17 March 2016
by Cihad Hammy
For the past seven months, the AKP's strategy has been intimidation and terrorism against the Kurds within its occupied borders. This strategy has manifested in the killing of Kurdish people, young and old, as well as the specific targeting of Kurdish women and children. Schools have become sites where Turkish Special Forces intimidate and frighten children, while preparing for military assaults on villages, cities and their people. Tanks and machine guns fire on people's homes, leaving the debris and rubble of a war zone. Soldiers and police strip and undress Kurdish women after killing them. All of these are outcomes of a patriarchal, racist and authoritarian mentality that is deeply intertwined with the nature of an authoritarian apparatus- the nation-state.
In order to grasp what is happening in Kurdistan, it is necessary to understand the mentality of Turkey's ruling party, the AKP, as it is this mentality that is the ideological base that persistently tries to homogenize different cultures, religions and ethnicities. The AKP represents the merger of two intellectual trends: Turkish nationalism, and authoritarian Islam.
This is the AKP mentality, consisting of extreme accumulation of authoritarianism and racist nationalism. It is this mentality that fuels the massacres and killing of children, women and young and old people in North Kurdistan.
A brief history of Turkish nationalism and authoritarian Islam, which structure the body of the AKP, alongside its affects on the war that is taking place in southern Turkey (North Kurdistan), will be helpful in understanding the current conflict.
History of Turkish Nationalism
The ideology of Turkish nationalism and the emergence of the nation-state appeared in Turkey during the breakdown of the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and was pioneered by the Young Turk movement. The leading figures of the Young Turks and founders of the Republic were a group of thinkers and military officers who advocated the conceptions of capitalist modernity, such as positivism, nationalism, and social Darwinism, who pioneered capitalist modernity in the Middle East.
The Young Turks advocated positivist sciences, an approach that is strictly confined to the formulation of assumption on empirical examination and the production of scientific laws, without considering metaphysical and moral responsibilities. The most popular saying among the Young Turks was "Science is the religion of the elite, whereas religion is the science of the masses”. This was because they believed in a rigid interpretation of science to cure the disease of the ‘sick man of Europe’, a metaphor used to describe the Ottoman Empire, and to create a modernstate backed by positivist sciences instead.
In January 1913, the Committee of Union and Progressseized power in a coup d’état, after aligning itself with the Young Turks in 1906. The Committee of Union and Progress espoused a form of Turkish nationalism which was xenophobic and exclusionary in its thinking. This vision of thinking led directly to the Armenian genocide, and played a particularly negative role by serving the colonialist divide-and-rule strategy.
At the end of the 18th century, the French Revolution, first under Robespierre and later under Bonaparte, fashioned the first centralized nation-state in Europe. A century later, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk established a homogeneous nation-state for the first time in the Middle East.
The assertive secularism, scientism, positivism and social Darwinism of the Young Turks also underpinned Kemalist nationalism. These ideologies were institutionalized in an intertwined way and constituted a nation-state that strived to engineer and create an artificial homogeneity of society. The education system functioned as the key institution in sowing the seed of Turkish nationalism in the mind of society; implicated in the form of flag, symbol, national anthem, head of state, geographical borders, literature, music, art, and so on.
Since this form of nation-state is fuelled by these ideologies seeking to create a single national identity, a single cultural identity and a single unified religion, diversity and plurality have to be destroyed. This approach has led to the assimilation and genocide of all kinds of spiritual, intellectual, and cultural traditions.
Ocalan,the imprisoned ideological representative of the Kurdish freedom movement, would be even more explicit in this regard. According to Ocalan:
"These goals are generally accomplished by the use of force or by financial incentives and have often resulted in the physical annihilation of minorities, cultures, or languages or in forced assimilation. The history of the last two centuries is full of examples illustrating the violent attempts at creating a nation that corresponds to the imaginary reality of a true nation-state."
Kemalist nationalism targeted Islam, which it saw as backwards and reactionary. It also went after leftists and communists, whom it called ‘saboteurs’ and then specifically targeted the Kurds, who it called ‘separatists’.The aim behind this was to have an extreme monopolization of social life, as well as a highly centralized, bureaucratic and monolithic state.
Despite the diversity of the parties within parliament and government, be it the CHP, MHP or now AKP, in the modern history of Turkey, Turkish nationalism preserves itself in a very strong and influential way in the Turkish state’s politics. Therefore, it is not surprising now to witness the massacres being committed by AKP against the Kurds; as the Kurdish freedom movement threatens Turkish nationalism and the continuing existence of the highly centralized Turkish nation-state in the same form.
Recently, the Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has accused the Kurds of being like “Armenian gangs and collaborating with Russia.” This statement can be understood as an obdurate justification of the Armenian genocide by the same Turkish nationalist mentality that continues to commit massacres in the same geography, but now in the 21st century, against the Kurds.
Authoritarian Islam (Political Islam)
Based on a sociological and historical study of the early Islamic era, authoritarian Islam in its deep history represents a rebellion against the values of Mohammed's Islam, which was embedded in the Constitution of Medina. This constitution embraced pluralism and democracy for all diverse parties in Medina. Authoritarian Islam aims to use Islam for political agendas and as a way to seize power and control of the state, which means eradicating all forms of pluralism, and monopolising all fields of life.
Under this analysis, it is not so difficult to classify Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran, Turkey, and ISIS (the recent version of political Islam), under the banner of authoritarian Islam. This makes it clear that the support that ISIS gets from these states, especially from Sunni Islamist States, is due to the fact they all share the same ideological root - authoritarian Islam. The role of these states is to water this root and nourish its growth. Also it must be clear that these versions of political Islam, especially Sunni Islamist States, are quite simply not anti-imperialist, and instead serve the agenda of imperialism.
Samir Amin,an Egyptian-French Marxian economist, explores this in one of his articles titled ‘Political Islam in the Service of Imperialism’:
“Political Islam is not anti-imperialist, even if its militants think otherwise! It is an invaluable ally for imperialism and the latter knows it. It is easy to understand, then, that political Islam has always counted in its ranks the ruling classes of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Moreover, these classes were among its most active promoters from the very beginning. The local comprador bourgeoisie, the nouveaux riches, beneficiaries of current imperialist globalization, generously support political Islam”.
Political Islam serves capitalism, since its policy is accompanied by an acceptance of the neo-liberal capitalist economic order on one hand, and by trying its best to fight the left wing on the other hand.
The AK Party and ‘Green Turkishness’
In Turkey, the 1980 military coup was achieved (supported by the USA) largely against the growing power of the Left in the 1970s. The decline of the Left after 1980 was one of the most important factors that paved the way in the rise of the authoritarian Islam, which Ocalan called ‘Green Turkishness’.
Green Turkishness is a marriage between Turkish nationalism and authoritarian Islam. USA and NATO supported this new model created in the 1980s to achieve certain aims at that time. The first aim was to block Russian expansion at that time, and the second was to prevent communities in the Middle East fromachieving socialism and freedom.
The Kurdish Movement: Beyond Nationalism
On 7th June 2015, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, HDP, won a historic victory in Turkey’s general elections and gained 13.1% of the national vote, surpassing the Turkish parliament's 10% threshold. For the first time in the history of modern Turkey, an openly pro-Kurdish party officially took up seats in parliament. Not only did the result prevent the AKP winning a majority, it also became an obstacle for the AKP achieving its objective of a presidential system, which focuses on creating an increasingly monolithic and authoritarian state.
The growth of the HDP is a real threat to the AKP’s sovereignty, since the HDP advocates in its model left-wing politics, secularism, gender equality, political pluralism, direct democracy, minority rights, egalitarianism, anti-neoliberalism, and anti-capitalism.
Because of these reasons, it is not surprising that the Turkish state, under the rule of the latest version of Green Turkishness (AKP), supported by the USA and NATO, is launching a systematic war on the Kurdish people in North Kurdistan. The first reason is that this model is designed to primarily fight and crush the left in Turkey and the Middle East. Secondly, it lies in the desire of the forces of capitalist modernity to rip out the roots of the free will of the Kurds, and consequently create a base for a new capitalistic and exploitative model in the region.
Nationalism that is institutionalized in the nation-state apparatus and authoritarian Islam has torn the Middle East into pieces under the supervision of capitalism. A new and free way of thinking, which is institutionalized in a decentralized form, which can embrace cultural diversity, anti-capitalism and anti-statism,such as the model of Democratic Confederalism (proposed by Ocalan, and being put into practice in Rojava), is necessary to overcome the authoritarian ideologies which led the people in the Middle East to massacres, genocides, drowning in seas, and finally turning them into beggars at the doors of the capitalist states.
Cihad (Jihad) Hammy is a Kurdish writer from Kobanê. He was a student of English literature at the university of Damascus before fleeing due to the civil war in Syria.
- Armenian Genocide
- Turkish Republic
- Abdullah Ocalan
- Authoritarian Islam