Kurdish Culture, Repression, Women ’s Rights, and Resistance

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global <http://portland.indymedia.org/en/region/global/> 13.Jun.2007 12:24
   Kurdish Culture, Repression, Women's Rights, and Resistance author:
Steven Argue        [image: e-mail:]e-mail: steveargue2 at yahoo.com
  For the Kurdish people outrageous acts of oppression in Turkey, Iraq,
Iran, Armenia, and Syria have included mass murder, suppression of language
rights, exploitation of Kurdish resources with nothing but poverty given in
return, deprivations of national citizenships, and the brutal suppression of
political representation.

Despite the oppression the Kurdish people have faced, they continue to speak
their language and organize politically and, at times, militarily to fight
back nearly everywhere they continue to live as a native population.   [image:
Kurds Demonstrating]<http://portland.indymedia.org/media/images/2007/06/360968.jpg>
  Kurdish Culture, Repression, Women's Rights, and Resistance

By Steven Argue

The Kurdish people number at an estimated at 25-30 million people. They live
in eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, northeastern Syria, northwest of the
Zagros Mountains in Iran, and in Armenia. They also have a large émigré
population in Western Europe. With 4-5 million people and 15-20% of the
population the Kurds are the largest non-Arab minority in Iraq (CIA Iraq,
2007). They are also the largest non-Turkish minority in Turkey comprising
20% of the population (CIA Turkey, 2007). The Kurdish speaking people are 9%
of the Iranian population (CIA Iran, 2007). In Syria, the Kurds are the
largest minority with about 1.75 million people comprising about 10% of the
population (Lowe 2006). The rise of nationalist xenophobia and war in
Armenia after the fall of the Soviet Union has pushed most Kurds out of
Armenia, but around 30,000 Yezidi Kurds remain comprising about 1% of the
population (CIA Armenia, 2007).

The language of the Kurds, called Kurdish, is distinct from the Persian of
Iran, the Arabic of Iraq and Syria, and the Turkish of Turkey. Thus the
common language of the Kurds both separates them from the dominant cultures
in the nation-states where they live and unites the Kurdish people as a
nationality without a nation-state.

While being distinct the Kurdish language is most closely related to
Persian, yet the origins of the varied Kurdish culture is partially
influenced by the absorption of characteristics of the differing
nationalities and cultures that have historically surrounded them.

In terms of religion the Kurdish people are mostly Muslim with both Shia
(primarily of the Alevi sect), Sunni (primarily Shafi'i). There is also a
large Sufi influence among many Kurdish Muslims, often cited as a moderating
influence on Islamic fundamentalism. A small number of Kurds are also Yezidi
Muslims and Christians. The Kurds also have a history that has included
secular and atheist political leaderships.

The differing Kurdish religious identities have, at times, been a political
factor both in divisions among the Kurdish people and in divisions, which
distinguish them from the dominant nationalities. The strong Kurdish
national identity is based on mutual language and a history of oppression.
These factors hold the Kurds together as a people.

For the Kurdish people outrageous acts of oppression in Turkey, Iraq, Iran,
Armenia, and Syria have included mass murder, suppression of language
rights, exploitation of Kurdish resources with nothing but poverty given in
return, deprivations of national citizenships, and the brutal suppression of
political representation.

Despite the oppression the Kurdish people have faced, they continue to speak
their language and organize politically and, at times, militarily to fight
back nearly everywhere they continue to live as a native population.

The Kurdish people are, in fact, the largest national minority in the world
that has no homeland. Yet, it is largely their mutual language as well as
their mutual oppression and a large amount of mutual poverty (despite some
class differences) that continues to unite the Kurdish people. They desire
borders that would change the map of the Near East. A better understanding
of the Kurdish people is a key to understanding the entire region.

Kurdish Language and Literature

While being most closely related to Persian; the language of the Kurds,
called Kurdish, is distinct from the Persian of Iran, the Arabic of Iraq and
Syria, and the Turkish of Turkey. Historically many Kurdish intellectuals
have written both in Kurdish in as well as in the languages of the
dominating cultures (Blau 2007).

Despite a long history of oppression that includes the banning of the
written and spoken Kurdish word, the Kurdish people have a rich literary
history. Ell Herirl (1425-1495) is the first well-known Kurdish poet (Blau
2007). He, like the many patriotic Kurdish poets that followed, wrote of his
love of Kurdish lands and its women (Blau 2007).

Up until very recently the Kurdish language was brutally suppressed
everywhere in its native range except the Soviet Republic of Armenia.
Armenian Kurds enjoyed special status as an ethnic minority in the Soviet
Union including special programs for economic development. The Kurdish
language, far from being banned, enjoyed sponsorship through state-sponsored
Kurdish radio, a Kurdish newspaper, and Kurdish cultural events. After the
fall of the Soviet Union Armenian Kurds lost language rights and other
protections and most Kurds have been forcefully deported or have fled to
Germany and other west European countries as well as to Russia (Mehrdad

In Turkey, the Kurdish language was illegal up until 1991 when political and
armed struggle forced the Turkish government to recognize some Kurdish
language rights. Kurds and international human rights organizations,
however, still complain of an oppressive situation imposed by the Turkish
government (Human Rights Watch 2006).

In Iraq, Saddam Hussein, as a U.S. backed ally at the time, is famous for
committing mass murder against the Kurdish speaking population. Today
Kurdish literature is still repressed with a number of Kurdish journalists
jailed by what the Kurdish leftist opposition considers to be a puppet
government of the United States and central government.

Iranian policy forbids the Kurdish language and has attempted to assimilate
the Kurds into the dominant Persian culture. Besides the state of war
between Iraq and the Kurds in the Iran-Iraq war, there was also a state of
war between the Iranian government and Iranian Kurds at that same time. More
recently in 2005 the Iranian government opened fire on Kurdish protesters
with attack helicopters killing 20 and wounding 200 (Amnesty International
2005). Despite the attempts by the Iranian government to stomp out Kurdish
culture, Kurdish literature and histories are available in Iran in both
Kurdish and Persian (Blau 2007).

In Syria, the written Kurdish language has been banned since 1958. In 1987
that ban was extended to Kurdish music and Kurdish videos (Amnesty
International 2005). Hundreds of thousands of native Syrian Kurds have no
citizenship rights, the Kurdish flag is illegal (but still flown), and
numerous acts of repression have been documented.

Due to the fact that Kurdish culture is horribly repressed in all of their
native lands, today it is the Kurdish Diaspora living in Europe, the United
States, and Australia that create most of the new Kurdish literature. This
includes poetry, children's books, newspapers, and magazines. Sweden, with a
very enlightened policy towards immigrant populations, encourages Kurds and
other groups to continue their languages and cultures and allocates a large
amount of money to the relatively small Kurdish population for Kurdish
language publications (Blau 2007). In addition works in the Kurdish language
are being produced in other countries where funding is harder to come by.

The tenacity of Kurdish culture owes much to its extensive historic roots,
pride of its people in their literature and language, and refusal to die in
the face of attempts at forced assimilation and brutal repression.

Kurdish Modes of Production and Their Development

Kurdish lands are rich and productive, and they sustain the Kurdish people
both through pastoral activity as well as through agriculture (Izady 1992).
The gathering of wild nuts, berries, and truffles are also important sources
of food and income for the Kurdish people, especially in forested regions
(Izady 1992). In addition some of the Kurdish lands are rich in oil
resources, but the Kurds have been denied access to this oil wealth.

It is established that a number of domestic animals as well as cereal crops
used around the world were first domesticated in Kurdish lands (Izady 1992).

Kurdish pastoralism takes place primarily in areas not suitable for
agriculture because they are too high in elevation, to steep, or too low in
precipitation (Izady 1992). Pastoral activities were once nomadic, but now
encompass only lands within a few days of permanent dwellings. As a result
some lands that were traditionally grazed are no longer used (Izady 1992).

Kurdish lands grow large amounts of wheat, barley, rice, cotton, tobacco,
sugar beets, olives, corn, sunflowers, soybeans, fruits, and nuts. Many of
these are cash crops sold to other areas of the Near East where there is far
less arable land (Izady 1992).

In many areas of Kurdistan agriculture is still practiced with ox, mule, or
donkey drawn wooden ploughs (Jaff 2007).

A merchant class of Kurds has arisen since the 1950s making a living off of
capitalist exchanges (Marriage and Family Encyclopedia 2007).

While participating in the broader economy, household families are the most
basic economic unit for rural Kurds. Such households are patrilocal
containing the first son and his wife and their children. Households
participate in reciprocal non-capitalist labor exchanges and share what the
household earns. Urban Kurds often continue this family communal structure,
but it sometimes falls apart in the face of wage earners no longer wishing
to share their income (Marriage and Family Encyclopedia 2007).

Many rural Kurds also seasonally participate in construction labor in the
cities, bringing additional income back to their families (Marriage and
Family Encyclopedia 2007).

Reciprocal exchanges are not just confined to households. They also take
place between neighbors and kin in a village, and are expected. These
communal exchanges also take place among urban Kurds (Marriage and Family
Encyclopedia 2007).

In addition tribal Kurds are expected to work for landlords and tribal
leaders, with durations of labor not clearly defined (Marriage and Family
Encyclopedia 2007).

The labor structure in Kurdish villages reflects the labor-intensive,
technologically primitive, agriculture forced on them by the neglect of the
oil rich nations many Kurds are part of. Meanwhile, due to discrimination,
the petroleum and mining operations in Kurdish areas rarely hire Kurds (Jaff
2007). This contributes to Kurdish poverty in regions that are rich in
natural resources; fueling resentment and separatist desires.

Kurdish Sexuality, Birth, Domestic Life, Descent, and Kinship

The Kurdish people are organized in patrilineal clans (Refugee Health 2007).
As such there is patriarchal control of marriage and property, with women
treated in many ways like property. In addition, political status is often
the product of patrilineal descent (Refugee Health 2007). It is a male
dominated culture where female sexuality is repressed and women are

Rural Kurdish women are allowed to mingle with males, but they are not
allowed to make their own decisions regarding sexuality or husbands
(Hassanpour 2001). Marriage for Kurdish women is a form of bondage
traditionally decided upon by the male members of her family (Hassanpour
2001). These decisions have often been made in the girl's childhood, and
sometimes even before she is born (Hassanpour 2001). In Kurdish Iraq such
practices of arranged marriage have been on the wane for a number of years,
but family permission and payments for brides are still the rule (Refugee
Health 2007).

Rural Kurdish marriages are patrilocal (Hassanpour 2001). The family
receiving the bride pays the family she came from (Hassanpour 2001). This
price is seen as payment for the labor that will be lost when she moves to
live with the groom's family (Hassanpour 2001). To hold onto the wealth of
the village marriages within the village are preferred and marriages between
first cousins are often arranged (Refugee Health 2007). Families also
sometimes exchange sons and daughters with the same family to save on
expenses (Refugee Health 2007).

The male families of urban Kurds do not pay a bride price at the time of
marriage. Yet if the male decides to divorce the woman, his family is
contractually obliged to pay her family. Urban Kurdish women are also not
permitted to ask for a man's hand in marriage, nor decide to divorce.
Divorced women do not have a right to custody of the children (Hassanpour

Polygamy also sometimes occurs amongst Kurds. In such cases the wives are
ranked in status by their age (Hassanpour 2001). While polygamy is not the
norm, up to four wives are allowed (Refugee Health 2007).

Like marriage, men hold women's sexuality under a strict ideal of shame and
constraint, including virginity before marriage (Hassanpour 2001). This
"ideal" is upheld under the threat, and use of, male violence against women.
Such violence includes beatings, pouring acid on faces, shaving heads, and
even "honor" killings where women are murdered to by family members to bring
back the family's good name (Kurdish Women's Rights Watch 2007).

While Kurdish women may be murdered for adultery, no similar treatment is
dished out to Kurdish men for the same act (Hassanpour 2001).

Kurds tend to see having large families as the ideal. This grows out of the
material need for more laboring hands in the rural areas where most Kurds
live, as well as from religious beliefs that consider birth control immoral
by Islamic law. Yet there are growing numbers of young couples that ask aid
workers for birth control. The birth of a child is celebrated with a feast.
(Refugee Health 2007)

While the Kurdish people are oppressed and denied many fundamental rights,
Kurdish women are doubly oppressed. While some Kurds have claimed better
treatment of women than most of the Islamic world, treatment of Kurdish
women does appear to have many similarities to those of the dominating
cultures. One difference with Iranian treatment is that Kurdish women are
not forced to wear the veil and are generally allowed freer movement than in
many traditionally Muslim societies including Iran (Refugee Health 2007).

In Iraq, however, Kurdish women are not historically better off. Currently
the Kurdish nationalist parties in power, working with the U.S. occupation,
have done much to undermine the gains made for women's rights during the
rule of Saddam Hussein. Under Saddam Hussein's secular government, Iraqi
women had many rights found nowhere else in the historically Islamic world
except in the Asian republics of the former Soviet Union. Over 50% of Iraqi
doctors were women. Iraqi women were allowed to walk unescorted in the
streets, to drive, to freely criticize men, and the right to work and
control their own funds. Today the Kurdish parties that the U.S. has put in
control of Iraqi Kurdistan are working towards adding brutally anti-woman
Sharia (Islamic Law) to the constitution that would strip women of more
rights. Similar moves are being made by the U.S. imposed central government
in Iraq.

In Turkey, it is well documented that the Turkish government has routinely
used rape as a weapon in the their counter-insurgency measures against
Kurdish separatists (Hilton 2002).

There are many historical examples of Kurdish nationalists and communists
speaking out for women's rights (Hassanpour 2001). Additionally Kurdish
parties in Iraq that advocate women's rights, such as the Worker's Communist
Party of Iraq, have been excluded by the U.S. occupation from participation
in elections. Besides in Iraq, the use by the United States of rightwing
misogynist Islamic forces against socialists and nationalists with
progressive stands on women is well established, with the U.S. bankrolling
of the Mujahideen holy war against women's rights in Afghanistan in the
1980's being another well known example.

Kurdish women, with the exception of those that lived in Soviet Armenia,
have not had the benefit of the feminist movements of the west nor the
social revolutions of the Soviet Union and China that greatly advanced
women's rights in those societies. While not achieving perfection, the
Chinese and Soviet revolutions outlawed forced marriages and made other
giant strides towards women's equality including in the areas of women's
education, employment, and reproductive rights.

While outsiders may find it easy to judge Kurdish treatment of women, it is
worth noting that up until now the Kurdish nation has been denied the right
to make any fundamental decisions regarding any policies in their land
without outside control. Given the record of the dominating countries,
including the United States, it appears that it is only within the context
of Kurdish self-determination that the problems of women's oppression can be
solved by the Kurdish people themselves.

Kurdish Political Organization

The Kurdish people have organized themselves into many political
organizations that advocate language rights, freedom from the social
chauvinism and violence of the dominant cultures, Kurdish independence, and
in many cases socialism. These Kurdish political organizations often exist
in direct contradiction to widespread feudal village structures and the
oppression of women.

The Kurdish Worker's Party (KKP), one of the main Kurdish resistance groups
in Turkey, sees the continuation of feudal political structures on the
village level as being the result of oppression and exploitation from the
Turkish State. The following emic from the program of the KKP spells out
this point of view:

"National oppression exercised by Turkish state through massacres,
compulsory resettlement and forced immigration goes on brutally. This
oppression manifests itself economically in the fact that Kurdistan is a
domestic market for Turkey, plundered and destroyed; politically in the fact
that the Kurds are under the oppression of a foreign state, and denied of
national sovereignty; and socially and culturally in the national
humiliation and cultural backwardness created by continuing tribalism,
widespread ignorance and forced assimilation." (The Kurdish Worker's Party

The KKP is one of nineteen different Kurdish parties in Turkey (Turkey
2004). Of these thirteen have been declared illegal by the central
government, including the KKP (Turkey 2004). On the other hand the
Democratic People's Party, one of the few legal Kurdish parties, does
participate in Turkish elections (Turkey 2004). They are a member of the
reformist and generally pro-capitalist Socialist International. Parties with
stronger political programs for Kurdish independence and for socialism are
banned and communities identified with them have faced brutal
counter-insurgency methods that have included massacres, the raping of
women, and execution of leaders.

In Iraq, two Kurdish parties, working with the U.S. occupation, rule Iraqi
Kurdistan. These are the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and the
Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), and three minor Kurdish parties that have
participated in an electoral alliance with the PUK and KDP called National
Democratic Kurdish List. In the Kurdish area the National Democratic Kurdish
List received 89.55% of the vote in the 2005 elections (Iraq 2005).

While the 2005 vote may appear to show widespread support among Iraqi Kurds
for the KDP - PUK -USA government, other reports contradict this. Mass
protests have erupted in Kurdish areas against the occupation-imposed lack
of electricity and water (Worker-Communist Party of Iraq 2007). In response
the KDP - PUK -USA government has used violence against protesters and
arrested a number of journalists (Worker-Communist Party of Iraq 2007).
Involved in these protests is the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq, a
political party with members across Iraq of all ethnicities that supports
Kurdish rights. In Kurdistan the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq has
protested U.S. policy on Kurdistan where they point out that although the
Kurdish people in Iraq had gained a high level of economic independence in
the last two decades, U.S. policy has in effect annexed Iraqi Kurdistan back
into the central government (Worker-Communist Party of Iraq 2007).

Unlike the KDP and PUK, the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq opposed the U.S.
invasion of Iraq. They did this while also opposing the government of Saddam
Hussein. In addition the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq, at great risk to
their lives, is carrying out a campaign in Kurdistan against the imposition
of Sharia (Islamic Law) through the constitution of the puppet KDP and PUK
government. They see this as horribly anti-woman and also argue that it will
also further increase sectarian violence (Worker-Communist Party of Iraq

Syria has fourteen different Kurdish political parties (Syria 2004). These
organizations are banned in a country where it is illegal to even raise the
flag of Kurdistan, yet Syrian Kurds continue to struggle for a homeland.

Iran has five different Kurdish political parties (Iran 2004). These have
been involved in a number of uprisings against the central government in the
last few years that have faced brutal repression (Kamala 2004). One of these
organizations leading the uprisings is the Kamala (Revolutionary
Organisation of Toilers of Iranian Kurdistan), a socialist grouping that has
been organizing armed struggle against the central Islamic regime. As strong
advocates of women's rights the Kamala were the first Kurdish organization
to integrate women into their armed forces (Kamala 2004).

Prior to the 1979 Islamic revolution the Kamala was also one of many leftist
and pro-woman organizations struggling against the brutal U.S. imposed
monarchy of the Shah of Iran, but in a great tragedy for women and for
Kurds, it was chauvinistic Islamists that got the upper hand (Kamala 2004).
In their assessment of the Islamic regime the Kamala states, "The Iranian
regime has imposed the a series of discriminative policies in Kurdistan,
which has ultimately resulted in the military occupation of Kurdistan,
widespread poverty amongst this massive population, the suppression of
Kurdish culture, drug addiction (especially amongst youth), religious
suppression, forced migration, imprisonment, terror, torture, and the
Killing of whoever opposing these tyrannical policies."

Armenian Kurds have suffered as well. While Kurds were given special
language rights in Soviet Armenia, after the capitalist counter-revolution
Kurds in Armenia faced mass violence and forced deportations. I have found
no evidence Kurdish political organization in Armenia today.

The fate of Armenia's largely ethnically cleansed Kurds is what has been
attempted by all other countries that dominate the Kurds, elimination of the
Kurdish question through violence and forced assimilation. Yet there is
stubborn resistance in the will of the Kurdish people that refuses to give
up. Instead many Kurds become resistance fighters that are bold enough to
see a redrawn map where Kurdistan gains its independence from Syria, Iran,
Iraq, and Turkey. In addition many are also bold enough to see that future
as one that ends feudal backwardness, promotes education, builds socialism,
and brings equality for women.

The Socialization of Kurdish Children in Language and Culture

The defining trait of Kurdish culture is their language. The education of
Kurdish youth in their native tongue is an essential component, not only in
the preservation of Kurdish culture, but also simply in giving the best
education to young Kurds. The reason for this is that young people often
have many difficulties learning when they are taught in a foreign tongue.

In the early part of the 20th century British colonial authorities in charge
of education in Iraq referred to the Kurdish language as "vernacular". Their
educational model was one of teaching in the Kurdish language only at the
primary school level, with all higher education in Arabic (The Education of
Kurdish Language, 1995-2003).

In 1926 the famous Kurdish nationalist Huzni Mukriyani suggested in a
fictional conversation between a Kurdish father and son that ignorance was
better than being taught in a foreign tongue. The father states, "My dear
son, I like education and I am not an enemy of knowledge and enlightenment,
but it is better for you to remain ignorant than to be unaware of your
identity, not to study in your language and to serve the strangers..." (The
Education of Kurdish Language, 1995-2003).

This emic view of Huzni Mukriyani's of the over riding importance of
children learning in Kurdish wasn't just based on a nationalistic or
romantic desire for cultural preservation, but also grew out of the
practical desire of having Kurdish children be able to understand the
language they were being taught in. This point was driven home in another
line of the fictional conversation where the father states to his son, "You
had better become a shepherd, [Or] do ploughing for me. These are better
than taking lessons and not understanding them" (The Education of Kurdish
Language, 1995-2003).

In the 1950's, in Iraqi Kurdistan, demands by the Kurdish community for more
education in Kurdish began to bear some fruit, but many instructors had
difficulty teaching in Kurdish because they had been instructed in Arabic
(The Education of Kurdish Language, 1995-2003).

In Turkey, Iran, and Syria education in the Kurdish language has been even
more wanting. The Kurdish language was illegal in Turkey up until 1991 and
education in the Kurdish language is still lacking (Human Rights Watch

Yet, as an oppressed people without many educational opportunities, Kurdish
children continue to learn their language from their families and
communities even when formal education is lacking. Thus, the Kurdish
language continues to be passed on to the children, partly out of necessity,
partly out of a nationalistic pride and refuses to die or be forcefully

Religion In Kurdistan, Belief and Disbelief

Kurds practice a variety of monotheist religions including a number of
varieties of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. In addition some Kurdish
nationalist movements led by socialists have a strong history of atheism and

The wide variety of Kurdish religions is due, in part, to the absorption of
differing religions from surrounding nationalities. These religions have
moved through the region over differing historical times. The predominance
of Islam began in the seventh century when most Kurds were converted
(Encyclopedia Britannica 2007).

Most religious Kurds are Muslim of the Sunni denomination (Encyclopedia
Britannica 2007). Kurdish Sunnis predominantly belong to the Shafi'I sect.
Another Islamic denomination found among the beliefs of the Kurdish people
is the Shia, primarily of the Alevi sect. A small number of Kurds are also
Yezidi Muslims, Christians, and Jews.

There is also a large Sufi influence among many Kurdish Muslims, often cited
as a moderating influence on Islamic fundamentalism in many areas, including
the oppression of women. Others see that religious moderation; to the point
it does exist among the Kurds, is the result of heavy influences from
atheistic socialist forces leading many of the struggles against Kurdish
national oppression.

While information on the rarest and most obscure religions is often very
easy to come by, demographic assessments of atheism are difficult to nearly
impossible to obtain for much of the world. This lack of important
anthropological data is due, in part, to the fact that atheists are
oppressed in much of the world and afraid to identify themselves when
attempts are made at collecting such data. But, in addition, there is a
glaring shortage of writings that attempt to look at the role of atheism on
individual cultures. Perhaps this is due, in part, to the universality of
atheism and its lack of quaint provincial deities, sects, or rituals as are
found in the thousands of religions of the world.

A look at the political programs of the socialists that are playing a
leading role in the nationalist liberation movements of Kurdistan does,
however, reveal a strong influence of atheism and secularism in their
advocacy of women's rights and opposition to Islamic Law.

It is a tendency found in many mainstream anthropological writings to play
up the role of various religions in different societies while ignoring the
influences of atheism. Yet it has been atheistic leadership that has led
major advances in women's rights for much of the world's population. Well
known examples are the Chinese and Russian revolutions that outlawed forced
marriages, bride prices, and other manifestations of female slavery still
suffered by most Kurdistani women.

Likewise it is popular groups with atheistic programs, such as the Kurdish
Worker's Party (PKK) in Turkey, that advocate full emancipation for women.
As the PKK states in their program:

"All laws reflecting male domination should be annulled. Violence against
women, all forms of control on women's bodies and lives resulting from
outdated custom and traditional habits, and bride's price should be
forbidden." (KKP Program, 2003)

This program of the PKK is in stark contrast to the harsh anti-woman
positions of the Islamic capitalist governments of Iran, Turkey, and Iraq.

While there is good reason to study the role of religions in various
societies, anthropological studies are often incomplete if they ignore the
role atheism. Kurdish society is no exception where religious belief is
mixed with a strong peppering of disbelief.

U.S. Imperialism and the Kurdish Question

While the regime of Saddam Hussein was no friend to the Iraqi Kurdish
people, this of course has nothing to do with why the United States
government hated Saddam Hussein. This hatred by the U.S. capitalist
government is not based on humanitarian concerns. They hated Saddam Hussein
for the good things he did, such as the nationalization of Iraqi oil that
benefited the people of Iraq by keeping oil wealth in the country for social
programs and benefited of the Iraqi economy.

America's so-called concern for human rights can be seen in the past US
interventions in Iraq. Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party first came to power in
1963. Immediately after taking power, based on lists provided by the CIA,
they rounded up 5,000 leftists and trade-union leaders and murdered them.
After the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait we were shown pictures of Iraqi Kurds
killed by poison gas in the U.S. media. What we were not told is why the US
was silent when this was happening and the fact that the US supplied the gas
to kill the Kurds and to kill Iranians in the Iran-Iraq war. While we are
now told of the Iraqi repression of the Kurdish people we are not told of
how the Turkish government is carrying out the same policies of genocide
against the Turkish Kurds, and doing it with U.S. weaponry.

In addition to these proxy genocides by the U.S. government on the Kurdish
people the U.S. government has participated directly in the war on Kurds.
This occurred on February 15, 1999 when U.S. forces kidnapped Kurdish
Worker's Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan and turned him over to the
genocidal Turkish government. Subsequently Abdullah Ocalan was sentenced to
death for his role in defending Kurdish territory in Turkey from the
murderous Turkish military. This U.S. kidnapping was admitted on CNN TV by
former Turkish President and ethnic cleanser Suleyman Demiral.

Today, in Iraq, the basic question of Kurds getting a piece of the oil
wealth is not on the imperialist agenda. Instead they are pushing through
their puppet governments and outside pressure for the oil wealth to be
privatized and turned over to U.S. corporations.

Many of the Kurds know that their national interests will never be served by
the "liberating" forces of Turkey and Iran or British and American
imperialism. This will only be established by the Kurds themselves and by
the alliances they build with other anti-imperialist forces. British
imperialism divided Kurdistan, a country with its own unique language and
culture, into a minority inside the nations of Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and
Iran. Today the Kurds are the largest nation without a homeland in the
world. Imperialism, with its motto of divide and conquer, never has and
never will solve the Kurdish question. A free and united Kurdistan will only
be born through a sweeping socialist revolution that overthrows the
capitalist regimes of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria while challenging the
military dictates of the United States.

The mutual language and oppression shared by the Kurdish people has
solidified the Kurdish identity, even though they have differing religions,
and even though they are spread out into five different countries of origin
where they are an ethnic minority in each.

Facing violence and attempts at forced assimilation there is stubborn
resistance in the will of the Kurdish people that refuses to give up.
Instead many Kurds become resistance fighters that are bold enough to see a
redrawn map where Kurdistan gains its independence from Syria, Iran, Iraq,
and Turkey. In addition, many Kurds are also bold enough to see that future
as one that ends feudal backwardness, promotes education, builds socialism,
and brings equality for women.

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