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Cemetery of victims of the Halabja chemical attack perpetrated by Saddam Hussein

Anti-Kurdish sentiment, also known as anti-Kurdism or Kurdophobia, is hostility, fear, intolerance or racism against the Kurdish people, Kurdistan, Kurdish culture, or Kurdish languages.[1] A person who holds such positions is sometimes referred to as a "Kurdophobe".

Origin and history

See also: Denial of Kurds by Turkey

The term 'anti-Kurdism' appears to have been first coined by Gérard Chaliand, who used it to describe anti-Kurdish sentiment in Iraq and Turkey during the mid- to late twentieth century.[1] Much anti-Kurdish sentiment is a result of ultra-nationalist ideologies promoted by the states which control Kurdistan.

In Turkey, Kurdish identity was officially denied by the state,[2] which sought to Turkify the Kurds in Turkey. Kurdish language and identity are not recognised in the constitution. The Kurdish Flag and teaching the Kurdish language are illegal. Until 2013, the letters Q, W and X were banned because they are present in the Kurdish but not the Turkish alphabet.[3] The Turkish government institutionalized racism and paid academics to teach theories that would deny the existence of Kurds. An example of this is the "kurt-kart theory", which asserted that Kurds were merely Turks whose name came from the "kurt-kart" sound the people made when they walked through the snow of the mountainous southeast of Turkey.[4] Turkish diplomats were taught by the National Secret Service that neither Kurds nor the Kurdish language exist.[5] The Turkish president Kenan Evren also claimed so during his electoral rallies.[5] Various Turkish nationalist political parties and groups in Turkey have successfully campaigned using the general anti-Kurdish sentiment of the Turkish people.[6] The Turkish state uses "fighting terrorism" to justify military encroachment on Kurdish areas.[7][8]

Anti-Kurdish sentiment increased in the Arab world during the formation of the United Arab Republic. At that time, Gamal Abdel Nasser implemented a policy of Arabizing the new republic by cracking down on political dissent among Kurds in Syria.[9] Following the collapse of the United Arab Republic, Syria would be officially declared the Syrian Arab Republic based on these same Arab nationalist policies.

Anti-Kurdish sentiment has also been present in Iraq where there is a large Kurdish population. Anti-Kurdism manifested itself in the form of genocide and Saddam Hussein's Anfal campaign in Iraqi Kurdistan.[10]

Current situation

Kurds in Iraq and Syria were embroiled in a war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. As a result of the increasing awareness of the Kurdish people due to this conflict, anti-Kurdism has also been on the rise. In the United Kingdom, a Kurdish shop owner was attacked by an Iranian man who advocated genocide against Kurds.[11]

In November 2014, a Kurdish footballer Deniz Naki was the victim of an attack in Turkey. Naki, who played for the Turkish club, Gençlerbirliği S.K., was attacked by Turks while he was out buying food in Turkey's capital, Ankara. The incident occurred shortly after Naki had declared that he was Kurdish and expressed support on social media for the Kurdish groups fighting against ISIS militants. A number of assailants allegedly cursed him and called him a "dirty Kurd" before beating him and injuring his hand and giving him a black eye. Naki later left Turkey and returned to Germany to continue his football career.[12]

In Turkey, rising national fervor driven by the military offensive against Kurdish militias in northern Syria has led to increased discrimination against Kurds, many of whom are Turkish citizens.[13] Recent incidents, like the attack on 74-year-old Ekrem Yasli for speaking Kurdish in a hospital, highlight the growing problem. Yasli's attacker was charged but later acquitted due to a lack of evidence pointing to an anti-Kurdish motive. Human rights lawyers and activists argue that the state's failure to address ethnically motivated violence and the prevalence of hate speech in Turkish society contribute to these attacks.[14]

See also


  1. ^ a b Gérard Chaliand (1993). A People Without a Country: The Kurds and Kurdistan. Zed Books. pp. 85–. ISBN 978-1-85649-194-5.
  2. ^ Yeğen, Mesut (1996). "The Turkish State Discourse and the Exclusion of Kurdish Identity". Middle Eastern Studies. 32 (2): 216–229. doi:10.1080/00263209608701112. ISSN 0026-3206. JSTOR 4283801.
  3. ^ "Letters Q, W, And X Were Once Illegal in Turkey". Retrieved 2021-03-13.
  4. ^ "MGK paid academics to write on ‘kart kurt theory,’ commission report says." Today's Zaman. 25 November 2012. Archived 2016-05-30 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ a b Karaveli, Halil M. (October 2010). "Reconciling Statism with Freedom, Turkey's Kurdish Opening" (PDF). p. 49. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2021-04-30.
  6. ^ Bora Kanra (2009). Islam, Democracy and Dialogue in Turkey: Deliberating in Divided Societies. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 85–. ISBN 978-0-7546-7878-6.
  7. ^ "The International Community Must Stop Turkey's Ethnic Cleansing Plans in Northern Syria". Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Retrieved 2021-09-09.
  8. ^ "Reality Check: How many attacks did Turkey face from Afrin?". BBC News. 2018-03-20. Retrieved 2021-09-09.
  9. ^ Yildiz, Kerim. The Kurds in Syria: The Forgotten People. Palgrave Macmillan. 2005
  10. ^ Anderson, Liam. Avoiding Ethnic Conflict in Iraq: Some Lessons from the Aland Islands. Wright State University, UK. 2010.
  11. ^ Crouch, Giulia (February 10, 2015). "Kurdish staff told 'IS are doing the right thing by killing all the Kurds' in their Cheltenham shop". Gloucestershire Echo. Archived from the original on February 11, 2015.
  12. ^ "Footballer Deniz Naki flees Turkey for Germany after attack". BBC News. 2014-11-06. Retrieved 2023-03-03.
  13. ^ unker, Pelin. "Violence, hate crimes toward Kurds in Turkey a 'disgrace' – DW – 10/22/2019".
  14. ^ "Case closed concerning elderly man attacked while speaking Kurdish". (in Turkish). 21 October 2019.