Sometimes it is wise to look back a little before looking forward again. I think Palestinians and Kurds today are in such a situation. Because, after all, they have experience of working together and helping each other.
The military coup in Turkey the 12th of September 1980 was to crush all left-wing opposition. General and coup president Kenan Evren ordered that every revolutionary organization should be eradicated. He directed his racism most of all against the Kurds. Wikipedia writes that Evren “denied the existence of a Kurdish ethnicity and claimed the word Kurd arose from the sound the snow made if one walked in it and restricted the use of the Kurdish language. The term “Mountain Turk” was officially replaced with the new euphemism “Eastern Turk” in 1980.
Evren was cynical, efficient, and merciless. Many radical and/or revolutionary groups were crushed. Evren had many lives on his conscience when he himself died in 2015. And I don’t understand why Erdogan made a “trial” against Evren in 2012, 32 years after the coup. Would Erdogan present himself as opposed to coup methods? Incidentally, Evren died without having received a legally binding sentence.
The PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), at that time a young movement, was the strongest party that survived. Coup maker Evren was unable to crush the PKK, although many of their activists and sympathizers were killed or maimed. The prison in Amed – one of the world’s worst torture centers – was completed just in time for the coup. It became a Martial Law Military Prison.
The PKK’s internal qualities are one of the reasons why even President Evren and his torturers – in Amed and elsewhere – were unable to break the movement. This was probably the main reason.
But another reason receives far too little attention today: The revolutionary Palestinian movement extended a hand and helped its fighting Kurdish comrades who fled from General Evren’s terror and liquidation team.
A guerrilla soldier I met in Qandil in December 1998 told me about this. He and other comrades then manned an air defense position on a strategically important mountain peak in Qandil. A converted machine gun was the most important weapon they had. He said that they had once shot down a Turkish plane. I was visiting the PKK guerrillas together with Veronica, a very skilled press photographer. She was also a solidarity activist.
The soldier I mentioned – let’s call him Ahmed – gave me new knowledge. He belonged to the first cohort of the PKK academy in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. One of the Palestinian liberation organizations had given the PKK permission to run classes there. Young people who were to become guerrilla soldiers received both ideological training and military training. Ahmed was in the first batch that started the education in January 1982.
After six months at the Academy, Ahmed and his comrades were to return to Bakur – the Turkish-occupied part of Kurdistan. They were to participate in the fight against General Evren’s coup regime.
For Ahmed and his cohort-comerades, it didn’t exactly go that way. The Zionist regime in Israel invaded southern Lebanon in June 1982. Ahmed said that he and the others in his cohort discussed what they should do now: Should we follow our own plans and go home to the battle in Bakur, or should we go to the front against the Israeli invasion force and fight alongside our Palestinian comrades?
They decided to join the Palestinians’ struggle. Many from the first cohort at the Academy never came home for the fight against coup president Evren. Ahmed told me that many newly trained guerrillas were martyred in the Palestinian defense struggle at the Beaufort fortress. They fought and died in the battle against the invasion army that Israeli President Yitzhak Rachamim Navon and Prime Minister Menachem Begin had sent into Lebanon. Israel was to crush the PLO and other Palestinian forces.
Ahmed also said that many in the Bekaa had been skeptical of these strangers who came to the Bekaa in January 1982 to conduct schooling and training. Where did they come from? Who were they? Could they be British agents?
– After we took part in the match against Israel, no one doubted us, he said.
This happened 41 years ago. Today, the situation is different and partly more difficult. The Palestinians have got their Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas signed the Oslo agreement in 1993, which has done so much damage to the Palestinians’ struggle for liberation. Abbas, who is now 87 years old, was elected president in 2005 for a four-year term. Since then, there have been no presidential elections.
Many Palestinians hate the Abbas regime. The security forces of the self-governing authorities pursue and arrest Palestinians who want to organize a defensive struggle against the Israeli occupation force. – Abbas is doing the work for Israel, said several of the Palestinians I met last year in Israel and in the West Bank.
A great deal is different between the Palestinian and Kurdish liberation struggles. Yes, there are such big differences that a foreigner like me should be careful about comparing and commenting. After all, I live in Norway, one of the small imperialist countries in Europe. An imperialist country which for the past 35 years has participated in wars of aggression in Europe, Africa, and Asia. At the same time, we have had peace in our own country.
But in any case, I know that the peoples of the Middle East have lived with countless wars since the First World War, which are due to the bloody division and politics of domination by imperialist powers. The Zionist movement, with the support of the same imperialists, created the apartheid state of Israel which expelled the Palestinians in 1948 and has since occupied more and more of their land.
But I ask myself: Isn’t there a certain similarity between Mesud Barzani in Bashur and Mahmoud Abbas in Palestine? After all, they cooperate with their respective occupying power – Israel and Turkey. Maybe Barzani is the worst? After all, he is sending his own peshmerges to support the Turkish invasion forces who are waging war against the PKK guerrillas. This means that Barzani is participating in Turkey’s war against those who defend Kurdistan.
1982 and 2023
The PKK was inexperienced when Ahmed attended the Academy’s first course in January 1982. By comparison, some of the Palestinian organizations were strong. But both they and the PKK supported and helped each other. No one should forget the Kurdish martyrs from 1982. They became martyrs in the Palestinian struggle against the apartheid state of Israel.
A researcher in Europe who has studied the PKK’s development says about this period:
“Between 1980 and 1982, almost 300 PKK militants were trained in different Palestinian guerrilla camps in Lebanon and were subsequently involved in the armed resistance against the Israeli invasion of June 1982.
However, more importantly the PKK seized this opportunity not only for military training but also for organisational recovery which almost no other Turkish or Kurdish movement managed. (…)
“Consequently, on the basis of its relationship to the Palestinian movement, the PKK reorganised itself as a party at some distance from its ‘geography of war’ and trained its militants for its planned people’s warfare in the Kurdistan region of Turkey. Despite the military coup which crushed almost all Turkish and Kurdish radical groups in Turkey, the PKK alone managed to persevere and indeed strengthen itself. In this success, the relationship to the Palestinian movement played a crucial role, allowing the Kurdish movement to attempt to realise its own ‘Palestinian Dream’.”
How will relations between Palestinian and Kurdish freedom fighters develop in the next 10 years?
Erling Folkvord is a journalist and author, a member of the Norwegian Red Party, a former member of the Norwegian parliament and a national board member of Solidarity with Kurdistan.