Prayer for the Kurdish peoples

FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS , Kurds have lived mainly in the mountains and uplands where Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Armenia, and Syria all meet. The area is known as Kurdistan although it isn't a separate country.

For a long time, Kurds were nomads, but when the Ottoman Empire was carved up at the end of World War I, they were divided among Turkey, Iran, and Iraq, and their independence was gradually eliminated. Some Kurds conformed to the new arrangement, but others tried to resist what they viewed as actions that undermined their freedom and their cultural identity. These groups have resorted to violence, and haven't always been willing to work within the existing governments to gain the rights they feel are their due. The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) is a separatist militant organization, considered a terrorist group by the United States, the United Nations, NATO, and the European Union. It has been engaged in armed conflict with Turkey since 1984.

Normally it would be considered a punishable offense in Turkey just to utter the word Kurdistan. But earlier this year that is exactly what Turkish President Abdullah Gul did. A couple of months later he pointed out a "historic opportunity" to resolve the Kurdish problem. Then Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (who for many years had refused to meet with politicians aligned with the outlawed PKK) met with Ahmet Turk, chairman of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), and afterward said that "our hopes for peace have grown after this conversation." And all the while the Turkish Army, which has struggled against the PKK for 25 years at the cost of 40,000 lives, has declined to cirticize the government's new initiative to ease these ethnic tensions.

Enjoy 1 free Sentinel article or audio program each month, including content from 1898 to today.

October 19, 2009

We'd love to hear from you!

Easily submit your testimonies, articles, and poems online.