A group of students perhaps egged on by hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani. forced their way into a dialogue between the journalists and students at
"The day after, a deadly jehadi outfit, Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, fully endorsed her suspicions. The doubts regarding our visit were not confined to 'extremist fringes'. "Cartoon after cartoon appeared in a section of the popular newspapers of Srinagar, where the journalists from Pakistan were mocked with utmost contempt for avariciously relishing the meaty Wazwun of Kashmir and appreciating the scenic beauty of it like the dazed tourists on an exotic picnic." Kashmiris and the media castigated the team for accepting the J&K government's " 5 Star hospitality".
"Yet, this diversity cannot be avoided. At the negotiating table, whenever that stage comes, one of the most difficult issues to resolve would be defining aazadi (freedom, liberation, independence) because a resolution would demand, more than emotions, an acceptable mechanism for determining the Kashmiri aspirations.
"One can broadly have two poles, the rest lying between the two. Syed Ali Geelani with his emphasis on accession to Pakistan being one; Omar Abdullah, the chief of National Conference with his emphasis on autonomy within the Indian Union being the other. The JKLF too is clear on its stand but as things stand there are not many takers for the independence option, at least in the way the group has formulated it or continues to do so. Geelani and Abdullah are closer to the ground realities because their solutions take into account the two major players:
They have been caught up in ethnic upheavals and the intermingling of Aryan, Turkic and Semitic races for many millennia. Descending from Medes, they were first mentioned as the Kurduchoi, who harassed Xenephon and his Ten Thousand during the epic retreat from
The Turks started moving into
Belonging to the Iranian-language! family, Kurdish is spoken in five dialects and many sub-dialects, but the divisions among Kurds are reflected not only in the dialects or the countries they inhabit. Differences among them have persisted throughout history. In north
But, even when divided, they have enjoyed some semblance of autonomy, first under the British mandate, then the leftist regime of Brig Kassem, and even under the kid gloves and poisoned sword treatment of Saddam Hussein, with an almost free run during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. And then under US-led protection after the 1991 Gulf War. The idea of a Kurdish identity and autonomy, which was vigorously suppressed in the unitary Turkish state, was kept alive across in
The Iranians have manipulated Iraqi Kurds as did the Russians the Iranian Kurds during World War II, encouraging them to declare the
Ocalan and the PKK
The circumstances of its origins; tribalism, feudalism, the grinding poverty of the region compared to the growing prosperity in western Turkey made Marxism an abiding ideology that attracted poorer but educated youth of both sexes. After some unsuccessful attacks in 1979, the really violent incidents, which brought recognition to the PKK as a terror outfit, were carried out in 1984 in Sirit and Hakkari near the Iraq-Iran border.
From a few hundred in 1984, the number of PKK cadres then rose to the thousands and peaked in the first half of the 1990s when the PKK was churning out 300 fighters every quarter. As the state used all the brutal power at its command, the PKK fought back savagely by killing government village headmen, guards, teachers and doctors, apart from innocents and the military and police soldiers. Brutal reprisals and killings by security forces brought in thousands of fresh volunteers to the PKK.
Ocalan first contacted PLO leftists, but was soon adopted by the Syrians, who provided him a residence in
Roots of the Kurdish problem
Hence, Turks manifested a pervasive distrust of any cultural or autonomous movement that might lead to fragmentation of the unitary republic. It revives memories of Western conspiracies against
To begin with, Ataturk himself had talked of Turks, Kurds, Lazes and others, but a dramatic change came over him during 1923 -24 and he opted for a unitary state. Perhaps it was because of the British detachment of the
The establishment, a curious macho amalgam of the military-led secular elite and the Sunni-dominated interior ministry tried to resolve problems by force as a compromise might be seen as a sign of weakness. It considered Islamic revivalism and Kurdish rebellion as two major threats to the security, stability and integrity of the state, although the left of center Social Democrat Party (SHP), in coalition governments in 1991-95, had come to the conclusion in 1990, based on a study that neither Kurdish nationalism nor Islamic fundamentalism posed a threat to the republican order. Many other subsequent reports have confirmed the same conclusions, underlining that most Kurds wanted respect for their identity, the use of the Kurdish language for education and television and cultural freedom.
Kurds after the 1991 Gulf War
It was Turkish President Turgut Ozal, who softened the rigors against his own Kurds, when he publicly proclaimed in 1991 that there were 12 million Kurds in
On this writer's first visit in 1969 to
But not only Ozal but also many Turks remain fascinated with the dream of "getting back" the Ottoman provinces of
Since the early 1990s, attempts to explain the Kurdish viewpoint through the media by newspapers like Ozgur Gundem (Free Agenda) Ozgur Ulke (Free Country) and others were stopped through harassment and even murder of journalists and distributors, with connivance and help from the establishment. Even the mainline media was punished for writing about Kurds, their problems and even about mishandling of the rebellion. When Urfa-born popular Kurdish singer Ibrahim Tatlisiz complained that he could not sing in his mother tongue, he had hell to pay. Kurds and even Turks, including famous writers like Yassar Kemal, were harassed and imprisoned for writing about Kurds and their problems.
After the collapse of the USSR, Syria's patron and supplier of arms, a weakened and isolated Syria expelled Ocalan, who first went to the Russian Federation and then to Rome in search of asylum. Eventually he was apprehended after leaving the Greek embassy in Nairobi on February 16, 1999 by Turkish agents assisted by other countries, including, perhaps, the US and Israel. His capture was followed by violence and demonstrations in
Ocalan was tried and given the death verdict. At his trial, Ocalan, instead of being defiant, promised peace and to bring down the PKK fighters from the mountains. Awaiting a certain death sentence in a glass cage, Ocalan's performance was sober, dignified and consistent in his defense. Apart from the 1993 conditional ceasefire, he had offered the olive branch many times, including in 1994 and 1995. A court commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment in October 2002.
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