Victory can sometimes spring from the jaws of apparent defeat.
That happened last month in Turkey when a pro-government group seized control of the human rights group MAZLUMDER.
A sympathetic “judge” had already cloaked their sinister intent with an underhanded ruling that clearly violated the bylaws of the association, asserted deposed president Ahmet Faruk Unsal.
The new president, Ramazan Beyhan, gutted MAZLUMDER right away, closing sixteen of 25 branches — twelve of them in Turkish Kurdistan — and moved the main office from Ankara to Istanbul.
“I want to reboot MAZLUMDER to its factory settings,” he told the mouthpiece of Erdogan administration, the daily Yeni Safak.
The organization was founded in 1991 by a group of conservative lawyers, journalists, authors, publishers, and businessmen to eliminate all forms of oppression.
It initially focused on the right of pious women to wear headscarves at public buildings such as universities. That precious right for the faithful had been snatched away by Turkey’s busybody founder, Mustafa Kemal, or Ataturk.
As the organization grew in members and stature, it also tackled other vexing issues, including the forbidden Kurdish language, the original sin of Ataturk’s republic.
One of its presidents, Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, told a reporter last month that his own work with the Kurds mercifully cured him of Turkish “smugness.”
With sensible and humble Turks like Mr. Gergerlioglu spearheading MAZLUMDER, conservative Kurds joined it in droves, giving it a bi-national character.
For a while at least, I even dreamed of Kurds freely speaking their language in Turkey and eventually filing for an amicable divorce from Turks, enabling us to have a birthday of our own in a free and independent Kurdistan.
That would have been like the happy, peaceful, and auspicious separation of Slovaks from Czechs. It would have also marked the first non-violent parting of two Muslim nations in the history of Islam.
But Erdogan’s cronies at MAZLUMDER refused to make the Islamic world proud — and wanted to muzzle those members capable of imagining the example of Czechoslovakia.
Their opportunity came when Kurdish youth raised barricades in Kurdish urban centers across Turkish Kurdistan and forced Turkish authorities to dislodge them by force. As many as 30 town and city centers were turned into “empty moonscapes and vast parking lots,” says the latest United Nations report on the conflict.
In one town, Cizre, a 78-day lockdown was aggravated by the suspension of basic services. Trapped and injured civilians, waving white flags to surrender, were murdered, such as Miray and Ramazan Inces.
Their death may be called collateral damage, an accident of war, but the deliberate murder and burning of 189 civilians in three basements is a war crime no different than what Milosevic executed in Bosnia.
MAZLUMDER, as was its custom, sent its own delegations to examine ravaged Kurdish towns, consulting survivors and authorities for their first-hand accounts.
“Our reports bothered both sides,” noted the director of Diyarbakir branch, Reha Ruhavioglu. “Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) criticized our Silvan briefing and President Erdogan shook his finger at our Cizre report.”
For members of MAZLUMDER, who took their cues from Erdogan, the message of the wagged finger was unmistakably clear. They slandered the report as one-sided and urged their colleagues to disown it.
They went even further and said the right of self-determination did not apply to the Kurds, even though Turkey had agreed to it when it was first announced as a UN declaration in 1948.
The Turkish-Kurdish war in Turkish Kurdistan sparked the conflict between bigoted Muslims and pious Muslims inside MAZLUMDER. When bigoted Muslims won, pious Kurds were left with no choice but to conclude that Islam has become an instrument of oppression in the administration of the Turkish state.
Hollow are the pronouncements, for the Kurdish ears, that there are no master races or subject ones in Islam. “We fought the Crusaders together,” signifies nothing for the Kurds when their own God-given language is still cruelly shackled by Muslim Turks.
In Turkey, liberal Kurds and Turks have already parted company with the rise of Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) in the Kurdish body politic.
HDP’s counterpart in Turkey proper, Republican People’s Party (CHP), cannot offer anything new to Kurds and gets no votes in Turkish Kurdistan.
With the demise of MAZLUMDER-like organizations, we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the cooperation between Muslim Turks and Muslim Kurds.
Kurds don’t have a conservative party like the Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP), but if they did, they would vote for it instead of its Turkish version. That is as many as five million votes, a crucial block, on its way to breaking Turkey into two states, Turkey for the Turks and Kurdistan for the Kurds.
That’s why, although I am saddened by the coarsening of relations between Muslim Turks and Muslim Kurds, I welcome their separation for the sake of greater good, greatest happiness for the greatest number of people in their respective countries.
Kani Xulam is a political activist based in Washington D.C. He runs the American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN)
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.