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'Why are the Kurds not happy? They have everything'.

ySTANBUL (CyHAN)- How come the Kurds are still claiming something? And what exactly are they claiming? How come they are not happy yet? How come the Kurds of Turkey are still resisting and what are they resisting?

People from the Turkish right are categorical: The Kurds have obtained many rights that they couldn't enjoy before the 2000s and thus, they are equal citizens now. They are happy but being manipulated by Western powers.

Even some of my leftist friends are whispering similar things: "They have equality now. It's time to move on to the class struggle."

Humbly, I think that both arguments are false. Kurds are not equal citizens and their identity claims ARE precisely a class struggle. Kurds are still forming an ethno-class in today's Turkey and it's always easier to mobilize based on identity than on social class. In addition, even if Kurds were in a good state, they wouldn't give up. I have bad news for both sides: it is not possible anymore to satisfy the Kurds with the present state organization. The state is seen as something oppressive, bringing more pressure than services and attacking more than protecting. It won't stop. Let me try to explain.

Like many nation-building processes, Turkish nationalism had three main steps... and it was successful. The dream of the Turkish nationalist project was to build a homogeneous nation from the very mixed and intermingled population of Anatolia.

The first issue was to cleanse the territory of autochthonous groups. This process targeted mainly non-Muslims of Anatolia because the main criterion for belonging to the Turkish nation was to belong to Islam. This can be seen as natural, insofar as the millet system of the Ottoman Empire had been built on religious affiliation from the fall of Constantinople (or the conquest of ystanbul, it depends on your perspective) until the 1839 Edict of GE-lhane. During this first step, the two main, local non-Muslim groups of Anatolia and Thrace, somehow, disappeared: Greeks and Armenians. They were expelled and killed not because they were Greeks and Armenians but because they were Christians. For example, Turkish-speaking Orthodox Christians were also expelled during the compulsory exchange of populations of 1923. From the beginning, Turkishness has been equal to Muslimness as a category for belonging.

After this first step of extermination, the second step of assimilation started. Thanks to the state's ideological apparatus, Muslim populations, mainly from the Balkans and the Caucasus have been assimilated and have taken on a Turkish identity through a nationalist education and the Turkish language. I -- and many of my colleagues -- don't think that the remaining non-Muslim groups of Turkey have been subject to assimilation. They weren't seen as assimilable. They have been subjected to invisibility policies and/or forced or volunteer exile policies, but not assimilation policies. Other non-Turkish groups like Cretans, Bosnians, Pomaks, Circassians, Dagestanis and so on have been successfully assimilated and became "good Turks."

The third step is what I call "folklorization." After these two steps, there were still cultural differences in Anatolia. These local particularities have been "folklorized" and transformed into non-dangerous, touristic and funny specificities. Until the 2000s -- when some local ethnic and linguistic identities woke up (mainly thanks to the Kurdish identity struggle) -- for the majority, a Laz invokes funny stories; a Bosnian, Bosnian bE[micro]rek; a Circassian kind of chicken...

The only group that resisted the strategy behind these three steps is the Kurdish one. Very briefly (I do not have the place here to analyze it in depth):

-- Kurds were not exterminated between 1908 (the Young Turks' coup) and 1923 (the foundation of the republic) because they were Muslims. Some Kurdish tribes -- those dominating the region -- even participated in the extermination process, especially in 1915.

It wasn't possible to assimilate them despite tremendous repetitive linguistic and forced emigration/immigration policies because they were autochthonous. In other words, it was easy to force other non-Turkish communities of Turkey into Turkishness because they had been "coming" to Anatolia for only one century. Kurds were/are not coming from somewhere else; it is an indigenous community.

And finally they haven't been "folklorized" because there were/are too many of them. They are a majority in Turkish Kurdistan (and in other parts of Kurdistan). Their cultural specificities are too strong to be "folklorized".

Turkish nation-building was a success for many non-Turkish communities and a huge failure for Kurds.

And the bad news for my right and left-wing friends: What was impossible for a century is even more impossible today because the Kurds have also entered into a nation-building process. There is no possible return. In 2015, the Kurds will not let themselves be exterminated. They won't be assimilated by forgetting their language. And they won't accept being reduced to a cute local community offering authentic culinary specialities to tourists coming from ystanbul or London. They won't disappear or become invisible.

The only way to keep the Kurds within the Turkish Republic is to make them happy and not the opposite. It will require a new social contract, a new identity contract under which they can govern their own life spaces through an authentic decentralization project. If this project is not realized sincerely, if, as my friend and teacher Baskyn Oran says, the Turkish republican project of the 1920s and 1930s is not brought to "room temperature," this conflict will remain, intensify and finally will result in a divorce -- and not an amicable one.

SAMyM AKGEuNE[pounds sterling]L (Cihan/Today's Zaman) CyHAN

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Publication:Cihan News Agency (CNA)
Date:Sep 29, 2015
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