Hiding behind a Turkish-Kurdish Love Affair


A young Turkish man once asked me why Kurds resort to violence instead of peaceful dialogue to solve the Kurdish question in Turkey. I told him: ”You imprison our politicians and do not give them a chance to speak. You try starting a dialogue when your voice is consistently silenced.”

The imprisonment continues; more and more pro-Kurdish politicians are arrested on a daily basis for promoting “the propaganda of an illegal organisation,” meaning the Kurdish rebel group PKK. In reality, whoever speaks up against the violation of human rights carried out by the Turkish state is accused of promoting division of the Turkish people, disrupting “national security” and posing a threat to the territorial integrity of Turkey.

Now more than ever Turkey has a reason to fear Kurdish aspirations: the economy of Kurdistan Regional Government is flourishing and independence does not seem impossible. West Kurdistan (the part within Syrian borders) was more or less invisible until the Syrian uprising began and Kurds started partaking in protests demanding not only the resignation of the Syrian regime but also protection of Kurdish rights.

In its prevention of the growing strive for unification among Kurds, Turkey is taking the same stance with the Kurds across the Syrian border as it is with the Kurds at home: making the aim of achieving a self-ruled region a matter of giving “terrorism” (i.e. PKK) a place to grow. This gives Turkey an excuse for reacting inappropriately harsh; ”the purpose justifies the means”.

The position Turkey has taken on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is different. A recent article Iraqi Kurds favor Turkey as it struggles with Kurdish issue at home in Today’s Zaman describes the relationship between Turkey and KRG as following:

As much as Turkey struggles with its domestic Kurdish problem, the love affair between Kurds in northern Iraq and the Turks of Anatolia is not only visible, but deeply felt.

“If a driver realizes that you’re Turkish, he will say, ‘You are one of us,’ and he will not let you pay the fare,” said a Turkish diplomat who has been living in Arbil for two years in reference to Iraqi Kurdish taxi drivers.

The article lists several points of Turkey’s influence and control in the KRG but the most vital excerpt to emphasise is the part where the ”turkification of KRG” is almost proudly stated:

In Arbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the fourth largest city in Iraq with a population of 1.5 million, it is easy to get confused about whether you are in Turkey or northern Iraq. The names of many of its shops, cafés and restaurants are the same as those you would see in Turkey, so when you get disoriented as to your location, the Arabic alphabet on shop signs is often the first reminder that you’re south of the Turkish border.

In the quote the KRG is referred to as ”northern Iraq” and in a press statement released by the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs only a few months ago, the word ”Kurdistan” was carefully avoided even though the statement was about the Kurdistan Regional Government. The purpose of the article is clearly to make a point of the fact that Turkey has a good and tight grip on KRG. Turkey hardly wants to befriend Kurds but is merely eager to gain some leverage in KRG because it might be strategically beneficial for them in the near future.

The ”good” relationship between Turkey and the KRG should not be used to overshadow the fact that Turkey has a huge problem at home. Yet it seems that the Turkish-Kurdish love affair is exploited by Turkey to mend its image in regard to the violations of Kurdish rights and other grave human rights abuses.

The love affair gives Turkey the opportunity to say: ”We do not have a problem with Kurds, just look at how we more than any other country support the developments in the Kurdistan Regional Government. At home, we do not have a Kurdish question, we merely have an issue with terrorists.” This is a standpoint that must be challenged because this way of thinking could easily be accepted and it will weaken the unification of the Kurdish people and the ongoing struggle for peace and freedom.

The article also quotes a sociologist who says: “Economic, cultural and strategic factors are behind this love affair. Turkey seems to be the only exit for the Kurds of KRG to the civilized world.”

Turkey is a gateway to the civilised world? Since when has deliberate massacres of unarmed civilians, censorship and detainment of countless journalists, persecution of democratically elected politicians and imprisonment and raping of children in Turkish jails been the definition of civility?

This is no love affair.