One 100 Years Later Calls For a Kurdish State Continue
With the loss of its holdings in Europe and Arab lands, as well as genocidal campaigns against Christians in Ottoman lands, the Kurds stood out as Turkey’s only remaining significant minority in 1923.
As Turkey carries out almost daily attacks on impoverished Kurdish regions in neighboring Syria and Iraq, keeps its own elected ethnic Kurdish MPs indefinitely imprisoned, and coerces Iraqi Arab and Kurdish authorities to act as its local police, it is hard to remember that August marks the centenary of a pact in which provision was made for a Kurdish state.
The Treaty of Sevres, signed on Aug. 10, 1920, essentially laid out the Ottoman Empire’s terms of surrender following the First World War. The treaty, which included signatories from Britain, France, Italy and the Ottoman Empire, promised religious and ethnic minorities in Turkey various safeguards to protect them and their rights.
With regard to the Kurds, the treaty stated: “If within one year from the coming into force of the present Treaty the Kurdish peoples within the areas defined in Article 62 shall address themselves to the Council of the League of Nations in such a manner as to show that a majority of the population of these areas desires independence from Turkey, and if the Council then considers that these peoples are capable of such independence and recommends that it should be granted to them, Turkey hereby agrees to execute such a recommendation, and to renounce all rights and title over these areas.” (Kurdistan Section III Article 64)
Under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal (who later came to be known as Ataturk), remnants of the Ottoman army organized military resistance to the terms of the treaty. Convinced that they were fighting to save the sultanate and caliphate, and promised recognition and self-governance in the new Turkey, most Kurdish tribes joined with Ataturk during what came to be known as Turkey’s War of Independence.