Kurdish nationalism | Wikipedia audio article

Kurdish nationalism | Wikipedia audio article


Kurdish nationalism (Kurdish: Kurdayetî,
کوردایەتی) holds that the Kurdish people are deserving of a sovereign nation
that would be partitioned out of areas in Turkey, northern Iraq, and Syria based on
the promised nation of Kurdistan under the Treaty of Sèvres. Early Kurdish nationalism had its roots in
the days of the Ottoman Empire, within which Kurds were a significant ethnic group. With the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire,
the Kurdish-majority territories were divided between the newly formed states of Iraq, Syria
and Turkey, making Kurds a significant ethnic minority in each state. Kurdish nationalist movements have long been
suppressed by Turkey and the Arab-majority states of Iraq and Syria, all of whom fear
loss of territory to a potential independent Kurdistan. Kurds from Iran are also loyal to the nationalistic
movement and this was demonstrated in Iraqi Kurdistans indepenedence referendum in 2017
where thousands of Iranian Kurds risked arrest to march and celebrate waving the banned Kurdish
flag. Since the 1970s, Iraqi Kurds have pursued
the goal of greater autonomy and even outright independence against the Ba’ath Party regimes,
which responded with brutal repression including the massacre of 182,000 Kurds in the Anfal
genocide. Since the 1980s, the Kurdish–Turkish conflict
led by Kurdish armed groups challenged the Turkish state, which responded with martial
law. After the 1991 uprisings in Iraq, Iraqi Kurds
were protected against the armies of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein by NATO-enforced no-fly
zones, allowing them considerable autonomy and self-government outside the control of
the Iraqi central government. After the 2003 invasion of Iraq that ousted
dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraqi Kurdistan became an autonomous region, enjoying a great measure
of self-governance but stopping short of full independence. Kurdish nationalism has long been espoused
and promoted by the worldwide Kurdish diaspora.==History==The Kurdish nationalist struggle first emerged
in the late 19th century when a unified movement demanded the establishment of a Kurdish state. Revolts did occur sporadically but only decades
after the Ottoman centralist policies of the 19th century began did the first modern Kurdish
nationalist movement emerge with uprising led by a Kurdish landowner and head of the
powerful Shemdinan family, Sheikh Ubeydullah. In 1880, Ubeydullah, demanded political autonomy
or outright independence for Kurds and the recognition of a Kurdistan state without interference
from Turkish or Persian authorities. The uprising against Qajar Persia and the
Ottoman Empire was ultimately suppressed by the Ottomans and Ubeydullah, along with other
notables, were exiled to Istanbul. The Kurdish nationalist movement that emerged
following World War I and end of the Ottoman Empire was largely reactionary to the changes
taking place in mainstream Turkey, primarily radical secularization which the strongly
Muslim Kurds abhorred, centralization of authority which threatened the power of local chieftains
and Kurdish autonomy, and rampant Turk ethnonationalism in the new Turkish Republic which obviously
threatened to marginalize them. Western powers (particularly the United Kingdom)
fighting the Turks also promised the Kurds they would act as guarantors for Kurdish freedom,
a promise they subsequently broke. One particular organization, the Kürdistan
Teali Cemiyeti (Society for the Advancement of Kurdistan, or SAK) was central to the forging
of a distinct Kurdish identity. It took advantage of period of political liberalization
in during the Second Constitutional Era (1908–1920) of Turkey to transform a renewed interest
in Kurdish culture and language into a political nationalist movement based on ethnicity. This emphasis on Kurds as a distinct ethnicity
was encouraged by around the start of the 20th century Russian anthropologists who suggested
that the Kurds were a European race (compared to the Asiatic Turks) based on physical characteristics
and their language which is part of the Indo-European language group. While these researchers had ulterior political
motives (to sow dissent in the Ottoman Empire) their findings were embraced and still accepted
today by many. During the relatively open government of the
1950s, Kurds gained political office and started working within the framework of the Turkish
Republic to further their interests but this move towards integration was halted with the
1960 Turkish coup d’état. The 1970s saw an evolution in Kurdish nationalism
as Marxist political thought influenced a new generation of Kurdish nationalists opposed
to the local feudal authorities who had been a traditional source of opposition to authority,
eventually they would form the militant separatist Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan (PKK), or Kurdistan
Workers Party in English.==Ottoman Empire==Under the millet system, Kurds’ primary form
of identification was religious with Sunni Islam being the top in the hierarchy (millet-i
hakimiye). While the Ottoman Empire embarked on a modernization
and centralization campaign known as the Tanzimat (1829–1879), Kurdish regions retained much
of their autonomy and tribal chiefs their power. The Sublime Porte made little attempt to alter
the traditional power structure of “segmented, agrarian Kurdish societies” – agha, sheikh,
and tribal chief. Because of the Kurds’ geographical position
at the southern and eastern fringe of the empire and the mountainous topography of their
territory, in addition to the limited transportation and communication system, agents of the state
had little access to Kurdish provinces and were forced to make informal agreements with
tribal chiefs. This bolstered the Kurds’ authority and autonomy;
for instance, the Ottoman qadi and mufti as a result did not have jurisdiction over religious
law in most Kurd regions. In 1908, the Young Turks come to power asserting
a radical form of Turkish ethnic identity and closed Ottoman associations and non-Turkish
schools. They launched a campaign of political oppression
and resettlement against ethnic minorities – Kurds, Laz people, and Armenians, but
in the wartime context they could not afford to antagonize ethnic minorities too much. At the end of World War I, Kurds still had
the legal right to conduct their affairs in Kurdish, celebrate unique traditions, and
identify themselves as a distinct ethnic group. The Treaty of Sèvres signed in 1920 “suggested”
an independent Kurdish and Armenian state but after the establishment of the Turkish
Republic by a Turk ethnonationalist government which balked at the treaty, the 1923 Lausanne
Treaty was signed which made no mention of the Kurds. The once politically unified Ottoman Kurdistan
was then divided into the different administrative and political systems in Iraq, Turkey and
Syria.==Turkey==By the enforcement of laws such as Article
57 of the Turkish Constitution of 1982 which outlaws “any activity harmful to national
unity and territorial integrity of the Turkish Republic”, Kurdish civic rights can be constrained
within the context of a Constitution guaranteeing equality without acknowledging them as a distinct
group. Equal citizenship rights were enshrined in
Turkey’s 1920 Provisional Constitution. Article 8 asserted that the country was composed
of both Turks and Kurds but under the law they would be treated as common citizens. However, the 1923 formation of the Republic
of Turkey marked the beginning of continuing period of reduced civic rights for Kurds. The Caliphate was abolished a year later as
well as all public expressions and institutions of Kurdish identity. Kurdish madrasas, newspapers, religious fraternal
organizations, and associations were shut down.To give an example of the early republican
government’s attitude towards the citizenship rights of Kurds, Law No. 1850 was introduced
after popular revolts, giving after-the-fact legal sanction to civilians and military personnel
who killed Kurds during the revolt. Kurdish regions were placed under martial
law and the use of the Kurdish language, dress, folklore, and names prohibited. It was this continued repression that led
to reemergence of Kurdish nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s. During this period the primary goal of the
movement was to resolve its grievances with the Turkish government through legitimate
channels. These attempts were heavily suppressed. Civic rights were temporarily improved with
the Turkish Constitution of 1961 which allowed freedom of expression, the press, and association
for Kurds. The 1964 Political Parties Act criminalized
Kurdish political parties and the acknowledgment of the existence of different languages and
races in Turkey. The 1972 Law of Association further restricted
rights to association and political organization. The failure to address the Kurdish grievances
throughout the 1960s and 1970s led to alternate avenues of resolution. In 1984 the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)
started a guerrilla insurgency against the Turkish Republic. The PKKs insurgency continued to be a violent
insurgency until the lasting ceasefire in 1999. Throughout this period there was a significant
loss of life in addition to many social and political changes.In 1991, Law 2932 was repealed
and the Kurdish language was allowed for informal speech and music but not for political or
education purposes or in the mass media. The same year a new Anti-Terror bill was passed
which defined terrorism as “any kind of action with the aim of changing characteristics of
the Republic” essentially criminalizing Kurdish political activism and many basic forms of
expression. In 2004 laws were further liberalized allowing
Kurdish-language broadcasts and other restrictions, including the giving of Kurdish names to infants
have been removed.==Iraq=====
British Mandate after World War I===After World War I Iraq came under a British
mandate. To avoid unrest, the British granted the northern
Kurdish region considerable autonomy and recognized their nationalist claims. They even tried to institutionalize Kurdish
ethnic identity in the 1921 Provisional Iraqi Constitution which stated that Iraq was composed
of two ethnic groups with equal rights, Arabs and Kurds, and enshrined the equal legal status
of the Kurdish language with Arabic. The mandate government divided the country
into two separate regions, one Arab, one Kurdish in administrative policy and practice. Two policies emerged regarding Kurds in Iraq:
one for non-tribal urban dwellers and one for rural tribal population meant to discourage
urban migration. The government institutionalized advantages
for rural Kurds – tribes had special legal jurisdiction, tax benefits, and informally
guaranteed seats in parliament. In addition, they were exempt from two of
the strongest facets of the modern state; they had their own schools and were outside
the jurisdiction of national courts. This privileged position lasted into the 1950s. Kurdish rights were further entrenched in
1932 by the Local Languages Law, a condition of the League of Nations (undoubtedly under
British influence) being that to join, Iraq had to enact constitutional protection for
the Kurds. Political rights were fairly open in the interwar
years as continued British internal interference and a series of weak government prevented
any one movement from dominating national politics prevented the creation of a formal
exclusionary citizenship. However, later the central governments nation-building
strategy centered around a secular conception of national identity based upon a sentiment
of Iraqi unity (al-wadha al-iraqiyya) with the government dominated by Sunni Arabists. Within this new framework, as non-Arabs, the
Kurds would experience unwelcome changes in status.===After World War II===
The 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s demonstrated a pattern. The new Arabist leader would assert his belief
in the Kurds as distinct and equal ethnic group in Iraq with political rights. For instance, the Constitution of 1960 claims
“Kurds and Arabs are partners within this nation. The Constitution guarantees their rights within
the framework of the Iraqi republic”. Once successful at consolidating their power
they would repress Kurdish political rights, militarize Kurdish regions, ban nationalist
political parties, destroy Kurdish villages, and forcibly impose resettlement (especially
in petroleum-rich areas). As a result, from late 1961 onwards there
was near constant strife in Iraqi Kurdistan. A major development was made when the Iraqi
government and Kurdish leaders signed the 1970 Peace Agreement. It promised Kurdish self-rule, recognition
of the bi-national character of Iraq, political representation in the central government,
extensive official language rights, the freedom of association and organization, and several
other concessions aimed at restoring full civic rights to the Kurdish population. It was to come into effect within four years. In 1974 the weaker Law of Autonomy in the
Area of Kurdistan was actually implemented with much weaker citizenship protections and
conflict soon resumed. The 1980s, especially during the Iran–Iraq
War, were a particularly low point for Kurdish rights within Iraq. Approximately 500,000 Kurdish civilians were
sent to detention camps in southern and eastern Iraq and the Iraqi armed forces razed villages
and hamlets in and near the battle area. It is also during this time that the Iraqi
military used chemical weapons on Kurdish towns.===After the Gulf War===After the Gulf War an autonomous “safe haven”
was established in Northern Iraq under UN with U.S. Air Force and British Royal Air
Force air protection. Under the democratically elected Kurdish Regional
Government, citizens experienced civic rights never previously enjoyed. Student unions, NGOs, and women’s organizations
emerged as forces in a new civic society and institutionalized tolerance for the region’s
own ethnic, religious, and language minorities, e.g., the Iraqi Turkmen. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the downfall
of Saddam Hussein, the Kurdish population has found itself drawn back into Iraq with
promises of autonomy and citizenship based on a federal, ethnically inclusive model with
strong minority rights and guarantees against discrimination. The new Iraqi Constitution drafted in 2005
establishes Kurdish as an official language alongside Arabic, acknowledges the national
rights of the Kurdish people, and contains the usual promises about absolute equality
of citizens regardless of race, religion, gender, etc. How effective this constitution will be in
safeguarding the equal citizenship of the Kurdish population is unclear in the current
unstable domestic situation.==Syria==After the failed revolution of Sheikh Said,
thousands of Kurds fled their homes in southeastern Turkey to Syria, where they settled and were
granted citizenship by the French mandate authorities. Under the French Mandate of Syria, the Kurds
enjoyed considerable rights as the French mandate authority encourage minority independence
movements as part of a divide and rule strategy and recruited a large Kurdish segment for
its local armed forces. The repression of Kurdish civic rights escalated
with the short-lived unification of Syria and Egypt as the United Arab Republic in 1958,
partly in response to more vocal Kurdish demands for democracy, recognition as an ethnic group,
and complaints that the state police and military academies were closed to Kurds. 120 000 Kurds (40% of the Syrian Kurd population)
were stripped of their citizenship in the 1962 Census when the government claimed they
were, in fact, Turks and Iraqis illegally residing in the country. Stripped of their nationality however, these
now stateless Kurds still found themselves subject to its obligations through conscription
in the military. The Kurdish language and cultural expressions
were banned, a state that continues today. In 1962 the Government announced its “Arab
Belt” plan (later renamed “plan for establishment of model state farms”) which would have forcibly
expelled the Kurdish population from a 350 km long, 10 to 15 km deep strip of land along
Syria’s northeast border and replaced them with Arab settlers but was never fully implemented. There was no change in policy under the new
Ba’athist regime post-1963. It refused to implement its program of land
reforms that was benefiting Arab peasants where Kurds would predominantly benefit until
1971. From the 1970s on there was a relaxation of
official treatment of Kurds but the late 1980s saw renewed widespread denial of Syrian citizenship
status to domestic Kurds especially in refusing national identity documents such as passports. Since the Syrian Civil War, Syrian government
forces have abandoned many Kurdish-populated areas, leaving the Kurds to fill the power
vacuum and govern these areas autonomously.Many Kurds consider the Kurdish-majority regions
of northern and northeastern Syria to be ‘Western Kurdistan’ (Kurdish: Rojavaye Kurdistane)
and seek political autonomy within Syria (akin to Iraqi Kurdistan in Iraq) or outright independence
as part of Kurdistan.==Iran==The similarity between Kurdish and Persian
language and culture compared to the Turks and Arabs, the more equal population balance
between the ethnic majority Persians and ethnic minorities like the Kurds has resulted in
a somewhat different citizenship experience for Iranian Kurds, as such most seek autonomy
rather than independence.===Under the Qajar Empire===
Iranian group identification and social order was based on religious identification with
Islam, specifically Shia Islam, the dominant sect. While the majority of Kurds are Sunni, in
Iran they were roughly evenly split between Sunnis, Shias, and Shia splinter groups like
the Sufis. Because of this preoccupation with religion
over ethnicity, in practice Kurds were treated as part of the majority and enjoyed extensive
citizenship rights. Unlike the Ottoman Empire, this social order
was maintained while the imperial system declined and modern Iranian identity was forged by
a reform movement in the late 19th century to the benefit of Kurds. Under this regime, Sunni and Shia Kurds held
a privileged position as Muslims. Unlike the other minorities, Christian Armenians,
Jews, Zoroastrians and others, they had the right to work in food production and buy crown
land. They also benefited from the tuyal land tenure
system which favoured Muslims. This advantage allowed Kurds to establish
strong control over food production and land. The notable absence of ethnic restrictions
on holding government office allowed Kurdish tribal leaders and notables to purchase office
and establish a strong Kurdish presence in Iranian politics without having to culturally
assimilate or deny ethnicity. This political presence was bolstered because
the Qajars appointed many tribal chiefs to government positions in exchange for internal
security assurances. Within this system many Kurds reached prominent
military, political, and diplomatic positions. Exceptional in Iran during the 19th century
and early 20th was that the nationalist reform movement did not develop a radical, exclusionary,
ethnic-based conception of nationality but developed an Iranian identity that did not
define itself as ethnically Persian.===Constitutional monarchy===The existing beneficial social framework changed
with the establishment of a constitutional monarchy by Reza Shah in 1925. Similar to other states, he tried to nation-build
by creating an exclusionary nationality based on a secular, ethnically Persian Iranian identity
and repress the cultural expressions and equal status of ethnic minorities. These minorities, including the Kurds were
coerced into accepting Persian culture and many were arrested for speaking the Kurdish
language. However, Kurds were afforded a special position
in the official state ethnic-based nationalism because of their cultural similarity to the
Persians and their non-Arab ethnicity. Also, the distribution of seats in the Majlis
(parliament) was based on religion, not ethnicity, the Kurds were able to exercise greater political
power than non-Muslim minorities like the Armenians and Jews. The state’s system of military conscription
and centralized education served to integrate urban Kurdish populations but the majority
remained rural. After World War II with the Soviet withdrawal
from Kurdish regions (where they had encouraged autonomous Kurdish government as the Mahabad
Republic), the Shah banned some Kurdish political parties, expressions of cultural identity
ended the open political party system and ruled by firman. In 1958 there was a marked liberalization
which allowed the activities of Kurdish cultural organizations and student associations but
still limited political parties. Unlike other countries the Kurds were free
to publish cultural and historical information in their own language. However, with massive investment and military
aid from the western world, in the 1950s and 1960s Iran became a police state which clamped
down on many civil rights.===Post-Revolutionary Iran===After the Iranian Revolution, some Kurdish
groups (chiefly the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan) allied with Iranian leftist and
communist groups against Ayatollah Khomeini’s government. The Kurdish rebellion for autonomy in 1979
was forcibly suppressed by Tehran, with thousands of Kurdish rebels and civilians killed as
a result. The new theocratic government developed a
new exclusionary conception of nationalism based on very conservative Shia Islam. Once Khomeini consolidated power he expelled
Sunni Kurds from government office, placed restrictions on freedom of expression, and
militarized Kurdish regions as part of the war with Iraq. Still compared to other countries Kurds were
still allowed limited publications, to celebrate holidays, wear traditional dress, and use
Kurdish (except as a language of instruction). Significant improvements were made in 1997
whereby the government allowed a profusion of Kurdish language in media, although some
of these publications were later restricted.===PJAK insurrection===The Iranian government has been facing a low-level
guerrilla warfare against the ethnic secessionist Kurdish guerrilla group Party for a Free Life
in Kurdistan (PJAK) since 2004. PJAK is closely affiliated with the Kurdish
militant group Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) operating against Turkey.==Kurdish population==Accurate population figures for the Kurds
are hard to establish for several reasons: several countries in the region do not break
out Kurdish population in their censuses; competing political agendas seek to either
maximize or minimize the size of the Kurdish population; different counting methods may
include or exclude groups such as Zazas; both Iraq and Syria have suffered war and civil
disturbance in recent years; and high population growth among Kurdish communities means that
figures become outdated quickly. The figures below are the best recent estimates
available from apparently independent sources. Turkey: Research in 2010 indicated a population
of 13.26 million Kurds living in Turkey, 18.3% of the overall population of 72.553 million. Iran: Approximately 6.7–8.2 million Kurds
live in Iran. Iraq: 6–7 million Kurds live in Iraq. Syria: 1–2 million Kurds live in Syria.==See also==
History of the Kurdish people Kurdish Human Rights Project
Rise of nationalism under the Ottoman Empire Kurds in Turkey
Turkish nationalism Human rights of Kurdish people in Turkey
Iraqi Kurdistan Iranian Kurdistan
Kurdification Jineology==Notes

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