“Why do Turks hate Kurds” seem to be the flavor of the season. Every foreign friend who is remotely interested in politics is asking me this thorny question. To answer, we must first go to my favorite place in the entire world – Google.
As an IT specialist, I have a perspective that is not widely available to the general public. The reason is simple. People might not speak up about their politically incorrect opinions, but they are certainly googling it.
To answer “Why do Turks hate Kurds?” I resorted to my old pal Google. A simple search led to a mindblowing conclusion. Well, racial stereotyping existed for centuries but it turns out the Turkish stereotyping has a lot to do with hate. When I filtered the Google search results for “Why do Turks,” I came across the following. Notice, I haven’t actually included the word “hate” in my search.
● Why do Turks hate Greeks (2nd result)
● Why do Turks hate Kurds (3rd result)
● Why do Turks hate Armenians (6th result)
● Why do the Turks hate the Kurds (7th result)
● Why do Turks hate the Kurds (8th result)
Apparently, the world is under the impression that Turks hate Kurds. So, let’s talk about why Turks hate Kurds.
Pluralism and intersectionality are the two poster children that political correctness advocates love to throw around. I’m not saying there is something inherently wrong with those terms but there is a fundamental point that gets overlooked.
Minorities can’t exist without majorities. It is the very existence of a majority that defines a minority. This sentiment is relevant due to power distribution in governmental bodies. As pluralist theorist and the author of “Who Governs?” Robert A. Dahl explains, all social groups try to gain influence by maximizing their share on power and resource distribution. Although different voices are the prerequisite for democratic equilibrium, if a minority group acquires a disproportionate share of power, it affects the governmental body as a whole. There needs to be a balance between social equilibrium and the majority opinion.
It is my understanding that this vital part of pluralism often gets overlooked because its philosophical roots and context gets lost in the political discussions. Unfortunately, it creates circumstances of people using the term pluralism when they really should be using the word diverse. Much like the word stoic, which became a description of a person who can endure pain without complaining, it overlooks the roots. Stoic philosophy recommends forbearing because the situation can’t be controlled and not because one should never complain about their pain. Likewise, although pluralism is dependant on diversity, it is not a synonym for it. Before we discuss whether pluralism is possible in Turkey, first, let’s take a look at the Turkish social DNA footprint.
Plato, in his famous book The Republic, says, “The heaviest penalty for declining to rule is to be ruled by someone inferior to yourself.” I always thought this quote from Plato was tailor-made for Turks. Turks consider compromise as a sign of weakness, which results in three social behavior. First, Turks prefer gathering around one charismatic leader who has absolute power. Second, military and state are extremely codependent on one another. Third, they hate outside interference of any sort.
The roots of this social behavior stem all the way back to our days in Asian steppes. Turks were nomads and didn’t maintain a written culture or art. Therefore, historically, every Turkish dynasty who tried monism or lost military power seized to exist and lost their identity altogether. Turks adapted to conquering and ruling under one leader. Various civilizations of Anatolia maintained this system and the current social structure still supports it as a protective mechanism for social identity.
Turks have never adapted to democracy because it was handed over to them. Monarchy and its variations remain relevant to date in the Middle East because it is the culture that cultivates it, not the ruling class. Turks don’t view government as a structure that serves them. They view it as a structure that needs to be served, obeyed and worked for its absolute indivisibility. A good example of this happened during the War of Independence. Although military generals united around Atatürk to protect the land, once they understood he intended to bring democracy, the same generals didn’t hesitate to oppose him.
West is not doing any favors to Kurds or Turks by pushing the pluralism and intersectionality that works for them. Americans were successful for the most part in creating a melting pot under the label of American. Europeans managed to create and maintain the European Union. A similar structure will not be possible for the Middle East for the foreseeable future. When it comes to political theory, one size fits all is always a bad strategy. This fact has to be recognized by the critics if we want to start talking about why Turks hate Kurds in a meaningful way.
In pluralism, the majority opinion is just as important as it affects the larger population. Kurds have every right to publicize the crimes executed against them and share their history with the world. The problem is, they are not simply sharing their history, they are playing the victim they are not. By shouting out about Turkish oppression on the rooftops, they are making the issue a one-way street. In a conflict of any sort, it is always a two-way street, with crossroads and a whole lot of roundabouts. Wasn’t pluralism a platform for all the voices to be heard? So why is it, when the world is talking about the Kurdish conflict, it is discussing it in the absence of Turks? Why Turkish history and values and presence are tossed aside as if they don’t matter?
Previously, we have talked about the Turkish perception of the military, foreign interference, and sanctity of the state. Kurdish leaders, in their 100 years of alleged struggle for “peace” and “identity”, have crossed all these three lines.
First, they justified violence. When violence is justified, two things happen: Violence becomes an acceptable communication tool and it invites counter violence because justifying violence doesn’t come free of its counterpart. Second, Kurdish politicians claimed themselves to be human rights advocates. They have shamed the country we share and people they live together on every platform they could find. Third, they brought their ethnic identity into a conflict and decided for an entire minority group without even asking them whether they prioritize their ethnic identity before anything else. That said, oppression of any culture is a serious matter but yet not one Kurds needed to deal with in Turkey.
In life, we all play our hands with the cards we are dealt with. At the end of the day, you are the result of how you played yours. I am very cynical about the politically correct environment of today’s politics because it equates being born into a minority to an automatic identity and culture struggle. It makes people restless and restrained which significantly dismisses the chance for a real dialogue. This is the mistake of the Kurdish leaders. They made being Kurdish a problem — not that they adhere to a democratic state. People can maintain a cultural identity without establishing an independent country of their own, isn’t that what pluralism all about? Why is it every other post-colonial pluralist praising their territorial integrity and yet Turkey must be ashamed to want theirs.
So excuse me for not seeing the sincerity in the Kurdish independence efforts nor their supporters. To me, that struggle is political, it is incredibly violent, and it often leaves Kurds of the world in less than humane living conditions. Kurdish leaders have fallen into a trap, like many leaders before them. They forgot about the people they claimed to be leading. The Turkish government, on the other hand, wasn’t much better. Instead of abiding by the rule of law and protecting the Kurdish people, they have left them at the mercy of people like Abdullah Öcalan and Masoud Barzani. Neither seem to be the right character to bring peace to their people.
They don’t. Turks will hate any minority as well as any majority if they feel the sanctity of the state is threatened. They will hate the Greeks, as long as Greeks stand by Enosis. They will hate Armenians for claiming genocide because Armenians were exiled to protect the state. And yes, they will hate Kurds, as long as Kurdish leaders make their ethnicity a point of political conflict. Turkish people don’t have a problem with Kurdish people for them merely being Kurds. But since Kurds justify their desire to claim independence solely based on their ethnic identity, the simple name of them being Kurds equates to a demand to separate land from Turkey and therefore won’t have any positive reference in any Turkish household anytime soon.
Pluralism or monism (nor dualism for that matter) aren’t recipes of conflict for every country with multiple ethnic backgrounds. Kurds and the social justice warriors need to understand that being a majority does not provide a free ticket to evil-doing. And Turks need to learn that not every request at power distribution is an automatic threat to the sanctity of the state. We need to build social empathy among ourselves to achieve peace. Mistakes that have been made by older generations left us scorned and guarded. However, we can’t bring change by clinging onto the past and wearing every tragedy as a badge of honor.
Atatürk said, “It is not the mind, logical judgement which makes the history but maybe feelings other than these.” One can either remember the past and fill themselves with hate. Or one can remember the past and fill themselves with empathy as a tool for not repeating the same mistakes. It will be up to younger generations of Kurds and Turks to develop this empathy so that ethnicity no longer be used as a political statement to divide land or the people.