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The looming Kurdish challenge


Keghart.com Team Editorial, 21 June 2010
(Dr. Dikran Abrahamian's website devoted to community activities and Human Rights)

What follows may seem a premature concern--like the proverbial counting chickens before they are hatched. It was prompted by the resumption of hostilities between Kurdish fighters and the Turkish army. An additional incentive was the attendance of ARF representatives at the third convention of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in Suleimanieh, Iraq earlier this month.

For a number of reasons, Armenian-Kurdish relations have come to the forefront of Armenian attention. From the Armenian standpoint, the priority is the lands in Western Armenia, a Turkish-occupied area mostly inhabited by Kurds.
Kurdish and Turkish authors, commentators, journalists sympathetic to Armenian rights and to the necessity of the recognition of the Genocide, have pointed out that the “solution of the Kurdish problem now in Turkey will pave the way for the defeat of denialism…” (Ayse Gunaysu). They have also pointed out the parallels between what Armenians endured prior to the Genocide and the suffering Kurds have been subjected to and continue to bear.

Kurdish authors and high-level politicians have acknowledged that Kurdish tribes and armed irregulars executed Turkish genocidal orders in 1915. On the 82nd commemoration of the Genocide in 1997, Zubeyir Aydar, chairman of the executive committee of the Kurdish parliament-in-exile, said, “I find the Ottoman State and their collaborators the Hamidiye Alaylari, formed by some Kurdish tribes, responsible for this crime before history and I condemn them with abhorrence." In 1998, Jalal Talabani, the current president of Iraq, likened atrocities against Kurds in Iraq, to “The genocide [of] the Armenians in 1915”.

There are a number of instances of Kurdish support of Armenians during the Genocide. The Zazas and the Kurds of Dersim, for example, ignored the Ottoman orders. It is estimated that their resistance saved 20,000 to 25,000 Armenian lives. The friendly relations of Armenian hero General Antranig with Yezidi-Kurd leader Cenghir Agha is also cited. They fought against the Ottomans from 1918-1920. Their comradeship was best exemplified in the battle of Bash-Abaran when the defeated Turkish army was forced to retreat.

Another example of Armenian-Kurdish cooperation is the participation of Vahan Papazian, an ARF leader, in the congress of Xoybûn Kurdish political party “as a symbol of the alliance between Armenians and Kurds.” Xoybûn, founded in the 1920s, was instrumental in the establishment of the short-lived Kurdish Republic of Ararat.

It is a historical fact that there was cooperation between the ASALA Armenian fighters and PKK, the Kurdish freedom fighters. The latter provided training camps, logistics and other support. Yezidi-Kurds also took part in the liberation of Artsakh. Many sacrificed their lives alongside their Armenian comrades.

When Robert Kocharian was elected president of Armenia in 1998, Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, sent a congratulatory letter which called for the ending of “the political amnesia about 1915”, and the “settling of territorial disputes (bolded by Ed.) through negotiation”. Ocalan remarked, “Our movement will continue to support all efforts to set in train a genuine dialogue between all contending parties with the self-evident proviso that the Kurdish claim to self-determination and freedom will not be prejudiced--as it was in Lausanne.“

As mentioned by many observers, the creation of a Kurdish jurisdiction within a federal Iraq with its own political institutions is an immense political incentive for Kurds to emulate it in Turkey. For more than thirty years one of the strongest armies in the world has not been able to crush the determination of the Kurds in Turkey to be the masters of the lands they inhabit. The countries in the area (Syria, Iran, Turkey), Sunnis and Shias in Iraq will try to thwart Kurdish efforts, and they will have their supporters on the international field, including the great powers. However, the process that began in Iraq seems to be unstoppable.

In the likely scenario that the Kurds in Turkey bring their aims to fruition, Armenians have to think about the chickens mentioned in the introductory lines. Who are they going to negotiate with? Turkey or the Kurds? Why would the Kurds relinquish lands they have fought for so many generations? Why would they leave the land to make room for people who whether forcefully or not “abandoned” the region nearly a century ago?

Almost every armed movement, whether socio-economic or national liberation in nature, once tastes power and mastery, loses its fervour and the sublime sounding ideals that energized its struggle. What guarantees are there that the same scenario might not materialize in this instance? Who will be our “friend” then--Turkey or the Kurds?

Source: Keghart.com, 21 June 2010


Added: Monday, June 21, 2010
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