Kurdistan: Ataturk to Öcalan

Sandhya Jain is Senior Fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi. The current Essay is part of her ongoing research on Balochistan province of Pakistan. The views expressed are personal.
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  • January 2016

    The rise of Dawlat al-Islamiyah f’al-Iraq w Belaad al-Sham (Daesh), or Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), in the vacuum created by the war in these countries has reignited the Kurdish question that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk skilfully bypassed after World War I, when several nation-states were carved out of the defeated Ottoman Empire. The Kurdish problem began in the early 19th century when the Ottomans centralised the administration, emphasised Turkish identity, erased the autonomous Kurdish emirates and ruthlessly suppressed their protests. This purge of ethnic identity was behind the Armenian massacres of the late 19th century, which became a full blown genocide in 1915–1916. The Greeks were handled via population exchanges, leaving the Kurds as a large and restless minority in the region.