The signing of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne came with a minor win for Turkish nationalists and the loss of the status quo for the rest of minorities under the newly founded republic at the time, historian Ayşe Hür said in an interview.
“I see the republic’s Kurdish policies as a genocide spread over time,” Hür said, expanding on her comments during the Women Discuss Lausanne workshop held earlier in the week in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority Diyarbakır (Amed) province.
The treaty that is considered the founding document of the Turkish republic following the demise of the Ottoman Empire “represented a stalemate for imperialist powers, a small but present state and status for Turkish nationalists … and a process of assimilation for Kurds and other minorities,” Hür said. “If assimilation didn’t work, the violent purification projects went from exile, punishment, and massacres.”
“The policies [the republic] implemented could be called an apartheid spread over a century, or even genocide. This tragic aspect can be overlooked because it was not limited in time, like 1915 and 16 for the Armenian issue,” she continued.
The treaty signalled “the end of the old age of empires”, and that the world would continue with the nation states that emerged out of them.
At this junction, Armenians and other non-Muslim peoples were recognised as minorities, but Kurds “were not even uttered as minorities but rendered invisible”, Hür said. “Kurds lost the autonomous system they had since Ottoman times. They were prevented from exercising their right to self-determination, and became subjects under the newly founded state.”
The new status of subjects of the nation state “meant that Kurds fell into an immense grinder, their community, language, traditions, spaces, and everything else coming under attack”, she continued.
Hür said the current international context was not conducive to the exercise of self-determination, as it had been the case at the turn of the century. “It is not easy to continue down this path without any hindrance,” she said.
The historian advised a holistic approach to Kurds, saying they need to “integrate a simultaneous struggle in the spheres of politics, diplomacy, military and culture”.
“It depends on not just Kurds, but also on Turks and the global context. There are many factors to consider now,” she said.