During his reign, both race and tongues were Turkified and Kurdish identity was obliterated
Atatürk applied the principal of (racial assimilation) to the Kurds
Ibn Khaldun says in his introduction: “History is an attempt to scrutinize and justify the existence of beings, and to know facts, and the reasons why it happens. Thus, history is worthy of being a science that informs us about the news and morals of past nations.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s policy towards the Kurds, in its ethnic aversion, constituted an extension of the policy of the Ottoman sultans, through the duality of containment and oppression without the Kurds getting their right to defend the Kurdish identity in its behavioral and functional expressions. Atatürk’s racism constituted a “coup” against the promises Atatürk made to the Kurds to give them the right to choose a better political destiny befitting their demographic weight and their cooperation with the Kemalist regime in the transitional period that preceded and followed the fall of the Ottoman rule in Astana.
The founder of the Turkish Republic eradicated the Kurdish identity by suppressing their language, housing Turks among them, and displacing them from their areas.
The political shrewdness of Atatürk lacked the lessons of history that proved that the security and military approach remained incapable and deficient in securing permanent and concurrent solutions to the Kurdish issue, which required diligence to develop a new political contract with this ethnic component, which extends over four important countries and has background bases through which it moves with all its dynamism and professionalism.
In this regard, Atatürk ‘s policy towards the Kurds remained an extension of hesitant and indecisive policies, given that “the (Turkish) state’s policies – related to the successive governments – were issued from converging perceptions and references, as it did not stop at the possibility of the Kurds’ formation according to the option of secession, federalism or self-management, but it reached their formation within the boundaries of the Turkish Empire, and on its borders.
Atatürk maintained the same ethnic orientation in dealing with the Kurdish Issue, and he didn’t stop there, as he neglected the rights of the Kurdish people by concluding a series of alliances with the West that ended with giving him the green light to abuse the Kurds, but went beyond that to an attempt to erase the ethnic and identity nature of the Kurds by working to Turkify them and push them to abandon their language and change their names as a prelude to annihilating the Kurdish identity and depriving it of any physical or even non-material presence.
The Kemalist orientation took a legal and institutional dimension that was perpetuated in the constitution of 1924 AD, which stipulated that the “exclusive” language of the state is Turkish, before the direction itself took a severe form, especially after the revolution of Sheikh Saeed Biran. Therefore, we find the historian Ahmed Taj al-Din confirming this point by saying: “When the situation in the Kurdish areas worsened, a meeting was held in Astana, chaired by the President of the Republic…After which, several important decisions were taken, most notably: the abolition of clan life and the tribal style the Kurds live, by distributing tribal members among the various Turkish states, the compulsory Turkification of the inhabitants, the complete erasure of Kurdish nationalism, and the prohibition of speaking, reading and writing in the Kurdish language.”
Atatürk continued the eradication process of the Kurdish identity through what was known as the policy of “racial assimilation” through “the suppression of the Kurdish language and the settlement of Turks among the Kurds, and the transfer of some of them to the West.” The results of the two reports were also embodied in the “East Reforms Plan” which was presented to the government in September (1925), which provided special administrative arrangements for the Kurdish regions, which subjects to an inspector general, and the exile of “dangerous” Kurdish families and the exclusion of the Kurds from government service in their hometowns.
For these reasons, Atatürk tried, under the terms of integration, to erase everything related to the Kurdish culture. Things came to the point of calling the Kurds “mountain Turks” as a gesture of neglection and denial of their national presence, in addition to teaching Turkish folklore in schools to perpetuate the reality of Turkification and remove cultural and ethnicity differences at the expense of Kurdish culture.
Atatürk not only he was unsatisfied with these racist measures, but also tried to undermine the Kurdish issue from the inside when he sought to encourage the establishment of “Kurdish” political organizations that owe absolute loyalty to Turkey in order to activate what he called “the policy of denial,” which is intended to deny the existence of a Kurdish people separate from the Turkish nation, which is united by the Turkish language and culture. This direction was legalized in December 1926 when the Ministry of Education issued a decree prohibiting the use of “ethnic” names such as Kurd, Laz or Circassians because such names “damage Turkish unity.”
He fought everything related to the culture, he even called the Kurds "the Turks of the Mountain."
In conclusion, Atatürk failed to contain the Kurds when he insisted on perpetuating the ethnicity of the regime despite the plurality of society. He also established contradictory contractual relations when he subjected the constitution – which is supposed to be a manifestation of democratic practice – to the dictatorship of the army and left the rest of ethnic expressions on the margins of the Turkish political society, which made Turkey Suffers from social and political upheavals, from which Ankara is still suffering its repercussions to-date.
- Ahmed Taj El-Din, Kurdish history of the people and the cause of the homeland, (Cairo: Cultural House for Publishing, 2001).
- Andrew Mango, Ataturk: The Biography of the Founder of Modern Turkey, translated by: Omar Al-Ayoubi (Abu Dhabi: Department of Culture and Tourism “Kalima”, 2018).
- Basile Nikitin: Kurds sociological and historical study, translated by: Nouri Talabani, (Beirut: Dar Al-Saqi, 2017).
- Aida Alali, Kurds in the world – their history and their future (Beirut: Arab House Publishers, 2018).