The Case of Kurdistan Against Turkey by Prince Sureya Bedr Khan
COPYRIGHT 2005 Kurdish Library
Much of the organized propaganda for Turkey--Old and New--as distinguished from amateurish prattle, reflects necessarily the varying interests of the propagandists. The Italian press but yesterday condemned vociferously Kemal's pretensions and ridiculed his innovations; today, with the signing of a treaty which promises Italy certain economic advantages in Turkey, it professes with equal zeal admiration for the courage and far-sightedness of Kemal. The American missionary also, a short time ago only, could see no hope for the Turk who, in ten years, had annihilated over ninety-five per cent of the gains attained by the missionary in a hundred years. But today the same missionary meekly and with apparent sincerity, even at the price of a complete denial and abandonment of his primary purpose, accepts employment under Turkish direction, and has become the Turk's most zealous apologist and advocate before the world. We may not altogether agree with the wisdom and morality of these violent and artificial changes of attitude, but we can at least understand the motives of the actors. (2)
That sort of propaganda, however, can neither help the Turk nor alter the essential facts. From a far-flung empire, with an area of over 1,600,000 square miles and an estimated population of 45,000,000 in 1842, Turkey has shrunk to a mere shadow of her former self--320,000 square miles in area, with an estimated population of 5,500,000. More than one-half of this Turkey is in a state of complete desolation, deserted, in heaps of ruins, a veritable No Man's Land. The overwhelming majority of her people, of whom perhaps 3,500,000 are Turks, are steeped in deep ignorance, subject to hopeless, abject poverty, waiting fantastically for something to happen that may perhaps improve their unbearable lot--or end it. They care not whether they are made to wear a fez or a hat, nor whether Kemal adopts the Latin alphabet or the Swiss Code. Their only concern is that those racial elements which hitherto furnished them bread and loot are no longer there, and they themselves lack the initiative, intelligence and the means to keep body and soul together.
Taxes are nearly three times higher today than before the War; the cost of living about two and a half times greater, but the scale of wages, which hovered at around starvation point even before the War, is either at a standstill, or in spots perhaps fifty per cent higher. In the Province of Iconium, the agricultural center of Turkey, nearly 300,000 peasants are in the grip of famine, and in the region of Harpoot, where a workman, if he should be fortunate enough to find work, can earn no more than 25 cents a day, sugar is 50 cents a pound, and bread 20 cents. These are typical instances of the general misery of the people throughout Turkey. (3)
The "budget" of the Government is fixed arbitrarily at $95,000,000; but the revenue, in reality, is barely two-thirds of that, and over one-half of the revenue used for the army. Bribe taking commonly known as Bakshish--an almost legalized institution in pre-war Turkey--is today practiced even more methodically and systematically than ever before. The Turkish official must eat.
In an effort to distract attention from this tragic condition of things, much noise is made by a few hundred Gallicized Turks, and especially interested foreigners, about the so-called reforms, which exist chiefly on paper, and isolated attempts at reconstruction.
A few miles of military railways have been constructed; a number of new buildings have been put up at Angora and Constantinople; some tractors, motors and other machinery have been imported; but these haphazard gestures only compel the conclusion that Kemalist Turkey possesses neither the brains nor the resources to realize the aims and ambitions of its spokesmen. (4)
The pretensions as to Kemal's military and diplomatic successes and capacities are equally misleading. True, Kemal conquered a Greek army which refused to fight, and, also he overcame the Armenian Republic of Erivan. But in the autumn of 1922, he dared not cross the line defined at the Dardanelles by General Harrington, who commanded a force of only 20,000 men. The policy of tolerance which the Allies pursued at Lausanne, and are still pursuing, was dictated solely by certain provisions of the treaty of alliance between Angora and Moscow. One of these provisions is that, under certain conditions, the Bolsheviki will lend military help to Turkey. Kemal knows too well that it would be quite a risky thing for him to be rescued by the Reds, yet a drowning man clutches at a straw. The Allies fully realize the possible consequences of pressing Kemal too hard because, if the Reds should once enter Turkey, it might be quite difficult to dislodge them. That is the sum total of Kemal's alleged military power. It is also the secret of his arrogance.
The inevitable process of economic and physical disintegration is now taking plce in Turkey. An examination of the Kurdish problem will shed much light upon the background and ultimate issue of this process.
Turks' Policy Toward Non-Turks
The Turks' policy toward the non-Turks--Greek, Armenian, Kurd, Serb, Arab and others--from the beginning to cause and a common purpose ... That policy is fixed and directed by a realization of his own physical (numerical) inadequacy, his economic sterility and inability to survive. In consequence, by the natural urge of self-preservation, he has sought to make up and supplement his native defects in these respects by the pacific or forced assimilation of other races and by loot. Deprived of these two artificial sources of life, the Turks as a ruling race would long since have died out from inanition.
Heredity, training, religious fanaticism, intrigue, provocation, and what not have been and may again be offered in explanation of the Turk's outbursts of savagery. In reality, the root of all these abnormal manifestations has been and is the desire of the Turk to strengthen and sustain his race--by the abnormal means of forced accretions.
Most races seek and have sought to live and to grow through normal processes--with due regard to the rights of others. In this respect, the Turk is perhaps the only exception in the annals of history; he has so far maintained his ranks and has recruited his racial ranks by drawing upon others, quite regardless of their rights. Considerations of morality aside, the status of the Turk in the civilized world is both extraordinary and anomalous. Even the Turkish chauvinist now realizes that the life of the parasite can last no longer than that of his victims, and he is today faced for the first time, with the grim, cruel law that his life is strictly limited to his own capacity and ability to reproduce and produce.
Since this is the crux of the Turk's problem, of which the Kurdish problem and the Armenian problem are only by-products, the subject deserves further elucidation.
Rise and Decadence of the Turk
The course of Turkish history, down to the rise of the Young Turks, has been marked by three main stages. It has now entered the fourth, and perhaps the last, stage.
A review of the physical and political development of the Turk will show that his great adventure--a mere prowling jaunt in the beginning--gradually grew into an organized industry, under such euphonious titles as Sultanate, Empire and Republic, from the earliest times always motivated by the necessity and the purpose to enslave or to annihilate, to loot or to absorb. It will also reveal the fundamental cause of his unending troubles with the non-Turks on one hand, and the hopelessness of his latest attempt at survival on his own account on the other.
A Mongolian, his habitat in Central Asia, the Turkish race comprised many millions of predatory tribes, under the leadership of irreconcilable chieftains. One of these tribes, as early as the third century, had established a great State, reaching from Manchuria to India. In the eighth century, this State fell under the rule of the Arabs. (5) The Turks then embraced Islam and, through pacific assimilation, increased their numbers and power, and placed men of their own race on the Arabian throne.
Later, the Seljuks, another Turkish tribe, entered this Arab state, now under the overlordship of their kin, absorbed it to the extent of exploiting its resources for their own purposes, and, in the middle of the eleventh century, had extended their rule over Persia, Mesopotamia and Syria, to the very edge of the lands which bear today their racial title--Turkey.
This is the first stage of Turkish history. During this period--nearly 700 years--as down to our own day, the Turk increased his numbers by pacific or, at need, forced assimilation, always depending for his own economic wants upon loot and the labor of those who fell under his power.
Turkish Tide at Vienna--and Back
We enter the second stage of Turkish history. The Turk was now in military control of Persia, Mesopotamia and Syria. Gathering under his banner motley legions of adventurers, mercenaries and renegades from many lands and climes, and with the virility and desperate courage of the brigand, reinforced by religious zeal and lust for booty, the Turk set out to gain the mastery of Asia Minor.
The whole of Asia Minor, from Ararat to the Dardanelles and from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, soon became his field of operations. At the extreme end, there was the little Armenian Kingdom of Ani, which was soon to succumb to Byzantine treachery and Mongol assaults (1046), to be replaced (1080) as the home of the Armenians by the Cilician (6) Kingdom along the Mediterranean, which survived till 1375. All through the rugged mountain chain, from Ararat to the Amanus, on the western edge of Syria, was held by the Kurds, under numerous chieftains, whose sole concern was the protection of their tents and homes. Beyond this thin Kurdish curtain, which screened off the Seljuk Turks from their objective, lay Asia Minor, populous and stored with dazzling riches, governed by pleasure-loving effete politicians, in the name of Byzantium. (7)
Between 1048 and 1071, while the armies of Byzantium were struggling in the northwest against the Slavs, the Seljuk Turks, methodically and persistently, worked their way into Asia Minor. They murdered whole populations; enslaved and carried away unnumbered girls and children; and looted and lay waste as far as their dominion reached. The Mongol Turk who, during the first stage of his westerly progress, had assimilated the Semitic Arab, now began to assimilate the Aryan Greek.
In 1971, Alp-Aslan, the Seljuk, inflicted a crushing defeat on Emperor Diogenes of Byzantine at Manazguert, in the region of Van, and then pushed his way almost to the very edge of the Sea of Marmora. It was in 1288 that the Ottoman Turks, under their leader, Ertogrul, number 444 tents, who had entered the domains of the Seljuks in 1257, were granted a tract of land at Sugut, midway between Angora and Brusa, and subsequently, fell heir to the estate of Alp-Aslan, the Seljuk Turk.
The passing of power from the Seljuks into the hands of the Osmanli Turks was accomplished without serious friction. Apart from the racial and religious kinship and common schooling, the Osmanlis found themselves under the same necessity to pursue toward the non-Turks the policy of their predecessors.
The Turk murdered to overcome opposition, to terrorize and to weaken his subjects; he forced multitudes to embrace Islam; he filled his harem with the girls and women of almost all the races which fell under him.
Orkhan, the second Sultan (1326-1359), by law, decreed that Christian families should deliver to the State, as a special tax, male children between the ages of 7 and 10. In 1453, when Mahomet captured Constantinople, he massacred or enslaved the whole population. Suleyman, in 1526, in one of his fifteen invasions of Hungary, massacred 200,000, and enslaved 100,000. Serb, Arab, Greek, Kurd, Armenian, Albanian, Circassian, from the beginning of the Turk's rule to this day, have been compelled to furnish their quotas of flesh and goods toward the preservation and sustenance of the Turk. It is extremely doubtful if ten out of a hundred of present day Turks, now numbering about 3,500,000 can trace their ancestry back to the invading Turkish race.
It is likewise remarkable that the overwhelming majority of Turkish leaders, generals and statesmen, and all the Sultans, following the tenth Sultan, have been and are either renegades or of mixed parentage. Mahomet's Admiral, who captured Constantinople, was a renegade Bulgarian. Talaat, Turkey's war-time Grand Vizier, was a Bulgarian Pomak, and his two immediate predecessors--Shevket and Prince Halim--were Arabs. Mustapha Kemal is the grandson of a renegade Croat from Nish. Ismet, his Premier, is a Kurd from Rafan, and so is also Fevzi, his former Premier and now Chief of Staff, a Kurd from Tarjan; Reouf, another of Kemal's Premiers, now an exile, is a Circassian. Indeed, renegades, the endless internecine strife of conquered races and the jealousies interse of the great nations are what have made possible the success of the Turk and the preservation of his power to this day. Kemal's success, albeit temporary, is due to the conflicting interests of the Principal Allies of Western Europe and to the support of the Reds. (
How, then, it may be asked, can we account for the survival of millions of non-Turks, if the Turk was bent upon murder, forced assimilation and loot as essential guarantees of self-preservation? The answer is that the Turk's policy toward the non-Turks was limited by both his power and his opportunity as well as by considerations of self-interest.
When Mahomet captured Constantinople he massacred and enslaved the whole population; but he allowed the Greek and Armenian to conduct the business of the nation and engage in productive pursuits for the wants of the State. Greeks, at some places, notably in Crete, were never completely subjugated. In the mountains of Sassoon and Zeitun, even down to our own day, the Armenian maintained himself in a state of rebellion. The Serb fought the invader in the Black Mountains; the Albanian mountaineer never bowed to him. The Kurds, up to a century ago, never allowed his Zapties and tax gatherers within the precincts of Kurdistan, and even today he holds fringes of his soil against the pretensions of Kemal.
The main and the specific point which I desire to stress is this: From the beginning of his career to this day, the Turk increased and replenished his numbers by drawing upon other races, and he maintain his State and himself by robbery and brigandage. He never built, and never produced. Limited to his own capacities and resources, he must, naturally and inevitably, succumb.
From Vienna to the World War
The almost uninterrupted westerly advance of the Turkish tide was beaten back at the gates of Vienna in 1683, and in 1774 Turkey suffered even a greater defeat at the hands of Russia, and was compelled to accept the first humiliating Treaty (at Kutchuk-Kainardji), which granted Russia the right to be interested in the lot of the Orthodox subjects of the Sultan. The Turk was now on the defensive.
In this third stage of Turkish history, the problem that faced the Turk, insofar as it concerned his treatment of the non-Turk and his own problem of self-preservation, took on a new and more serious character.
The Turk was in a hopeless minority, in a sea of hostile races, in an alien world. He was now faced by two aggressive, powerful foreign States--Russia and Austria, and, later, by England and France as well. The subject races in Turkey no longer submitted meekly to the cruelty and exactions of the Government. Not only were they now conscious of their own ability to protest and resist, and of the inherent weaknesses of the ruling Turks, but they could now look to the Great Powers for help and protection.
On the other hand, if the Turk granted his subjects their just demands for equality and freedom, they would gradually assert economic and political independence; but, if he did not not, he would then drive them to rebellion, and court the intervention of the Powers.
The Turk, therefore, resorted to a policy of deception and bribery--a policy which is still today the very foundation and life of Kemalist Turkey. Between 1774 and 1913, the Turk agreed, in twenty-one international documents, to inaugurate reform measures in this or that section of his realm, and he changed the form of his government nine times. He bought off nations with gold and concessions, and by playing upon their conflicting political and economic interests.
Tactics or duplicity, however, only retarded the inevitable course of events. One race after another broke loose from Turkish grip. From the high tide of his power to this day, races numbering nearly 80,000,000, in Europe, in Asia and in Africa, have thrown off his yoke.
With the accession of Abd-ul-Hamid to power in 1877, the Turk found himself in the necessity of adopting a different national and international policy for his own preservation. Hamid believed, even as Mahomet, conqueror of Constantinople, that the non-Turk was the mainstay of the Turkish State; he also believed the chief danger to his throne lay in the ever-recurring interferences of the Powers. The foundation of his internal policy was to make lavish promises of reforms, which he would not and could not fulfill, and he sought to ward off the aggression of the Powers by an appeal to the sentiment and influence of Islam, as Califf. This new policy of Pan-Islamism served the purpose of England in holding Russia in leash; but it had no influence whatever upon the subject races in Turkey. Rebellions became the order of the day--in Albania, in Arabia, in Macedonia, in Cilician Armenia--and the futility of half-measures to satisfy the subject races and the impossibility of holding together much longer this heterogeneous mass known as Turkey, became clear to the ruler and subject alike.
Young Turks in Power
The Young Turks, now known as Kemalists, attained power in 1908, with the avowed purpose of preventing, if possible, the then threatened dismemberment of Turkey. We need not here discuss the value, much less the earnestness, of any of their professions of fraternity, equality, etc. We then knew the hidden aims and convictions, which were to shape their policy toward the non-Turks, and which they have since tried to put into execution.
According to the Young Turks, Pan-Islamism was an asset of questionable value: even the Moslem Arab, Kurd and Albanian frowned upon it, and cherished separate ambitions. The subject races would not be satisfied with reform measures, and, furthermore, such reform measures would be more to the advantage of the non-Turk than that of the Turk. Elimination of the non-Turk was the only sure guarantee of removing at once the cause of internal disorders and rebellion as well as of foreign interferences. But the elimination of the non-Turk would also destroy the racial elements upon which the Turk had heretofore drawn to increase and replenish his ranks and for his economic existence. It was, therefore, necessary for them to join hands with the Turco-Tartars (Turanians) beyond Turkey--in Persia, in the Trans-Caucasus and beyond the Caspian. S, for Hamid's Pan-Islamism, they substituted Pan-Turanism. (9)
Young Turk Kemalist Policy Toward Non-Turks
The Young Turks entered the world war with the purpose of putting this policy into execution. (10)
In 1914, there were four principal racial elements in Turkey: Arabs, Greeks, Armenians and Kurds. Expediency and opportunity determined the time and form of action with regard to each of these races.
While the Greek was looked upon as an element of disturbance and as nursing separatist ambitions, even as the Armenian and Kurd, the latter two races had one additional drawback of separating the Turk from his Turanian kin in Persia, in the Trans-Caucasus and beyond the Caspian.
The Young Turks destroyed, during the war, about a quarter of a million Greeks; about 200,000 Lebanese; executed scores of Arab leaders, and deported nearly 700,000 Kurds, of whom all but one-half perished. But the full force of their vengeance fell upon the Armenian. They murdered nearly one-half or a million of the Armenians in Turkey and enslaved over a hundred thousand girls and children.
With the defeat of the Central Powers, the Arabic portions of Turkey--Mesopotamia, Arabia and Syria--broke loose from her rule. Then Mustapha Kemal took up the task of carrying into completion the plan of his former associates in the matter of ridding Turkey of the non-Turks.
Taking advantage of the dilatory policy of the Allied and Associated Nations in liquidating the Turkish problem, and with the active help and connivance of certain Powers, particularly, of Bolshevist Russia, Kemal set up a military dictatorship.
Kemal destroyed, between 1919 and 1923, nearly 750,000 Greeks. Of the pre-war Greek population in Turkey, estimated at a minimum of 2,500,000, about 1,380,000 found refuge in Greece and there are now no more than 100,000 Greeks remaining in Constantinople. He destroyed or expelled all but 100,000 of the surviving Armenians, and he undertook a fierce war of extermination upon the Kurdish people, culminating in the Kurdish revolution of 1925, and the subsequent declaration by Kurdistan of her independence and the state of war, which has ensued between Turkey and Kurdistan.
I will now address myself to the task of presenting the Kurd and his case.
The Kurd--Race and Tongue
The Kurd, or Gordyene, the aborigine of his present-day habitat from time immemorial, is now recognized, like the Portuguese, Spaniard, South Italian and many Persians, as a member of the Mediterranean branch of the Caucasian of Aryan family.
About 1,000 B.C. northern Aryan groups penetrated as shepherd colonies through the Caucasus range into the State of the Medes, bringing along with them their Aryan tongue and their Zoroastrian faith. They called themselves and their tongue, Parsee or Pharsi. In the 6th Century, B.C., they had imposed their racial title and tongue upon most of the Medes, and, in 538 B.C., under the leadership of Cyrus, they organized the Parseeian or Persian Empire. During the reign of Darius (485 B.C.), most Medes had become merged with the invading Persians.
The pressure of the conquering Persians upon the Medes for centuries drew the Kurd and Mede into closer sympathy and contact, and the subsequent fusion of the Persian and of most Medes resulted also in the merging of many Medes with Kurdish tribes, and in the ultimate disappearance of the Mede as a separate racial entity.
The Parthian, also, like the Mede, was largely absorbed by the Persian, and partly by the Kurd. With time, the blood of the Persian invader became almost completely assimilated with allied strain of the Mede and of the Parthian. The racial kinship between the Kurd and the Persian of today is thus traced to the Mede and the Parthian, merged in the Persian and the Kurd.
The tongue of the Persians, Old Persian, is closely related to Zendic, an Iranian language, and to the Sanscrit of Hindustan. The Old Persian ceased to be a living tongue about 4th century B.C., but from it are derived the Modern Persian, Pehlevi or the Parthian, the Medic and the present-day Kurdish dialects. (11)
The Greeks perhaps gave the Kurd his racial name. Herodotus refers to the Kurds as a warlike people, the descendants of Carduques, who hindered the retreat of Xenophon's ten thousand (401-400 B.C.).
The Kurds called themselves GUTUS, which signifies warrior. In the Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions, there are references to them as GARDANS, KARCTANS, OR CARDACS and they are classed together with such important contemporary races as the Hittites, the Elamites and the Asdekians of Babylonia.
The tribe has always been, as now, the unit of the Kurdish race. Scores of tribes, much like the clans of the Scots, have managed, with varying fortunes, to maintain semi-independence or local autonomy under Cyrus and Xerxes, the Macedonians, the Parthians, the Arabs, and the Turks.
At times, their power grew into mighty states, and they imposed their rule upon neighboring races. Before the dawn of Islam in the 6th century the Kurdish tribe of Gauran under Goatanza, their chief, founded a great state embracing the present Persian Tabriz, and beyond, with its capital at Kirmanshah.
The sweep of Islam, however, in the 7th and 8th centuries, (12) gathered in its momentum not only the Kurd's political power, but also influenced profoundly and materially altered his faith and his moral code, ultimately to his association with the Turk, and his inevitable debasement and misfortunes in consequence. (13)
The rule of the Arab over conquered races was a mild, almost benevolent, despotism; the Arab, however, was at the same time the crusader of a new religion, and he forced the Kurd to abjure and abandon his ancestral pagan faith, and accept, instead, Mohamedanism. He also compelled the Kurd to give up his own alphabet, and to use, instead, Arabic characters. (14)
This violent and abnormal change in the cultural life of the race naturally produced a bewildering confusion of speech and dialects among the tribes and in the end resulted in the decadence of Kurdish letters.
Kurds' Height of Power
But not even the might of the Khalifs of Bagdad, nor the kinship of faith which now existed between the Kurd and Arab, could long keep the Kurd in subjection. Between 888 and 905 many Kurdish tribes rose in rebellion against the domination of their Arab rulers, asserting their independence.
In the XIIth century, Salaheddin (Saladin), the Conqueror, established the vast empire of Eyoubi. He challenged Richard the Lion Hearted and destroyed Richard's armada. The power of the Kurd at that time extended as far as Khorassan in Persia, Egypt, and the western limits of Syria.
During the intermittent Tartar and Mongol invasions of the Near East in the 14th and 15th centuries, the Kurds enjoyed a period of welcome peace and quiet, while Turk and Persian were engaged in an ever-growing sectarian quarrel, which was to determine also the political destiny of the Kurd.
It is perhaps one of the greatest tragedies of Kurdish history that Persian and Kurd, sprung from a common racial stock professing a common faith, and enjoying a common social and cultural inheritance, could not bridge the chasm of a minor sectarian difference, which divides them. The Persians are Shiite Moslems, and the Kurds, Sunni Moslems. (15) The antagonism and distrust, wholly purposeless and unnecessary, which this sectarian discord created and nursed between the two races, soon became the cause of their humiliation and of unending misfortunes.
Kurds and Turks Enter into Treaty
In 1514 the mighty Sultan Selim I of Turkey undertook his campaign for the subjugation of Shiite Persia, then under the rule of Shah Ismail. The road that led to Persia was held by semi-independent and powerful Kurdish tribes. The Kurds could hardly, therefore, remain neutral in this religious conflict; they had to choose between the Sunni Turk--their own sect--and the Shiite Persian. They threw in their lot with their co-sectarians, the Turks.
The victorious Turkish Sultan, on his way back from his Persian expedition, was lavishly feted by Kurdish tribal chiefs. He gave assurances to them of his solicitude and respect for their independence. The Kurds, deeply impressed by the bravery and magnanimity of Selim, offered him a political and military alliance.
Thus, in 1514, there was concluded between Turkey and twenty-three Kurdish States a Treaty of Amity and Alliance, drafted by Idris, a Kurd, and approved and signed by Selim, of which the following is the substance:
I. All existing, signatory Kurdish States will retain their full independence.
II. Succession will pass from father to son, or shall be regulated according to the laws of the country, the Sultan recognizing the legitimate successor by Imperial firman.
III. The Kurds shall participate in all wars by Turkey.
IV. Turkey shall assist the Kurdish states against foreign aggression.
V. The Kurds will contribute customary religious gifts (something like Peter's Pence) to the Purse of the Khalif.
Turks Violate Treaty
For over one hundred and fifty years, following the Treaty of 1514 between Turkey and the Kurdish States, the Kurds faithfully fulfilled their obligation to Turkey. They took part in all the wars of Turkey--wars of offense and defense--and sacrificed tens of thousands of lives.
But the Turks, as usual, failed to keep faith. Plunder and enslavement have always been the mainspring of Turkish actions, and intrigue and the scimitar the instruments of their rule.
No sooner was Sultan Suleyman beaten back at the gates of Vienna in 1683 than he set himself to a campaign of intrigue and treachery in the Kurdish States, designed to stir hate and disunion among them. Without apparently interfering with their independence, Suleyman arbitrarily designated a Governor General, who was to make his headquarters at Diarbekir, and was to be the intermediary between the Kurdish States and Constantinople.
Thereafter, the policy of "Divide and Conquer" was followed with its usual success. Gradually, but surely, the Turkish invader, equipped with an inexhaustible supply of pretexts, seized the Kurdish States, and made them into Provinces. By the middle of the nineteenth century, during the rule of Abd-ul-Medjid, the Turk had annexed to his dominion almost all of the Kurdish lands, allowing the tribal chiefs only a mere nominal autonomy.
In 1847, Prince Bedr Khan, ruler of Djezireh, the strongest remaining Kurdish State, was challenged by the Turkish Sultan to a test of authority. The Turkish armies, numbering over 100,000 men, suffered disastrous defeats at the hands of Bedr Khan; but Bedr Khan succumbed to the treachery of his own cousin, and the last remaining seat of Kurdish independence fell to the Turks.
Since that time the Kurdish people, without a shepherd, and broken into many and irreconcilable factions, have been persecuted and bruised, and subjected to a thousand wrongs at the hands of the Turk. (16)
Before the World War, religion was the common denominator of the nationality and nationalism in Turkey. To the Turk, there were only Moslems and Infidels. The Turk called himself "Moslem," not "Turk." He was the ruling race, and any race which enjoyed, with the Turk, the common patronymic" of Moslem was marked off from the rest of the people and enjoyed certain exclusive privileges, and performed certain duties, which were neither granted to nor imposed upon the others.
The Turk carried arms. His main concern was to hold in check and exploit the conquered races, particularly the non-Moslem. He reserved to himself the task of soldiering. The "infidel" was not allowed to carry arms, and he was exempted from military service in consideration of a nominal head tax.
The Kurd, however, shared the rights and duties of the Moslem Turk and also many of his limitations and his weaknesses. The constant and ever increasing exactions of military service depleted the Kurd's manpower; made of the woman an animal of burden; hindered and smothered the productive effort of the Kurd; demoralized and degraded his cultural life, and dragged him down to the low level of the Turk. (17)
Throughout this process of suppression and oppression to which the Kurd was subjected in common even with the Turk, he, unlike the Christian, had neither the right nor the opportunity to complain of his lot, either to the Government, which was nominally at least his own, or to the world. His lot was in fact even more cruel than that of the Turk because the Turkish ruler used him as his agent against the Armenian, 18 and as the agent he had to bear the greater part of the indignation and the contumely aroused throughout the world by this savage course, perpetrated at the instigation of an for the benefit of the Turk. It was primarily the Kurd who was denounced before civilization as a marauder and murderer.
Following the Armenian massacres of 1894-96, under the inspiration of Abd-ul-Hamid, a group of Kurdish leaders came at last to a realization of the disastrous effects of misguided religious fervor upon their people, as well as of the folly and the infamy of the Turk's Pan-Islamic policy. These Kurdish leaders felt that if the Kurds should continue much longer to serve as a pawn and an instrument in the hands of a mad and unscrupulous ruler, they would not only forfeit forever the right to appeal to the conscience of mankind, the civilized world, but that the Kurdish people, even as the Turks, would seal the doom of their existence.
A short time before the advent of the Young Turks in 1908, Kurdish leaders started a movement looking toward the disentanglement of Kurdish life from that of the Turk, and the restoration of the cultural and national ideals and independence of the Kurdish people.
Young Turks' Kurdish Policy
In 1907, the edifice of the Turkish State was tottering. A few gallicized Turks, who called themselves "Young Turks," and who had found refuge in Europe, appealed to Armenians, Kurds, Greeks and Macedonians, to make common cause in an effort to overthrow the Hamidian tyranny, and to set up a constitutional regime founded upon the principles of equality fraternity and liberty.
In the historic Congress of Paris in 1907, a pact was made between the Young turks and the leaders of the oppressed nationalities in turkey to realize the high aims professed by the Young Turks. The uprising of Salonika, in July 1908, was the outcome of the common efforts of the representatives of these various racial groups which joined in the Pact of Paris. On July 24, 1908, Hamid was forced to proclaim a constitutional system of government, and the reins of power passed into the hands of the Young Turks.
But no sooner had the Young Turks attained power than they brazenly repudiated the pledges of the Pact of Paris. They now made it clear that while they did not believe in the efficacy of the Pan-Islamic policy of Hamid--although they were ready to exploit Islam world opinion in favor of Turkey--the foundation of their policy toward the non-Turks was the Ottomanization or Turkification of the Non-Turks. They would enforce that policy by assimilation, if possible; by elimination, if necessary.
From 1908 to 1914 they pursued that policy. In the case of the Moslem Kurd, they tried the policy of assimilation; in the case of the Armenian, that of elimination. But the pace was too slow to satisfy them. They entered the World War primarily to fulfill the Turkification or the elimination of the Kurd, Armenian and Greek.
This policy was the first step toward Pan-Turanism. Once rid of racial problems within the bounds of Turkey, they planned to reach out beyond the frontiers of Turkey and join hands with the Turanians or Turks of Persian and Russian Azerbaidjan, as well as with those beyond the Caspian.
Kurds During the War
The story of the tragedy of the Armenian people during the War is well known, and need not be rehearsed here, except that the deportation of nearly three-fourths of the two million Armenians who lived in Turkey in 1914, and the massacre and enslavement of nearly a million of them, were parts of a pre-conceived and calculated plan, designed to eliminate the Armenian as an inassimilable element in Turkish life and stumbling-block in the path of the Turk toward the execution of his pan-Turanian adventure.
The failure of the Dardanelles expedition freed the Turk, for the first time, from the influence and restraint of European opinion. It also rendered available detachments of troops and irregulars, which were promptly employed to execute the plan of Armenian extermination, or to put down the Armenians' resistance at five or six localities.
Turks Deport 700,000 Kurds
Under these conditions, the Young Turks undertook the "assimilation" of the Moslem Kurd at first through pacific processes. They prevailed upon the accommodating Sultan Khaliff Rechad V. to sign a decree, which provided for the deportation of the Kurdish people from their ancestral homes and their settlement among the Turks in Western Anatolia, in proportion of 10 Kurds to 100 Turks. The two races professed a common faith and the Kurds would now be compelled to speak Turkish, and, according to the authors of this crime, the second Kurdish generation would become thoroughly Turkified.
Before proceeding to the mass "assimilation" thus planned, the Turks tried out the process first by deporting groups of Kurdish notables. They discovered, much to their surprise, that the Kurds were just as averse to becoming "assimilated" as the Armenians. Losing patience, they therefore decreed for the Kurds the fate of the Armenians.
The Register of the Director General of Emigration in Constantinople discloses the ghastly fact that in 1915 the Young Turks deported 700,000 Kurds from Kurdistan to Western Anatolia. Girls, women and children of tender age were enslaved by the thousands; hunger, disease and privation exacted a terrible toll on the long caravans of these helpless human beings; heaps of corpses and of the dying filled many ditches and dotted the whole line of this colossal crime upon the life of the race. Not even one-half of these unfortunates reached their destination. No one knows how many of them survive today. The extermination of the Kurd had now become a settled and avowed policy of the Turk.
Kurds Fight for Turks
At the outbreak of the War, most Kurds of military age were drafted into the Turkish army. In the absence of any means of communication with their home folks, they were kept in complete ignorance of the plans and acts of the Turkish Government in Kurdistan. Also, the Government was prosecuting a vigorous anti-Armenian and anti-Christian campaign among the Kurdish regular and irregular troops.
The real or artificial antipathy of the Armenian for the Kurd had long been deeply rooted and sedulously cultivated in the Kurdish mind by Turkish propagandists. The Young Turks now told the Kurds that the Armenians had made common cause with the Allies; that only a month or so before the entry of Turkey into the war, the Armenians of the Trans-Caucasus and of Turkey had entered into a written agreement with Russia, whereby Russia would help them in the invasion and conquest of Turkish Armenia and of Kurdistan, and that quite naturally the Armenian would exact a terrible vengeance from the Kurd for past wrongs, etc.
This sort of propaganda was impressive and convincing. It won the Kurdish fighter to the side of the Moslem Turk. In thus playing into the hands of the Turks, the Kurds suffered terribly both physically and morally, and contributed greatly to the destruction of their own fortunes and homes, and to their present plight.
After the Armistice
During the last days of October '9'8, the ring-leaders of the Young Turk camarilla saw the handwriting on the wall, and they turned the Government over to a "pro-ally" group, Reouf Bey, who subsequently became Kemal's Premier, signed for Turkey the Armistice of Moudros with the Allies. The Articles of the Armistice provided expressly for terms of peace, including the expulsion of Turkey from non-Turkish regions, which the Allies, in conformity with their war-time pledges, proposed to impose upon Turkey.
Turkey lay prostrate. 19 The wartime Turkish army of 1,200,000 men had now shrunk to 50,000 men, with about 150,000 desertions. Arabia, Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine had already been cut off from the Empire; the region east of the Euphrates had been practically denuded of its Turkish population as of its Armenian population; the Government had almost ceased to function in Asia Minor, and the central Government in Constantinople was soon to fall into the hands of the Allies (March 1919).
Prompt and honest action by the Allies would have liquidated, once for all, the problem of the Turk and should have ended the agony of those whom the Turk had oppressed for a thousand years. But misguided and uninformed humanitarianism, or unwarranted meddlesomeness, was to destroy once again the hopes and prayers of the ages, and to offer the wily Turk a fresh opportunity to reassert himself--for a while longer.
American Intervention Disastrous for Oppressed Races
For the first time in history, the Allied Powers were really honest in their professions of redeeming the Armenian, Kurd, Arab and Greek from the incubus of Turkish misrule. The Allies who, by the secret treaties of 1915 and 1916, had cut up turkey into spheres of influences, were now willing and ready at the hour of victory to recognize the national rights of the inhabitants concerned. In his opening speech on January 19, 1919 at the Versailles Conference, the President of France said that "... the rights of the oppressed, of the victims and of the martyrs ... shall be vindicated ..." The Allies, in full recognition of the general chaos that obtained in Turkey, were determined to settle the Turkish problem before they undertook the consideration of the more complicated terms of general peace.
The Turkish case, therefore, was taken up in February 1919. At the invitation of the Conference, a Kurdish Delegation, headed by General Sherif Pasha, like the Armenian Delegation, presented the Kurdish case. The Armenian Delegation claimed considerable territories, extending from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, which were to be united with the then existing Armenian Republic (Russian Armenia), and in view of the depleted and disorganized condition of their people and country, a request was made for provisional financial and physical aid.
Whereupon the President of the United States, who was intensely interested in the then proposed League of Nations, and obviously believed that he interpreted the sense of sympathy felt by the American people for the Armenian people, intervened, and advised the Peace Conference that American would be glad to lend Armenia the help she needed--if and when America joined the League. At the same time he requested the Conference to defer action upon the Turkish case.
The sincerity and magnanimity of the President of the United States could not be questioned; the Allies could not, without inviting upon themselves the suspicion of the world, proceeded with the matter at issue; but the delay which the American action imposed upon the Allies resulted, as was fully expected by informed persons, in the subsequent intrigues amongst the Allies, the resurgence of Kemal, and in the appalling tragedy that overtook Kurd and Armenian alike. (20)