A Starving Nation

As a Kurd, have you ever felt the strain of answering questions about your existence?  Has anyone ever questioned your place in history? How well do you know about your heritage?

I’m sure we can all think of a hundred more of these types of questions. Let’s dive straight into the deep end, where many Kurds have drowned or been eaten by sharks. The fall of the Ottoman Empire. Do we really know what happened? Is it as simple as, “it fell and we were left out of the agreements”? More question marks.

The fall of the Ottoman Empire opened a can of worms, one could say. Many new states were born, that no longer needed to report to Constantinople (modern day Istanbul). Like all new born states, there needs to be patience for the dust to settle. With Turkey, it took genocides, revolutions and a military coup in order for the nation to discover its identity. Identity; a term all Kurds have struggled with. So how did Turkey shape up its identity? Once the Young Turks revolted and took control over the Ottoman Empire, the west was eager to get its hands on the treasures of the Middle-East.  In 1915-1916 British and French forces failed to capture Gelibolu/Canakkale. This battle is more commonly known as, Gallipoli Campaign. One of the commanders that fought off the British and French was a man called Mustafa Kemal.

Seven years later after a successful defense of Gelibolu, Mustafa Kemal returned with the Young Turks. A weak Ottoman Empire which had lost its battle against the western allies during World War 1, could not resist a revolution led by Mustafa Kemal. He went on to defeat the Allies which to this day is known as, “Turkish War of Independence”.  An instant hero in Turkey. Everything seem so convenient? Well it is.

We often refer to the Treaties set up during this era. Treaty of Sèvres and the Treaty of Lausanne.

Do we really know what happened during these meetings? Who was in favor of a free Kurdish state and who wasn’t? Initially, Mustafa Kemal supported an idea of a free Kurdistan. So it seemed. Now, we get into the really interesting part. Step up Ismet Inonu and Ziya Gokalp. Ismet Inonu, I’m sure, many have heard of Ismet Inonu as he was a Prime Minister of a new Turkish Republic and also the second President. Ziya Gokalp goes under the radar. That has always troubled me. Why? Afterall, he is the father of Turkish Nationalism. Creator of the Kemalism concept. An advocate of Turkism ahead of Islam and the Ottoman identity (which included Kurdish identity). This is where Pan-Turkism comes from. With his philosophy in which he adopted from Europe, the Kurdish identity was wiped out. A new world order was in place within the Middle-East. Iraq, Iran and Syria were all born.

So, one must ask, again, why do we not hear this mans name often? Sounds like a rhetorical question. He was a Kurd! As was Ismet Inonu. Two figures which were prominent in the development of the Turkish Republic. Now do the questions make more sense? Even figures such as Sati’ al-Husri (an Arab) that worked for the Young Turks during the reformation, were influenced by Ziya Gokalp’s work. Sati’ al-Husri was able to use this philosophy for his work towards Arabism. Ziya. Gokalp. real name Mehmed Ziya, was given his nickname (Sky Hero) by Mustafa Kemal. Just like many Kurds throughout history, Ziya was just another warrior for the capitalist system. He had originally traveled to the Kurdish capital, Amed to put forward his proposal of Kurdish unity. But to his frustration, the tribal leaders rejected this idea. As the saying goes, Turkey’s greatest soldiers have been Kurdish.

Many believe current Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, has adopted Ziya Gokalp’s idea of a New Turkish World. Of course, using Islam as his primary weapon. One thing is certain, history repeats itself. The evidence? How many Kurds do you know, that are working for Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria against the Kurdish freedom movement? We have many Kurdish MPs and artists that support the Turkish movement. From donations to political roles. It digs deep into education, religion and most damaging of all, culture. A century of assimilation and oppression boils down to a simple point; Kurds are their worst own enemy. Unfair? Maybe the Ziya Gokalps, Ismet Inonus of this world were too powerful and influential during the early part of the 20th century. But I ask, in the information era, what is our excuse today? If you’re fed up with all the questions, I’ll only ask one more…

Will you let history repeat itself?


Roosevelt, Inonu and Churchill during the treaty of Lausanne.

[wc_testimonial by=”” url=”” position=”left”]MemMemed Xeznedar was born in London, UK. Originally from north Kurdistan, his family was forced to leave Dersim/Cewlik during the early 70’s. Memed, was born into a family of poets and musicians but preferred a career in Science. He studied, Physics and has a degree in Electronics Engineering as well as a Masters in Physics. In his free time, Memed enjoys reading about history and culture. Also loves to play football and spend time with family[/wc_testimonial]