A Backgrounder on the Kurds of Turkey, Syria, and Iran

Kurds finally get to speak their language and can take Kurdish classes in school, but they do not have mother tongue education. A private Kurdish mother tongue education school opened up but closed after a while due to constant harassment by the Turks. Recently a boy speaking Kurdish in a hallway was beaten by Turkish boys.

Kurdish holidays such as Nawruz, the Turkish New Year, are not recognized. Kurdish culture is often banned. The only Kurdish TV station recently shut down. Newspapers and magazines in Kurdish  are scarce and are often  shut down. Kurdish radio stations are also few.

Bilingual road signs in Turkey and Kurdish are not allowed. Business signage in Kurdish is also not allowed. The state formerly even denied their existence, calling them Mountain Turks, but that has ended.

Kurds have only recently been allowed to serve in Parliament. The HDP, the Kurdish party, got 13% of the vote last time around. A Kurdish MP recently caused a huge furor by speaking Kurdish on the floor of Parliament.

A PKK-Turkey truce of a few years was recently broken by ISIS attacks on Kurdish rallies that killed many Kurds and leftwing Turks. The police appeared to know about the attacks and allowed them to happen. Then the police blocked ambulances and medical crews from getting to the site and beat Kurdish protestors who were leaving. This is the sort of crap that the Kurds have to put up with.

A couple of days after one huge attack on a rally, a Turkish police officer shot a PKK member dead on the  border. The PKK then ended  their cease-fire and went back to war.

Turkey says the PKK are terrorists, but really they are just guerrillas who generally attack Turkish police and military. They also target the village guards, an armed Kurdish force that works for the state.

The PKK has formed an alliance with a number of armed Turkish communist parties, of which there are a few. Some of these communist fighters and  now fighting alongside the  Kurds in  Northern Syria.

Turks say that most Kurds in Turkey do not support the PKK, but I would say that a majority of Turkish Kurds support the PKK. It is true that the YPG, the major component of the SDF in Syria now defending Kurdish lands, is really just the PKK in Syria. Nevertheless, the YPG does not give any material assistance to the PKK. Some PKK do cross the border to go fight in Syria though.

The PKK has many clandestine camps in the far northern mountains of the Kurdish area in Iraq. The Kurds now have considerable autonomy and near independence in their Kurdish zone. However, the Iraqi Kurds allow the Turks to bomb the PKK in the mountains. They have also allowed the Turks to set up a number of small military bases inside Iraq that the Turks use to attack the PKK.

Kurds in Iraq have full rights, including mother tongue education. There is also an armed movement called PEJAK in Iran. This is just the PKK in Iran. Iranian Kurds may have it better than Turkish Kurds but they do not have much in the way of rights and there is no mother tongue education.

The Kurds of Syria have always had the most rights of the Kurds of any nation. There was a reason why there was an armed insurgency in Turkey, Iraq, and Iran but there never was one in Syria. All Kurds in Syria speak Kurdish. Kurdish is even often heard in Damascus! Nawruz is a national holiday and Kurdish culture flourishes. There are many Kurdish newspapers, magazines, and radio and TV stations in Syria now.

They do not yet have mother tongue education and speaking Kurdish is a bit restricted as you are not allowed to speak Kurdish in government offices. I am not sure about bilingual road signing or business signage.

With Rojava, the Kurds had a massive expansion of rights as the leftwing political party of the YPG took over and ran the area as a de facto separate state for a few years.

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