Saturday, January 28, 2017

Kurdish Rebellions in Turkey

Kurdish rebellions in Turkey refer to Kurdish nationalist uprisings in Turkey, beginning with the Turkish War of Independence and the consequent transition from the Ottoman Empire into the modern Turkish state and lasting until present with the ongoing Kurdish-Turkish conflict.

According to Ottoman military records, Kurdish rebellions have been taking place in Anatolia for over two centuries, While tribal Kurdish revolts had shuttered the Ottoman Empire through the last decades of its existence, the conflict in its modern phase is considered to have begun in 1922, with the emergence of Kurdish nationalism in parallel with the formation of the modern State of Turkey. In 1925, an uprising for an independent Kurdistan, led by Shaikh Said Piran, was put down quickly, and Said and 36 of his followers were executed soon thereafter. Several other large scale Kurdish revolts occurred in Ararat and Dersim in 1930 and 1937. The British consul at Trebizond, the diplomatic post closest to Dersim, spoke of brutal and indiscriminate violence and made an explicit comparison with the Armenian massacres of 1915. "Thousands of Kurds," he wrote, "including women and children, were slain; others, mostly children, were thrown into the Euphrates; while thousands of others in less hostile areas, who had first been deprived of their cattle and other belongings, were deported to vilayets (provinces) in Central Anatolia. It is now stated that the Kurdish question no longer exists in Turkey."

Kurds accuse successive Turkish governments of suppressing their identity through such means as the banning of Kurdish language in print and media. Atatürk believed the unity and stability of a country lay in a unitary political identity, relegating cultural and ethnic distinctions to the private sphere. However, many Kurds did not relinquish their identities and language. Large-scale armed conflict between the Turkish armed forces and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) occurred throughout the 1980s and 1990s, leaving over 35,000 dead. Recent moves by the Turkish government have provided Kurds with limited rights and freedoms, particularly in regards to the Kurdish language, education, and media. Kurdish politicians and activists still face pressure.

Kurdish-Turkish Conflict 1978-present

Kurdish ethnic revival appeared in the 1970s when Turkey was racked with left-right clashes and the Marxist PKK was formed demanding a Kurdish state. PKK declared its objective as the liberation of all parts of Kurdistan from colonial oppression and establishment of an independent, united, socialist Kurdish state. It initially attracted the poorer segments of the Kurdish population and became the only Kurdish party not dominated by tribal links. PKK's chairman, Abdullah Öcalan, was proud of being from humble origins. It characterized its struggle mainly as an anti-colonial one, hence directing its violence against collaborators, i.e., Kurdish tribal chieftains, notables with a stake in the Turkish state, and also against rival organizations. The military coup in 1980 lead to a period of severe repression and elimination of almost all Kurdish and leftist organizations. The PKK, however, was the only Kurdish party that managed to survive and even grow in size after the coup. It initiated a guerrilla offensive with a series of attacks on Turkish military and police stations and due to its daring challenging of the Turkish army, gradually won over grudging admiration of parts of the Kurdish population. In the beginning of 1990, it had set up its own local administration in some rural areas. Around this time, PKK changed its goals from full Kurdish independence to a negotiated settlement with the Turkish government, specially after some promising indirect contacts with President Turgut Özal. After Özal's sudden death, the Turkish military intensified its operations against PKK bases. These measures succeeded in isolating the PKK from the civilians and reduced it to a guerrilla band operating in the mountains. In 1999, increased Turkish pressure on Syria led to Öcalan's expulsion and ultimate arrest by Turkish Maroon Berets in Kenya. A cooling down occurred, and a ceasefire was brokered in 2014 - but then due to the Siege of Kobane the conflict has restarted.

During the 1980s Turkey began a program of forced assimilation of its Kurdish population. This culminated in 1984 when the PKK began a rebellion against Turkish rule attacking Turkish military and civilian targets. Since the PKK's militant operations began in 1984, 37,000 people have been killed. The PKK has been continuing its guerrilla warfare in the mountains. However, since 1995, and especially since the AK Party came to power there have been numerous reforms and the situation has greatly improved. As a result, the fighting is limited to approximately 3000 fighters.

Serhildan (1990-present)

The Serhildan designate several Kurdish public rebellions since the 1990s with the slogan "Êdî Bese" ("Enough") against the Turkish government. The first violent action by the populace against police officers and state institutions occurred in 1990 in the Southeast Anatolian town Nusaybin near the border to Syria. The rebellion in Nusaybin is the beginning of the Serhildan, during the following days the riots initially widened to other cities of the province Mardin and to the neighboring provinces Batman, Diyarbakır, Siirt, Şanlıurfa and Şırnak, and later to other Eastern Anatolian provinces such as Bingöl, Bitlis, Hakkâri, Muş and Van, as well cities such as Ankara, Istanbul, İzmir and Mersin.

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