Posted by Dr. Henry Astarjian on August 19, 2012
Like a first date with a potential lover or a last meeting to settle divorce property with an ex, Armenian and Kurdish individuals are in a fest, both knowing full well that negative feelings hover over the canopy under which they are sipping champagne. Both sides, dealing from a position of weakness, manage to create a façade of joviality and happiness for the created opportunity. And both sides realize that in order to settle their differences, they have to accept difficult compromises, and yield serious overdue concessions to the other side. Such are Armeno-Kurdish relations today.
Individuals from both sides, meeting individually in various places and on various occasions, are set to rediscover each other. Recently boy-meets-girl and getting-to-know-you opportunities were created. I am mindful of the visit of Armenian dance troops to Dersim (Tunceli), Armenian Diasporan participations in Newruz celebrations, and in celebrations for renovation of a church in Diyarbekir.
As part of their public relations strategy, the Kurds are desperately trying to makeover their look by attempting to erase the image of savagery, which they perpetrated during the Armenian Genocide. Their first official act came from the Kurdish Parliament in Exile in Brussels through their communiqué #1, in which they apologized to the Armenian nation for all the ills they have committed against us.
Another such sweet event was the celebration in Diyarbekir during the consecration of Surp Giragos Church, when the city hosted Armenian clergy and lay people with signs and flags welcoming their guests “Home”—an uplifting gesture indeed that goes beyond the usual mea culpa! No Armenian, to my knowledge, packed his bag to go “Home,” and none is expected to do so anytime soon.
Armenians, in turn, are making a half-hearted effort to forgive, but not to forget, the Kurdish atrocities perpetrated before, during, and after the genocide. These are very difficult tasks for both.
Kurds, some 30 million of them, have been battling for a century to gain notoriety in their own land. Their major shortcoming has been, and to some degree still is, tribalism. This socio-political structure was a major obstacle in gaining statehood when the pie was being divided at Sevres. This Treaty of Peace, which sealed a lot of deals in dividing the defeated Ottoman Empire, provided in its article 64 a rare opportunity for Kurdish independence:
“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 from Turkey 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.”
The mandated year passed, and now over 90 years later, the Kurdish society remains disunited in purpose. This fact does not need much to verify; one look at the societal and political make-up of Turkish Kurdistan or the Kurdish Parliament in Exile based in Brussels would convince one of its authenticity.
Further evidence comes from the recent Buyuk Millet Meclisi (Turkish Parliament) elections where the Kurdish vote was split and their goals shattered as a result.
The most recent disunity and story of betrayal comes from skeptics and conspiracy theorists who believe that Abdullah Ocalan was betrayed by his Kurdish adversaries, or I should say enemies, which led to his kidnapping from Kenya by Turkish special agents.
Kurdish political thought and institutions are so dangerously diverse and divided, that a section of them prefer their status quo within Turkey; others inebriated by religious fervor work for the return of the Islamic Caliphate of yesteryear; and yet others yearn for total independence and statehood.
This being the situational climate, Kurds can offer us only love and good will, which they are attempting to do, and we accept all that with gratitude—but that is not enough! The price of reconciliation is far greater than that. Granted they cannot give us what they don’t have, but sooner or later 30 million or so of them will have to have some kind of self-rule—be it autonomy, federation, or confederation—with Turkey, taking our legitimate rights to Western Armenia with them. This is not acceptable!
To achieve their goals, the Kurds need to forge alliances. Among their most natural allies, aside from the mountains, are the Armenians who spread the span of the globe and can exercise their ideological and political clout to bolster the cause. This can happen if and when our love fest is consummated in concrete terms.
We have the same past, the same political and armed struggle, the same national aspirations, the same future, the same destiny, and the reciprocity of goodwill. Furthermore, regardless of all circumstances, we are locked in and destined to live together. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Kurdish Prince Badrkhan forged an alliance with the Armenians, put together some 40,000-strong armies consisting of both parties, and waged a war against the central Turkish government. At the beginning they gave Turks hell only to live in one when Badrkhan’s brother, who was commanding the forces on the right flank of the attack, betrayed them in lieu of money and perks offered him by the Turks.
When all is said and done, Armenians have their own problems and shortcomings. Physically they are scattered almost everywhere and in most places they are comfortable. The genocide and post-genocide psychological and physical translocations have created a reality of apathy in the nation. In the diaspora, people, especially the political parties, are interested in rehashing failed policies because it justifies projecting guilt on the perpetrators of the genocide, thereby avoiding a commitment to the new, necessary, risky, and difficult issue of Western Armenia.
Poverty of thought prevails in the nation; the intellectual class of yesteryear was either beheaded on the eve of the genocide, assassinated like Hrant Dink, or died a natural death. No! There are no replacements! There is a void, a political thought and action vacuum, which the church is trying to fill affirming the millet mentality and reality. History tells us how disastrous that could be!
The Third Republic is corrupt to the core and sitting on its hands while tens of thousands leave the country, creating an unprecedented brain drain.
The diaspora, neglecting the real issue of regaining our rights in Western Armenia, is busy like the hounds chasing the plastic rabbit dangled in front of us. A church here, a church there, or a monument renovated and returned to us, generates psychological but deceptive comfort. It does not address the real issue of Western Armenia.
Movers and shakers—if there are any in the nation—must have unity of purpose. Bring this issue on the radar screen, and then sip champagne with the Kurds under the canopy of the Sevres Treaty, in a divorce settlement while engaging in love fest.