“Nomads” and “Mountaineers”: A Historical Survey of Turk/Turkmen – Kurd Interrelations

Mustafa Onur Tetik
Content Type
Journal Article
Turkish Journal of Middle Eastern Studies
Issue Number
Publication Date
Sakarya University (SAU)
Following Turkey’s recent military operation in Syria (Operation Peace Spring), “Turks” and “Kurds” have widely been dichotomized by the Western media outlets and political circles. US President Donald Trump even claimed that “Turks” and “Kurds” have been fighting for hundreds of years, and that they are “natural enemies.” However, the complex historical relationship of “Turks” and “Kurds,” as a loosely connected social totality prior to the age of nationalism, refutes such sloppy and feeble contentions. This work presents an identity-driven historical survey of Turkish/Turkmen societies’ and polities’ interrelations with Kurdish collectivities until the emergence of modern nationhood and nationalism. In doing so, this article provides an ideational and narrational context feeding the Turkish government’s contemporary relationship with the Kurds of the Middle East. The major complication in journalistic and academic literature is rooted in the lack or omission of historical background informing current policy choices influenced by how relevant actors historically perceive each other. Today’s incidents and facts such as the “solution process,” “village guard system” or different Kurdish collectivities’ positions between Iran and Turkey are sometimes akin to precedent events in history. This work aims to make a holistic contribution to fill this gap and to provide a succinct historical overview of interrelations.
Diplomacy, Nationalism, Regional Cooperation, Nation-State
Political Geography
Europe, Turkey, Asia, Kurdistan