Since the dawn of human civilization annihilation of millions of people has been occurring. After the two World Wars, this annihilation took place through many civil wars fought within the nations all over the world. The Genocide or the mass killing of a particular ethnic group has been a common phenomenon in civil wars. In 1990s, the Kashmiri Hindus were expelled by Muslim terrorists through severe massacre. The question is whether mass massacre is the answer to any problem. There is a universal agreement that genocide is immoral and unethical (Jones, 1999). Still even after the horrified consequences of genocide during World War II, the genocide did not stop. Millions of innocent and peace-loving people have to lose their lives for the political ambitions of fistful of political leaders and the power hungry nations. Certain ethnic group/s within the country is targeted and they are kept away from their basic human rights. There are many ethnic groups that have been targeted by the political authorities. Kurd is among such unfortunate community that has been deprived from their fundamental rights due to civil wars and political unrest in the Middle East. Kurdish prolonged struggle for independence can be analyzed through different perspectives. Apart from political, many ethical and moral issues are involved in the freedom struggle of Kurd community. Kurdish independence is the series of several political, social and moral incidents. The present paper throws light of the Ethical issues in leadership as well as the Kurdish fight for their survival, identity and independence. There are some prominent leaders on the background of Kurd’s fight for recognition and independence. They include Abdullah Öcalan, Masoud Barzani, Nechirvand Berzani. The female leaders have also carved their niche in the political scenario of Kurds. Among them some famous names are Lady Adela Khanum, Leyla Zana. Leyla Zana was the political leader and she was imprisoned for ten years. In the first two decades of 20th century Lady Abela Khanum was active on the political scenario. In the leadership, I have taken the insurgent leadership of Abdullah Öcalan. The reason is that he was the most influential personality in the freedom struggle of Kurds. Moreover, as a leader, he was the most controversial personality. The paper argues whether the response to repression and exploitation can be violence that has been supported and glorified by Öcalan, whether repressive approach of some major Gulf nations and other countries are ethical or the insurgency and violence of Öcalan is logical and justified.
Background of Kurdish War for Independence
Kurd community is one of the indigenous communities and it is the fourth largest ethnic group. They belong to Sunni sect of Islam and they speak Kurdish. There are around thirty million Kurds dwell in mountainous regions of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. To demand a sovereign state, various Kurdish parties were formed in different countries. In Iraq, the largest Kurdish political party is The Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP). In Turkey the name of Kurdish Party is The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which was found in 1974 under the leadership of Abdullah Öcalan who was jailed in 1999. In the prison also, he was very active in political and freedom struggle activities. The Kurdish independence party in Syria is known as The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) while in Iran The Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK) is active. All of these parties aim at giving freedom to Kurdistan. Thus the Kurds were scattered in all these four gulf countries.Several moral and ethical issues are involved in the leadership. The first repression of Kurd community started when the modern states of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Kuwait were formed. Despite being the remarkable ethnic group, independent Kurdish State could not be formed. The Kurd community has been fighting for identity and freedom since the first half of 20th century.
Repression of Kurdish identity was against the human right law of the United Nations. In the preamble, the United Nations has categorically mentioned the right to all members of human family. The preamble also says that there will be freedom of speech and belief and the person or the community will not be targeted and oppressed. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status ("Universal Declaration of Human Rights | United Nations", 2017). But unfortunately thousands of Kurds were killed due to their ethnicity which has never been accepted by the countries around Kurdistan.
The United Nations Universal Declaration also states that there should not be any distinction on the basis of political, jurisdictional and international status of the country or territory to with the person belongs whether the region is independent or under any other limitation of sovereignty ("Universal Declaration of Human Rights | United Nations", 2017). But Kurds on the other hand were exploited by Turkish government. They tried to deny their identity and labelled them “Mountain Turks”. The freedom of speech was denied by banning their language and forbidding them to wear their traditional clothes.
The Leadership of Öcalan
During Cold War period the PKK was strongly influenced by the principles of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. This ideology of leadership is inclined towards violence and retaliation. The violence can never be justified whether it is committed by the victim group or the oppressive group. The PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan declared that PKK’s ideology is based on Marxism and Leninism and he further praised and glorified the bloodthirsty communist leaders by stating that they are the heroes who actually resorted to violence and terror. According to Lenin, terror and violence are the inseparable component. Bombing everywhere, killing people shedding blood and thus spreading anarchy was the strategy played by the Kurdish leaders as well as the nations, who opposed independence to Kurdistan. Cornell (2001) addresses the personality of Öcalan as ‘Stalin-esque “madman” who is fickle and bloodthirsty just like Stalin. The insurgent leadership of Öcalan has been blamed by someone by calling him madman, terrorist, ruthless killer, whereas, sometimes this leadership is applauded and supported by calling him the hero, and the savior of Kurd people. Sometimes this person is also highly regarded by calling a martyr. But yet it cannot be said whether the leadership of Öcalan has moral and ethical foundation. It was because the path of independence he was adopted was far away from the path followed by world’s charismatic leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Both of these leaders fought for the whole of their lives for their principles and morals that were for the betterment of the deprived people. While fighting the war, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King had taken care that the innocent common man would not be crushed in their fight for equality and humanity. They adopted the path of non-violence for the attainment of their objectives.They influenced people and enlightened them rather than triggering them. Öcalan’s path cannot be said the path of non-violence. As a leader, there is no doubt that Öcalan has possessed the place a significant place in the politics of Middle East. His influence cannot be denied even after his incarceration. His pivotal role in the conflict with Turkey remained pivotal even though he was in prison for over a decade. During his imprisonment, he was setting PKK’s agenda, calling for ceasefire and negotiating with state officials (Gunter, 2000). While analyzing the leadership of Öcalan, it cannot be overlooked that he was declared by many nations from the world as a terrorist because of his insurgencies and rebellious ideologies. Due to the hypocritical and opportunistic approach of Öcalan, he failed to follow his objective and that is the establishment of Kurd identity. On the contrary, his policies were diverted to destruction rather than the construction of Kurd identity (Cornell, 2001). But Cornell’s description about Öcalan is his own opinion. Cornell’s interpretation is limited and it does not contain the other and positive side of Öcalan’s personality. Öcalan was a man of principle and although his policies were inclined towards destruction, his intention was not irrational or illogical like other terrorist organization such as Al Qaida or any other such organization. He was the leader, who could gain steadfast loyal followers within Turkey as well as significant international support. Considering leadership qualities of Öcalan it is difficult to conclude whether the activities performed by him were ethical or unethical.
If the violent stance taken by Öcalan is unethical, and immoral, he can be called a bad leader like Hitler. The intention of Öcalan behind destruction and violence was not retaliating as that of Hitler. If Öcalan was immoral, what about Turkey Government as well as the other Middle East Nations such as Iraq, Iran and Syria who denied the identity of a vast group? Instead of calling Öcalan a terrorist, he can best be called as a strategic leader. According to Gunter (2000), as a leader Öcalan was pragmatist as he followed the path of violence to bring change in the neglected suppressed condition of Kurd but later on he transformed his approach and promoted “a just, democratic peace” for every citizen. Thus the leadership of Öcalan can be said charismatic, transformational and situational. He must be credited for keeping his influence intact even after a long imprisonment.
Morality Issues in the leadership of Öcalan
Let’s compare Öcalan’s leadership with that of Hitler from ethical and moral perspectives. Unlike Hitler, Öcalan was not an anti-hero. Hitler targeted Jews and other minority ethnic group under his rule. On the contrary, Öcalan stood behind the minority group and supported them. There was an acute racial discrimination spread by Hitler. Öcalan was fighting against the racial and ethnic discrimination spread by Turkey and other nations. Out of excessive hostility and hatred, Hitler ostracized Jews. Though Öcalan’s strategy was to spread terror, he was not hostile towards any ethnic or racist group. The inhumane treatment and the mass massacre done by Hitler are regarded as the blatant to humanity. Unlike Hitler, Öcalan has never targeted any particular group. His fight was for the status, respect and identity to the people of his community. Hitler fought for his own ambition and his false ideology. Öcalan’s fight was against the manipulative nations and for spreading equality and democratic values. If non-violence is the only parameter of morality and ethics, Öcalan’s strategies may be called immoral. But at the same time the nations against which he fought should also be called immoral and unethical.
Despite the support from Kurd community and the popularity of Öcalan as a leader, his terrorist activities cannot be overlooked. As mentioned above, Öcalan was declared as a terrorist. The terrorist activities in Turkey are ongoing. Bomb attack, killing of soldiers and innocent people for no reason has no justification. For the sake of the rights of one community, killing thousands of innocent people cannot be justified and it is not ethical and moral. In recent news a bomb explosion carried out by PKK terrorists took away the life of 12 people and other 100 were injured in the bomb explosion (Daily Sabah, 2016). The buildings, vehicles were damaged in the bomb blast (Daily Sabah, 2016). The news contains a very heart-throbbing picture of an injured child is carried away after the attack. The terrorism does not have face. It is the perversity to kill innocent humans for the sake of gaining something. The first insurgency of PKK took place in 1984 in which three civilians were killed. While explaining the psyche behind terrorism, Martin (2004) states that the injustice experienced by the oppressed group is responded by arming against innocent civilians. The terrorism occurs due to the established mentality that violence is always more powerful than non-violence because every problem cannot be solved just by discussion. Sometimes for the rights the oppressed group has to take weapons in its hand. After taking the weapon there is no discrimination between criminals and innocents. Ths “so called” proponent of equality, The United States also has committed repression of African Americans. The African community had been living in slavery for decades in America. There are several cases in the history of the United States where the slave women were molested by their white master. In the famous case of Celia vs. State of Missouri in 1855 is the example which makes us rethink on the issue of morality. Celia was sexually molested and harassed by her master several time (Linder, 2011). The molestation was beyond the endurance of Celia that one day she became violent and killed her master and burnt his body at night and in the evening she gathered up his bones and spread everywhere in the farm (Linder, 2011). The action taken by Celia was the outbreak of her prolonged endurance against molestation. Ethically and morally speaking, Celia was a murderer and hence she was criminal. The contemporary law could not give her justice firstly because violence is violence and secondly because she was a black slave and she did not have privilege to disobey her white master. She was innocent but her master’s brutality made her violent and ultimately criminal. The ethics should not be linear. In ethical consideration along with violent activities, the triggering elements to that violence should also be taken into consideration.
In case of the conflict of Kurd and Turk, we may apply the same ethical perspective. Kurd is the target community while Turk is the oppressive authority. If PKK has been committing violent and terrorist activity, there is a strong reason behind it and that reason is created by Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Saudi. If the terrorism committed by PKK is unethical, the manipulative moments and strategies played by other countries are equally unethical. Along with these nations, the USA and USSR were also fueling the situation. USSR’s stand was to support independence to Kurdish with the view to control natural resources by supporting Kurds. According to the law of nature, every human non human entity or to broader sense, the community struggles for identity and survival. If the survival and identity is threatened by the external forces, the violence is inevitable. If the attack for self defense is not unethical, the violence for survival and identity also cannot be unethical.
The Ethics and Terrorism
According to the US Defense Department, the term terrorism can be defined as the unlawful use of force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate government or societies. Terrorism achieves political, religious and ideological objectives (Kapitan, 2005). PKK under the leadership of Öcalan adopted violence against the government as well as the innocent civilians. The terrorists’ attacks committed by them caused immense property lost. The activities which are mentioned in the definition of terrorism by US Defense Department have been committed by PKK since its emergence. But here the question arises whether these violent activities were performed only by PKK or they are performed by the nations who opposed Kurd independence. The nations including America have announced PKK as terrorist organization. The insult, humiliation and suppression from Turkey Iraq, Iran, Syria and even US cannot be overlooked. Both sides are equally responsible for the worst situation of unrest that took place in Kurd community as well as in rest of the countries. Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria Turkey, all these major nations from Middle East rejected the idea of recognizing the independent identity of Kurd. But the violence of these nations is justified by using the term the war against terrorism. In reality it was not the war against terrorism but it was the war for survival, identity and gaining power. The intention of every nation involved in the fight against Kurds was different but each one of them had some or other interest. The USA has been interfering Gulf politics not because they really wish peace and order in the region. The major interest of the USA is to gain control on oil reservoirs in Gulf region. USSR’s support to Kurds is also for the same purpose. The motive of Iraq behind waging fight against Kurds is not for some noble purpose. But they wanted to take revenge on the Kurds who supported Iran in 1980-88. Saddam Husain’s brutality towards Kurds knew no bounds. He razed villages and killed thousands of people with chemical weapons. The Iraqi army crushed Kurds which resulted into the escape of Kurds from Iraq to Iran. This act was not less than terrorism. Then the question is why Kurds and their Parties are taken responsible for the massacre, attacks and anarchy that was taking place in the whole gulf region. Turkey also has its vested interest. Kurdistan is an oil-rich region. In short the oppressed group and oppressive group, both are fighting for their status, recognition and their identity.
Moral & Ethical Consideration
Considering all the facts behind the incessant fight between Kurds and the other nations, there should be a concrete way out that will be beneficial for the interest of the two parties. The first ethical consideration with this regard is that the USA should look at PKK positively. PKK has proven that the party is not terrorist party. They are also peace loving and if their interests are considered and granted, they will be ready to forget the insult and humiliation they experienced in the past. The first step towards ceasefire, the US should take is to remove PKK from the list of Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). No one will like to be labeled as terrorist. The action will be ethical and moral and it would generate confidence among Kurdish. Such action would help to control terrorism and unrest in the region. Instead of manipulation and war strategy, the peace strategy will be more effective and ethical. Moreover, the leadership of Öcalan and other influential Kurd leaders should also be acknowledged.
Kurdistan geographically belongs to four major nations; Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Kurdistan as an independent sovereign state will have to face several political and economic problems. Recently in 2015, Kurdistan had to go through economic problems. The people are still deprived of basic education and health and food. The current scenario in Kurdistan is very difficult. The political issues are so dominant that the economic issues are overlooked and consequently, Iraqi Kurdistan has to suffer economic hardship. They have also realized that they cannot survive if they become separated from their host country. They have understood their limited capacity.
Their demands also are not so much ambitious. They just want that their community should be officially accepted. If four of these nations collectively sign a treaty of giving Kurd community respect and recognition, the terrorism will be eradicated in a very peaceful and ethical way. Their language should be acknowledged as an official language and they should be given place in politics, economy and the administration of the respective nation. The feeling of being other should be removed from the mind of Kurd community. The government of respective nations should take care of their overall development. This community is a tribal community and basically most of the people from this community live in mountain area. The adjunct nations and the nations in which this community dwells should provide them basic amenities such as health, education, employment etc. The real moral and ethical consideration is developing and uplifting them and not destructing the community with mass massacre, and spread of hostility.
Supporting the community and bringing them in the mainstream of development is the ethical and moral way to cease fight and war. Discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity is not accepted. Instead of that, all the four nations with Kurd community should encourage talents from Kurd community. The hidden talents of Kurd community should be utilized for the prosperity of the respective nation. Being a superpower and world leader, the United State should behave like a responsible nation and support Kurds to uplift them. Instead of providing bombs, weapons and military equipment, it is desirable to provide them tangible and intangible support to be financially, culturally and socially strong and independent. This is the logical rational and ideal way of dealing with Kurd community. War will bring destruction, but the support and encouragement will bring reconstruction of the affected nations. The real essence of globalization lies in such encouragement and the real ethics are in constructive approach rather than the destructive approach.
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Daily Sabah,. (2016). 12 killed, 100 injured by PKK terror attack in Diyarbakır after detention of HDP deputies. DailySabah. Retrieved 27 January 2017, from http://www.dailysabah.com/war-on-terror/2016/11/04/12-killed-100-injured-by-pkk-terror-attack-in-diyarbakir-after-detention-of-hdp-deputies
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