By Martand Jha:
Kurds are the largest ethnic minority in Turkey. According to the CIA world factbook, Kurds constitute 18% of the Turkish population. National Security Council of Turkey in the year 2000 stated that Kurds were 15.7% of the population. Even though the Kurds can be found in all parts of the country, they primarily inhabit the eastern and south-eastern region of Turkey.
Turkey has even been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for the abuses it has committed against the Kurds. Turkish state has been condemned for allegedly taking part in grave human rights abuses against the Kurdish people, such as executions, forced displacements and torture. Since the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, there has been an ongoing assault on the Kurdish identity. Most of the Kurds are Sunni Muslims, just like the majority Turkish population, but their ethnic identity has been stronger than their religious identity.
The demand for Kurdistan is not new and has been there since the creation of Turkey as a republican state. But this demand has been ignored and suppressed brutally. The Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 didn’t give recognition to the Kurds as Turkey wanted to break away from its multi-cultural past where people with many identities co-existed together.
Kurds have been marginalised economically, politically and culturally because the Kurdish population was too large to be ignored by the government when compared to the other minority groups. The areas of Kurdish settlement have witnessed very less economic growth and development as compared to the other provinces of Turkey.
There have been many Kurdish rebellions against the Turkish state such as the Sheikh Said Rebellion, Ararat Rebellion, PKK Rebellion, etc. These rebellions have resulted in immense loss of life and property. Turkey has been called a ‘troubled democracy‘ by many western scholars and politicians because of its problem with the Kurdish people.
Due to the Kurdish problem, there were strong voices raised by the Kurdish diaspora in Europe against Turkey’s deals with the European Union.
Kurds in Turkey are prohibited from giving ‘Kurdish‘ names to their children. Throughout Turkey’s history there has been draconian censorship of both Kurdish literature and music. Kurdish minority has been deprived of its rights since the birth of the modern Turkish republic under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.