The struggle of the Kurdish people

The Kurdish people are a people win-out a nation. Like the Palestinians they are a people that have to live under foreign rulers. Kurdistan is the name to regions of Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran were the Kurds live. There are about 30 million Kurdish speaking people in the world, with the majority living in south east Turkey, north east Syria and northern Iraq. Since 1992, the Kurdish people have been able to govern themselves in the northern region of Iraq. Dictator Saddam Hussein was severely weakened by the first Gulf War and the invasion of 2003, gave the Kurds final control over the northern regions. In Iran, the Kurds are fighting against the theocratic Iranian government which does not allow minority rights and religious freedom. Finally in Turkey, the Kurds are facing ethnic discrimination and mass arrests, as it is forbidden in Turkey to promote separatism. Many Kurdish political parties have been banned, the most famous of them is the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK!

On the religious spectrum most Kurds are Sunni-Muslims, still they have little in common with ethnic Arabs or Turks. Because of the massive oppression and ethnic discrimination in Turkey, many Kurds have fled to western nations including Germany. There are over 800.000 Kurds living in the Federal Republic of Germany, a nation that also has over 3 million Germans of Turkish origin. Because of the large numbers of Turks living in Germany, there are ethnic tensions between the two groups. This all started after 1978, when the Kurdistan Workers Party ( PKK ) was founded. The PKK used to be a Marxist-Leninist ( Stalinist type ) party, their goal was to build a independent socialist Kurdistan. Turkey at that time was a ethnic nationalist nation, that glorified Turkish people and their culture. Minorities such as the Kurds ( who make up nearly 20% of Turkey’s population ) were oppressed. A military coup brought dictator Kenan Evren to power. This anticommunist general started with a massive purge of the Turkish left, jailing 650.000 people and blacklisted 1,6 million!

Kurds were not allowed to speak Kurdish or to write Kurdish under dictator Evren. Turkish oppression gave left-wing groups like the PKK, a valid reason to use violence against the Turkish Republic. In November 1980, the first PKK bomb exploded in the Turkish Consulate in Strasbourg France. It was the first attack directed against the Turks. The PKK was supported by the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia. A group fighting for Armenian rights in northern Turkey and like the Kurds, are oppressed by the Turkish government in Ankara. In 1984, the PKK created the People’s Defence Force ( HPG ) as its military. The HPG faced the might of the Turkish Armed Forces, who were armed and supported by NATO!

In response to the resistance of the Kurdish group; PKK, the Turkish military government created the Counter-Guerrilla, an anticommunist group supported by the USA and based on the Truman Doctrine. The Counter-Guerrilla’s were trained by the CIA to hunt for Turkish and Kurdish communists. Because communism was banned in Turkey and the state ( with support from the CIA and the U.S Army ) used brutal methods in obtaining information about communist groups. A famous Turkish revolutionary leftist, was Deniz Gezmiş. He became political active in the 60’s and joined the Workers Party of Turkey ( WPT ). Turkey was in a state of civil unrest, right-wing terror groups attacked leftist parties and organisations. The state did nothing to protect the Turkish left, which led to violence between police forces and revolutionary leftists. In march 1971, the military took power and installed a junta government. Deniz Gezmiş was captured by police forces after a gun battle and hanged for his attempts to overthrow the military junta. His final words were:

”Long live a fully independent Turkey. Long live the great ideology of Marxism-Leninism. Long live the Turkish and Kurdish peoples’ fight for independence. Damned be imperialism. Long live the workers and the villagers”

Another revolutionary leftist murdered by the first military junta was İbrahim Kaypakkaya. This young man was deeply influenced by Maoism. Kaypakkaya rejected Soviet stalinism and called the Soviet-Union a ”social-imperialist” nation, he also supported the Cultural Revolution in China. İbrahim Kaypakkaya became revolutionary after 1968 and joined the Revolutionary Workers and Peasants Party of Turkey led by Doğu Perinçek. However the young Maoist opposed the Kemalist ideology of Doğu Perinçek. Kemalism is the official state ideology of Turkey, based on the ideals of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Doğu Perinçek opposed the right-wing military junta, but was loyal to the ideals of Atatürk which he mixed with Maoism. Kaypakkaya rejected Kemalism and called for a socialist Turkey and a socialist Kurdistan!

In 1972, İbrahim Kaypakkaya and some of his supporters split from the Revolutionary Workers and Peasants Party of Turkey and created the Communist Party of Turkey/Marxist-Leninist. The CPT/ML supports the idea of a New Democratic Revolution, which calls for a united front of Four Classes: proletarian workers, peasants, the petty bourgeoisie (small business owners) and the nationally-based capitalists against feudalism and colonialism. Kaypakkaya also founded the Workers’ and Peasants’ Liberation Army, the military wing of the CPT/ML. In January 1973, he and some of his comrades were attacked by the Turkish Armed Forces. The battle left him wounded and he asked for help from a local teacher. However the teacher betrayed him to the military, who arrested him. In Diyarbakır Prison, Kaypakkaya was tortured for information. Military officials tried for 4 months to crack the young revolutionary. But İbrahim Kaypakkaya said nothing. Angered by the lack of results, the military junta ordered his execution. On 18 May 1973, he was tortured to the brink of death and then shot and killed by military officers at the age of 24. His corpse was mutilated and cut up. After the execution, the Turkish military said;

İbrahim Kaypakkaya was one of the most wanted man in Turkey, due to his organizational ability that allowed him to almost single-handedly bring Communist ideas to Turkey!

The American CIA was very satisfied with the Turkish military junta and also supported the second coup of 1980. By now the Kurdish PKK became the face of the Kurdish struggle for independence. In 1984 the Turkish military gave political power back to a civilian government, still led by former general Kenan Evren. The Turkish Republic kept banning Kurdish language and culture. Kurds who spoke their native language in public were told to speak only Turkish. Who rejected this was arrested and called a ”PKK sympathizer”. By 1991, the Soviet-Union collapsed and PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan moved away from Marxism-Leninism. The collapse of world ”communism” as it was a called, was a huge shock for many national liberation movements and leftists. Öcalan reformed his movement to accept Islamic believes and no longer calls for a independent socialist Kurdistan!

Turkey was able to secure a big victory when Abdullah Öcalan was captured in 1999. The PKK leader lived in Syria until this nation was forced by Turkey to expel him. Ankara openly threatened Syria with a military invasion and Syrian leader Hafez Al-Assad told Abdullah Öcalan to leave. Öcalan went to Russia first and from there moved to various countries, including Italy and Greece, still no nation wanted to give him political asylum, western nations all supported Turkey. Finally, he was taken in Kenya by  the National Intelligence Organization of Turkey with help from either the CIA or the Israeli Mossad, Abdullah Öcala was traveling to Nairobi Airport when Turkish secret agents captured him. The PKK leader was transported to Turkey and trialed for leading a separatist movement. Although the state wanted him death, it was decided to imprison Abdullah Öcalan on the island of İmralı with 1.000 Turkish guards!

Any political party in Turkey who refused to brand the PKK as a terrorist organisation can be banned. In sequence HEP/DEP/HADEP/DEHAP/DTP and the latest Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) have been accused of sympathizing with the PKK, since they have refused to brand it as a terrorist group. The Turkish Republic is banning and silencing anybody who sympathize with Abdullah Öcalan. A famous politician jailed for supporting the Kurdish people is Leyla Zana. She was elected to the Turkish parliament in 1991 and spoke Kurdish when she made her last line, when taking the oath. Speaking Kurdish was still banned in 1991 and Turkish nationalists demanded she be jailed. Although Zana’s parliamentary immunity protected her, the Turkish Republic banned her political party for ”supporting Kurdish nationalism” and then arrested her. In 1994 she and many other Kurdish politicians were jailed for 10 years. Leyla Zana was released in 2004 after serving 10 years!

Revolutionary socialists support the Kurdish people in their struggle for political freedoms. We do not call the PKK terrorist, because their actions were aimed at national liberation. Western imperialism branded the PKK a terrorist group in 2002 on Turkish demands. The European Union did this in the hope, Turkey might join them. We call this a political move and a crime against the Kurdish people. The EU and the USA claim that the PKK is terrorist because they attacked Turkish civilians, politicians and soldiers. However we must understand that the Turkish people are the ones responsible for the terror attacks of the PKK. Had they giving the Kurds the right to speak their own language and to express themselves win out fear of arrests, then the PKK would have stopped their resistance. But the Turks refused to give minorities the right of free speech and the western world supported this. It was only after Recep Tayyip Erdoğan came to power, that Kurds were finally giving some basic human rights!

Western imperialism does not care about minority rights or national liberation. They only care about the strength of world capitalism. Turkey is a major player on the world markets and a member of NATO. Revolutionary socialists are however also critical of the Kurdistan Workers Party. The PKK abandoned Marxist socialism in the 1990’s, today they support greater autonomy of Kurds inside a capitalist Turkey. This we oppose as national liberation under capitalism is impossible. Abdullah Öcalan is still the leader of the PKK, for many he is a saint and there is a cult of personality around his figure. Revolutionary socialists also oppose this as we must not worship leaders. Öcalan lived for 10 years in solitary confinement with only 1.000 Turkish guards around him. In 2009 this changed as the Turkish government brought some PKK prisoners to the island. Abdullah Öcalan is allowed to speak with them, 10 hours a week!

Now the Kurdish people are back in the news, thanks to the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. In the north east of Syria, Kurdish forces of the People’s Protection Units were able to capture many Syrian-Kurdish towns in the aftermath of the Syrian uprising against Bashar Al-Assad. The main Kurdish political party in Syria is the Democratic Union Party or PYD. This party is linked to the PKK in Turkey and therefore not trusted by the western powers. They rather support the Kurdistan Democratic Party in northern Iraq. This political party is not in line with the PKK and therefore more acceptable for western imperialism to support!

In October 2014, Islamic State militants tried to capture the Syrian-Kurdish town of Kobani in northern Syria. This town is under control of the Democratic Union Party and the People’s Protection Units since July 2012. However the Islamic State moved towards the city and tries to capture it. At this moment on 20 October 2014, the town of Kobani is a battlefield between the Islamic State and the People’s Protection Units. The Kurds asked Turkey for help, but the Turks are unwilling to help an organisation linked to their arch enemy: the Kurdistan Workers Party. Western imperialism has decided to help the Kurds, but only because the Islamic State is seen as a bigger danger then the Turkish-Kurdish conflict. Western made weapons have been dropped to help the People’s Protection Units fighting the IS militants. Revolutionary socialists however call on the Kurdish people not to trust western nations. Europe and the USA are supportive of nationalist Turkey and do not support a independent Kurdistan!

We say that true independence cannot be build win out struggling for a socialist Syria, a socialist Iraq and a socialist Turkey. Socialism must be build internationally and therefore the Kurdish working class must be united with the Arab and Turkish workers. Ethnic nationalism is a poison which revolutionary socialists reject. We do support a independent socialist Kurdistan to be build as part of a voluntary; Socialist Federation of the Middle East!


Kurds demonstrating against the Islamic State. They have flags of Iraqi Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Workers Party, the Democratic Union Party and the People’s Protection Units!