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President Obama Misses Fundamental Kurdish Issues in Turkey

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The recent visit of President Obama to Turkey and his speech to the Turkish parliament needs a response from American supporters of Kurdish parties and the Kurdish national movement within Turkey. When the President met with the Democratic Society Party (DTP) and other opposition parties, he got quite a different appraisal of Turkey's actions towards Kurds. Not mentioned in President Obama's remarks are the 250,000 Turkish troops deployed on the border of the Kurdish Autonomous Region. Not mentioned in President Obama's remarks is the arrest of Turkish Col. Cemal Temizoz for crimes against Kurdish peoples in the 1990s. While President Obama declared the continued U.S. support for the Turkish war against the PKK, thousands of Kurds demonstrated on the anniversary of Abdullah Ocalan's birthday and two more people were killed by the Turkish military. 

It is curious why President Obama chooses a militaristic, secular government to address the issue of the compatibility of the United States Government with Islam. Does he want to promote the AK's policies of desecularization of Turkish society? Is he aware of how US weapons supplied to Turkey were used against Kurds, a predominately Islamic population? It's as if someone failed to brief him that the U.S. government was the source of weapons for the massive Turkish military attacks on the Kurdish national movement. 

 
The flag of Turkey and the flag of the Kurdish nation

Neither did President Obama mention the Kurds as a people worthy of international recognition after meeting with the DTP.  " Ahmet Türk, leader of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, or DTP, said U.S. President Barack Obama advised his party that "violence or armed struggle will not solve the Kurdish problem." "I told him that we also denounce the violence. But I informed him that more than 17,000 extra judicial killings have happened in [southeastern Anatolia] over the years," the leader of the pro-Kurdish party said." While President Obama's statement briefly mentioned the impact of Turkish special courts, he omitted the forced relocations of 150,000 from 850 villages and the deaths of 40,000 people. Not mentioned by President Obama was the fact that between 1994 and 2003, Turkey took delivery of more than $6.8 billion in U.S. weaponry and services. And nowhere did President Obama commit to the implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution to hold the Kirkuk referendum without Turkish interference.  

His statement read: "As president, and as a NATO ally, I pledge that you will have our support against the terrorist activities of the PKK or anyone else." Likewise, Abdullah Gul in an interview on Rudaw.net declared Turkey's intent to use any tactic to defeat the "terrorist organizations".euronews: "One new question is the Kurdish issue in the north of Iraq. Is Turkey prepared to give any ground over that?"Abdullah Gul: "To be able eradicate terrorist organisations you have to apply sophisticated programmes and plans ..and Turkey does that. Sometimes we do it in a public way.. sometimes behind the scenes."

In this context, the Kurdish international conference in Erbil takes on a new significance. As the concept of a conference moves towards reality, the entire purpose of it is being changed. The issue of Kurdish unity is being changed to why the PKK must be dismantled. Some blogs have gone as far as to call it a disarmament conference. Leyla Zana put the issue succinctly at a Newroz rally:  "Kurds are not in love with guns. Do not hurt us, we have been hurt enough [...]. Kurds will organise a conference among themselves and create their own model. Kurds have three large parties: the PKK, the KDP and the KYB (the latter two being the Kurdish Democratic Party led by Barzani, and the Kurdistan Patriotic Union led by Talabani)."

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President Obama failed to present the inequities of the Turkish Constitution in the context of the national, cultural and political rights of Kurds. The PKK arose from the history of Turkey's denial of rights to Kurds and continued because of Turkey's reliance on American weaponry to suppress the Kurdish uprising. But President Obama could not make the minimal concession of recognizing the Kurds as a people, not to mention the potentially politically explosive alternative of acknowledging their history as a nation. Instead, President Obama used the expression " the Kurdish population here inside Turkey". In a like manner, President Obama could not bring himself to mention the word "genocide" regarding the actions of the Ottoman Empire against Armenians preferring to refer to them as "the terrible events of 1915".   

It is ironic that President Obama chose Turkey to declare: "There's an old Turkish proverb: 'You cannot put out fire with flames.'" It is obviously a proverb that the Turkish government, not to mention the US government, needs to be reminded of.     

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