President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
February 18, 2016
Honorable President Obama,
When the Da’esh terrorists invaded Iraq and captured the city of Mosul in June of 2014, and later attacked the Yezidi Kurds in Shingal, they committed the most deplorable atrocities against an innocent civilian population. Since then, the Kurds from all parts of Kurdistan, including the PKK freedom fighters, have been at the forefront fighting alongside the Peshmerga forces. The PKK has sacrificed hundreds of its warriors to protect civilians. This, in all practical sense, illustrates that the PKK has been fighting with the US led coalition against the Da’esh darkness. While the PKK voluntarily entered the war against Da’esh, Turkey’s Erdoğan has been supporting Da’esh by giving them sanctuary, logistical, and training support. In addition, Da’esh terrorists have been treated in protected hospitals under direct supervision of Erdoğan’s daughter, Sümeyye Erdoğan. This brings forward the question of exactly who is the US ally, and who is the terrorist?
Mr. President, the Turkish Constitution in the Article 66, defines citizenship as “Everyone bound to the Turkish state through the bond of citizenship is a Turk,” instead of “a citizen of Turkey.” This has stripped all ethnicities except that of “Turk” from their national/cultural identities—committing in effect, the constitutional “genocide” against the Kurds, Armenians, Lazs, Circassians, and others. This constitution has created a mindset that has kept the Turkish authorities in the cycle of hate and violent suppression against millions of people inside of Turkey’s borders. Hence, it is difficult to see that the US continues its support to a government that has organized its nation under such a racist constitution. So, for the US to identify a movement of freedom fighters who resist their annihilation and Turkish state policies of erasure as “terrorists” is morally bankrupt and goes against every value for which America stands. The PKK in the past three decades, has stood up for the rights of the Kurds. It cannot be a terrorist organization by definition, since the movement is in defense of Kurds and it is supported by millions of the Kurds in Kurdistan-Turkey as well as in other parts of Kurdistan. Thus, if the PKK is ”terrorist,” millions of Kurdish mothers and youth, accordingly, should be considered “terrorists.”
On January 21, 2016, while sharing the stage with the Turkish Prime Minster, Ahmet Davutoğlu, Vice President Joe Biden stated that the PKK and Da’esh were on the same scale of terrorism. Well, the PKK must not be painted with the same brush or label. This kind of labeling gives tacit approval to Turkish repression and violence against millions of freedom-seeking Kurds. Hence, one can wonder if America also shares responsibility for the continuance of Kurdish oppression by the Turkish state. In the past, the US has harmed the Kurds by helping the nation states to continue their policies of oppression against the Kurds.
Seventeen years ago, on February 15, 1999, as a result of a US led international scheme, Mr. Abdullah Ocalan was kidnapped in Kenya and handed over to the Turks with the full collaboration of the Clinton administration. This move presumably was assuming his capture would bring an end to the Kurdish struggle. Mr. President, this February 15, 2016, demarcates the seventeen anniversary of Mr. Ocalan’s imprisonment. Despite his imprisonment, the PKK and Kurdish determination in Kurdistan-Turkey to continue Ocalan’s path for achieving their national rights is stronger than before his imprisonment. Consequently, the facts on the ground speak loud and clear that the Turkish state cannot resolve the Kurdish issue militarily and with police suppression. Instead, the Turks will have to recognize the reality in which they live that everyone bound to the Turkish state is “not an ethnic Turk.” Therefore they have to think about a peaceful political solution to this bloody and long protracted conflict.
Mr. President, as a point of comparison, I might ask you if the Egyptians in Tahrir Square were also terrorists? Or when Iranian civilians in the Green Movement in Iran in 2009, stood up against the Iranian oppressive regime, were they also terrorists? If they were not terrorists, why then, are the Kurds—Kurds, who are asking for nothing more than their God-given rights—their national identity?
Further, Mr. Ocalan’s recent call for peace and co-existence has also been rejected by Erdoğan’s authoritarian government. Erdoğan uses the pretext of the “terrorists” euphemism against the PKK, but in reality, Erdoğan and his government fight the entire Kurdish nation. For instance, in Rojava (Kurdistan-Syria), the Kurds have been the only valiant force, who pushed back the Da’esh terrorists. But contrary to its public slogans, Erdoğan’s government, has been aiding Da’esh. This is a clear indication where Erdoğan and his government stand in the war against Da’esh. So, based on the evidence, we can see that the so-called US “ally” – Turkey, is actually undermining US efforts in the fight against Da’esh by using it opportunistically to attack the Kurds.
Importantly, this configuration of events actually gives you the moral ground to drop the terrorist designation against PKK and recognize their support of US policy and efforts against the real terrorists, Da’esh. This will serve notice to the Turkish state that they cannot continue their cynical policy of using the PKK as a pretext for suppression and elimination of the Kurdish identity, which they are currently engaged in—destroying the infrastructure and livelihood of Kurdish civilians in the towns of Sur, Jazira, Silopî, and other towns, within its borders. Moreover, the Turkish state has extended this strategy beyond its borders into the Kurdish region of Syria, while also directly contravening the US fight against the destabilization and brutality of Da’esh.
Finally, just as you have taken a bold step to end the futile US embargo against Cuba as an ineffective policy, I believe you could take a step to further your legacy by calling upon the Turkish state to end its present attacks and its old bankrupt and racist policies against the Kurds within Turkey. You can, Mr. President, correct this policy of labeling the PKK as a terrorist organization. It is not in line with American Democratic values and record of protecting human rights. Additionally, we ask that the US negotiate the release of Mr. Ocalan from prison and pressure Erdoğan’s government to return to the negotiating table and promote the Turkish-Kurdish peace process. These measures could end this cycle of suppression and bloody conflict, and help to establish long lasting co-existence.
Tennessee State University