Fratricide in South Kurdistan?

It would be wrong to call the current developments in Kurdistan and the acute danger we find ourselves in a ‘fratricide’. Because this time it's not siblings who kill each other.

“îro roja şî’ir nîn e
bo wê ye, ez ji bo we dibêjim
bi zimanekî yekcar sade
ji we re dibêjim
ewê kurd be û kurd bikuje
pîç e, teres e, qewad e!”[1]

When the poet Ebdulla Peşêw from Hewlêr (Erbil) in South Kurdistan wrote these lines, the blood of his Kurdish fellow citizens was flowing in the streets of his hometown. It was May 1994. An inner-Kurdish war, a civil war, had just started. 300 people died in the first few skirmishes of this war. In the further course of the year this number rose to 2,000 deaths.

This time it was not the 'security forces' of the Iraqi state who committed the massacres. For once, it was not the Ba'ath regime whose hands were stuck with Kurdish blood as a result of massacres such as in Halabja in 1988. This new war took place between Kurds. Kurds killed Kurds. For the power. On one side stood the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party), on the other the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan).

This war, which remained in the memory of the population as fratricide, lasted more than three years. Thousands of people lost their lives. Tens of thousands were driven from their homes, forced to leave their cities. Many of them have not returned to their homeland to this day. Others wanted to return but couldn't.

An armistice was declared on December 24, 1997. In September 1998 an official peace agreement was signed. In Washington. The Kurds shook hands under US ‘mediation', shared power and ended the civil war.

In return, the US demanded two things: the guarantee that the Iraqi regime forces are not allowed to penetrate into South Kurdistan and the end of the PKK presence in the region. We know the events that followed. Less than a month later, the green light was given and the international conspiracy of October 9[2] was officially initiated. Two Kurdish organizations had been reconciled at the cost of crushing a third Kurdish party. As a result, chairman Abdullah Öcalan has been detained on the Turkish prison island of Imrali for almost 22 years under solitary confinement and torture.

Besides the USA, it was Turkey that profited most from the fighting between the South Kurdistan forces from 1994 to '97. Turkey has always used the smallest contradiction or conflict between Kurds as an opportunity for intervention. The ’Operation Steel’ (Turkish: ‘Çelik Harekatı’) of the Turkish military, which lasted from March to May 1994 in South Kurdistan, took place on exactly this basis.

The word ‘fratricide’ describes the murder of one's own siblings. Another word for this is civil war. The war in South Kurdistan, which lasted from 1994 to '97, was just that: a civil war. It was waged between two Kurdish organizations. In this war, the Kurdish organizations took the help of regional states (Iraq and Iran), but the war itself was fought by Kurds among themselves. It was a 'war of brothers'.

But this ‘fratricide’ did not begin in 1994. Even before that, there had been contradictions between Kurdish organizations and there had been repeated clashes - both in southern Kurdistan and in other parts of Kurdistan. In view of this situation, the PKK signed an agreement with the KDP in 1983. Another followed in 1988 with the PUK. Under the leadership of Mehmet Karasungur, then a member of the PKK Central Committee, efforts were made to build a democratic, national unity of the Kurdish forces. Great efforts were made to end the ‘fratricide’, which in a certain way had been forced upon the Kurds from the beginning as a kind of fate.

It would be wrong to call the current developments in Kurdistan and the acute danger we find ourselves in a ‘fratricide’. Because this time it's not siblings who kill each other. The contradictions and conflicts do not take place between two Kurdish organizations. The current war is a conflict between Turkey - a state that pursues a policy of occupation and genocide - and the Kurdish Freedom Movement. In this war, the KDP does not side itself with the Kurdish organization, but is in solidarity with the aggressor, Turkey. In order to cover this up, the KDP is currently trying to create the impression that the guerrillas have declared war on South Kurdistan’s Peshmerga[3]. The Peshmerga do not take part in the Turkish occupation war, which is supported by the Kurdish KDP. It is not the Peshmerga but the special forces of the KDP, or rather of the Barzani family, who are currently surrounding guerrilla areas such as Gare and Heftanîn.

If it was really a ‘fratricide’, if there were a power struggle between two Kurdish organizations, then calls for peace on both sides would make perfect sense. But the current situation is something different. While one side repeatedly calls not to fall for the games of the occupying and imperialist forces, the other side is determined to stand by these very forces. In this situation it is clear which side has to be called upon to prevent Kurds from shedding the blood of their Kurdish siblings again.


*This article by Meral Çiçek first appeared on Yeni Özgür Politika.

[1]tngl. translation: "Today is not a day for poetry / that's why I tell you / with clear, unambiguous words / I tell you / the Kurd who kills Kurds / is a bastard, scoundrel and pimp!"

[2]On October 9, Abdullah Öcalan left Syria, where he had stayed for almost 20 years. The Turkish chief of staff had previously threatened an invasion of Syria if Öcalan did not leave the country. A month-long exodus followed, which led Öcalan to Greece, Russia and Italy. On February 15, he was arrested in the Kenyan capital Nairobi and extradited to Turkey. Especially the USA, England and Israel are held responsible for his illegal abduction and imprisonment.

[3]The official defense forces of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region are called Peshmerga.