A Turkish-Kurdish ‘by-product of the arts of peace’

A Turkish-Kurdish ‘by-product of the arts of peace’

War, as American satirist Ambrose Bierce wrote, may be “a by-product of the arts of peace.” Since the Turks (in the majority) and Kurds (in the minority) shook hands to live happily ever after with the foundation of a common state based on a common religion they, in a time of peace, have always prepared for war. And as Bierce said, war during the several decades of their unsuccessful co-habitation “loved to come like a thief in the night; professions of eternal amity provided the night.”

The founders of modern Turkey had an idea about building a nation-state. In that planned nation-state there was no room for “non-Turkish” Jews and Christians because a Turk had to be Muslim. Kurds were “Turks” because they were Muslims. In 1942 “non-Turkish” Turkish citizens, Jews and Christians, had to pay the Wealth Tax – or suffer the tragic consequences. “Turkish” Turkish citizens, Kurds, did not because they were Muslims. When there were only a few tens of thousands of non-Muslim “non-Turkish” Turkish citizens left in the country in the early 1980s, “Turkish Muslim” Kurds took up arms and started to kill for a homeland, a war that has left more than 40,000 people dead to date. 

It is not a source of pride for a columnist when the imprisoned leader of a violent terror group repeats, verbatim, the exact line the same columnist had written several years ago. But Abdullah Öcalan’s latest message, through his brother, that “this is a war with no winners,” was written in this column, in the exact same wording, several times. Mr. Öcalan is right. Just like in the twin paintings of Catalan muralist Jose Maria Sert that decorate an interior hall at les Palais des Nations in Geneva.

One of the paintings, titled “The Winners,” depicts a proud army parade - the winners - but with a pile of coffins and weeping people behind. They are the “winners.” The other painting, “The Losers,” shows the remains of a defeated army at a battleground - the losers - but with a few survivors who raise their fists in hatred and a commitment to take revenge. The war is not yet over. 

Judging from the very sad remains of the three-decade-long war and recalling Sert’s epic, fluid images, one can only envision Turkish and Kurdish faces that can be used interchangeably in either canvas; they are both the winners and losers. Mr. Öcalan is right.

It is not without a reason - although it is by no means to suggest that this is a scientific way to draw conclusions - that if you typed “Turkey” and “peace” into Google, it would produce 76.9 million results. However, if you typed “Turkey” and “war” the search engine will produce 154.9 million results. If you typed “Turkey” and “civil war” you will get 18.7 million results compared to 767,000 if you typed “Iceland” and “civil war” and 689,000 if you typed “Luxembourg” and “civil war.” 

Once again it is the systematic Turkish state reflex to ignore the root cause of a problem. There are simply “good” and “bad” Kurds. “Good” Kurds are loyal to the state; they can become MPs, ministers, successful businessmen. 

“Bad” Kurds are terrorists who kill; they are the traitors. It is true that “bad” Kurds are terrorists, that they shoot, bomb and simply kill innocent people, including security officials. But they do not shoot, bomb and kill only because they are bloodthirsty maniacs. They are not rebels without a cause. They are terrorists with a cause. Just like jihadist terrorists who shoot, bomb and kill innocent people. 

The cliché explanation Turkey’s Islamist establishment loves to offer regarding Islamist terror in Europe that “they kill because of Islamophobia in Europe.” Do, then, Kurdish terrorists kill in Turkey because of Kurdophobia in Turkey? 

Allow me to repeat, after having had to read in my 29-year-long career in journalism literally thousands of military statements boasting of neutralizing this or that many terrorists: This is a war no one can win.