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Monte Melkonian: Kurdish-Related Terms. Who are Kurds and where is their Homeland. Part 4

Monte Melkonian: Kurdish-Related Terms. Who are Kurds and where is their Homeland. Part 4

Cover photo:

The text which appears below was part of a collective project undertaken by Monte Melkonian and others to prepare material for the political program and manifesto of a projected political organization, the Armenian Patriotic Liberation Movement (A.P.L.M.). The text was prepared in 1984 and significantly revised in 1988. 

Previous publications:

Part 1 Monte Melkonian: Armenian-Related Terms. Who are Armenians and where is their Homeland

Part 2 Monte Melkonian: Turkish-Related Terms. Who are Turks and where is their Homeland

Part 3 Monte Melkonian: Minority-Related Terms. About Ethnic & Religious Minorities in Turkey

Kurd: As in the case of the term “Armenian”, this term has meant various things at various times. While the Kardechoi (who were most probably the ancient ancestors of the Kurds) may have been only clanlike groupings, die Kurds later became tribes which eventually evolved into a distinct cultural-national entity. And this, despite the division of their population between the present-day borders of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria and to a much lesser extent the U.S.S.R. (in particular, the Armenian S.S.R.). The vast majority of Kurds currendy still live in the Kurdish homeland, which stretches throughout the above-mentioned areas (except for areas within the U.S.S.R.).

Most Kurds still speak one or another dialect of Kurdish, and follow a life which is primarily attached to Kurdish culture. Other Kurds currendy live outside of the Kurdish homeland, as a result of forced deportation by more than one government (over the years, for example, many Kurds were deported to western regions of Anatolia by Ankara). Other reasons for the existence of a Kurdish diaspora is the search for employment. Tens of thousands of Kurds from present-day Turkey now work in Europe, and thousands of others work in Istanbul, Ankara, Baghdad, Tehran and elsewhere. Most Kurds of the diaspora are still strongly attached to Kurdish culture and the vast majority have familial ties (and permanent residences) in the Kurdish homeland. Nevertheless, Kurds — and especially those residing outside of the Kurdish homeland — are the object of gradual assimilation. Even within the Kurdish homeland, reactionary regimes are exercising a policy of assimilation which in many cases has included violence and widespread military operations against Kurdish populations — not to mention mass deportations, massacres and other attempts to eliminate the Kurds from certain regions. As a result, there are now many Kurdish elements who can no longer speak Kurdish, or who are unacquainted with certain aspects of Kurdish culture, but who are, nevertheless, still primarily attached to Kurdish culture on the whole.

Today, a Kurd is anyone whose ancestors have been Kurds, who considers herself to be a Kurd, and who is more attached to Kurdish culture than to any other culture. As in the case of Armenians, being a Kurd entails some degree of attachment to at least the idea of a Kurdish homeland (because the continuity of Kurdish culture depends on a collective Kurdish life in a Kurdish homeland).

Kurds Native to the Kurdish Homeland: Kurds native to the Kurdish homeland include all Kurds living in the Kurdish homeland (or living outside of the homeland but retaining a permanent residence there).

Kurds of the Diaspora: Although the vast majority of Kurds still live in the Kurdish homeland, a Kurdish diaspora does exist. The Kurds of the diaspora are all those Kurds who permanently reside outside of their homeland. A large majority of these reside in non-Kurdish areas of Turkey,* Iran, Iraq and Syria. Although they are inevitably influenced by local cultures, they still remain more strongly attached to Kurdish culture than to any other culture.

Culturally Assimilated Kurds: Culturally assimilated Kurds include all persons of Kurdish ancestry who are no longer primarily attached to Kurdish culture, that is, who recognize their Kurdish heritage but are more attached to some other culture. Most culturally assimilated Kurds include those who live outside of the Kurdish homeland and who have been assimilated into die bourgeoisies (especially the middle and big bourgeoisies) of those countries among which the Kurdish homeland is divided (these would include some culturally assimilated Kurdish businessmen in Tehran, Baghdad, Istanbul, etc.). It should be noted that culturally assimilated Kurds make up a relatively small proportion of the Kurdish people.

Non-Kurds of Kurdish Ancestry: This category includes all those descendants of Kurds who do not feel an attachment to Kurdish culture or to their Kurdish heritage (even if they may be aware that their ancestors were Kurds). Such persons have totally adopted a non-Kurdish culture or Ripmeland as their own. An example of non-Kurds or Kurdish ancestry are the nominally “Kurdish” tribes of Turkmenistan who are no longer culturally attached to the Kurdish homeland or to mainstream Kurdish culture and who have adopted Turkmenistan as their homeland.

Kurdish Culture: Kurdish culture comprises the distinct material and intellectual traditions that have been developed for the most part within the Kurdish homeland by the Kurdish people  throughout the entire history of the region. Kurdish culture encompasses both the original material and intellectual creations as well as adaptations of other cultural motifs which have become generally recognized as Kurdish or as belonging to the Kurdish people.

Kurdish People: The Kurdish people include all Kurds native to the kurdish homeland, all Kurds of the diaspora, and on a secondary level all culturally assimilated Kurds. In short, the Kurdish people includes all those dements of Kurdish origin who, to a greater or lesser extent, recognize Kurdish culture as their own. It should be noted that the vast majority of the Kurdish people live within the Kurdish homeland.

Kurdish Homeland: The Kurdish homeland includes all those areas where the Kurdish people have originated and formed as a cultural national entity, a distinct people which has sometimes achieved one or another form of political self-rule. The greater part of the Kurdish homeland is still populated by at least a plurality of Kurds. This includes the present- day Iranian regions of Kermanshah, Sanandaj, Mahabad, Pavch, Sardasht, Naghadch and Sakkuz, as well as many areas along the present Turkish-Iranian frontier; the present-day Iraqi regions of Zakho, the vicinity of Mosul, Kirkuk, Suleimania, Erbil, etc.; the present-day northeastern extremity of Syria around Khamishli and Derik; and most of the following regions in present-day southeastern Turkey: Mardin, Urfa, Diyarbekir, Siirt, Hakkari and regions around Elazig, etc. (Refer to the map at the end of this chapter.)

A couple of programmatic notes: Today the greater part of the Armenian homeland now controlled by the Turkish state is populated by a majority of Kurds. This has been the case since the Armenian plurality or majority (depending on the region) was diminished by massacre in the late nineteenth century, and then decimated in the genocide of 1915. Many of these Kurds are indigenous to the area, being descendants of the tribes and populations which have lived in the region for centuries.

Should the Armenian people fail to mobilize their forces sufficiently to create a democratic consensus throughout the Armenian homeland for inclusion within a future Armenia, it is possible that certain regions may end up in a future Kurdistan or Turkish socialist state. Whatever the case may be, all native peoples of this part of the Armenian homeland (including the Armenians, of course) must be guaranteed all of their national, cultural and democratic rights as equal citizens.

Another point should be repeated here: Strict demographic factors alone are not sufficient to define the state or administrative status of a region. The will of all peoples in question must be taken into account. By definition, the people concerned in die future of the Armenian homeland are all native peoples of Armenia. This of course includes all Armenians, particularly Armenians of the Armenian S.S.R., since they comprise the majority of the Armenian nation and since at least half of them trace their origins across the border. Hence, in assessing future possibilities for regions now in Turkey, the democratic and national rights of Armenians in Soviet Armenia (and the U.S.S.R. in general) must also be taken into account.

Other factors are also important, including the economic and material interests of all peoples involved. This factor may at least to some extent cut across demographic categories. In the case of the part of the Armenian homeland now in Turkey, for instance, all of its future inhabitants, Armenian and non-Armenian, might expect faster economic and social development (as well as greater security) as part of the Armenian S.S.R. in the U.S.S.R. This has already been the case of the Kurds in Soviet Armenia.

Historic factors also have a role to play. For historical and national reasons, for example, the Kazakhstan S.S.R. has remained a separate Soviet republic, despite the fact that for an important part of its modern history the Kazakh people have been a definite minority and Russians a plurality. Similarly, in the Abkhazia Autonomous S.S.R. the Abkhaz people make up a small minority of the total population.

These explanations are necessary to understand how, despite the great importance of demographic factors, the future of the Armenian homeland now in Turkey will depend on a combination of factors. In the absence of any initiative from Soviet Armenia it is likely that these regions will be integrated into a future Kurdistan and/or Turkey. Indeed, the non-Armenian populations there are native to the land.

However, even if those regions are included in a future Kurdistan or Turkey, it would still be appropriate to consider them to be parts of the Armenian homeland. It should be clear from a review of the terms Armenian homeland, Kurdish homeland and Turkish homeland that these terms have more of a historical and cultural significance, whereas the terms Armenia, Kurdistan and Turkey have more of a political and administrative significance.

Native Peoples of the Kurdish Homeland: This category includes all peoples who have originated in and adopted the region of the Kurdish homeland as their permanent residence, as their homeland. Among these peoples we may count the Kurdish people, the Armenian people living in the Kurdish homeland (in Zakho and Khamishli, for instance), as well as the Turkish, Arab, Iranian, Azeri and Assyrian peoples living in the Kurdish homeland, in addition to other national minorities living in the region, as well as various religious minorities such as Jews. As native peoples of the Kurdish homeland all of these peoples and elements must share equal rights as inhabitants of the region.

Kurdistan: Kurdistan is that part of the Kurdish homeland where the Kurdish people today constitute at least a plurality of the population, and where by the democratic will of the general population a Kurdish national, political and administrative entity will be set up. (Depending on future developments, Kurdistan may also include some areas of the Kurdish homeland in Iraq in which Kurds currently constitute a minority as a result of forced deportations and the settlement of Arabs.)

Thus, in the absence of Armenian initiatives, the eventual political- administrative frontiers of a future Kurdistan might include areas of the Armenian homeland where, after liberation of the area from the Turkish state, and in the event that it is not attached to Soviet Armenia, the Kurdish people will make up at least a plurality of the population. Again, it is not possible at present to draw rigid borders that would constitute the definitive frontiers of Kurdistan. An accurate geographic delineation will evolve as the struggles of the Kurdish, Armenian, Turkish, Azeri, Iranian and Arab peoples for national self-determination and socialism progress. Only with the maturation of these struggles will it be possible to draw up the definitive borders of Kurdistan (as well as Armenia, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Syria, etc.), or at least at the preliminary stage, to confidently delineate autonomous Kurdish areas in each country that may later unite to form a politically united Kurdistan. Just as certain areas of the Armenian homeland might not be included in a future Armenia, similarly certain areas currently within the Kurdish homeland might not be included in a future united Kurdistan. (Compare to the entries Turkey and Turkish homeland, below.)

Native Peoples of Kurdistan: The native peoples of Kurdistan include the Kurdish people and all those peoples mentioned in entry 22 who will be living in Kurdistan by the time it becomes a more definitive geographic entity. All of these peoples and elements should enjoy equal rights as inhabitants of Kurdistan.

Kurdish Nation: The Kurdish nation is the union of the Kurdish people with the Kurdish homeland. It includes all those Kurdish people who live in the Kurdish homeland or who are devoted to the existence of the Kurdish people in the Kurdish homeland.

Historic Kurdish Communities outside the Kurdish Homeland: For a variety of reasons, significant numbers of Kurds have lived in areas near to but outside of the Kurdish homeland. There they have concentrated and lived as minorities for centuries. In most cases they have remained in close contact with the Kurds of the Kurdish homeland. In this way, and thanks to the conditions which slowed assimilation in past centuries, these communities have continued their Kurdish cultural-national development, while at the same time becoming natives of regions outside the Kurdish homeland. Historic Kurdish communities outside the Kurdish homeland exist in Cilicia, the Armenian homeland and the Azerbaijan S.S.R., as well as in various non-Kurdish parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Members of these communities are both natives of their respective non-Kurdish homelands and an integral part of the Kurdish people.

From a democratic and internationalist perspective members of these communities should enjoy all democratic, cultural-national and human rights. Those wishing to live within the context of undiminished Kurdish national life, however, would most likely choose to live within the Kurdish homeland.


Sourse: The Right to Struggle (Selected Writings of Monte Melkonian on the Armenian National Question).


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