Tuesday, February 17, 2009


"You can put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig."
~ Barack Obama.


Kurdish National Congress of North America
P.O. Box 90823, Nashville, TN 37209

President Barack Obama,
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500

February 3, 2009

Honorable President Obama:

In your inauguration speech, you stated that America will have a better approach with the rest of the world in terms of cooperation, mutual understanding and respect. You also appeared to promise that you would review and correct America’s unsuccessful policies especially in regard to the Middle East.

A received wisdom of various US administrations is that Turkey plays a vital role in the Middle Eastern stability and promoting America’s agenda in the region. Indeed Turkey is poised to become a prominent nation not only for the region but also to play a larger role in Asia and Europe. But this can only happen if Turkey bases its stability on the premise of democracy and a guarantee of human rights for its citizens. It appears that this can only happen if, with the encouragement of the US, the Turks amend their constitution where every citizen of Turkey is guaranteed respect and equality before the law. Turkey cannot remain prosperous and use slogans of democracy as a lapel pin rather than adhering to democracy’s deepest principles -- principles that should be reflected in the conduct of the Turkish state.

It’s inconceivable for a nation to proclaim its democratic image while it callously engages in the oppression of more than 20 million Kurds. It appears that Turkish authorities think they can continue this policy since they have been supported by America’s “Good Kurds - Bad Kurds” policies for the last few decades. This policy of demonizing the Kurds is possible because the US has accepted a Faustian bargain in which they allow the suppression of a people in exchange for geopolitical gains – and this by a nation that calls itself the ‘beacon of democracy.’

Because Turkey finds inconvenient the desire of the ethnic Kurds to speak their language and sustain their culture, they have used the PKK as a pretext to suppress this ancient people. Even the ‘new’ Kurdish TV station that has been allowed in response to pressure from the EU only broadcast state-approved propaganda – it just happens to be in Kurdish – and do not reflect the true political claims of Kurds who are living under the Turkish flag. As long as Turkey can sense the compliance of the Western world, particularly of America, they will continue to press chauvinistic claims that Turkish society is monoethnic and deny basic human rights to all other non-Turks who live in Turkey. We call upon you Mr. President to end this exclusionary, divisive and cruel policy.

The Kurdish people, as one of the world’s largest ethnic groups, have always been a scapegoat of the Western colonial policies in the region. The division of Kurdistan could not have happened without callous Western policies. As a result, the Kurds found themselves in four merciless nation states in which each of the governments tried to force assimilation in their own national melting pots. When assimilation was not possible, suppression and genocide followed.

It is hard to conceive that the Kurds are treated in such a harsh way as a result of America’s compliance in their suppression where history can testify to their loyalty to the west and particularly to America. This is especially true in countries such as Turkey where America can influence democratic changes.

However, every time after superficial promises to the Kurds (beginning with Woodrow Wilson’s promise for the Kurds and Armenians to have their own homelands in the Treaty of Sevres) the West has turned its back on them. The Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, which bowed to Turkish nationalist policies supplanted the guarantees of the Treaty of Sevres in 1920, and consigned Kurds to the yoke of a proto nationalist Turkish state. America and the West were indifferent when the Turks called the Kurds “mountain Turks” and even the words “Kurd” and “Kurdistan” were abolished and the act of speaking Kurdish in public became an offense to Turkish honor, punishable by a prison sentence.

It’s ironic that America would support regimes or governments that oppress their citizens in the name of protecting its interests, not thinking of consequences that jeopardize America’s interest, image and ability to claim itself as an advocate of democracy in the long run. Therefore, we encourage you to end this morally bankrupt policy of “Good Kurds - Bad Kurds” and pressure the Turks to end their suppression against the Kurds, acknowledge and respect their cultural and democratic rights.

Sincerely yours,

Kirmanj Gundi


Gordon Taylor said...

I'd say this is a damn good letter: forthright and succinct, with no rhetorical excesses. It ought to go in the NY Times or the Wash. Post. Bravo to whoever wrote it.

Jewish Odysseus said...

This will be a good litmus test for how our new progressive President will--or won't-- order any changes in US foreign policy.

He certainly has a unique opportunity to shift our slavishly pro-Turkey policy, that has been in place for, ohhhhhhh, ~60 years. If he cares a whit about freedom and human rights, he will do so forthwith.

This letter was indeed well argued.

Mizgîn said...

Yes, the letter is very good and it's Rasti-worthy, but it's not going to change anything. I see it mainly as a statement of KNCNA's own "stance" on the situation.

Anonymous said...

Why don't they write a letter that COULD make it on the opinion page of waPo? I don't know if it has ever been attempted. There are some unwritten rules though -- ways of not blatantly suggesting someone is a liar. Written like this, there's no chance it could make print -- especially how it started off stating that the President "appeared to promise" things. I thought that was rather unnecessary...I mean, if you are implying Barack Obama is insincere, then why bother taking the time to write to him?

Also, was it intentional that the "Good Kurds-Bad Kurds" policy was never really explained? Is it assumed it is just common knowledge?

Maybe I'm nit-picking :)

Overall, despite having issues with how the message was delivered, I liked the intent of the letter :)


Mizgîn said...

Well, it doesn't really matter how the letter was written, Nistiman; it won't change anything no matter the words used, tone taken, or whatever.

It. Changes. Nothing.

Gordon Taylor said...


Undoubtedly you're right, because pessimism is always a pretty safe bet. But unless you try, what's the point of being here?

Obviously this letter is worthless as an op-ed, and Nistiman is right. When I said it should go in the Post or the Times, I meant it should go in as an advertisement. A full-page ad, in other words. Big bucks, right? WAY too expensive? Of course it is. But when you spend that kind of money you get attention just by spending it. And when you place the copy through an ad agency, you get the expertise of people who know how to craft messages and get results. In other words, you create business and personal relationships. You play the game.

Sorry, but the brutal truth is, this is America: you gotta think big if you're going to get anywhere. And if your organization doesn't have that kind of money, you have to go out and find it. Don't tell me the Kurdish diaspora doesn't have fund-raising abilities.

Anonymous said...

Nistiman, it falls upon all of us to do something, regardless of how small it is. I have a lot of respect for Mizgîn for doing her part. She makes me feel guilty at times. Nistiman, heval, why don't you re-draft the letter and send and post it somewhere? Anywhere. I am sure no sensible Kurd would mind your contribution.

Mizgîn, don't lose your hope so easily. Yes, Kurds have no friends, yes, the odds have always been against us. But we must exhaust and who to the international community that we have been exhausting ALL options.

Gordon, you have made some good points. Kurds can model how other diaspora went about issues and can even avoid some of the mistakes others made.


Anonymous said...

Hevale Berfo,

Re-drafting that letter is on my to-do list! However, I have other priorities: I must also consider forming a new Kurdish political party, becoming its leader, and drafting my proposal to solve the Kurdish problem.

After each criticism of a Kurdish party, its leadership, or its policies, it's been duly noted that if I see myself fit to criticize something it MUST mean that I think I can do a better job myself and that I should do it.

Either that, or I have to bring out my POM-POMs and start cheerleading everytime I hear about some new "success" of ours or start booing when I'm told someone does something bad.

Too bad I left my pom-poms back in high school .... :)


Anonymous said...


I agree that even as a paid advertisement the letter, or similar letters, would have a tremendous impact in changing the way Americans view the Kurdish problem. But, even a half page add would cost thousands and thousands of dollars, and those dollars might keep one of the many struggling Kurdish organizations running for a whole year. I don't think the Kurdish diaspora is able, willing or ready to contribute their money to non-partisan fundraising activities. At least, I haven't seen it yet!


Anonymous said...

Hevalo Nistiman,
I didn't meant to discourage your criticism. Constructive criticism is the only way ideas can be refined and serve common good. All I meant was someone has done something, we can try to build our critics into it and perfect that letter. Whoever wrote the letter may be too busy to write yet another version so if you could put your ideas in it and post it somewhere or send it back to them, you make their job easier. Let's make it like open source software ;)

Gordon Taylor said...


Understood. I'm open to conversation if you want to write to me.


Anonymous said...

I apologize hevale Berfo, I misunderstood you :(

Since the letter has a capable author, I don't think it is my place to re-write it nor would it achieve any better purpose if revised at this point, don't you think? In the future though, if some adjustment is made to choice of language and the tone, then I think it would be a worthwhile pursuit for Kurdish organizations to send letters & articles to newspapers for print.

Gordon, it's always a nice sign to be open to dialogue. I'm certainly here to learn :)


Mizgîn said...

Gordon, about fundraising in the US . . . don't even go there, man. It's depressing and byzantine, seriously.

Only one group got the fundraising right and they're in Europe.

Berfo, I don't lose hope; I just know that hope lies elsewhere.