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Kurdish Culture, Repression, Women’s Rights, and Resistance
by Steven Argue
Email: steveargue2 (nospam) yahoo.com
13 Jun 2007
Modified: 02:14:28 PM
For the Kurdish people outrageous acts of oppression in Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Armenia, and Syria have included mass murder, suppression of language rights, exploitation of Kurdish resources with nothing but poverty given in return, deprivations of national citizenships, and the brutal suppression of political representation. Despite the oppression the Kurdish people have faced, they continue to speak their language and organize politically and, at times, militarily to fight back nearly everywhere they continue to live as a native population.
Kurdish Culture, Repression, Women’s Rights, and Resistance
By Steven Argue
The Kurdish people number at an estimated at 25-30 million people. They live in eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, northeastern Syria, northwest of the Zagros Mountains in Iran, and in Armenia. They also have a large émigré population in Western Europe. With 4-5 million people and 15-20% of the population the Kurds are the largest non-Arab minority in Iraq (CIA Iraq, 2007). They are also the largest non-Turkish minority in Turkey comprising 20% of the population (CIA Turkey, 2007). The Kurdish speaking people are 9% of the Iranian population (CIA Iran, 2007). In Syria, the Kurds are the largest minority with about 1.75 million people comprising about 10% of the population (Lowe 2006). The rise of nationalist xenophobia and war in Armenia after the fall of the Soviet Union has pushed most Kurds out of Armenia, but around 30,000 Yezidi Kurds remain comprising about 1% of the population (CIA Armenia, 2007).
The language of the Kurds, called Kurdish, is distinct from the Persian of Iran, the Arabic of Iraq and Syria, and the Turkish of Turkey. Thus the common language of the Kurds both separates them from the dominant cultures in the nation-states where they live and unites the Kurdish people as a nationality without a nation-state.
While being distinct the Kurdish language is most closely related to Persian, yet the origins of the varied Kurdish culture is partially influenced by the absorption of characteristics of the differing nationalities and cultures that have historically surrounded them.
In terms of religion the Kurdish people are mostly Muslim with both Shia (primarily of the Alevi sect), Sunni (primarily Shafi’i). There is also a large Sufi influence among many Kurdish Muslims, often cited as a moderating influence on Islamic fundamentalism. A small number of Kurds are also Yezidi Muslims and Christians. The Kurds also have a history that has included secular and atheist political leaderships.
The differing Kurdish religious identities have, at times, been a political factor both in divisions among the Kurdish people and in divisions, which distinguish them from the dominant nationalities. The strong Kurdish national identity is based on mutual language and a history of oppression. These factors hold the Kurds together as a people.
For the Kurdish people outrageous acts of oppression in Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Armenia, and Syria have included mass murder, suppression of language rights, exploitation of Kurdish resources with nothing but poverty given in return, deprivations of national citizenships, and the brutal suppression of political representation.
Despite the oppression the Kurdish people have faced, they continue to speak their language and organize politically and, at times, militarily to fight back nearly everywhere they continue to live as a native population.
The Kurdish people are, in fact, the largest national minority in the world that has no homeland. Yet, it is largely their mutual language as well as their mutual oppression and a large amount of mutual poverty (despite some class differences) that continues to unite the Kurdish people. They desire borders that would change the map of the Near East. A better understanding of the Kurdish people is a key to understanding the entire region.
Kurdish Language and Literature
While being most closely related to Persian; the language of the Kurds, called Kurdish, is distinct from the Persian of Iran, the Arabic of Iraq and Syria, and the Turkish of Turkey. Historically many Kurdish intellectuals have written both in Kurdish in as well as in the languages of the dominating cultures (Blau 2007).
Despite a long history of oppression that includes the banning of the written and spoken Kurdish word, the Kurdish people have a rich literary history. Ell Herirl (1425-1495) is the first well-known Kurdish poet (Blau 2007). He, like the many patriotic Kurdish poets that followed, wrote of his love of Kurdish lands and its women (Blau 2007).
Up until very recently the Kurdish language was brutally suppressed everywhere in its native range except the Soviet Republic of Armenia. Armenian Kurds enjoyed special status as an ethnic minority in the Soviet Union including special programs for economic development. The Kurdish language, far from being banned, enjoyed sponsorship through state-sponsored Kurdish radio, a Kurdish newspaper, and Kurdish cultural events. After the fall of the Soviet Union Armenian Kurds lost language rights and other protections and most Kurds have been forcefully deported or have fled to Germany and other west European countries as well as to Russia (Mehrdad [date?]).
In Turkey, the Kurdish language was illegal up until 1991 when political and armed struggle forced the Turkish government to recognize some Kurdish language rights. Kurds and international human rights organizations, however, still complain of an oppressive situation imposed by the Turkish government (Human Rights Watch 2006).
In Iraq, Saddam Hussein, as a U.S. backed ally at the time, is famous for committing mass murder against the Kurdish speaking population. Today Kurdish literature is still repressed with a number of Kurdish journalists jailed by what the Kurdish leftist opposition considers to be a puppet government of the United States and central government.
Iranian policy forbids the Kurdish language and has attempted to assimilate the Kurds into the dominant Persian culture. Besides the state of war between Iraq and the Kurds in the Iran-Iraq war, there was also a state of war between the Iranian government and Iranian Kurds at that same time. More recently in 2005 the Iranian government opened fire on Kurdish protesters with attack helicopters killing 20 and wounding 200 (Amnesty International 2005). Despite the attempts by the Iranian government to stomp out Kurdish culture, Kurdish literature and histories are available in Iran in both Kurdish and Persian (Blau 2007).
In Syria, the written Kurdish language has been banned since 1958. In 1987 that ban was extended to Kurdish music and Kurdish videos (Amnesty International 2005). Hundreds of thousands of native Syrian Kurds have no citizenship rights, the Kurdish flag is illegal (but still flown), and numerous acts of repression have been documented.
Due to the fact that Kurdish culture is horribly repressed in all of their native lands, today it is the Kurdish Diaspora living in Europe, the United States, and Australia that create most of the new Kurdish literature. This includes poetry, children’s books, newspapers, and magazines. Sweden, with a very enlightened policy towards immigrant populations, encourages Kurds and other groups to continue their languages and cultures and allocates a large amount of money to the relatively small Kurdish population for Kurdish language publications (Blau 2007). In addition works in the Kurdish language are being produced in other countries where funding is harder to come by.
The tenacity of Kurdish culture owes much to its extensive historic roots, pride of its people in their literature and language, and refusal to die in the face of attempts at forced assimilation and brutal repression.
Kurdish Modes of Production and Their Development
Kurdish lands are rich and productive, and they sustain the Kurdish people both through pastoral activity as well as through agriculture (Izady 1992). The gathering of wild nuts, berries, and truffles are also important sources of food and income for the Kurdish people, especially in forested regions (Izady 1992). In addition some of the Kurdish lands are rich in oil resources, but the Kurds have been denied access to this oil wealth.
It is established that a number of domestic animals as well as cereal crops used around the world were first domesticated in Kurdish lands (Izady 1992).
Kurdish pastoralism takes place primarily in areas not suitable for agriculture because they are too high in elevation, to steep, or too low in precipitation (Izady 1992). Pastoral activities were once nomadic, but now encompass only lands within a few days of permanent dwellings. As a result some lands that were traditionally grazed are no longer used (Izady 1992).
Kurdish lands grow large amounts of wheat, barley, rice, cotton, tobacco, sugar beets, olives, corn, sunflowers, soybeans, fruits, and nuts. Many of these are cash crops sold to other areas of the Near East where there is far less arable land (Izady 1992).
In many areas of Kurdistan agriculture is still practiced with ox, mule, or donkey drawn wooden ploughs (Jaff 2007).
A merchant class of Kurds has arisen since the 1950s making a living off of capitalist exchanges (Marriage and Family Encyclopedia 2007).
While participating in the broader economy, household families are the most basic economic unit for rural Kurds. Such households are patrilocal containing the first son and his wife and their children. Households participate in reciprocal non-capitalist labor exchanges and share what the household earns. Urban Kurds often continue this family communal structure, but it sometimes falls apart in the face of wage earners no longer wishing to share their income (Marriage and Family Encyclopedia 2007).
Many rural Kurds also seasonally participate in construction labor in the cities, bringing additional income back to their families (Marriage and Family Encyclopedia 2007).
Reciprocal exchanges are not just confined to households. They also take place between neighbors and kin in a village, and are expected. These communal exchanges also take place among urban Kurds (Marriage and Family Encyclopedia 2007).
In addition tribal Kurds are expected to work for landlords and tribal leaders, with durations of labor not clearly defined (Marriage and Family Encyclopedia 2007).
The labor structure in Kurdish villages reflects the labor-intensive, technologically primitive, agriculture forced on them by the neglect of the oil rich nations many Kurds are part of. Meanwhile, due to discrimination, the petroleum and mining operations in Kurdish areas rarely hire Kurds (Jaff 2007). This contributes to Kurdish poverty in regions that are rich in natural resources; fueling resentment and separatist desires.
Kurdish Sexuality, Birth, Domestic Life, Descent, and Kinship
The Kurdish people are organized in patrilineal clans (Refugee Health 2007). As such there is patriarchal control of marriage and property, with women treated in many ways like property. In addition, political status is often the product of patrilineal descent (Refugee Health 2007). It is a male dominated culture where female sexuality is repressed and women are oppressed.
Rural Kurdish women are allowed to mingle with males, but they are not allowed to make their own decisions regarding sexuality or husbands (Hassanpour 2001). Marriage for Kurdish women is a form of bondage traditionally decided upon by the male members of her family (Hassanpour 2001). These decisions have often been made in the girl’s childhood, and sometimes even before she is born (Hassanpour 2001). In Kurdish Iraq such practices of arranged marriage have been on the wane for a number of years, but family permission and payments for brides are still the rule (Refugee Health 2007).
Rural Kurdish marriages are patrilocal (Hassanpour 2001). The family receiving the bride pays the family she came from (Hassanpour 2001). This price is seen as payment for the labor that will be lost when she moves to live with the groom’s family (Hassanpour 2001). To hold onto the wealth of the village marriages within the village are preferred and marriages between first cousins are often arranged (Refugee Health 2007). Families also sometimes exchange sons and daughters with the same family to save on expenses (Refugee Health 2007).
The male families of urban Kurds do not pay a bride price at the time of marriage. Yet if the male decides to divorce the woman, his family is contractually obliged to pay her family. Urban Kurdish women are also not permitted to ask for a man’s hand in marriage, nor decide to divorce. Divorced women do not have a right to custody of the children (Hassanpour 2001).
Polygamy also sometimes occurs amongst Kurds. In such cases the wives are ranked in status by their age (Hassanpour 2001). While polygamy is not the norm, up to four wives are allowed (Refugee Health 2007).
Like marriage, men hold women’s sexuality under a strict ideal of shame and constraint, including virginity before marriage (Hassanpour 2001). This “ideal” is upheld under the threat, and use of, male violence against women. Such violence includes beatings, pouring acid on faces, shaving heads, and even “honor” killings where women are murdered to by family members to bring back the family’s good name (Kurdish Women’s Rights Watch 2007).
While Kurdish women may be murdered for adultery, no similar treatment is dished out to Kurdish men for the same act (Hassanpour 2001).
Kurds tend to see having large families as the ideal. This grows out of the material need for more laboring hands in the rural areas where most Kurds live, as well as from religious beliefs that consider birth control immoral by Islamic law. Yet there are growing numbers of young couples that ask aid workers for birth control. The birth of a child is celebrated with a feast. (Refugee Health 2007)
While the Kurdish people are oppressed and denied many fundamental rights, Kurdish women are doubly oppressed. While some Kurds have claimed better treatment of women than most of the Islamic world, treatment of Kurdish women does appear to have many similarities to those of the dominating cultures. One difference with Iranian treatment is that Kurdish women are not forced to wear the veil and are generally allowed freer movement than in many traditionally Muslim societies including Iran (Refugee Health 2007).
In Iraq, however, Kurdish women are not historically better off. Currently the Kurdish nationalist parties in power, working with the U.S. occupation, have done much to undermine the gains made for women’s rights during the rule of Saddam Hussein. Under Saddam Hussein’s secular government, Iraqi women had many rights found nowhere else in the historically Islamic world except in the Asian republics of the former Soviet Union. Over 50% of Iraqi doctors were women. Iraqi women were allowed to walk unescorted in the streets, to drive, to freely criticize men, and the right to work and control their own funds. Today the Kurdish parties that the U.S. has put in control of Iraqi Kurdistan are working towards adding brutally anti-woman Sharia (Islamic Law) to the constitution that would strip women of more rights. Similar moves are being made by the U.S. imposed central government in Iraq.
In Turkey, it is well documented that the Turkish government has routinely used rape as a weapon in the their counter-insurgency measures against Kurdish separatists (Hilton 2002).
There are many historical examples of Kurdish nationalists and communists speaking out for women’s rights (Hassanpour 2001). Additionally Kurdish parties in Iraq that advocate women’s rights, such as the Worker’s Communist Party of Iraq, have been excluded by the U.S. occupation from participation in elections. Besides in Iraq, the use by the United States of rightwing misogynist Islamic forces against socialists and nationalists with progressive stands on women is well established, with the U.S. bankrolling of the Mujahideen holy war against women’s rights in Afghanistan in the 1980’s being another well known example.
Kurdish women, with the exception of those that lived in Soviet Armenia, have not had the benefit of the feminist movements of the west nor the social revolutions of the Soviet Union and China that greatly advanced women’s rights in those societies. While not achieving perfection, the Chinese and Soviet revolutions outlawed forced marriages and made other giant strides towards women’s equality including in the areas of women’s education, employment, and reproductive rights.
While outsiders may find it easy to judge Kurdish treatment of women, it is worth noting that up until now the Kurdish nation has been denied the right to make any fundamental decisions regarding any policies in their land without outside control. Given the record of the dominating countries, including the United States, it appears that it is only within the context of Kurdish self-determination that the problems of women’s oppression can be solved by the Kurdish people themselves.
Kurdish Political Organization
The Kurdish people have organized themselves into many political organizations that advocate language rights, freedom from the social chauvinism and violence of the dominant cultures, Kurdish independence, and in many cases socialism. These Kurdish political organizations often exist in direct contradiction to widespread feudal village structures and the oppression of women.
The Kurdish Worker’s Party (KKP), one of the main Kurdish resistance groups in Turkey, sees the continuation of feudal political structures on the village level as being the result of oppression and exploitation from the Turkish State. The following emic from the program of the KKP spells out this point of view:
"National oppression exercised by Turkish state through massacres, compulsory resettlement and forced immigration goes on brutally. This oppression manifests itself economically in the fact that Kurdistan is a domestic market for Turkey, plundered and destroyed; politically in the fact that the Kurds are under the oppression of a foreign state, and denied of national sovereignty; and socially and culturally in the national humiliation and cultural backwardness created by continuing tribalism, widespread ignorance and forced assimilation." (The Kurdish Worker’s Party Programme)
The KKP is one of nineteen different Kurdish parties in Turkey (Turkey 2004). Of these thirteen have been declared illegal by the central government, including the KKP (Turkey 2004). On the other hand the Democratic People’s Party, one of the few legal Kurdish parties, does participate in Turkish elections (Turkey 2004). They are a member of the reformist and generally pro-capitalist Socialist International. Parties with stronger political programs for Kurdish independence and for socialism are banned and communities identified with them have faced brutal counter-insurgency methods that have included massacres, the raping of women, and execution of leaders.
In Iraq, two Kurdish parties, working with the U.S. occupation, rule Iraqi Kurdistan. These are the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), and three minor Kurdish parties that have participated in an electoral alliance with the PUK and KDP called National Democratic Kurdish List. In the Kurdish area the National Democratic Kurdish List received 89.55% of the vote in the 2005 elections (Iraq 2005).
While the 2005 vote may appear to show widespread support among Iraqi Kurds for the KDP – PUK –USA government, other reports contradict this. Mass protests have erupted in Kurdish areas against the occupation-imposed lack of electricity and water (Worker-Communist Party of Iraq 2007). In response the KDP – PUK –USA government has used violence against protesters and arrested a number of journalists (Worker-Communist Party of Iraq 2007). Involved in these protests is the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq, a political party with members across Iraq of all ethnicities that supports Kurdish rights. In Kurdistan the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq has protested U.S. policy on Kurdistan where they point out that although the Kurdish people in Iraq had gained a high level of economic independence in the last two decades, U.S. policy has in effect annexed Iraqi Kurdistan back into the central government (Worker-Communist Party of Iraq 2007).
Unlike the KDP and PUK, the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq. They did this while also opposing the government of Saddam Hussein. In addition the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq, at great risk to their lives, is carrying out a campaign in Kurdistan against the imposition of Sharia (Islamic Law) through the constitution of the puppet KDP and PUK government. They see this as horribly anti-woman and also argue that it will also further increase sectarian violence (Worker-Communist Party of Iraq 2007).
Syria has fourteen different Kurdish political parties (Syria 2004). These organizations are banned in a country where it is illegal to even raise the flag of Kurdistan, yet Syrian Kurds continue to struggle for a homeland.
Iran has five different Kurdish political parties (Iran 2004). These have been involved in a number of uprisings against the central government in the last few years that have faced brutal repression (Kamala 2004). One of these organizations leading the uprisings is the Kamala (Revolutionary Organisation of Toilers of Iranian Kurdistan), a socialist grouping that has been organizing armed struggle against the central Islamic regime. As strong advocates of women’s rights the Kamala were the first Kurdish organization to integrate women into their armed forces (Kamala 2004).
Prior to the 1979 Islamic revolution the Kamala was also one of many leftist and pro-woman organizations struggling against the brutal U.S. imposed monarchy of the Shah of Iran, but in a great tragedy for women and for Kurds, it was chauvinistic Islamists that got the upper hand (Kamala 2004). In their assessment of the Islamic regime the Kamala states, “The Iranian regime has imposed the a series of discriminative policies in Kurdistan, which has ultimately resulted in the military occupation of Kurdistan, widespread poverty amongst this massive population, the suppression of Kurdish culture, drug addiction (especially amongst youth), religious suppression, forced migration, imprisonment, terror, torture, and the Killing of whoever opposing these tyrannical policies."
Armenian Kurds have suffered as well. While Kurds were given special language rights in Soviet Armenia, after the capitalist counter-revolution Kurds in Armenia faced mass violence and forced deportations. I have found no evidence Kurdish political organization in Armenia today.
The fate of Armenia’s largely ethnically cleansed Kurds is what has been attempted by all other countries that dominate the Kurds, elimination of the Kurdish question through violence and forced assimilation. Yet there is stubborn resistance in the will of the Kurdish people that refuses to give up. Instead many Kurds become resistance fighters that are bold enough to see a redrawn map where Kurdistan gains its independence from Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey. In addition many are also bold enough to see that future as one that ends feudal backwardness, promotes education, builds socialism, and brings equality for women.
The Socialization of Kurdish Children in Language and Culture
The defining trait of Kurdish culture is their language. The education of Kurdish youth in their native tongue is an essential component, not only in the preservation of Kurdish culture, but also simply in giving the best education to young Kurds. The reason for this is that young people often have many difficulties learning when they are taught in a foreign tongue.
In the early part of the 20th century British colonial authorities in charge of education in Iraq referred to the Kurdish language as “vernacular”. Their educational model was one of teaching in the Kurdish language only at the primary school level, with all higher education in Arabic (The Education of Kurdish Language, 1995-2003).
In 1926 the famous Kurdish nationalist Huzni Mukriyani suggested in a fictional conversation between a Kurdish father and son that ignorance was better than being taught in a foreign tongue. The father states, “My dear son, I like education and I am not an enemy of knowledge and enlightenment, but it is better for you to remain ignorant than to be unaware of your identity, not to study in your language and to serve the strangers...” (The Education of Kurdish Language, 1995-2003).
This emic view of Huzni Mukriyani’s of the over riding importance of children learning in Kurdish wasn’t just based on a nationalistic or romantic desire for cultural preservation, but also grew out of the practical desire of having Kurdish children be able to understand the language they were being taught in. This point was driven home in another line of the fictional conversation where the father states to his son, “You had better become a shepherd, [Or] do ploughing for me. These are better than taking lessons and not understanding them” (The Education of Kurdish Language, 1995-2003).
In the 1950’s, in Iraqi Kurdistan, demands by the Kurdish community for more education in Kurdish began to bear some fruit, but many instructors had difficulty teaching in Kurdish because they had been instructed in Arabic (The Education of Kurdish Language, 1995-2003).
In Turkey, Iran, and Syria education in the Kurdish language has been even more wanting. The Kurdish language was illegal in Turkey up until 1991 and education in the Kurdish language is still lacking (Human Rights Watch 2006).
Yet, as an oppressed people without many educational opportunities, Kurdish children continue to learn their language from their families and communities even when formal education is lacking. Thus, the Kurdish language continues to be passed on to the children, partly out of necessity, partly out of a nationalistic pride and refuses to die or be forcefully assimilated.
Religion In Kurdistan, Belief and Disbelief
Kurds practice a variety of monotheist religions including a number of varieties of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. In addition some Kurdish nationalist movements led by socialists have a strong history of atheism and secularism.
The wide variety of Kurdish religions is due, in part, to the absorption of differing religions from surrounding nationalities. These religions have moved through the region over differing historical times. The predominance of Islam began in the seventh century when most Kurds were converted (Encyclopedia Britannica 2007).
Most religious Kurds are Muslim of the Sunni denomination (Encyclopedia Britannica 2007). Kurdish Sunnis predominantly belong to the Shafi’I sect. Another Islamic denomination found among the beliefs of the Kurdish people is the Shia, primarily of the Alevi sect. A small number of Kurds are also Yezidi Muslims, Christians, and Jews.
There is also a large Sufi influence among many Kurdish Muslims, often cited as a moderating influence on Islamic fundamentalism in many areas, including the oppression of women. Others see that religious moderation; to the point it does exist among the Kurds, is the result of heavy influences from atheistic socialist forces leading many of the struggles against Kurdish national oppression.
While information on the rarest and most obscure religions is often very easy to come by, demographic assessments of atheism are difficult to nearly impossible to obtain for much of the world. This lack of important anthropological data is due, in part, to the fact that atheists are oppressed in much of the world and afraid to identify themselves when attempts are made at collecting such data. But, in addition, there is a glaring shortage of writings that attempt to look at the role of atheism on individual cultures. Perhaps this is due, in part, to the universality of atheism and its lack of quaint provincial deities, sects, or rituals as are found in the thousands of religions of the world.
A look at the political programs of the socialists that are playing a leading role in the nationalist liberation movements of Kurdistan does, however, reveal a strong influence of atheism and secularism in their advocacy of women’s rights and opposition to Islamic Law.
It is a tendency found in many mainstream anthropological writings to play up the role of various religions in different societies while ignoring the influences of atheism. Yet it has been atheistic leadership that has led major advances in women’s rights for much of the world’s population. Well known examples are the Chinese and Russian revolutions that outlawed forced marriages, bride prices, and other manifestations of female slavery still suffered by most Kurdistani women.
Likewise it is popular groups with atheistic programs, such as the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK) in Turkey, that advocate full emancipation for women. As the PKK states in their program:
“All laws reflecting male domination should be annulled. Violence against women, all forms of control on women’s bodies and lives resulting from outdated custom and traditional habits, and bride’s price should be forbidden.” (KKP Program, 2003)
This program of the PKK is in stark contrast to the harsh anti-woman positions of the Islamic capitalist governments of Iran, Turkey, and Iraq.
While there is good reason to study the role of religions in various societies, anthropological studies are often incomplete if they ignore the role atheism. Kurdish society is no exception where religious belief is mixed with a strong peppering of disbelief.
U.S. Imperialism and the Kurdish Question
While the regime of Saddam Hussein was no friend to the Iraqi Kurdish people, this of course has nothing to do with why the United States government hated Saddam Hussein. This hatred by the U.S. capitalist government is not based on humanitarian concerns. They hated Saddam Hussein for the good things he did, such as the nationalization of Iraqi oil that benefited the people of Iraq by keeping oil wealth in the country for social programs and benefited of the Iraqi economy.
America’s so-called concern for human rights can be seen in the past US interventions in Iraq. Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party first came to power in 1963. Immediately after taking power, based on lists provided by the CIA, they rounded up 5,000 leftists and trade-union leaders and murdered them. After the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait we were shown pictures of Iraqi Kurds killed by poison gas in the U.S. media. What we were not told is why the US was silent when this was happening and the fact that the US supplied the gas to kill the Kurds and to kill Iranians in the Iran-Iraq war. While we are now told of the Iraqi repression of the Kurdish people we are not told of how the Turkish government is carrying out the same policies of genocide against the Turkish Kurds, and doing it with U.S. weaponry.
In addition to these proxy genocides by the U.S. government on the Kurdish people the U.S. government has participated directly in the war on Kurds. This occurred on February 15, 1999 when U.S. forces kidnapped Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan and turned him over to the genocidal Turkish government. Subsequently Abdullah Ocalan was sentenced to death for his role in defending Kurdish territory in Turkey from the murderous Turkish military. This U.S. kidnapping was admitted on CNN TV by former Turkish President and ethnic cleanser Suleyman Demiral.
Today, in Iraq, the basic question of Kurds getting a piece of the oil wealth is not on the imperialist agenda. Instead they are pushing through their puppet governments and outside pressure for the oil wealth to be privatized and turned over to U.S. corporations.
Many of the Kurds know that their national interests will never be served by the “liberating” forces of Turkey and Iran or British and American imperialism. This will only be established by the Kurds themselves and by the alliances they build with other anti-imperialist forces. British imperialism divided Kurdistan, a country with its own unique language and culture, into a minority inside the nations of Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Iran. Today the Kurds are the largest nation without a homeland in the world. Imperialism, with its motto of divide and conquer, never has and never will solve the Kurdish question. A free and united Kurdistan will only be born through a sweeping socialist revolution that overthrows the capitalist regimes of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria while challenging the military dictates of the United States.
The mutual language and oppression shared by the Kurdish people has solidified the Kurdish identity, even though they have differing religions, and even though they are spread out into five different countries of origin where they are an ethnic minority in each.
Facing violence and attempts at forced assimilation there is stubborn resistance in the will of the Kurdish people that refuses to give up. Instead many Kurds become resistance fighters that are bold enough to see a redrawn map where Kurdistan gains its independence from Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey. In addition, many Kurds are also bold enough to see that future as one that ends feudal backwardness, promotes education, builds socialism, and brings equality for women.
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