after a while, the Kurdish forces, who understand that the British have different goals, act for the purpose of an independent and real Kurdish state, and some British advisors are killed in the incidents. Upon this, the RAF (Royal Air Force) attacked to the Kurds by rains of the bombs. Kurdish leaders are drawn to Iran.
This was a beginning. Kurds’ relationship with the RAF continues! The British air forces bombed the Kurdish people who did not want to live in Iraq under Arab sovereignty which is built in 1921 as mandate and guided monarchy. The revolting Kurdish tribal forces and the people were again exposed to British bombings in 1923, 1931, 1932 and 1934. Many Kurdish villages are destroyed.
Following the admission of Iraq to the League of Nations (the United Nations at that time) in 1932, Kurdish is accepted as an official language together with Arabic in the regions where Kurds ara majority. In these regions, the recruitment of Kurdish or Kurdish speaking civil servants begins. However, the fact that the Kurds were neglected economically and administratively and their living conditions are much worse than the Arab Kurds causes the Kurdish reaction.
Under these conditions, a rebellion started under the leadership of the Barzani (Sheikh Ahmet) in 1933 and ended with the intervention of the British forces. After it, in 1943 another rebellion begins under the leadership of Molla Mustafa Barzani (father of Mesut Barzani). The Kurds defeat the Iraqi central army many times and cause heavy casualties. Finally, the Iraqi government sits at the negotiating table and signs an agreement with Kurds that includes items that include cultural autonomy (education). However, after the insurrection ended and the “normalization” of the situation, this agreement is rejected by the regent of the king. The new government, which was subsequently formed, arrested the Kurdish officers in the army and threw some out of the army; He wanted to change the construction of schools and hospitals which has started in Kurdistan, into military garrisons and police stations. Upon this, the rebellion begins again; this time its size was very big.
In 1945, the Iraqi government sends thousands of gendarmes and polices and 25 warplanes to the rebellion zone, with half of its army. British Lieutenant General Renton is the commander-in-chief of the Iraqi forces and the general staff was helping him! The Iraqi army, which attacked by land and air in the big collision on 7 August, is defeated by heavy losses. Kurdish forces capture important cities, military bases, and a large area. After Arbil (today’s capital of Kurdistan) and the oil region are in danger, the RAF comes on stage as usual and comes to the rescue of the Iraqi government; but this time the safety of oil is more important than anything! Barzani made a decision to withdraw under the severe bombardment of the British and started the guerrilla warfare and then went to Iran. Kurdish forces led by Barzani who went to Iran play an important role in the establishment of the Kurdish Republic of Mehâbat, founded in 1946. After the collapse of Mehabat Republic in 1947, Barzani with 500 armed people pass to Sovet Union via Turkey path.
The Kurds play an important role in the 1958 Revolution, which ended the kingdom in Iraq. General Kasım administration formed an alliance with the Kurds and communists in the early days. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), established in 1946, gains legality during this period. In this period, communist thoughts spread rapidly among the Kurdish people and workers. However, the sinister role of Stalinism emerged here: the policy of the Iraqi Communist Party, which refused to recognize the Kurds as nation because they are not comply with the nation definition of Stalin, broke the impact of socialism among the Kurds and also gives “legitimacy” to the violence of the Kurdish nationalists against the communist Kurdish militants. ” IKP, the most powerful communist party in the Middle East, always opposes the Kurdish nation’s right to self-determination, due to alliances it has established with nationalist Arab regimes on the grounds that they are “anti-imperialist.”
After the new Iraqi administration did not accept demands for autonomy, which included economic and cultural rights, the Kurds rebelled in 1961 and Peshmerga (Death Leader) captured a large part of Northern Iraq (Iraqi Kurdistan). This uprising ended with the March 1970 autonomy agreement with Saddam administration. After Saddam administration wanted to apply the autonomy agreement limited to come after a 4-year transition period, the Kurds rebelled in 1974 with the support of Iran, whose relations with Iraq were impaired. However, the Kurds, who are in a difficult situation after reaching an agreement between Iran and Iraq, end the conflicts.
The acceleration of Baath’s policy of exile and assimilation towards the Kurds leads to the rise of the Kurdish national struggle in 1978. During the Iran-Iraq war, which started in ‘79, the Kurds regain control of the region. After this last uprising was suppressed at the end of the war (the Iraqi army killed thousands of Kurds with attacks using toxic gases. Only Halabja was killed with five thousand Kurdish “mustard gases”, including many children. The Kurdish national struggle, which continued in various forms following the suppression of the Kurdish uprising, started to come to a new stage with the construction of a federated Kurdish state established in Iraqi Kurdistan with the support of the USA after the 2nd Gulf War in 2003…
The struggle of the Kurds in Iran also has a long history. The Kurds, who rebelled under the leadership of Sheikh Ubeydullah, who aimed to save all Kurdistan in 1880, saved the area between the Urumiye and Van lakes. However, this massive uprising was suppressed by the Ottoman (Turkish) -Iranic alliance, which would later make a “unity of destiny” against the Kurds.
The rebellion started under the leadership of İsmail Simko, a chieftain of tribes in 1920-25, is also the independence of the Kurds and Kurdistan. However, this struggle ended in defeat despite the establishment of an independent Kurdish government in 1922 and Simko was killed in 1930.
Upon the defeat of the Cafer Sultan uprising in 1931, Iran Kurdistan came under the strict control of the Iranian state for ten years.
The Komala (Resurrection of Kurdistan) movement begins in 1942, KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) is established in 1945, and Komala joins this party. The party’s goal is “a democratic-autonomous Kurdistan”. In Iran, which was under the occupation of England and the Soviet Union during the World War II, Kurds established the Kurdish Republic by declaring independence in the region under the control of the USSR on January 24, 1946. However, the Iranian state, which was attacked after the Red Army retreated from the region, destroyed this republic in December 1946.
However, the struggle in Iran’s Kurdistan continues and it becomes more severe in 1952. Villagers revolt against large landowners and police pressure. But this movement is once again crushed by the Iranian army. The Kurdish movement supports Prime Minister Musaddik, who came to power in 1951 and nationalized Iranian oil.
Iranian Kurds provide arms and materials to the uprising led by Mustafa Barzani, which started again in Iraq in 1961. The Iranian state, on the other hand, started to help Iraqi Kurds in 1966, both due to their disagreements with Iraq and to break down the unity and solidarity of the Iranian-Iraqi Kurds and to suppress the struggle in Iran. Barzani is asked to end the struggle of the Kurds in Iran. Barzani then demands the Iranian Kurds to “freeze” their struggles and “not to take any action to provoke the threat of cutting the aid of Tehran by standing calmly”. The members of the Iranian KDP, who do not accept this, will be declared as “persona non grata” in Iraqi Kurdistan, every action in Iran will be accepted as an action against the Kurdish revolution! However, hundreds of Kurdish militants from Iran are fighting in the ranks of Peshmerga at that time.
In 1967, Iranian Kurdish militants and leaders returned to Iran by opposing the Kurdish leadership’s policy of cooperation with Iran. In 1968, Iranian KDP leaders like Süleyman Muini were executed by Barzani and his corpse were given to the Iranian state. Barzani’s policy of blocking Iranian Kurds continues until the Iraqi Kurdistan Autonomy Treaty in 1970, when they agreed with Saddam.
With the 1979 revolution when the Shah was overthrown, Iran KDP declares its legality and tries to impose the autonomy of Kurdistan. Revolutionary councils and armed folk militias are established in Kurdistan, Kurdish publications increased. Again in 79, an organization called Komala (Kurdistan Workers Union) (under the influence of Maoism) is established. However, the Kurdish policy of the new Islamic regime is no different from the old regime.
The Kurdish movement was defeated once again in 1985 and the KDP cadres move to Iraqi Kurdistan; if they stay there, they are conditioned not to act against Iran! The organization favors a federal Iran today.
Organized in Iran, the PKK implements a conflict-agreement policy with the Iranian state through its branch PJAK, parallel to regional and diplomatic developments.
Syrian Kurds have also significantly shared the fate of Kurds in other parts of Kurdistan for the past century. In the period when the country was under the French mandate, the French administration, which established autonomous states in Damascus and Aleppo-based states, as well as religious communities such as Nusayri and Druze, responded to the Kurdish demand for autonomy. The rationale is that the Kurds are not a religious minority and live in a relatively messy way. The Kurds, who support Syria’s struggle for independence, face an increasingly slow pressure with the rise of Arab nationalism. Today, an estimated 1-2 million Kurds live in this country where, in 1962 150 thousand Kurds citizenship rights, taken away the grounds that they come from Turkey. This number has reached 250 thousand today.
Syrian government, the Baath period, starting from 1963, followed the policy to clean the Turkey border from kurdish people and to build “Arab Belt”. Their slogan was “protecting the Arabic Jazeera!” According to this policy, 2 million acres of land from the Kurds is taken and given to the Arabs who are settled in the region. In the period up to 1975, about 300 thousand Kurdish had to leave Syrian Kurdistan. Kurds whose citizenship rights have been taken away have no legal right to marry, acquire property or education. (These rights are recently accepted by Bashar Assad, who wants to deal with Kurds for tactical reasons.) The pressure is directed not only to Kurds who are not considered citizens, but to all Kurds. Kurdish publications in the country, the official speaking, writing of Kurdish, using it as the language of education and teaching, is forbidden. With a law enacted in 1988, singing in weddings in a language other than Arabic was prohibited.
With the KDP established in 1957 in Syria, all Kurdish parties are prohibited. Syrian Kurds, because of the intensity of oppression on them, until recently, they walked through collaboration with strong political organizations in Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan. PYD, leading the Rojava Revolution and the cantonal system established in the region, is part of the same political tradition and struggle as the PKK.
The events that started with state-sponsored Arab nationalists attacking the Kurds after a football match on March 12, 2004, can be considered as the turning point of Rojava history. During the events in which 52 people from Kurds, Arabs and soldiers were killed, state offices were set on fire; Demonstrations that started after two thousand Kurds were arrested and these demonstrations spreaded to all Kurdish cities in the region. PYD leads the movement. The 2004 uprising is also the beginning of the era that reached the Rojava revolution in the process…
The end of “one hundred years of loneliness”…
The history of the Kurds is not only the date of fragmentation, but also of the betrayals and the desire to divide the Kurds and interrupt them. However, all this did not prevent the Kurds in the four parts from raising their awareness of national unity. Although Kurdish nationalization did not conform to the definition of Stalin and Stalinists as “nation”, it reached its current high level at an increasing rate in all parts of divided Kurdistan. The persistent struggle of the Kurdish people and their national movements at the expense of heavy losses in all parts for at least a hundred years is now recognized by the whole world in today’s conditions. In addition to the geopolitical and economic value of the region, the situation that emerged as a result of the Gulf Wars led to an increase in the “diplomatic value” of the Kurds! In short, the “century old loneliness” of the Kurdish people is now over.
However, this recognition and political developments in the region, on the one hand, further increase the Kurdish hostility of the regional nationalisms, on the other hand make the left wing of the Kurdish national movement open to imperialist influence and interventions. Especially the military “aid” of the imperialists and the air bomber support against ISIS attacks are critical in this regard. The importance of international and regional conjunctures and inevitable relations cannot be denied in such struggles. (Including cooperation with the devil!) However, the aim of imperialism and regional states is to eliminate an important dynamic of the revolutionary struggle in the Middle East by controlling the Kurdish movements.
In a world where “socialism is destroyed” (!), The leadership of Kurdish national movements is more open to the effects of imperialism and the bourgeoisie of the region. The aim of imperialism is not the real solution of the problem or the establishment of the “Big Kurdistan” as nationalists, including the Stalinists defends, but intervene in regional politics through fragmented Kurds. Imperialism has never have an independent and united Kurdistan target. On the contrary, the reality of fragmented Kurdistan is the product of a status quo created by imperialism after the First World War. Imperialism has always preferred those governments in all the struggles of the Kurds against central governments. In short, a united Kurdistan does not benefit any bourgeois power in the region, including imperialism, due to the dynamics it will activate. It is a historical fact that in all critical moments, besides the side authority of imperialism, the regional states that have shared Kurdistan have a common attitude towards the Kurds even if they are hostile to each other.
Today, the sovereign nation bourgeoisies have started a class struggle against Kurdish workers, while trying to maintain the division of Kurdistan through the allies they find within the Kurdish movement. The aim is to use every part of Kurdistan against to the other, to liquidate whatever is revolutionary within the Kurdish people. Kurdish workers must fight against this danger. The struggle for self-determination and national freedom, which has been going on for more than a century, therefore has to unite with the struggle against bourgeoisie (both Kurdish and others) to overthrow social sovereignty over labor; otherwise, all kinds of salvation will remain “half”, and Kurdistan will turn into the playground of imperialism and regional reactionary (including Zionism). The way to real liberation is through the internationalist solidarity and common struggle with the other workers of the region, creating Kurdish workers’ own leadership. It may sound like a dream, but this is the truth in its simplest form…