The internationally recognised image of Turkey is one of touristic indulgences, whirling dervishes and successful secularism. Within this idealised representation the status of the Kurds is lost. This is not only the case in the international version but also extends to the representation of Kurds in Turkey. In modern Turkey, Kurdish civil society is developing rapidly. Kurds are becoming increasing politically aware and organized in order to solve their problems of recognition. Yet the Kurdish voice is silenced, sometimes brutally.
The eerie silence of the Kurdish voice extends also to Europe. Social activism is described as terrorism. The old adage of one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist fits appropriately in the case of the Kurds in Turkey. Despite the mass symbolic gagging of the Kurdish voice news trickles through. The atrocities against Kurds in the Southeast of Turkey received limited coverage. This is in part related to the difficulties in getting news out of the country. No news agency has a permanent correspondent in Turkey in a location further east than Ankara. They are instead reliant on Turkish mass media for their news. This poses a serious threat to objectivity as the Turkish media is heavily censored by the authorities. Official censorship impacts profoundly on the representation of Kurds in the international community. The public opinion and sympathy usually lies with the victims of armed conflicts. But in the case of the Kurds in Turkey it is the opposite with the international community siding with the Turkish state. Due partly to the lack of the Kurdish voice and flows of information from Kurdish areas but more significantly to the fact that Turkey has forced itself into a powerful lobbying position within the discourse of the War on Terror and counts among its friends America and the United Kingdom. FINLAND, A SUPERPOWER IN DIPLOMACY I have followed the situation of the Kurds for more than ten years. I have seen the huge problems but also the national awakening and rapid development of the liberation movement. Kurdish associations both in Kurdistan and in Europe are flexible and adopt all the time new methods when it is question about organising the Kurds. But these abilities disappear strangely when they should make contacts with European organisations. I hope my readers understand that my critique is not intended to add to the negative representation of the Kurds, but instead it is intended to aid understanding of the problem. I have become very frustrated many times as I have felt the problems could be solved when working with other methods and other attitudes. I am from Finland. Finland is located between East and West, it is a neighbour country of the former Soviet Union and present Russia with more than one thousand kilometres of land boarder. Since it became independent 1917 the main principle of Finnish foreign policy has been to balance with this neighbour. Finland is a small country in the amount of population (five million people) but a super power in diplomacy. Surviving with our big neighbour has taught Finnish diplomats to be very skilful. It is not a coincidence that in EU the commissioner for enlargement is from Finland. Finnish people are specialists in difficult diplomacy. Olli Rehn is just one example. Other ones are Martti Ahtisaari, Harri Holkeri, Elisabeth Rehn, Helena Ranta and late Matti Wuori. Green MP Pekka Haavisto is one of the very few people who developed and maintained a personal relationship with the leaders of all parties in the Darfour crisis. KURDI-KURDI -DIPLOMACY IS NOT ENOUGH When looking at Finland from the Kurdish perspective there is one thing which makes it different to other Western European countries. The Turkish lobby is very weak in Finland. There are no Turkish immigrants except some Turkish men who have met a Finnish lady in Antalya beach and followed her to Finland. But there are thousands of Kurdish refugees in my country, and compared to other European countries, the Kurdish plight receives sympathy from the general public. Finland and Kurdistan shared certain historical similarities. Finland was part of Russia until the First World War and during the period of 1939-1944 we had two wars against Soviet Union. We know what is to fight against an enormous enemy! When campaigning for a political solution for the Kurdish question, what conclusions these facts bring to your mind: a country which is super power in diplomacy having sympathy for the Kurds, with no Turkish lobby? Well, I have explained these facts during last ten years for many Kurdish activists. Their reaction has always been the same: Finland is marginal country which is not important for the Kurdish movement because the Kurdish community in Finland is small, only some thousand people. Until now I have not met even one Kurd who would understand the special character of Finland’s history. Or who would be at least interested in it, not even among the ones who have lived a long time in Finland. It is difficult to make cooperation with someone if you are interested only about yourself and do not want to know your partner. It has surprised me that many Kurds know the battle of Raatteentie of January 1940 where 17 500 Soviet soldiers died (compared to the fallen 900 Finnish soldiers). Kurds respect how Finns won the battle by using methods which would nowadays be described as guerrilla warfare. But they do not know the meaning of this single battle in the whole war – not even to speak about the reflects of the war to the present foreign policy in Finland. TIME TO LEARN NEW SKILS The reasons behind the problems in Kurdish diplomacy are clear. For decades it has been forbidden for them for them to study their own culture and history. When there are finally some possibilities for that – at least in the Diaspora community – it is understandable that people spent all their time in doing it. But it would be so much easier to learn from others’ mistakes instead of experiencing same mistakes by oneself and learning by this rocky road! Also there is huge lack of activists. 30 000 PKK guerrillas have died in the war. There are thousands Kurdish politicians in Turkish prisons, and thousands others have been forced to escape to Europe where they face other problems. There is huge amount of Kurds who have mental or physical problems caused by torture, deportation, political violence on their family members etc. I do not even try to estimate their numbers. Each story of the victims – the fallen guerrillas, the disappeared, the injured, the prisoners, the refugees – is a human tragedy. But these atrocities have also the practical consequence that there is lack of huge amount of people who could have developed the Kurdish movement if the conditions would have been different. The target of the Turkish state was to destroy the Kurdish movement when it targeted individual members of it. Also the problems of the Kurdish diplomacy is a result of this. Despite all these problems, the only way to solve the Kurdish question is that Kurds learn to make international cooperation. We, the foreign friends of Kurds, can assist in this. But Kurdish diplomacy can be done only by the Kurds themselves.