One hundred years ago the Ottoman Turks orchestrated the first genocide of the 20th century. The main executers of the killings, which targeted Christian Assyrians in the Hakkari Mountains of Anatolia, were Kurdish tribesmen.
Assyrian historian and writer John Hajjar observed that “prior to 1915, the Assyrian community lived peacefully in the regions of Tur-Abdin and the Hikkari Mountains and in the Nineveh Plain. They made no territorial claims on the Ottomans and did not get involved in Ottoman politics. They had lived for more than 400 years under Ottoman rule, in lands they had inhabited for several millennia, and in all that time they didn’t cause any trouble for their Turkish overlords. But upon the outbreak of the First World War the Ottomans nevertheless decided that Anatolian Christian communities, including the Assyrian Christian, had to be eradicated; and so they instigated Kurdish tribesmen in the region to ravage the Assyrian Christian villages, massacre the inhabitants, and take over their lands.”
“These Kurdish tribesmen originated in Persia but switched their allegiance to the Ottomans after the Turks overcame the Safavid Persians in the Battle of Chaldiran in 1514 A.D. As a result of the 1915 actions to “cleanse” the Assyrian Christians from their Anatolian lands the Kurds became ever more firmly ensconced in the region, and prospered in it: so much that they now effectively control fully one-third of Turkish Anatolia, which they have renamed “Kurdi-Stan,” literarily “Land of the Kurds.”
“Was it a smart policy by the Ottomans to get rid of the Christian Assyrians and replace them with Moslem Kurds? No, it was not. As the maps below show, the Anatolian territories that rebellious Kurds are claiming as their own are quite large compared to the the region where the Assyrians once lived in peace and as loyal subjects of the Ottoman sultan.”
“The Ottomans might have known the Kurds would be a problem, if they had looked to their own history–and actions–as a teacher. In the 9th century the Arab Abbasid caliph in Baghdad hired Seljuk Turk mercenaries to fight in the caliphate’s wars with the Byzantines. As a reward for their service the Seljuks, who were Sunni Moslems like the Abbasids, were permitted to seize Christian Assyrian lands in Mesopotamia. Not content with their conquest, the Seljuks subsequently turned against their Arab masters, toppling the Abbasids from power. Today, history is repeating itself in the region, only this time it is the Turks who find themselves having to confront a military and political challenge from a formerly subservient but now militant ethnic group living within their national borders.”
“And this challenge is greater by several orders of magnitude that the one the Seluks posed to the Abbasids. Whereas the total number of Assyrians in Anatolia prior to the start of the 1915 massacres did not exceed 1 million souls, the total number of Kurds whom the Turks must now contend stands at around 20 million. That number is rising, along with the anger and determination of the Kurds to separate themselves and their lands from the Turkish national state. Whereas the Assyrians were peaceful and peace loving, the Kurds are not: they are militant and armed for war.”
Now the Turks are supporting ISIS, using Islamic State forces in much the same fashion that they once used the Kurds, namely, to strike at their enemies. Ironically, their enemies today are . . . the Kurds! It is the aim of the Turks that ISIS should oppress and dislodge the Kurds from their territories and, by doing so, crush Kurdish aspirations for a sovereign state while ensuring that the caliphate footprint expands in Syria, Iraq, and the Levant.
What do the Turks have to show for their efforts? Iran is rising and meeting with Western diplomats and being swooned over by the United States, Russia, and China for business. At the same time the Turks have found themselves embroiled in another war with the PKK, having to strike deals with the KDP leadership currently in charge of the KRG in order to drive the PKK not only from Turkey but from the political landscape of the KRG which they now control.
To the Turks we have to say, congratulations for making the first collosal mistake of the 20th century with the Kurds of that time, and congratulations too for repeating that mistake with ISIS of today. All this to dislodge the Christian Assyrians who had lived in your territories for 400 years without ever turning against your leaders or lifting so much as a finger against your brethren. This is the reason why Turkey will never be seen as a world leader in the 21st century–or not until it reconciles with the Assyrians, who are the key for Turkey to be accepted into the EU and the world community.