Cultural Cornerstones: Supporting the creative voice in crisis affected communities

The Kurds of Southeast Turkey

Over the last 80 years living under the Turkish system, both the cultural rights of the Kurds have been systematically abused in what some scholars have called a cultural genocide.

Since 2001, Cultural Cornerstones has been working with Kurds in Istanbul and Southeast Turkey (Turkish Kurdistan) to promote the cultural heritage and cultural rights of the Kurdish population in Turkey.

In 2002, we released a CD of field recordings titled ‚"Chave Mini, You are my eyes: Songs from Turkish Kurdistan"‚ which highlighted the traditional Dengbej singers who hold the history and knowledge of the Kurdish people and their lands in their songs. In addition to the CD Cultural Cornerstones has staged concerts, photo exhibitions and public talks to provide support the beauty of the Kurdish people and their traditions and to support the right of Kurds in Turkey to freely express their cultural identity.

This land that Kurds have lived in harmony with for over 2000 years was carved up by Britain in 1923 and divided between the present day states of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Numbering around 20-35 million, the Kurds are one of the largest ethnic groups without their own state and right to autonomous rule over their land and their people. In the wake of numerous rebellions aimed at gaining these and other fundamental rights, the Western world’s classification of the Kurds as a people of war and terrorism has overshadowed the depth and complexity of their culture. Unfortunately, whenever news about the Kurds of Turkey finds its’ way into the mainstream press, the same qualifying tag is attached to the end of the story:

For the past 15 years, the Kurdish PKK has waged a bloody war in Southeast Turkey, which resulted in the loss of over 35,000 lives. The PKK halted their fighting in 1999 after the capture of their leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Such endings are bluntly irresponsible from journalists who most likely write their stories, comfortably, from Istanbul and Ankara using state sources.

Perhaps a more balanced reportage would end something like this: Over the last 80 years living under the Turkish system, both the human and cultural rights have been systematically abused. In the 1990s alone over 3500 Kurdish villages were destroyed in the east of Turkey. Although the PKK stopped their fight in 1999 after the capture of their leader, the Turkish army continues to destroy villages and abuse, abduct, and kill civilians living in Turkish Kurdistan.

Kurds in turkey are also refused their most basic cultural rights. Until the early 1990s it was illegal to print Kurdish music, poetry, or literature. While "progress" is being made as Turkey tries to meet the reforms necessary for entering into the European Union, still today anyone working in Kurdish cultural and language publications is at risk of state prosecution simply for saying the word “Kurdistan.” When visiting Diyarbakir in early 2002, Noam Chomsky stated:

As a human being there is nothing to discuss. It is too obvious. The right to use one's mother tongue freely in every way that one wants -- in literature, in public meetings, in any other form -- that is a primary essential human right‚"that should not even be under discussion."

Hopefully, such issues will soon be resolved and talks of atrocities on both sides will cease and lead into a genuine appreciation of the unique and distinct beauty of the Kurdish people and their culture. Through the music of the Kurdish people and the photos of their land, their children, and their eyes, we hope that this web site and our CD publication shed a more honest and holistic light on the answer to this rich question: Who are the Kurds?

From ‚"Chave Mini: You are My Eyes, Songs From Turkish Kurdistan"

Kurd Photo Stories

Kurd Photo Stories

Kurd Music Stories

Kurd Music Stories