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The National Committee on American Foreign Policy recently released a report entitled, “Disarming, Demobilizing and Reintegrating the Kurdistan Workers Party.” The report is authored by David L. Phillips, Project Director of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy and a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Human Rights.




David L. Phillips states that reestablishing stability in the troubled areas of Turkey, where hostile actions have increased between Turkey and the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), must include international community and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) putting political pressure on the PKK to establish a cease-fire in order to allow diplomatic efforts aimed at finding solutions to the troubles that have festered and ultimately exploded into violence between the PKK and the Turkish government.




The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is a Marxist-Leninist group seeking to establish a pan-national Kurdish state carved out of lands where the majority of the Kurdish people are populated. The PKK operates in northern Iraq where it has been a source of friction between Turkey and the current Iraqi U.S. backed government.




Despite Turkey passing a resolution authorizing military action against the PKK (if they continue to engage in violent actions inside Turkish borders), Turkey’s government appears ready and willing to begin diplomatic talks with the PKK. Clearly, the government does not wish to engage in a military campaign. Indeed, it is in Turkey’s best interest to resolve this matter diplomatically, or risk having its candidacy for membership into the European Union compromised.




While the report filed by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy provides insight and well-thought-out solutions to the troubles, the report did fail to point out one vitally important factor in reaching a peaceful solution, and that is how Islam can and must play a critical role in bringing about stability to this troubled region.




Phillips’ report failed to recognize this vitally important aspect when he described the history of this upheaval in Turkey. In his report Phillips states:




“Mustafa Kemal, known as Ataturk (“the father of all Turks”), collected the remnants of the Ottoman Empire to create the Republic of Turkey in 1923. Although Ataturk was committed to building a truly modern state on par with its European neighbors, he was wary of European intentions. In the wake of World War I, the terms set by the Allies in the Sevres Treaty of 1920 partitioned Turkey, reducing it to one-third of its current size, and promised the Kurds a country of their own. Ataturk rejected the treaty, rallying Turks in a “war of liberation” that led to the replacement of Sevres with the Lausanne Treaty in 1923.




In response, Kurds launched an insurgency in 1925 with the goal of establishing an independent homeland...”




Phillips addresses the issue of Turkish nationalism exploding during a time when Turkey was rebuilding its national infrastructure after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Further, he speaks to the attempts to carve up Turkey by Western powers after World War I.




It was Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk), who raised the consciousness of the people of Turkey to defend the nation from destruction at the hands of the West. Turkish nationalism rose to preserve the sovereignty of the nation, and in its wake, left the Turkish-Kurds feeling increasingly isolated in their homeland. In addition, the 1925 insurgency Phillips speaks of was actually an Islamic revolt aimed at maintaining Turkey as an Islamic state. The rise of secularism in Turkey was met with armed resistance; the insurgency was not designed to “establish an independent homeland” for the Kurds. This should be corrected by Phillips.




Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, a Kurdish scholar and leader pointed out on many occasions that stability in Turkey can be achieved under the banner of Islam. As was in the past under Ottoman rule, Kurds and Turks alike enjoyed relative peace and prosperity because they saw themselves as Muslims. “The Ottomans’ freedom is the discloser of mighty Asia’s good fortune. It is the key to Islam’s prosperity. It is the foundation of the ramparts of Islamic Unity”, stated Bediuzzaman.




To be sure, Islam is the way to unity and stability in the region. Bediuzzaman stated, “If we die, Islam, which is our nation, lives; it will live forever. Let my nation be strong and well.”




Phillips’ report failed to point out the vital role Islam plays in the lives of the Muslim people. Indeed, Phillips does bring forth good ideas towards finding solutions, but his research was limited to secular and socialist theories and suggestions which would be complimented by unifying the theme of Islam.




Today, the secular government of Turkey is seeking to become part of the European Union. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed his government’s willingness to dialogue with the PKK. In fact, Turkey’s government is comprised of Kurds positioned in influential posts of the current government. Phillips points out in his report that the majority of Kurds in Turkey do not want a separate state; this is due to contemporary efforts by the government to integrate the Kurdish people within the fabric of Turkey’s society. Clearly, Turkey is moving away from its past in order to establish a better way of life for all of Turkey’s people.




The key in doing so is to recall the teachings of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, to stabilize the region means all powerbrokers involved must recognize that everyone concerned in this matter are Muslim. Muslims are bound together by Islam. Turkey’s government must allow for bilingual education to flourish in its schools and provide Turkish-Kurds with broader access to education, health care and greater economic opportunities. For they are Turkish-Kurds, but above all, they are Muslims of an Islamic nation.



Robert Miranda (Da’ud Ali Salaam)

“Taking Sides”

Milwaukee Spanish Journal

October 23, 2007




Robert Miranda (Da'ud Ali Salaam) is a national award-winning columnist, Latino community activist, executive director of Esperanza Unida, Inc. and publisher of the Milwaukee Spanish Journal. E-mail at: rmiranda@wi.rr.com.


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