Armeno-Kurdish Relations: Love Fest or Divorce Settlement Meetings?

Like a first date with a potential lover or a last meeting to settle divorce property with an ex, Armenian and Kurdish individuals are in a fest, both knowing full well that negative feelings hover over the canopy under which they are sipping champagne. Both sides, dealing from a position of weakness, manage to create a façade of joviality and happiness for the created opportunity. And both sides realize that in order to settle their differences, they have to accept difficult compromises, and yield serious overdue concessions to the other side. Such are Armeno-Kurdish relations today.

Acting Patriarch Ateshian arrives in Sourp Giragos church in Diyarbakir in Oct. 2012 to preside over its reconsecration. (Photo by Khatchig Mouradian)

Individuals from both sides, meeting individually in various places and on various occasions, are set to rediscover each other. Recently boy-meets-girl and getting-to-know-you opportunities were created. I am mindful of the visit of Armenian dance troops to Dersim (Tunceli), Armenian Diasporan participations in Newruz celebrations, and in celebrations for renovation of a church in Diyarbekir.

As part of their public relations strategy, the Kurds are desperately trying to makeover their look by attempting to erase the image of savagery, which they perpetrated during the Armenian Genocide. Their first official act came from the Kurdish Parliament in Exile in Brussels through their communiqué #1, in which they apologized to the Armenian nation for all the ills they have committed against us.

Another such sweet event was the celebration in Diyarbekir during the consecration of Surp Giragos Church, when the city hosted Armenian clergy and lay people with signs and flags welcoming their guests “Home”—an uplifting gesture indeed that goes beyond the usual mea culpa! No Armenian, to my knowledge, packed his bag to go “Home,” and none is expected to do so anytime soon.

Armenians, in turn, are making a half-hearted effort to forgive, but not to forget, the Kurdish atrocities perpetrated before, during, and after the genocide. These are very difficult tasks for both.

Kurds, some 30 million of them, have been battling for a century to gain notoriety in their own land. Their major shortcoming has been, and to some degree still is, tribalism. This socio-political structure was a major obstacle in gaining statehood when the pie was being divided at Sevres. This Treaty of Peace, which sealed a lot of deals in dividing the defeated Ottoman Empire, provided in its article 64 a rare opportunity for Kurdish independence:

“If within one year from the coming into force of the present Treaty the Kurdish peoples within the areas defined in article 62 shall address themselves to the Council of the League of Nations in such a manner as to show that a majority of the population of these areas desires independence from Turkey, and if the Council then considers that these peoples are capable of such independence from Turkey and recommends that it should be granted to them, Turkey hereby agrees to execute such a recommendation, and to renounce all rights and title over these areas.”

The mandated year passed, and now over 90 years later, the Kurdish society remains disunited in purpose. This fact does not need much to verify; one look at the societal and political make-up of Turkish Kurdistan or the Kurdish Parliament in Exile based in Brussels would convince one of its authenticity.

Further evidence comes from the recent Buyuk Millet Meclisi (Turkish Parliament) elections where the Kurdish vote was split and their goals shattered as a result.

The most recent disunity and story of betrayal comes from skeptics and conspiracy theorists who believe that Abdullah Ocalan was betrayed by his Kurdish adversaries, or I should say enemies, which led to his kidnapping from Kenya by Turkish special agents.

Kurdish political thought and institutions are so dangerously diverse and divided, that a section of them prefer their status quo within Turkey; others inebriated by religious fervor work for the return of the Islamic Caliphate of yesteryear; and yet others yearn for total independence and statehood.

This being the situational climate, Kurds can offer us only love and good will, which they are attempting to do, and we accept all that with gratitude—but that is not enough! The price of reconciliation is far greater than that. Granted they cannot give us what they don’t have, but sooner or later 30 million or so of them will have to have some kind of self-rule—be it autonomy, federation, or confederation—with Turkey, taking our legitimate rights to Western Armenia with them. This is not acceptable!

To achieve their goals, the Kurds need to forge alliances. Among their most natural allies, aside from the mountains, are the Armenians who spread the span of the globe and can exercise their ideological and political clout to bolster the cause. This can happen if and when our love fest is consummated in concrete terms.

We have the same past, the same political and armed struggle, the same national aspirations, the same future, the same destiny, and the reciprocity of goodwill. Furthermore, regardless of all circumstances, we are locked in and destined to live together. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Kurdish Prince Badrkhan forged an alliance with the Armenians, put together some 40,000-strong armies consisting of both parties, and waged a war against the central Turkish government. At the beginning they gave Turks hell only to live in one when Badrkhan’s brother, who was commanding the forces on the right flank of the attack, betrayed them in lieu of money and perks offered him by the Turks.

When all is said and done, Armenians have their own problems and shortcomings. Physically they are scattered almost everywhere and in most places they are comfortable. The genocide and post-genocide psychological and physical translocations have created a reality of apathy in the nation. In the diaspora, people, especially the political parties, are interested in rehashing failed policies because it justifies projecting guilt on the perpetrators of the genocide, thereby avoiding a commitment to the new, necessary, risky, and difficult issue of Western Armenia.

Poverty of thought prevails in the nation; the intellectual class of yesteryear was either beheaded on the eve of the genocide, assassinated like Hrant Dink, or died a natural death. No! There are no replacements! There is a void, a political thought and action vacuum, which the church is trying to fill affirming the millet mentality and reality. History tells us how disastrous that could be!

The Third Republic is corrupt to the core and sitting on its hands while tens of thousands leave the country, creating an unprecedented brain drain.

The diaspora, neglecting the real issue of regaining our rights in Western Armenia, is busy like the hounds chasing the plastic rabbit dangled in front of us. A church here, a church there, or a monument renovated and returned to us, generates psychological but deceptive comfort. It does not address the real issue of Western Armenia.

Movers and shakers—if there are any in the nation—must have unity of purpose. Bring this issue on the radar screen, and then sip champagne with the Kurds under the canopy of the Sevres Treaty, in a divorce settlement while engaging in love fest.

Dr. Henry Astarjian

Dr. Henry Astarjian

Dr. Henry Astarjian was born in Kirkuk, Iraq. In 1958, he graduated from the Royal College of Medicine and went on to serve as an army medical officer in Iraqi Kurdistan. He continued his medical education in Scotland and England. In 1966, he emigrated to the U.S. In 1992, he served as a New Hampshire delegate to the Republication National Convention in Houston, Texas. For three years Astarjian addressed the Kurdish Parliament in Exile in Brussels, defending Armenian rights to Western Armenia. For three consecutive years, he addressed the American Kurds in California and Maryland. He is the author of The Struggle for Kirkuk, published by Preager and Preager International Securities.
Dr. Henry Astarjian

Latest posts by Dr. Henry Astarjian (see all)


  1. Though i have always referred to Dr. Henry Astarjian on this Forum- w/rgds to Kurds and KLurdish issues- as an authority,who knows quite a bit about them and has in the past indicated that he has been in tocuh with them,never has he acknowledged my said reference to him. That is No. 1 on my list for Armenians!
    No. 2 is no , not w/ref to him but others on this forum who in a round about way pick up the chante,so to say, of what he /she me you you written about and turning it into some other format offered here,for all to see and read.
    This is yet another one of our TRAITS(I forgot to mention that for No.1.
    ·3- We shall never learn to cooperate and respect ea other´s views and ideologies too,if we keep navigating in above fashin and come up always with a NEW SUBJECT MATTER..sort of evading the others´ viewpoints/ideas.
    Come come Armenians, Time to be more ¨Ungeryanatsats¨ SOCIALLY FORMED.For this is what we lack immensely……
    What I have suggested so fa ,I maintain firmly, we must First of all.
    A.-Regroup or Group into PCA´s(Professional Colleagues Associations) since believe you me this is the only VENUE, where people of work/prof. type can mingle w/ea other more facille(easily, being of same typ pro.) and by and by accept to co op, develop Esprit de Corps.
    B. Aside from above which is elemental,we need to come up with the idea of having to submit to some sport of Entity(Governance9 if you will.For which i have suggested again(I always suggest,never dare to advise Armenian)that in order to FORM RANK AND FILE8as above said in PCA´s, we should then proceed from each of these Groupement, Like The Healt/Medical for instance or the Transport and Travel Elect a 3 person Delegate to the Central Body of an Armenian dense township, say S.Francisco or Marseill..and all other such.
    C. These 3 person delegation to come up to the Central Body must be ELECTED FOR THEIR MERITS not (asi por asi) just like that….translated..
    One, most advanced in prof.,one though a good Doctor(example9 but who has developed his awareness or desire to be culturally(nat´l Int´l) more savvy and with networking capacity and Third who as a normal Prof. has the ability to advance more (and is the most advanced ) financillay.ç
    One Merit accomplishes the other two.BTW, there is no other Merit that a person can develop in himself herself as rgds within professions.
    D. Then inviting the traditional political Armenian parties to present their 3 person delegates to said Centr.Body and one each from our 3 Denomiantion Spirituals.Thus,. REAP PARTICIPATION AND REPRESENTATION IS ACHIEVED.nOT BY CAMPAIGNING (SPENDING ,MONIES FOR ONESELF,AS THE POLITICO OF MANY COUNTRIES DO) THIS IAS ANOVELTY BY THIS sERVANT OF THE aRMENIAN PEOPLE AND i HAVE HAD THIS PUBLISHED IN VARIOUS ARMENIAN ENGLISH LANGUAGE NEWSPAPERS AND IN MY 2 BOOKS. I have also registered “A New Concept of Electoral Law & governance¨¨at the Washington D.C and counterpart in Yerevan,RA
    I can always at any one´s request expand further as to how I suggest we come up to a Central ÇCounil in ea Armenian Community and on to THE SUPREME COUNCIL OF THE ARMENIAN DIASPORA.
    Also a point that goes in paralell with my above concepts is formation/establishment of the(NATIONAL INVDESTMENT TRUST FUND).
    Next firm move apply ,rather extend Loans to thos who wish to REPATRIATE TO RA/ARTSKAH.more about above later on. that is if interest is shown????

  2. Compliments for another powerful and hard hitting article by Dr. Astarjian which reminds me of all the alliances Armenia formed throughout history when other than during King Dikran’s reign when he single handedly (without alliance with anyone) ruled most of the Middle East, and all the rest of the leaders and their alliances, turned out to be bad bets, with Armenians being caught in cross-fires, divided and with in-fighting….. King Dikran had a very novel strategy which worked best, to put his house in order first, by building a very strong Armenia from within.

    So, before we attempt to address issues of alliances, I hope the “Brain Thrust” outside and inside Armenia with converge, to first focus on transforming Armenia from within, from being ruled by a few conquistadors to a modern democracy with a balance of rule of law and free enterprise, as without a strong Armenia first, not sure what is the point in allying with Kurds or anyone else.

    So, why not put Armenian First?

  3. Our house(The Armenian Diaspora) is in shambles,each on their own.No any important objective can really be attained without putting the House in order.
    Western Armenia(soñando uno tambien vive)spanish, one can live by dream also.In Paris , a few yrs ago*few here online know about that, some people got together and were commencing to form the “Western armenian Parliament, inviting writer of this post as well to join in .I wrote back with pleasure,but provided you change*drop word Parliament.For we already have one in the Republic of Armenia ,we do not want another outside.We are not Kurds, we have accomplished statehood and that this is the 3rd Republic,matter of fact. Fortunately they did that,reallizing they were on a wrong track. Now they still are at it but with a different name.Their objective to come up to UN to recognize it as such,i.e., Western Armenian Supreme and or Central Counicl*they did take my suggestion sesriously.
    As to dreaming of a New Dikran8as above said ,one can do that also,but without any avail if we do not re organize the Spurk*?Diaspora.
    We lack co ordination ,c o op and each day a New Entity Pops up *this BTW is the Armenian VOJ* Khasiat…it will not change.Leet them go on doing it.
    But if they wish to really muster up Force,i.e. POWER, both w/ HUMAN Resources and a Powerful Economic Poweer, then what I have suggdested above is the way to do it.
    First classify ,rather fall in into Rank ^ File, get to know each other much better, become Socially formed which is nowadays dubbed as CIVIL SOCIETY.
    Mine is more Armenian we become more Ungeraynatsats, Socially formed…
    This can be achieved through PCA’s.One thing that reall STRUCK ME, as rgds above Dr. Astarjian’s post was the mention of Oil, avery lightly!!!!
    That is an issue that we should have in mind when thinking about a NATIONAL INVESTMENT TRUST FUND.I did mention that our monetary experts*when the 6/7 magnates have already establishsed such a FUND,they could also heavily invdest in the Kirkuk and Mosul *Kurdish Oil.
    For with the Power of monies,huge amounts many objectives can be accomplishesd. Without an Economic Power structure the Diaspora will indeed carry on.but it will be in a very haphazard way,mainly handig out monies to this that org. and/or projects that the Armenia Fund has been already achieving,albeit on a small scale.Hopefully other such will not pop up.
    The Investment |Trust Fund says it all,an Investment instrument which is very familiar with Business people and if governed by reliable people such as our Magnates, then we are halfway to success.
    Also to bear in mind that RA/Artsakh have gone through hell the last two decadses or so and not much can be expeccted from them The diaspora has to ACT NOW AND IN AN ORDERLY MANNER.More can be said ,but here space is limited and have to write on this page, I suggest and invite those who are intersted to read my more than half doz. artiocle on >/ , clicking up above on *user subscribed articles.thanks for reading me.

  4. Beautifully written article. The root of the current issues with Turks and Kurds regarding the Armenian Genocide lies at the definition of apology and atonement from the point of view of Armenians, Turks, and Kurds.

  5. Armenians and Kurds do need to put aside past differences. Armenia is trying to get Turkey to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide, and Kurds are trying to fulfill human rights for Kurds within Turkey. This can be accomplished on the Republic of Turkey, if both Armenians and Kurds come together. Because after all, the Kurds expanded in eastern Anatolia, after the Armenians were marched out into the deserts. For both Turkish and Kurdish families took in and hid Armenians from 1915 to 1922.

    • Thank you for your input; however, the precepts are uninformed, and the conclusions which are drawn from them are formed according the interest of those whose ideology is diametrically opposed to the writers, readers, and of those who comment on the articles available on this website. It is not helpful to package these ideas as somehow acceptable, or in any way in agreement with those who–under the auspices of friendly discussion–are contradicted.

      A peaceful and legally binding solution to these issues is the only way to achieve the desires of Armenians rightly.

      Regardless of your impressions, Armenians all around the world hope for a time when the international community will for one reason or another will come close to recognizing Armenians’ legal rights in the region, thus at least partially ending the history of conspicuous silence in regard to treaties which still–in full or in part– carry weight; yes, even in our day.

  6. I agree that Armenians and Kurds need to eventually set aside their differences, but still, we have some serious issues to resolve. Some Kurds saved Armenians during the genocide, yet… they were also the ones committing the genocide. Some Armenians became Kurds (or Turks) to save their own lives. Our memories are fresh where the Turks told the Kurds to help them kill off Armenians, so that they can take over all their possessions and lands, which they eagerly did. So what is the correct way to approach this issue?

    The other problem I see is, if we assume that Kurds get their independence from Turkey and acquire “east Anatolia” where they claim is “Kurdistan”, I’m guessing our next problem will be with Kurds rather than Turks. Are Kurds willing to invite Armenians back and give them their lands back which their ancestors acquired through the bloodshed of Armenians? I have seen many times where Kurds will say how “Van is Kurdish”, whereas to Armenians, this is absolutely non-negotiable as a historic Armenian area.

    Historically speaking, the real homeland of the Kurds is northern Iraq, and maybe small parts of northern Syria and southeast Turkey. In historic Armenia the Kurds have always come and gone, according to seasons. The Armenians tolerated them because they never made permanent settlements and when certain seasons were up, they went back to other territories in the east.

    Another question is, if it came down to it and we were confronted with the choice that we either must share our country with the Kurds, or get nothing… what would be our reactions? Would we also be willing to let Kurds have autonomous regions within Armenia? Or perhaps Autonomous Armenian regions within Kurdistan?

    I would think that for us to approach the Armenian-Kurdish issues correctly, a governmental body for the Kurds would have to be first created, because we can’t go around making agreements with one tribe to the next, mountain to mountain. Not that we Armenians are any better… also first and foremost, the objectives of Armenia and the Armenian diaspora must be the same, or at least coincide and compliment each other rather be on different paths, which it seems is our current problem. As an example, Armenia does not currently recognize the eastern border (like the diaspora), yet has no official land demands from Turkey (unlike the diaspora). These issues are very complex, and need a lot of attention. Before even dealing with Turks and Kurds, we have a lot of work to do amongst ourselves. Unity is the only answer for success.

    • Despite the historic significance of the city of Van, that will always remain a part of the Republic of Turkey. I do not think the Republic of Armenia will ever have possession of it. If there ever is an independent Kurdistan, it will more than likely be in northeastern Syria. The Ottoman Empire, Armenia, and Kurdistan will just have to be historical significance, because they all cannot be the modern nation-states proposed.

    • The debate seem to be a “National Pastime”.

      Claims on ancestral lands are perpetual, regardless of whre in the world or the circumstances. Having said that, I don’t recall ever in history of homelands being given back to anyone.

      Never mind the Kurds and the like.

      Can a consensus be reached on building a strong Armenia now in what there is in a Republic of Armenia?

    • @Tim.

      Practically speaking Van will be part of Turkey for the foreseeable future or in our lifetimes, but “always” is too strong a term. Van is part of Turkey and will always be, is from a Turkish perspective. But Van is part of Turkey, because Turkey is a genocidal state which never answered to its crimes is the Armenian perspective. When international law reaches this difference, we may see results, regardless of what Turkey thinks, it is simply irrelevant. Yes, a cooperative Turkey is ideal, but as Armenians we know that a cooperative Turkey is a bigger fantasy than our demands for the return of our historic lands. Turkey can continue to occupy western Armenia, but she will never, ever rest knowing that she is holding “Turkish land”.

      There is a reason that Turkey has one of the largest armies in the worldand spends most of its money on “defense”. And that reason is not because it is a powerful nation like the US which is seeking influence throughout the world in order to secure its economic future. The real reason is because Turkey knows very well that it is a nation with a dirty criminal, genocidal history, and it uses its army to keep that reputation. And when that day comes and the US no longer supports Turkey militarily, every nation around is in line to have themselves a slice of Turkey.

  7. {“Before even dealing with Turks and Kurds, we have a lot of work to do amongst ourselves. Unity is the only answer for success.”}


  8. Kurds will never establish an independent state in the Middle East. This is against the rules of physics. First, the excessive tribal fragmentation will prevent them from congregating and forming a state. If it is not for America, Barzani and Talabani would be killing each other’s man, which they have in the past. Surrounded by Turks, Arabs and Iranians, Kurds have no chance of independence. It is the same as an Indian tribe in North Dakota declaring independence from USA.

    They can get federalism or autonomy, which they have now, but not an independent state.

  9. No Avery and/or Mr.Chekijian,I beg to differ.We do not need UNIY,(MUTYUN) we need Miapanutyun(cooperation) .Word Miutyun was indirectly introduced amongst us(probably encouraged further by our adversaries). Making us repeatr like parrots that word. There is no UNITY in France, as an example, They have left and right political parties extreme Lewft and extrme right political parties. Always in more than friction w / ea other.But when France faces an International issue they BECOME ONE FIST-. And they always c operate and Tolerate ea other and ea other´s ideas.We Armenians, have to first understand what co operation is. That is why we need to form into Rank & File,no not in the party or military kind so,but in PCA´s Prof. Colleagerus ASsoc. This is where we shall begin to learn to cooperate, learn from ea other (rather than desist from doing so) and mingle and become a Civil Society ( I prefer my own denomination,Ungeraynutyun) Socialization!!!
    not in the meaning of the Socialis party etc., but to have the capacity to respect,tolerate and approve(if the other person or party has a good idea) not try to neutralize it. i have been a member of the Liberal Club in Spain where ,after Franco´s dictatorial regime and having gone through brother killing brother because ea had a different idealism(communist/Republican, FAcha, a bit (only)close Fascism, then when 1939 Civil War was over and Franco reigned near over 44 yrs…the Republicans and communists surfaced and toppled theat regime and for 13 yrs Spain went through a Transitional Socialism (by Don Felipe Gonzales,the Vice pres. of Internacional Socialista<while also being President of the country.Thus steering Spain through that trasnitional period into what it became a Constitutional Monarchy(w/a very democratic king).Spain had htne become mature enough to join the EU and ,prosper…and until recently quite advanced in economy too.But then the World Economic crunch also hit Spain and it is now in Turmoil economically that is.
    I went too far trying to explain toleration and respect to ea other. But imagine right now we have Miss Maria Titizian as Vice pres. of the iNTERNACIONAL SOCIALISTA(wordlwide9 and our Tashnag brothers are not aware of what they coukld do through that lady ,if they understood the situation needs AN EVOLUTION NOT REVOLUTION IN ARMENIA.I have in my book,long ago stressed the point that if ARF condeswcended to change the wording(and work) to Armenian Evolutionary Federation,making big issue of it worldwide ,they would gain aplenty and forge aheaad, more smoothly..
    Well that is their business, i really went too far, But I always suggedst…

  10. Amen to that doctor.But we have a lot of work to do to sort ourselves out first. Republic of Armenia and Artsakh is where we must start.
    We MUST get rid of oligarch mentality and corruption. I can not emphasis on this issue more!
    Once we settled that issue I can assure you diaspora would chip in with their fair share.

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