At Turkish universities, Turkish literature is studied and the greats of the Turkish nation and history are extolled – in Syria and Iraq the same menu is served up in Arabic. Why should the Kurds not have their own universities, so that they can indulge their national passions in Kurdish?
Discrimination against non-Muslims
Ms Toprak also points out that Turks, Kurds and Armenians, Muslims, Alevis and Christians all serve together in the army. Firstly, it should be remembered that for a long time, the Turkish state ran an internal citizen-marking system, in which people were assigned particular letters in accordance with their heritage – non-Muslims could not be promoted to senior ranks. This method was applied for decades without the knowledge of those affected.
The fate of Sevag Balikci gives us some idea of what happens to non-Muslims in the army (quite apart from the daily humiliation and countless oaths to the Turkish nation and Islam). Initially, the army told his family he had committed suicide, coincidentally on 24 April, the day commemorating the Armenian genocide. It later turned out that his comrades had intentionally killed him by a shot in the head, although the authorities are still calling it ʺinvoluntary homicideʺ.
He is not the only Armenian to have fallen victim to Turkish nationalism in recent times. Still fresh in the memory is the murder of the Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, shot dead on the street in Istanbul by a young nationalist, apparently acting under the authority of racist structures within the Turkish state. Many people in Turkey, in particular within the security forces, declared solidarity with the murderer, not with the victim.
Support for the war is not harmless local patriotism
The enthusiasm for the war shown by many people in Turkey is being excused as familial sentimentality – everyone has a cousin, a brother a son or a father in the military. That’s true, everyone has relatives, and as long as the Turkish state drafts all young men into frequently homicidal and illegal deployments, this will not change.
I too have cousins in the military, youngsters I would very much like to see alive again. But it is precisely these mechanisms that need to be breached. Turkish society must realise that war is abhorrent and that the Turkish state is embroiled in a serious crime. Even if we are legally bound to send our sons to war, we need to be reminded that evoking national unity in the face of a threat that is largely the stuff of fantasy, has never resulted in peace and happiness.
No prospect for peace long-term
Of course, from the Turkish perspective, the presence of a predominantly Kurdish military unit organically linked with the PKK does constitute a risk, but to date, the PYD has not attacked Turkish soil. Interestingly, Turkey never claimed any such security concerns in the years when IS controlled large parts of Iraq and Syria.
The fact cannot be glossed over: the motivation behind the Turkish invasion is the destruction of Kurdish autonomy, the mass deportation of Syrians to occupied territories – which requires an ethnic cleansing of the Kurdish population – and distraction from domestic problems. Not to mention the promise of lucrative construction deals that could breathe new life into the ailing Turkish economy.
As for the Kurds themselves, they will continue to become politicised, and in the worst case radicalised. This means that there will be no peace for Turkey in the long-term either.
Supporting this invasion, which contravenes international law, whether by the hoisting of flags, displaying the military greeting or playing down Turkish aggression, is in no respect compatible with the basic principles of a democratic and fair society.
© Qantara.de 2019
Translated from the German by Nina Coon
Tayfun Guttstadt was born in Hamburg and studied Islamic Studies and Musicology in Hamburg. He also holds a masters in Religion and Culture from the HU Berlin.