Mark Campbell speaks to Dr Cengiz Gunes the author The Political Representation of Kurds in Turkey New Actors and Modes of Participation in a Changing Society about the latest attempts by the Turkish government to close the People’s Democratic Party, the HDP and looks briefly at the history of the banning of Kurdish political parties in Turkey from the 1990’s onwards.
After the establishment of the modern Turkish state with the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, the Turkish state has built the state upon the denial of the Kurdish identity with brutal repression meted out to organised Kurds who attempted to push forward with specific Kurdish demands on either self rule, autonomy or linguistic and cultural rights.
The history of the experience of those who raised Kurdish demands is a ‘hidden history’ in Turkey and a very bloody one. The Sheikh Said uprising, Dersim uprising and Ararat uprising are just three notable uprisings by Kurds for Kurdish rights that were brutally suppressed by the Turkish state who saw no space for Kurds in the modern Turkish state that was being built by repeating the ultra nationalist mantra of ‘one nation, one people,’ and those people were to be known as ‘Turks’.
But Kurds have always resisted this racist forced assimilation policy of the Turkish state both through democratic means and by armed struggle and in this interview with Dr Gunes he looks specifically at the spaces that were opened up for democratic struggle by different Kurdish notables and more importantly parties from the 1950s onwards, which is also the subject of Dr Gunes’s fascinating book.
Dr Cengiz Gunes takes us through a brief historical explanation of a very complex issue and history in which up to 9 different ‘pro Kurdish’ political parties have been banned.
The HDP is the culmination of years of democratic struggle by the Kurdish political movement in Turkey under extremely repressive conditions that has successfully managed to unite a diverse political rainbow of progressive thought in Turkey and has had years of political success despite such repressive measures being taken against it. The Turkish state has failed to be able to oppose the HDP purely on political grounds alone and has had to fall back on dictatorial methods of brutal repression which has at times meant political rallies and demonstrations being bombed with hundreds of deaths, HDP offices being subjected to mass arson campaigns where their offices have been torched and set alight on a national scale, assassination attempts against the leaders, and the mass incarceration of elected MPs, Mayors and party officials under false and fabricated charges.
As we await the outcome of the latest political attack against the HDP in the form of the bizarre and presidentially initiated campaign of the so called ‘Kobani trial’ we look back on the successes of Kurdish parties to comeback after being banned and assess what the future may hold for Kurdish political representation in Turkey post HDP.
Dr Cengiz Gunes is Associate Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the Faculty of Social Sciences, The Open University, U.K. Previously he worked as a Senior Researcher at the Iraq Institute for Strategic Studies in Beirut, Lebanon. He is the author of The Kurds in a New Middle East: The Changing Geopolitics of a Regional Conflict (2019) and The Kurdish National Movement in Turkey: From Protest to Resistance (2012) as well as being co-editor of The Kurdish Question in Turkey: New Perspectives on Violence, Representation, and Reconciliation (2014). Political Representation of the Kurds in Turkey: New Actors and Modes of Participation (2020) and Cambridge History of the Kurds (2021)
Dr Cengiz Gunes book on the Political Representation of the Kurds in Turkey: New Actors and Modes of Participation in a Changing Society can be bought here.