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The Kurdish Nationalism: Risks and Opportunities between Globalization, Islamization, and Localization

Tuesday 18 September 2007, by Emre Uslu

The existence of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) has become a risk factor for the Kurdish nationalist discourse since the international communities have taken a new approach against terror after September 11 2001. In order to elaborate how the PKK became a risk factor it is needed to be examined how the PKK managed to become the largest Kurdish nationalist organization.

Kurdish nationalist organizations were divided into at least 7 groups in 1970s and 1980s after the military interventions. The pluralism in the Kurdish nationalist organizations sparked a violence struggle between the organizations in which the terrorist (PKK) militants managed to suppress the other organizations and became the only Kurdish nationalist organization that operates in the southeast. In addition to the PKK suppression, due to the sudden shrinking opportunity spaces after the 1980 military coup, some of these groups had to flee to Europe and the others to the Middle East. The groups went to the Middle East have pursued violence struggle against the state while the groups in Europe mostly have not involved in violence struggle. The PKK by declaring armed struggle against the state managed to maintain its supremacy over the other organizations.

In the southeastern provinces, the PKK’s terror campaign further suppressed these groups’ grassroots activities and cut off their ties with Turkey. Thus, the groups in Europe were constrained to operate only within Europe. The leading figures of these groups in Europe were mostly made up of the intellectual class of the Kurdish society. Therefore, by forcing the intellectuals to flee to Europe the PKK actually cut off the intellectual ties with the Kurdish society. However, the intelligentsia keeps the nationalist discourse alive. On the other hand, the PKK is a Leninist hierarchic organization in which there is very limited room to flourish intellectual debates. Further, the new university graduate PKK generation, mostly the Democratic Society Party (DTP) cadets, have very limited intellectual ability to maintain Kurdish nationalist discourse alive and they are very alien to the society. The DTP leadership admitted it after the July 22 election failure.

Despite the fact that the PKK’s terror strategy was a success to make Kurdish nationalist discourse as an issue of rural Kurdish population as well as an international issue, in the September 11 world everything is redefined. In this world, the PKK led Kurdish nationalist discourse is redefined as a terror discourse. This is a major setback for the Kurdish nationalism for three reasons.

First, the PKK by polarizing the Kurdish issue between the state and itself and left no room for other secular Kurdish organizations. In the September 11 world, these organizations would have functioned as vehicles to maintain the Kurdish nationalist discourse alive however, there is no such organization in the Kurdish region. Thus, since the PKK led Kurdish nationalist discourse is considered as a terror discourse the Kurdish nationalism is automatically rejected by the international communities.

The EU continuously inquires the DTP to cut off its relationship with the PKK and keep a distance between the PKK and itself. However, for the practical reasons i.e. the PKK leadership by executing its “deviant” followers showed that such step is not easy to take; it is not possible for the DTP to keep a distance between the PKK and itself. Therefore, whatever the DTP brings an issue into public debate in the name of Kurdish question it is considered as the policy of the terror organization. In other words because the PKK uprooted the other Kurdish nationalist organizations and because the DTP is not able to make distance between the PKK and itself there is no alternative way to advocate Kurdish nationalist discourse in the September 11 world. Thus, the PKK not only terrorized the Kurdish region and Kurdish people but also terrorized the Kurdish nationalist discourse as well.

Second, the gap that was left after the bloody fight between the PKK and the other secular Kurdish organizations in 1980s is filled by the Kurdish Islamist organization when the PKK was fighting with the state. The Kurdish Islamist organizations not only transform the grammar of the Kurdish nationalism but also the Kurdish society toward a new direction. That is, the “Hamasization” of the Kurdish discourse and society. What the PKK would do against the Kurdish Islamist is not known. However, at this point, all the parameters work against the PKK to take arm against the Kurdish Islamist organizations. Even if the PKK sparks a bloody fight with the Kurdish Islamists it is not easy to wipeout them. Thus, there is almost no possibility to avoid such transformation of the Kurdish society and Kurdish discourse.

Third, the PKK led Kurdish nationalist discourse had been legitimized not by the Kurdish communities in Turkey but by the international communities through condemnation of the human rights violation of the state security personal. In others words, because of the PKK terror campaign the legitimization of the Kurdish nationalist discourse was left to the international community on the condition of when the state security apparatus violates international human rights standards. Since the EU reform process put in practice, the human right violations have been dramatically declined and the Kurdish cultural rights have been granted, which diminished the PKK’s led Kurdish claims to legitimize them through human rights standards. Therefore, the PKK was once considered as a window of opportunity for the Kurdish nationalist struggle now became a risk factor for the Kurdish nationalist discourse.

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Source : TNA 18 August 2007

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