Thursday, October 8, 2009

Kurdish Question, Turkey and the European Union -- PART II

By Salah Bayaziddi
The Kurdish Globe
Hopes of independent Kurdistan following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire
The end of World War One and the armistice of 1918 left Turkey in a disastrous situation. The emerging Turkish republic was to be partitioned into spheres of Allied influence and Armenian, Kurdish and Greek states. Arnold Toynbee described the situation as follows: "Turkey's Provinces were gone; her allies were crushed; and except for her champions among the Indian Muslims, she was friendless even in camp of Islam. Constantinople was held by the victors, Turkey was encircled by enemies. Like wolves around the camp fire the Powers at the threshold with hungry eyes, for Turkey by nature is rich, and imperialism is greedy" (quoted in Ahmad, 1993:46-7). The elites that had under girded the Ottoman political system were severely divided between the Sultan's Ottoman camp in Istanbul and Mustafa Kemal Pasha's (Ataturk) nationalists in central Anatolia. The Sultan's camp reluctantly accepted all Allied dictates, culminating in the signing of the Treaty of Sevres in 1920. For the Kurds, the most important element in the Treaty of Sevres was article 64: "If within one year the coming into force of the present Treaty the Kurdish peoples within the areas defined in Article 62 shall address themselves to the Council of the League of Nations in such a manner as to show that a majority of the population of these areas desire independence from Turkey, and if the Council then considers that these people are capable of such independence and recommends that it should be granted to them, Turkey hereby agrees to execute such a recommendation, and to renounce all rights and title over these areas?.If and when such renunciation takes place, no objection will be raised by the Principle Allied Powers to the voluntary adhesion to such an independent Kurdish State of the Kurds inhabiting that part of Kurdistan which has been hitherto included in the Mosul Vilayet (McDowall, 1996: 459-60). If there ever existed an auspicious political opportunity for Kurdish nationalists, it was embodied on the Treaty of Sevres, accepted by the Sultan and his coterie of government elites and endorsed by the Allied powers. Ataturk's nationalist coalition, which rejected the Treaty, had its hands full in 1920 fighting Greek, Armenian, French and pro-Sultan forces on all fronts (Ahmad, 1993:50). Hence there existed little capacity to repress Kurdish nationalists, should they have chosen this window of opportunity to make the Treaty Sevres' provisions for a Kurdish state a reality.

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