Intensifying Turkish war against Kurds marks Treaty of Sevres centenary

Intensifying Turkish war against Kurds marks Treaty of Sevres centenary
1 / 5
The Turkish armed forces seem to specialize in only one thing since the creation of the Turkish Republic — suppressing Kurds. (AFP)
Intensifying Turkish war against Kurds marks Treaty of Sevres centenary
2 / 5
Kurds rally for cultural and political rights in Turkey. (AFP file photo)
Intensifying Turkish war against Kurds marks Treaty of Sevres centenary
3 / 5
Intensifying Turkish war against Kurds marks Treaty of Sevres centenary
4 / 5
Intensifying Turkish war against Kurds marks Treaty of Sevres centenary
5 / 5
The Treaty of Sevres was signed on Aug. 10, 1920. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 24 August 2020

Intensifying Turkish war against Kurds marks Treaty of Sevres centenary

Intensifying Turkish war against Kurds marks Treaty of Sevres centenary
  • The treaty, signed on Aug. 10, 1920, promised Turkey’s religious and ethnic minorities safeguards to protect their rights
  • As in Syria, Turkish military strikes in Iraqi Kurdistan against PKK use the well-worn rhetoric about necessary “buffer zones”

MISSOURI: As Turkey carries out almost daily attacks on impoverished Kurdish regions in neighboring Syria and Iraq, keeps its own elected ethnic Kurdish MPs indefinitely imprisoned, and coerces Iraqi Arab and Kurdish authorities to act as its local police, it is hard to remember that August marks the centenary of a pact in which provision was made for a Kurdish state.

The Treaty of Sevres, signed on Aug. 10, 1920, essentially laid out the Ottoman Empire’s terms of surrender following the First World War. The treaty, which included signatories from Britain, France, Italy and the Ottoman Empire, promised religious and ethnic minorities in Turkey various safeguards to protect them and their rights.

With regard to the Kurds, the treaty stated: “If within one year from the coming into force of the present Treaty the Kurdish peoples within the areas defined in Article 62 shall address themselves to the Council of the League of Nations in such a manner as to show that a majority of the population of these areas desires independence from Turkey, and if the Council then considers that these peoples are capable of such independence and recommends that it should be granted to them, Turkey hereby agrees to execute such a recommendation, and to renounce all rights and title over these areas.” (Kurdistan Section III Article 64)

Under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal (who later came to be known as Ataturk), remnants of the Ottoman army organized military resistance to the terms of the treaty. Convinced that they were fighting to save the sultanate and caliphate, and promised recognition and self-governance in the new Turkey, most Kurdish tribes joined with Ataturk during what came to be known as Turkey’s War of Independence.

The Ataturk-led resistance to Sevres proved successful, and the treaty was replaced in 1923 by the Treaty of Lausanne. Ataturk’s representatives in Lausanne insisted on stipulations regarding minority rights in the new treaty, however, wherein Turkey only recognized “non-Muslims” as minorities, specifically the Jewish, Greek and Armenian communities. Turkish representatives in Lausanne rejected the concept of ethnic minorities in Turkey, thereby also refusing to entertain cultural, linguistic or other minority rights for such groups.

With the loss of its holdings in Europe and Arab lands, as well as genocidal campaigns against Christians in Ottoman lands, the Kurds stood out as Turkey’s only remaining significant minority in 1923. 

The refusal of Turkish diplomats to recognize ethnic minority rights in Lausanne was thus squarely aimed at the Kurds. Their policy formed the first step in betraying earlier promises of recognition and self-governance to the Kurds who participated in Turkey’s War of Independence.

Under a Muslim sultanate and caliphate, Kurds (the large majority of whom are Sunni Muslim) could have expected an equal place. It thus made sense for Kurds to join Turks in fighting for these two institutions in 1920. But Ataturk abolished the sultanate in 1923 and the caliphate in 1924, replacing them with a secular nation-state concept imported from parts of Europe.

Taking his cue from France in particular, Ataturk then went about trying to make the Turkish state and nation completely co-terminous, meaning that only a Turkish ethnic national identity would be permitted in the new Turkey. Kurdish language, culture, music, names and any other manifestations of Kurdish identity were promptly outlawed.




Demonstrators clash with Turkish riot police during a "March for Democracy" called by Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) in Istanbul on June 15, 2020. (Photo by BULENT KILIC / AFP)

The Kurds unsurprisingly revolted against the secularization and Turkification of the new state in 1925 and 1927-30. These revolts and numerous subsequent ones were all brutally suppressed. 

The 1937-38 suppression of the Kurdish revolt in Dersim (renamed Tunceli by Turkish authorities) is recognized by many as a genocide, with 10,000-30,000 killed, including civilians hiding in caves who were murdered with poison gas or burned alive by Turkish forces. 

When Kurdish unrest began manifesting itself in Turkey again in the 1960s, one right-wing Turkish nationalist periodical warned the Kurds to “remember the Armenians” — a somewhat ironic choice of rhetoric given Turkish nationalists’ refusal to admit that the Ottomans ever committed genocide against the Armenians of Anatolia, whose numbers fell from some 2 million in the Ottoman Empire on the eve of the First World War to almost nothing after 1915.

With the exception of Turkey’s 1974 intervention in Cyprus, the Turkish armed forces seemed to specialize in only one thing since the creation of the Turkish Republic: Suppressing Kurds. Apart from Cyprus and participation in the Korean War and the 1991 Desert Storm campaign in Iraq, the Turkish military’s only significant operations in the 20th century involved counterinsurgency against Kurds.

Most of the military campaigns took place in Turkey itself, but from the 1980s onward the Turkish military also frequently conducted cross-border raids into Iraq to chase after guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). And so it continues to this day.

Turkey’s invasion and occupation of Afrin in northern Syria in 2018 was aimed at PKK-aligned Syrian-Kurdish groups there. The October 2019 Turkish invasion and occupation of parts of northern Syria east of Afrin had the same objective.

Although no significant attacks from Kurdish forces in Syria into Turkey had occurred since the onset of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Turkey claimed a need to occupy and establish “buffer zones” in northern Syria. The Turkish invasions seriously threatened Kurdish-led operations against Daesh in Syria.

Although one might not know it from the scant media coverage, almost weekly Turkish strikes in Iraqi Kurdistan, with remarkably similar rhetoric about necessary “buffer zones,” have been ongoing for several years. The most recent series of operations (dubbed Claw-Eagle and Claw-Tiger) this year have seen Turkish ground troops deployed to the area, in addition to Turkish bases already present in Iraqi Kurdistan since the mid-1990s.




The Treaty of Sevres was signed on Aug. 10, 1920. (Supplied)

The maneuvers in the summer of 2020 also seemed to be conducted in cooperation with Iranian forces, with Turkish airstrikes against fighters of the Free Life Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PJAK), an Iranian-Kurdish party aligned with the PKK.

Recently, a Turkish drone strike killed two high-ranking officers of the Iraqi army who were meeting with PKK militants in northern Iraq after clashes between the two. Both Baghdad and Erbil, the seat of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region of Iraq, have repeatedly protested against Turkey’s violations of Iraqi sovereignty, but to little effect.

Turkey claims a right to defend itself and act against the PKK presence in Iraq or PKK-aligned Kurdish groups in Syria. If the mere presence of such groups, especially in the very mountainous and difficult-to-control territory along the border, justifies invasions and occupations of Arab territories, a similar logic could in theory be used by Israel or the US to target Palestinian Hamas leaders hosted in Ankara and Istanbul today, to say nothing of Arab countries whose Islamist critics have extensive propaganda campaigns operating from Turkish soil.

The official Turkish approach of the last 100 years seems rather like a policy of opposing Kurdish self-government “even if it’s in Alaska,” as a popular Turkish joke goes. When Turkey invaded northern Syria in 2018 and 2019, one justification offered by Turkish leaders was that they did not want “to see Syria become another northern Iraq.” By this, they meant Kurdish autonomy in Iraq, of course.

One-hundred years after the Treaty of Sevres, it looks like “le plus ça change, le plus c’est pareil.”

 

David Romano is Thomas G. Strong Professor of Middle East Politics at Missouri State University.

Decoder

The Treaty of Sevres

Signed on Aug. 10, 1920, the The Treaty of Sevres laid out the Ottoman Empire’s terms of surrender following the First World War. The treaty, which included signatories from Britain, France, Italy and the Ottoman Empire, promised religious and ethnic minorities in Turkey various safeguards to protect them and their rights.


UAE says US sanctions complicate Syria’s return to Arab fold

UAE says US sanctions complicate Syria’s return to Arab fold
Updated 26 min 6 sec ago

UAE says US sanctions complicate Syria’s return to Arab fold

UAE says US sanctions complicate Syria’s return to Arab fold

DUBAI: UAE Foreign Minster Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed said Tuesday the sanctions imposed by the US Caesar’s Act complicate Syria’s return to the Arab fold. 

The return of Syria to the Arab League is in the interest of Syria and other countries of the region, he said.

The minister made the remarks during a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Abu Dhabi. 

He also announced that the UAE is looking forward to developing relations with Russia in various fields, saying: "Russia is a reliable friend and partner."

Meanwhile, Lavrov said that Russia has been in contact with UAE officials on developments in the Gulf and the region’s the stability.


UAE to operate second Barakah nuclear power plant

UAE to operate second Barakah nuclear power plant
Updated 09 March 2021

UAE to operate second Barakah nuclear power plant

UAE to operate second Barakah nuclear power plant
  • The Nawah Energy Company became authorized to operate the second unit over the next 60 years

DUBAI: The UAE announced the issuance of a license to operate the second unit of the Barakah nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi’s Al-Dhafra region, state news agency WAM reported on Tuesday.
The Nawah Energy Company – which is responsible of operating unit one to four of the power plant - became authorized to operate the second unit over the next 60 years, the report said.
The extensive evaluation process during the past five years included a review of the design of the nuclear plant, and a geographical and demographic analysis of its location.
The evaluation process also included the cooling and safety systems of the nuclear reactor, security measures, emergency preparedness procedures, radioactive waste management, and other technical aspects.
The authority also reviewed the readiness of the Nawah Energy Company in making available all the necessary procedures and measures to ensure the safety and security standards of the power plant.
“Today’s announcement represents a milestone in the UAE’s journey and realization of the vision of the wise leadership. It is considered a strategic achievement that culminates in the efforts exerted over the past 13 years,” Permanent Representative of the International Atomic Energy Agency to the UAE Hamad Al-Kaabi said.


Airstrike kills 10 Daesh militants in Nineveh, north of Iraq

Airstrike kills 10 Daesh militants in Nineveh, north of Iraq
Updated 09 March 2021

Airstrike kills 10 Daesh militants in Nineveh, north of Iraq

Airstrike kills 10 Daesh militants in Nineveh, north of Iraq

DUBAI: A US-led coalition airstrike has destroyed a site housing 10 militants from the Daesh group in Nineveh, north of Iraq, according to the country’s state news agency Tuesday. 

“The international coalition warplanes carried out an air strike in Mount Adaya, within the Nineveh sector of operations, which resulted in the destruction of a den containing about 10 members of the Daesh terror group,” the agency reported. 

A brigade from the Iraqi army searched the targeted area after the coalition strike and neutralized two other Daesh militants wearing explosive-laden belts, the report said.


With Internet shutdown, Iran seeks to limit protest outcry

With Internet shutdown, Iran seeks to limit protest outcry
Updated 09 March 2021

With Internet shutdown, Iran seeks to limit protest outcry

With Internet shutdown, Iran seeks to limit protest outcry
  • Rights groups say at least 10 people were killed when security forces opened fire on fuel porters in Sistan-Baluchistan
PARIS: After Iran last month imposed an Internet shutdown lasting several days in a southeastern region during a rare upsurge of unrest, activists say the government is now using the tactic repeatedly when protests erupt.
Rights groups say at least 10 people were killed when security forces opened fire on fuel porters around Saravan in the province of Sistan-Baluchistan on February 22, prompting protests where live ammunition was used on unarmed demonstrators.
But little information filtered out due to a near total shutdown of the Internet in the impoverished region bordering Pakistan, which has a large ethnic Baluch population and has been a flashpoint for cross-border attacks by separatists and Sunni extremists.
The Internet shutdown was a “measure authorities appear to be using as a tool to conceal gross human rights violations and possible international crimes such as extrajudicial killings,” freedom of expression groups Access Now, Article 19 and Miaan Group said in a joint statement with Amnesty International.
Campaigners say such shutdowns, which recall those seen in recent months during street protests in Belarus and Myanmar, have a dual purpose.
They seek to prevent people from using social media messaging services to mobilize protests but also hinder the documentation of rights violations that could be used to rally support at home and abroad.
Iran in November 2019 imposed nationwide Internet limits during rare protests against fuel hikes that the authorities suppressed in a deadly crackdown.
Rights groups fear the same tactic risks being used again during potentially tense presidential elections this summer.

The Sistan-Baluchistan shutdown saw mobile Internet services halted, effectively shutting down the net in an area where phones account for over 95 percent of Internet use.
“It is aimed at harming documentation and the ability of people to mobilize and coordinate,” Mahsa Alimardani, Iran researcher with the Article 19 freedom of expression group, told AFP. “It helps the authorities to be able to control the narrative.”
State media said there were attacks on government buildings in Saravan and that a policeman was killed when unrest spread to the provincial capital Zahedan.
The governor of the city’s region, Abouzarmahdi Nakahei, denounced “fake” reports of deaths in the protests, blaming “foreign media.”
Alimardani noted that targeting mobile Internet connections made the shutdown different from the one seen in November 2019.
Then, Iranians were cut off from international Internet traffic but were able to continue highly-filtered activities on Iran’s homegrown Internet platform the National Information Network (NIN).
She said the documentation of atrocities was the authorities’ biggest fear. “It is a big rallying call when these videos go viral,” she said.


Unlike some other minority groups in Iran like Arabs and Kurds, the Baluch do not have major representation in the West to promote their cause and draw attention to alleged violations on social media.
Most Baluch adhere to the Sunni branch of Islam rather than the Shiism dominant in Iran and rights groups also say Baluch convicts have been disproportionately targeted by executions.
According to information received by Amnesty from Baluchi activists, at least 10 people were killed on February 22 when Revolutionary Guards “unlawfully and deliberately used lethal force” against unarmed Baluchi fuel porters near Saravan.
The crackdown came after the security forces blocked a road to impede the work of the porters, who cross between Iran and Pakistan to sell fuel.
Amnesty added that security forces also used unlawful and excessive force against people who protested in response to the killings, as well as bystanders, leaving another two dead.


Amnesty’s Iran researcher Raha Bahreini told AFP that the toll was a “minimum figure” that Baluchi activists verified after confirming the victims’ names.
The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran have an even higher toll of 23 dead, citing local sources.
The Internet shutdown “severely restricted the flow of information to rights defenders from contacts and eyewitnesses,” Bahreini told AFP.
“The authorities are fully aware they are preventing the outside world from learning about the extent and gravity of violations on the ground,” she added.
She said such unlawful shutdowns had turned into a “pattern” in Iran.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesperson Rupert Colville said that the shutdown has impeded precise verification of the death toll and had “the apparent purpose of preventing access to information about what is happening there.”
The CHRI said Iran blocked Internet access “to kill protesters indiscriminately and out of the public eye and prevent protesters from communicating and organizing.”
“Security forces killed hundreds of protesters with impunity in November 2019, and they are doing it again now,” said its director Hadi Ghaemi.
sjw/jh/jz/oho

Egypt hopes to resume talks with Ethiopia on Grand Renaissance Dam

Egypt hopes to resume talks with Ethiopia on Grand Renaissance Dam
Updated 09 March 2021

Egypt hopes to resume talks with Ethiopia on Grand Renaissance Dam

Egypt hopes to resume talks with Ethiopia on Grand Renaissance Dam

CAIRO: Egypt hopes to resume talks soon with Ethiopia over the controversial mega-dam to reach an agreement that serves the interests of the three parties involved in the dispute, its foreign minister said.   

Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry said his country has been communicating with Ethiopia over the Grand Renaissance Dam, which Cairo fears it will significantly cut its crucial water supplies from the Nile River.

No talks on the matter were made outside the framework of the African Union (AU), Shoukry was cited by local daily Al-Masry El-Youm . The AU has been mediating the talks between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. 

Egypt and Sudan have voiced their concern about the possible threats posed by the dam and how it could negatively affect their water share if Ethiopia abstained from signing a binding and legal agreement on the dam operation and the process of filling its reservoir.