Armenian-Kurdish Relations Is A Strategic Necessity

A Kurdish rally in Dikranagert (Diyarbakir), Turkey. The large banner reads 'Negotiation or War' and shows a picture of jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan.


Inadvertent avoidance of the obvious in a country’s external affairs is sheer incompetence. Deliberate evasion of the same is mere stupidity. This equation may well explain Armenia’s nonchalant attitude toward Kurdistan and the Kurds.

The obvious that is being avoided or evaded in Armenia’s external affairs is the fact of the rising empowerment of the Kurdish national movements spreading over eastern Turkey, northern Iraq and northeastern Syria. Armenia and Armenians can only ignore this geopolitical reality at the peril of their national interests.

The Kurds are an ancient people. For lack of a united and national purpose, a definite statehood with ascertained boundaries escaped them throughout their history. Yet they were a substantive presence within empires that ruled them. Their nomadic traditions compelled them to migrate and expand within and outside the boundaries of their suzerain empires. The ruling empires also used and abused them by pitting them against one another and against other minorities – especially against Armenians.

Kurds and Armenians have lived side by side for centuries. Yet, historically Armenians have had a bitter experience with the Kurds. At the behests and briberies of Ottoman rules, various Kurdish clans have maimed, robbed and killed their Armenian neighbors. During the First World War, the Young Turk government engaged many Kurdish tribes in the execution of its genocidal plan to exterminate the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire.

This bitter experience could have been avoided if the Kurds had entertained a unity of national purpose and discerned the threat posed against them by the Ottoman rulers. By the same token, it could have been avoided if Armenians valued the Kurds and viewed them as common friends and natural allies against the Ottoman autocracy.

They both failed. They both suffered.

Both Armenians and Kurds missed many opportunities to work together in protecting their collective interests against the Ottoman chicaneries. However, they sometimes did cooperate.

Neighborly contacts between Armenians and Kurds started developing as of the 15th century in the Ottoman Empire. Armenians were situated in their ancestral lands of Western Armenia; the Kurds were settled in the eastern parts of the empire. These initial contacts were of crucial importance to both the Kurds and the Armenians. They grew out of the concerns for their physical and administrative existence under the Ottomans.

As this relationship grew, it led to the first official alliance between the Armenians, the Kurds and other minor Muslim tribes of Western Armenia, the Caucasus and eastern Turkey. This pact of alliance was formed in 1459 and included Armenian kings and princes, Kurdish tribal heads, and Muslim chieftains. (Garo Sassouni, the governor of Shirak province during the first independent Republic of Armenia and one of the major organizers of the 1921 uprising against the Soviet dictatorship in Armenia, renders an excellent historical analysis of Kurdish-Armenian relations from 15th century to the 1930’s in his series of articles published in Hairenik monthly from 1929 to 1931. In 1969, these articles were published in a book, titled “The Kurdish National Movements and the Armenian-Kurdish Relations”.)

In 1845, the Kurdish Prince Badrkhan forged an alliance with Armenians to lead an armed uprising against the Ottoman government. For this uprising, both Kurds and Armenians were able to mobilize an army of 40,000 men.

Even during the Armenian revolutionary movement, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsuniun (ARF) made efforts to join forces with the Kurds against the Ottoman rulers. Sometimes these efforts succeeded.

Although they faced the same common enemy, unfortunately such alliances were the exception and not the rule in the Armeno-Kurdish relations.

Despite their bitter historic experience, in 1920’s a new era began for Kurdish-Armenian cooperation. After the depopulation of Western Armenia resulting from the Armenian Genocide, the Kurds in Eastern Turkey faced the cruel fact of becoming the next victim of Turkish atrocities. The Republic of Turkey violated their human rights, persecuted them, burned down their villages and hanged their leaders.

Thus, for Kurds their very own collective survival was at stake; for Armenians the liberation of their homeland was at issue. At this point in history, they both realized that they have a permanent common enemy – Turkey.

To carry out a national uprising against the Turkish central government, in 1927 the Kurds founded the Khoybun organization. Armenians participated in this effort. The ARF was instrumental in the inception of Khoybun and its activities. As of 1925, the ARF was promoting the Kurdish national movement in Europe and advocating the Kurdish cause at the Socialist International. The cooperation with Khoyboun succeeded in establishing the short-lived Republic of Ararat on October 28, 1927.

After decades of persecution and suffering, today more than 30 million Kurds are an important political and military presence in the Middle East. They have a vibrant Diaspora in Europe and North America. They are educated and sophisticated. They aspire for a united Kurdistan. The achievement of this aspiration is now a matter of time.

Not only the histories of Kurds and Armenians are intermingled; but also their fate. They are identical in their struggle, in their national aspirations and in their destiny. For Armenians, it is more so, because during the past six centuries the Kurds have influenced the Armenian way of life, often times they have threatened the Armenian existence.

Today, they are both shaping their future. In the past they tried to shape the future separately and paid dearly. Now, as in 1920’s, there is the opportunity to shape the future together. They are destined to live together. Why not shape the future together? Armenia and Kurdistan together can become a regional force to be reckoned with.

There are differences and obstacles in terms of territorial aspirations. But these have been overcome in the 1920’s by the guidelines set in the Treaty of Sevres. They can be overcome again on the same guidelines.

Similarities are stronger. And the strongest among them is the commonality of the enemy. Kurds and Armenians both believe in the wise Kurdish adage: “Bakhdeh romeh tunin eh” – You cannot trust the Turk.


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  1. hiedi said:

    *** Thank you Seto, your article is a good reminder of that history. , and Armenians & Kurds should find a common ground to co-operate & counter Turkey, they should not be trusted no matter what they say or do or hide behind NATO for protection,. PERIOD.!!

  2. Arn.Sweden. said:

    The Armenians and Kurds(Medians) has lived side by side for many thousens of Years untill the Turkish Mongols came and Occkupied them.
    The Mongols came because of the Murder of one of their Emisaries sent by Djingis Khan to Karmania,
    an Armenian State and Nation East of the Kaspian Sea.


    • edward demian said:

      Come now Arn. “An Armenian State east of the Caspian”. No, Not Likely. That was a solid Muslim state, ethnically Persian. Lets keep national aspirations within the realm of reality.

  3. S.K.A. Safaryan said:

    In the map of kurdistan our country west Armenia, cilicia and half of republic of Armenia and Artsakh (Karabagh) is part of kurdistan then how can you talk about friendly cooperation between Armenians and Kurds only stupid person thinks about cooperation between the two peoples and the Kurds helped the Turks to kill Armenians during the Armenian Genocide

    • edward demian said:

      Today’s Kurds are not the same Kurds of yesteryear. Their top leaders have all apologized and their liberation struggle against Turkey is to be much admired. Many Kurds of Armenian background are active in both male and female units. This is the time to support the PKK and the others Kurdish liberation movements in order to later benefit from a benevolent Kurdish administration. Look at what is happening in Diarbekir. Lets face it. The Kurds populate much of Western Armenia. They are there to stay. We can only aspire to be allowed to go back and seed settle wherever we may want without opposition. Something we cannot do now in most of Turkey.

    • Tanner said:

      During the Armenian genocide, the Kurds in our village helped my Armenian ancestors by hiding us, or trying to take us to Russia. Some of my family still live in the Kurdish region in Turkey and refuse to move. In Tunceli, the Kurdish province, there’s Armenians and Kurds living amongst each other and everyone respects one another. I know because I visited a few times to see my moms aunts and cousins. Yes the Kurds helped kill Armenians, but there were also Kurds who also tried to save them. Only the dumb were brain washed by the Turks to kill, and even though a lot of the Kurds had nothing to do with the killings and genocide, all the Kurds as a whole STILL apologize and recognize that there were Kurds who helped in the genocide and are very sorry about it. The Kurds are not our enemies

    • Lasse Riise said:

      Presently, the entire eastern section of Anatolia is firmly under full Turkish Control. Turkey have the second most powerful army in NATO. So, silly fantasies should be put aside.

  4. edward demian said:

    A future Western Armenia without the Kurds is not realistic. We just simply don’t have the manpower to guard such future borders, work the land, etc. if we bred like rabbits and each had over 12 chilldren, it would still take, like forever. That’s what the Hasidim Jews are doing, and the “take care of your brother’s widow” clause is really stretched to the limits too, still ,Israel has not changed demographically that much in the last few decades. This despite a vigorous and ingenious program by the Israeli Government to bring in Jews from Russia, Middle East, Ethiopia, etc. The envy of Armenia who does nothing extra to bring in settlers. Every surrounding country to Armenia has poor minorities with Armenian connections. The church should be engaged in this.

  5. tommy said:

    There is going to be a Kurdish country soon. The West and US wants one for its oil. This is why US is supporting Kurds against ISIS. The US knows it will be more pro-Western than Shite Iraq.

  6. Diran said:

    In connection with the central idea of this column it will be interesting to consider the implications of Etyen Mahcupyan’s appointment as senior adviser to Davutoglu when Zaman (Nov. 2) reports his views on the Kurdish issue as follows:
    Etyen Mahçupyan, recently appointed adviser to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, spoke on a television show last week. He said the PKK had reinforced its power in the southeastern cities so much so that public order is in the hands of the PKK. . . . “Are the statements of Interior Minister Ala, which sounded like a confession, saying the PKK has started dominating cities, an indication of the AK Party government’s failing policies?” Oran asked. . . . Highlighting Mahçupyan’s statements, Oran asked why the AK Party government is letting the PKK control public order in southeast Turkey.

  7. Mavro said:

    Today at this juncture in history Armenian and Kurdish interest converge and coincide. This may quickly change when a clash of interest in the western parts of Armenia will create a schism between the two.

    • Lasse Riise said:

      If Armenians and Kurds allow themselves to be fooled into Ankaras Dirty trap of “divide and rule”, this would only serve the neo-Ottoman plan of restoring their Caliphate slaying both Kurds and Armenians in the end.

  8. Alex Postallian said:

    The Armenians and the Kurds,should unite in a common cause,we have tried to carry the yoke,of the oppressed,long enough,IT HASNT WORKED,you need a common partner..The kurds and Armenians lived side by side in Anatolya,IT CAN HAPPEN AGAIN…JERKY turkey are their own worst enemy,there is going to be a REVOLUTION.THE MAD,RABID DOG,LOOKS LIKE A MONKEY,is going to be assassinated;when some jerky,gets enough guts????. THEY ARE THE WORST COWARDS,YOU KNOW….

  9. S.K.A.Safaryan said:

    Armenian people lived in the past in Western Armenia and not in kurdistan and the Treaty of Sevres gives western Armenia to the Armenians and not to the Kurds but the Kurds lie and say that’s kurdistan

    • Edward Demian said:

      A Kurdish leader was challenged on the map issues. Why is western Armenia included in the Kurdish maps of today.His answer was simple and genuine. The Kurdish maps of today represent areas where Kurds live. Not historic homelands. That should settle the map issue.

  10. Hratch said:

    “There are differences and obstacles in terms of territorial aspirations. But these have been overcome in the 1920’s by the guidelines set in the Treaty of Sevres. They can be overcome again on the same guidelines.”

    Very articulate article, however, the above paragraph is little naive to say the least. No Muslim majority will accommodate such wishful thinking if they had their way.

  11. 2.6 said:

    Great article. Glosses over thousands of years of history, but the essential conclusion is dead-on. It is painfully obvious that we have to unite with Kurds, they’re on the rise, and the PKK/PYD is a genuine social movement worth contributing to. Plus they see us as brothers.

  12. Hay Ouzh said:

    I do not agree with this mostly sugar-coated and glossed article. The Armenian Genocide is not an easy and past event that we “forgive and move on” with the Kurds, whose hand are as bloody as the their Turkish friends from 1894 to 1920. What did the Kurdish apology result in? Tomorrow the Turks will “apoligize” and drop tears of remorse and not give us an iota of our Armenian stolen lives, lands, culture and stolen and brutally destroyed future. Did the Kurds return our lands? Did they compensate us? Did they invite Armenians to come and return to the lands they so often stole, occupied and to at least acknowledge that they were the same brutal rapists of our women who became their grandmothers? I am sorry to say the Mr. Boyajian is simply glossing this major event and he never asks the questions of the past before moving on to the future… Well tomorrow the Turks will imitate the Kurds and get their “get out of jail free” card with an apology or two…

    • Lasse Riise said:

      The Kurds have no land to return. It’s all controled by the mighty Turkish army. Nobody should bother wasting time on Turkish trolls payed by Ankara to divide and split sisters and brothers apart. Seems like both Kurds and Armenians finally have learned their lesson. They will never be foled by evil neo-Ottomans again.