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Sun Oct 13, 2019, 09:05 PM

No, Kurds and Turks Are Not 'Natural Enemies,' Mr. Trump

Source: New York Times

No, Kurds and Turks Are Not ‘Natural Enemies,’ Mr. Trump

What they need is American leadership to help them make peace.

By Mustafa Akyol
Mr. Akyol is an expert on Islam and modernity and a contributing opinion writer.

Oct. 13, 2019

In the days just before Turkey’s military incursion into Syria, for which the stated aim includes purging a Kurdish militia that has been allied with the United States in the fight against the Islamic State, President Trump made a comment on the history of the two conflicting sides. He defined Kurds as Turkey’s “natural enemy,” adding, “one historian said they’ve been fighting for hundreds of years.”

I am not sure who that historian was, but as someone who has studied this particular history, I can assure you that the tension between Turks and Kurds is not centuries old. It is actually about one century old, and it’s the result of a very modern force: nationalism.

The history does begin in the early 16th century, when the Ottoman Empire, founded in western Anatolia by Sunni Turks, began to expand eastward, only to conflict with the Shiite Safavid Empire in Persia. The Kurds, a tribal people, most of whom were Sunni Muslims, were caught in the middle; soon they willingly joined the Ottomans. Through the next four centuries, they lived under the same state with Turks, Arabs, Bosnians, Armenians, Greeks and Jews — because the Ottoman Empire, like the neighboring Hapsburg Empire, was a multiethnic and multireligious mosaic.

The Ottoman elite was mostly Turkish, but not Turkish nationalist. So Kurds never faced any denial of their identity. Their ancestral homeland was often called “Kurdistan,” which even briefly became the name of an administrative region in the 19th century. In the same era, there were a few revolts by Kurdish chieftains, but only as a reaction to the centralization of the state and the new taxes and obligations it entailed.

The watershed event was the proclamation of the Turkish republic in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Unlike the multiethnic Ottoman Empire, Turkey became a nation-state that did not honor any identity other than Turkishness. Ataturk famously declared, “Happy is the one who says ‘I am a Turk’” — a motto still carved on public buildings and even mountaintops all across Turkey. But many Kurds didn’t feel happy with this dictate. One revolt followed another, only to be suppressed brutally.

-snip-

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/13/opinion/kurds-turkey-Syria.html

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Reply No, Kurds and Turks Are Not 'Natural Enemies,' Mr. Trump (Original post)
Eugene Oct 13 OP
Igel Oct 14 #1

Response to Eugene (Original post)

Mon Oct 14, 2019, 09:45 AM

1. The Safavids ethnically cleansed Kurds to provide "safe" borders.

They moved in those less likely to be traitors.

That was 1500s. Displacements and massacres continued in the 1600s. 1700s. 1800s. And 1900s. They started with the conquest of Kurdish areas by the Ottomans centuries before. By and large, they were found to be disruptive because they didn't always side with the "right" rulers.

They were not "nationalistic"--that's when the desire to actually be independent because of ethnicity arose. A bit later than in other places, but it reached that part of the world. Still, before that if something could favor Muslims over non-Muslims in the Empire, that's how it went; and if things could favor Turks over non-Turks, that's also pretty much how it went. Even without nationalism in this Turkish writer's sense, there were times when small independent Kurdish "states" arose, only to be eventually (as most states are) squashed. Most people prefer to have rulers that speak their language and share their culture.

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