An article in the August 2, 2009 Cyprus Mail newspaper described what it called a “drama under way” regarding Turkey and its Kurdish problem. It reported that the lawyers for Abdullah Ocalan, the “imprisoned leader of the PKK insurgents” were going to release on August 15, 2009, Ocalan’s “road-map” to solve the Kurdish problem.
The PKK is the acronym for the Kurdish Worker’s Party outlawed in Turkey. After pressure from Turkey, the State Department added the PKK to its terrorist list. Objective newspapers refer to the PKK as insurgents or guerrillas. The fact that the PKK has sometimes used violence against civilians, which should be condemned, does not make it a terrorist organization like al Qaeda.
PKK actions are not aimed at the U.S. The State Department should remove it from their terrorist list. They should also reread the history of the U.S. revolution and Britain’s’ referring to the rebel Americans as terrorists.
The discussion in the Turkish media about Ocalan’s forthcoming plan has been substantial and very intense. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has responded that he will announce his own Kurdish initiative. It would be real progress for all concerned if the Turkish government and the Kurdish minority, close to 15 million, could arrive at a satisfactory agreement.
The Turkish military and paramilitary have killed over 30,000 Kurdish civilians since 1984. They burned over 3,000 villages and created over three million refugees. See the article by Eric Rouleau in the prestigious journal Foreign Affairs titled “Turkey’s Dream of Democracy,” (Nov./Dec. 2000, pages 100-114) for a devastating account of what Turkey has done to its Kurdish minority. Eric Rouleau was the Ambassador of France to Turkey from 1988 to 1992.
I doubt that Erdogan will come up with any proposals which would provide the 20% Kurdish minority with full political, human and cultural rights as other Turkish citizens have, and political autonomy for the Kurds in their geographic region in eastern and southeastern Turkey
Erdogan is obviously not going to give the 20% Kurdish minority the same rights it seeks for the 18% Turkish Cypriot minority, namely, a veto over all key executive and legislative decisions; control of 30% of the land; rotating presidency and 30% of government jobs, among other items. Nor will Erdogan give the Kurds a separate state such as Turkey has done illegally in Cyprus which no one recognizes except Turkey.
The Washington Times reported on August 7, 2009 that the Obama administration has dropped the phrase “war on terrorism,” is not fighting “jihadists” and is not locked in a “global war.” John Brennan, head of the White House homeland security office made these comments on August 6, in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank and said the Obama administration is solely in a “war with al Qaeda” and their violent allies. The semantic change is welcome and should be followed by removing the PKK from State’s terrorist list.
The Associated Press reported from Ankara on Friday, July 17, 2009, that Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan “compared ethnic violence in China’s Xinjiang province to genocide, escalating criticism of Beijing following this week’s killing of at least 156 people — including Turkic-speaking, Muslim Uighurs.”
“These incidents in China are as if they are genocide,” said Erdogan. “We ask the Chinese government not to remain a spectator to these incidents. There is clearly a savagery here.”
So far Erdogan has gotten away with his aggressive remarks—(1) his attack in January 2009 at the Davos, Switzerland World Economic Forum against Israeli President Shimon Peres, telling Peres “You kill people;” (2) his attack against the proposed new NATO secretary-general from Denmark, Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, because he defended the freedom of speech for the Danish cartoonist who lampooned the Muslim prophet Mohammed. Instead of being challenged Erdogan was rewarded with one or two staff positions at NATO. Obama and the other NATO heads should have challenged Erdogan and considered suspending Turkey from NATO for its violation of the NATO Treaty by its aggression against Cyprus, its continuing occupation of Cyprus and its continuing violation of the Geneva Convention of 1949 by bringing 180,000 illegal settlers/colonists from Turkey to Cyprus.
The U.S. needs to stop appeasing Turkey. The failure to recognize the Armenian Genocide, the Greek Pontian and Assyrian Genocides, all part of Ataturk’s anti-Christian policy, is a national disgrace. The failure of the Executive Branch to press Turkey to remove now its 43,000 illegal occupation troops and 180,000 illegal settlers/colonists from Cyprus is harmful to U.S. interests.
The U.S. government in its own self-interest should be pressing for full political, human and cultural rights for the 20% Kurdish minority. The late Senator from Rhode Island, Claiborne Pell, and many others, properly described Turkey’s actions against the Kurds as genocide.
Gene Rossides is founder of the American Hellenic Institute and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury.