Cracking down on Kurds doesn’t solve any problems

Mohammed Hussein

By Mohammed Hussein:

Turkish governments have cracked down on Kurdish people in modern Turkey since the 1920s, using any suppressive tools that might help them to silence Kurds’ demands for freedom and independence. The strangest aspect of this story is that Turkey has continued to the present day with the same policies that caused the execution of Shex Sai’d Piran, the great Kurdish rebel leader, in 1925. It is timely to question this and ask: for how much longer will Turkish politicians keep practicing the same policies?

The reality of Turkey’s history shows that the greater the crackdown on Kurdish people, the more violent is their reaction towards the Turkish government and its policies. The consequence of this, as I can see today, is not Turkey’s successful assimilation of Kurdish ethnicity – which Kamal Attaturk, the founder of the new republic of Turkey, dreamed about – but rather the growth of Kurdish resistance in the form of PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) guerrillas fighting in the mountains and BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) civil activities in the cities. With all these unwanted consequences, Turkey should stop cracking down on Kurds, and stop using a policy that denies Kurdish national identity.

Turkey’s attempts to build a democratic, stable role model can’t be successful while it suppresses people because of their ethnic identity. What Kurdish activists demand and struggle for is no more than the basic rights that any national and ethnic group normally has in the 21st century; denying these rights and cracking down on the people who demand them only pushes Turkey towards despotic government and political chaos. It doesn’t help the democratic model that the AKP, Turkey’s ruling party, and prime minster Erdogan pretend to support.

Constanze Letsch, the Guardian reporter in Istanbul, shows how Turkey’s dealings with the recent Kurdish hunger strikes has damaged Turkey’s democratic image. He argues that the AKP can’t continue with a paradoxical policy of promoting an Islamic democracy model in media channels while suppressing its Kurdish citizens in the streets.

Damaging its role model image, Turkey’s crackdown is also a clear example of how governmental violence just creates an opposite violence from within the people. Historically, no Turkish government could defeat the Kurdish struggle for freedom and independence and none could deal with the problem properly and make compromises. As much as the government repression increased, so did the Kurdish reaction to it. This circular violence has cost tens of thousands of lives, making the issue even more complicated than it was.

According to Aliza Marcus, a specialist writer on the Kurdish-Turkey issue, in the 1990s Ankara spent $11 billion per year fighting the PKK, while the PKK’s ability to resist and fight grew. Marcus referred to the mistake that shaped Turkey’s modern history from the 1920s until now. Turkish governments tried hard to assimilate the Kurds and convert them to become Turkish. These efforts came from a Kamalist nationalist ideology, originating from Atataturk’s ideas. It is easy to understand this ideology through the expression, “How happy are people who call themselves Turks”. This is one of the most famous Kamalist slogans. However, Kurdish people haven’t enjoyed this “happiness” and they have never accepted being Turks but remain more committed to their own ethnic identity.

But these are not the only reasons why Turkey’s crackdown is not the solution. Suppressing the Kurds just pushes Turkey away from finding a democratic solution to the Kurdish issue. This problem affects more than 20 million Kurds, who make up almost 20% of Turkey’s population. Turkey’s latest deadly mistake began by implementing another crackdown instead of constitutional reforms and parliamentary debates on the issues that Kurds are fighting for. It is not logical to repeat the same mistakes that Turkish governments have made throughout history. What is going on right now in the Kurdish-Turkish big cities is similar to what happened back in the 1970s and 80s. It is impossible for Turkish politicians to build a democratic government and system while 20% of their citizens don’t have freedom and dignity.

With all these problems, Turkey’s ruling politicians still can’t understand the roots of the Kurdish question. They still think that the Kurdish issue needs a socioeconomic approach; sometimes accusing Kurds of being separatists, and using this accusation to justify the crackdown. Ignoring what Kurds are fighting for, they use a parallel strategy aimed at improving people’s quality of life on the one hand while suppressing their political demands on the other. But as Heinz Kramer,  a Turkey specialist explains, “The Kurdish problem is more than just socioeconomic underdevelopment or the separatist terrorism of the PKK. It has to do with the difficult question of how to politically organize a multiethnic and multicultural society without endangering the legitimacy of the polity and its state”.

What Kramer says is that all the justifications and excuses Turkey has used to suppress Kurdish people are rubbish: the real challenge, which Turkey hasn’t dealt with, is finding a political solution to the Kurdish question.

To sum up, Turkey’s crackdown against the Kurds has just complicated the problem, as it has also damaged Turkish politicians’ efforts to build democratic, stable government. What Turkey has done until now has just meant governmental violence and its opposite reaction from the Kurdish people. Turkey’s failed strategy can’t work with this complicated issue anymore. Now it is time to experiment with a democratic, peaceful way of solving this problem. People have a right to enjoy their freedom and practice their rights and this is not truly provided in Turkey’s pretend democracy.


Karamer, Heinz. ‘The Changing Turkey: The Challenge to Euroupe and United States’. London: The Booking Institution.2000. Print. (pp 53-54)

Letsch, Constanze,“International: “Kurdish hunger strikers mar country’s ‘democratic role model’ image” the Guardian. 26 October. 2012. Web. 20 Nov. 2012:

Marcus, Aliza. ‘Blood And Belief: The PKK and the Kurdish Fight for Independence’. New York University Press. 2007. Print. (pp 248-249)

Mohammed Hussein lives in Sulaymanyah where he is an editor for and an international study student at the American University of Iraq-Sulaymanyah . He has also worked as a translator and translated three books into Kurdish.

Copyright © 2012

2 Responses to Cracking down on Kurds doesn’t solve any problems
  1. Ari kader
    December 25, 2012 | 13:02

    Turks must learn to understand that even if they eliminate all PKK … they , they can not , eliminate the Truth , that Salahadin Al Aiyuby was a Kurd who is not in the heart of a kurdish girl who had to pick up gun , to get her freedom and dignity , which could have been provided by that Salahadin ♥♥♥♥God,Ahuramazda,Allah,Yahuda ♡♡♡♡ legel meye

  2. […] Cracking down on Kurds doesn’t solve any problems […]

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