by Crescent International (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 28, No. 1, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1419)
Abdullah Öcalan is a brutal and murderous terrorist. Let us make no bones about that. But the sight of him on television, a pathetic, blindfolded figure paraded for the cameras in front of two large Turkish flags while tens of thousands of Kurds demonstrated their anger at his arrest in cities across Europe, was evocative nonetheless. In a few short months, he had been hounded out of Syria (his base since 1984), seemed to achieve a public relations triumph when Italy refused to extradite him to Turkey, and then spent weeks trying to find an alternative place of refuge before being kidnapped in Nairobi and illicitly brought back to Turkey in a private jet on February 15.
There are many aspects of the affair which can be discussed at length. One is the favourable treatment Turkey is now receiving from the west as the latest Muslim country to sell out to Israel. It was the threat of co-ordinated action from Turkey to its north and Israel to its south which ‘persuaded’ Syria to expel Öcalan late last year. It was US pressure that helped European countries decide not to offer Öcalan asylum, and obliged even Greece--Turkey’s arch-enemy--to withdraw its support for him. Finally, the US and Israel were instrumental in Öcalan eventual capture. If the ongoing western campaign against Iraq demonstrates the dangers of crossing the west, the Öcalan affair equally demonstrates the potential ‘benefits’ of accepting western overlordship.
In a very real sense, Öcalan’s fate echos that of the Kurds themselves. The Kurds have spent the 20th century chasing the dream of a national homeland based on wholly alien (western-inspired) ideas of national self-determination, only to be alternately encouraged and betrayed by western powers interested only in manipulating the Kurdish cause for their own purposes. Öcalan too, adopted an alien ideaology (marxism) and spent his life in struggle, used and abused by self-interested foreign powers, and ultimately betrayed by those who most encouraged him. Small wonder, then, that Kurds the world over, even those who disdain his ideology and hate his brutality, have felt his betrayal and humiliation as their own.
Much has been made of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) terrorist methods and Öcalan’s personal authoritarianism. But no-one is clean in Turkey’s Kurdish imbroglio. The figure of 30-40,000 killed during the PKK’s 14-year war in south-eastern Turkey is oft-quoted; but not all of those have been killed by the PKK. The Kemalists have been just as ruthless, and many of their victims were innocent Kurdish peasants and villagers with no connection to the PKK.
The Kurdish leader who suggested that Turkey’s record against the Kurds makes them fitting allies of the zionists who have raped Palestine was guilty only of overstatement, not of misrepresentation. Remember also the decades of aggressive Turkification of the ‘mountain Turks’; it is only recently that Kurds have been permitted to speak their own language in public, and the use of Kurdish in education, broadcasting and publishing remains prohibited. Modern Kurdish nationalism is, to a very considerable extent, a response to the aggressive nationalism of Kemalist Turkey.
The tragedy is, of course, that these are two proud Muslim peoples hating and fighting each other in the name of their respective nationalisms--two Muslim peoples who have contributed so much to Islamic history in the past (from the Kurdish sultan Salahuddin Ayubi, to the greatest days of the Uthmanniyyah khilafah), and still have so much to offer if they stood together against the enemies of Islam instead of standing with the enemies of Islam against each other. In place of the open and inclusive ethos of Islam, they (and so many other Muslim peoples) have allowed themselves to be sidetracked into the parochial arrogance and exclusivity of nationalism, a cancer which has weakened the Ummah beyond our enemies’ wildest dreams.
Today, nationalism remains among the most divisive forces in the Ummah, perhaps second only to sectarianism. It is significant that both these forces are actively promoted by the enemies of Islam and their Muslim agents, and tragic that both are found even among the most committed of Islamic movement activists. The excision of this alien growth from the Muslim psyche and body politic is an essential pre-requisite if the Ummah is to re-establish Islamic civilization in place of disorder which presently engulfs us.
Muslimedia: March 1-15, 1999