The Kurdish Question in Turkey Essay

Summary Kurds are the largest stateless people in the world. The Kurdish ethnos was historically devided into four groups-Turkish, Iranian, Iraqi and Syrian. These groups lived within the territories of the respective four states. This situation makes the Kurdish case more complex. The usage Kurdish Question emerged as a concept to denote a problematic related to the Kurdish position on the new Middle East geopolitical arrangement after the First World War. The fall of the Ottoman Empire followed by the constitution of the modern sovereign states in the Middle East left the Kurds without a state of their own.

According to the Treaty of Sevres, 10 August 1920, the state of Kurdistan was also to be established in the region. But this treaty was never brought to life. In the Treaty of Lausanne, 24 July 1923, the largest part of Kurdistan remained within the state borders of the Republic of Turkey. The incorporation into Turkey of the Kurdish-inhabited regions of eastern Anatolia was opposed by many Kurds, and has resulted in a long-running separatist conflict in which thousands of lives have been lost. Turkish government policy was aimed at forcible dissimilation and Turkification policies of the local Kurds.

Turkey’s Constitution provides a single nationality designation for all Turks and thus does not recognize ethnic groups as national, racial, or ethnic minorities. The Kurdish question is arguably the most serious internal problem in the Turkish republic’s seventy-seven-year history and certainly the main obstacle to its aspirations to full integration with European institutions. Most Westerners define the problem simply as a matter of oppression and denial of rights by a majority group (the Turks) of an ethnic minority (the Kurds).

The civil war in southeastern Turkey that raged between 1984 and 1999 is accordingly viewed as a national liberation movement and enjoys widespread sympathy both in the West and in the Third World. The Turkish political elite, for its part, promotes an entirely different view of the problem. In official Turkish discourse, there is no Kurdish problem, but rather a socioeconomic problem in the southeastern region and a problem of terrorism that is dependent on external support from foreign states aiming at weakening Turkey. However, the Kurdish problem in Turkey must be understood as distinct from the problem of PKK terrorism.