Ahmet Altan • “In one word, it’s the Kurdish question…”

mot kurdish

Turkish children’s tales begin with « rambles » much longer than our « Once upon a time ».

One such ramble says : “I went a little way, I went a long one. I crossed plains and prairies, I cut tulips and hyacinths, flattened rivers and mountains. I drank cool water, I walked for six months and an autumn. I turned around, I looked back and I saw I had only moved forward by the size of a grain of oat. »

Here is an article by Ahmet Altan, published in 2009, when he was a contributor to Taraf, the very controversial newspaper accused of being close to both Erdoğan and Gülen, in the beginning of the period known as « the peace process » or the « resolution process » from 2009-2015.

The “resolution process » was not only promoted by the Kurdish party, it also and mainly served the AKP’s ascendancy, then preoccupied by electoral clientelism and for its image as the « star pupil » in European negotiations, and who considered the process necessary to push aside the Kemalist armed forces from their strongholds. The Gülenists were ardent supporters of this political process, up until their break with the AKP in 2013. The Kurdish movement seized onto the « peace process » both in order to make real gains in matters of language, cultural autonomy and social catching up, and to avoid the division Erdoğan was attempting to bring about by setting the Kurds against the PKK. This welcomed and promising peace initiative was unilateraly interrupted by the AKP regime in 2015.

Ahmet Altan’s position was thus a « progressive » one and stemmed from his unswaying anti-Kemalism. Today it comes across as radical, so much have the elements of the political situation and Erdoğan’s absolute power muddied the waters on what were the positions at the time.

Putting these texts or articles in context will remain complicated as long as the widespread analysis of Erdogan and the AKP’s rise to power will keep under wraps this period of alliances between the AKP, the Gülen movement, the support of the EU and the « forward » moving Kemalist nationalists – alliances that created political reshufflings and the emergence of an opposition other than the one along traditional divisions, and as long as Turkey will be considered in « black and white » terms contrasted with « secularism, Republic, democracy » in the purest Nation-State style.

Yet this text is only 8 years old. And in those eight years, things have only « moved forward by the size of a grain of oat ».

We can only recommend books recently published about this period (notably Ahmet Insel or Hamit Bozarslan), avoiding the usual Kemalist tale, and that you dig again into “les racines du présent”, the excellent Susam Sokak blog.

In one word, the problem is Turkishness.


The Kurdish question in one word

We are citizens of the same country.

We live on the same lands.

Are we equal ?

Let’s put the question more clearly.

Are Turks and Kurds equal ?

Some will answer without hesitation “Of course we are equal ».

How are we equal with the Kurds ?

Turks speak Turkish, Kurds speak Kurdish.

What is the official language of the State?

Turkish.

Therefore we are not equal as far as language goes. The language of one group is « the official language of the State », and the language of the other is not « official ».

In what language is schooling done in the country ?

In Turkish.

Are there schools where Kurdish is taught ?

No.

Are there universities that teach in Kurdish ?

No.

Teaching can even be done in English, in French, but not in Kurdish.

Therefore, we are not equal either as far as schooling goes.

According to the Constitution, how are citizens designated in this country ?

As Turks.

And how do we call the Kurds ?

We also call them Turks.

Are the Kurds Turks ?

No.

Why then do we call them Turks ?

Because the Constitution commands us to do so.

According to the Constitution, can the « Kurdish » citizens of this country be « Kurds » ?

They cannot.

So we are not equal before the Constitution either.

We are not equal as pertains to language, we are not equal as pertains to schooling, we are not equal as pertains to the Constitution.

So in what are we equal ?

We are equal when it comes to doing our military service. Everyone does his military service, without differentiating between a Kurd and a Turk.

We are also equal when it comes to paying taxes. Taxes are collected without differentiating between a Kurd or a Turk.

Therefore, we are equal when it comes to our State « responsibilities ».

But we are not equal when it comes to what we receive from the State.

In your opinion, this is fair ?

You send a man to military service, you take his taxes but you don’t accept equality in language, in schooling and in the Constitution.

Then you ask « Where’s the problem ? »

You get angry and say « Why are you creating problems ? »

You kill humans, you throw them in pits, you shoot them on the streets, you torture them in jail.

When you look at this picture, where do you see the basis for the « Kurdish Problem » ?

For me, there is only one reason.

Inequality.

The fact one people sees the other as its slave.

And that it says in one word « You will accept my race, my language, my domination. »

Why then are we not equals with the Kurds ?

They answer « If we were equal, we would give them the same rights, and the country would split up. »

Whose country would split up ?

Ours.

Who are we ?

The Turks.

Who then are the Kurds ?

Isn’t this their country also ?

The answer is ready-made « Of course, it’s also their country ».

So, if this country belongs to all of us, why are our fears relative to the country not « equal » ?

We’re afraid we’ll be « divided » but why aren’t the Kurds afraid that they will be « divided » ?

Should not the « common owners » of one country have the same fears relative to their common country ?

We are afraid, because we think that we do not behave as « equals » with the Kurds, whom we see as slaves, and that they might want to put an end to that.

If one of a country’s two great people tries to impose its domination on the other by force, il will always be afraid of being « divided ».

And the country ends up by dividing anyway.

If the Kurdish language were one of the official languages, if schooling were done in Kurdish, if the Constitution did not call them « Turks » by force, would the country have a Kurdish problem ?

No.

So the solution to the problem is evident.

What’s more, it is easy and simple.

We would be equal and the problem would come to an end.

Why don’t we put an end to the problem ?

What makes Turks superior to Kurds ?

Is it their numbers, or the fact they have an army ?

Weapons, in other words ?

If you pull out weapons as a starting point, why are you surprised to hear the sound of weapons in the mountains ?

Remove the weapons, stop playing the « lord » by force, there will be no more weapons in the mountain.

There won’t be a problem anymore.

But first, accept before God and before Man, to be « equals ».

Ahmet Altan

August 5 2009


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Renée Lucie Bourges

Auteure, traductrice et interprète


Née au Québec dans une famille franco-irlandaise, elle a vécu et travaillé comme rédactrice et traductrice en Amérique et au Moyen Orient. Elle réside dorénavant dans le sud-ouest de la France d’où elle écrit des romans en anglais, et fraternise au quotidien avec tous les autres funambules de son espèce. Site Internet : iknowiknowiknowblog.wordpress.com


*A word to English-speaking readers: in all instances where the original text is in Turkish or Kurdish, the English version is derived from French translations. Inevitably, some shift in meaning occurs with each translation. Hopefully, the intent of the original is preserved in all cases. While an ideal situation would call for a direct translation from the original, access to information remains our main objective in this exercise and, we hope, makes more sense than would a translation provided by AI….


Renée Lucie Bourges

About Renée Lucie Bourges

Auteure, traductrice et interprète

Née au Québec dans une famille franco-irlandaise, elle a vécu et travaillé comme rédactrice et traductrice en Amérique et au Moyen Orient. Elle réside dorénavant dans le sud-ouest de la France d’où elle écrit des romans en anglais, et fraternise au quotidien avec tous les autres funambules de son espèce. Site Internet : iknowiknowiknowblog.wordpress.com

*A word to English-speaking readers: in all instances where the original text is in Turkish or Kurdish, the English version is derived from French translations. Inevitably, some shift in meaning occurs with each translation. Hopefully, the intent of the original is preserved in all cases. While an ideal situation would call for a direct translation from the original, access to information remains our main objective in this exercise and, we hope, makes more sense than would a translation provided by AI….

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