What if Mustafa Kemal Ataturk had been an Ottoman General born, not in the Greek city of Thessaloniki, but in the Iraqi city of Mosul, and following the successful conclusion of war of liberation with the participation of the Kurds and the Turks, he had named the republic in whose formation he played a leading role, not "Turkey" but "Kurdey", and he then assumed the title "Atakurd" by a resolution of the parliament.
What if the slogan "Blessed is he who says he is a Kurd" was prominently exhibited throughout the suburbs of Istanbul and as citizens of Kurdey we all were called Kurds.
What if it were asserted there were no Turks in Kurdey and those who thought of themselves as Turks were claimed to be in fact "Ocean Kurds".
What if it were asserted that the Kurds had a history dating back "Seven thousand years", that the Kurds were the original and true owners of Anatolia, that the Mongols, the Huns and the Etruscans were the ancestors of the Kurds and the heroism of the Kurdish generals in the Ottoman armed forces were taught in schools.
What if we were forbidden from giving our children Turkish names such as Ghengiz, Teoman, Attila and Osman and were forced to assume Kurdish names like Berfin, Newroz and Tiruj.
What if broadcasting in Turkish was outlawed and all broadcasts were in Kurdish, and we were compelled to write novels, stories and poems only in Kurdish, compelled to listen to Kurdish music and print all newspapers in Kurdish only.
What if Kurdish was the only language in schools and use of Turkish for teaching any subject was made illegal.
What if we were thrown into prisons without even being questioned whenever we said "We are Turks, we have a distinct history and language."
What if in major cities like Ankara, Istanbul etc we were constantly harassed by the police, the so-called "Special Teams" incessantly mistreated us as if we were criminals on the suspicion that we were "separatists" bent on dividing the Kurdish Republic, and continually subjected insults and abuses simply for being Turks.
What if following the coup of 12 September 1980, those of us living in the west of the country were thrown into jails, were subjected to incredible torture, buried in mud up to our necks, with high pressure water some of our internal organs were destroyed, mad dogs were used to maul our legs.
What if our homes were raided and on the assertion that we were aiding the "Turkish terrorists" our apartments were demolished, without being allowed to take our possessions from our homes we were forced to leave to cities like Hakkari and Diyarbakir and forced to live in tents.
Would we Turks be content with the situation, would we accept pontifications like "Look, as citizens of Kurdey you are all Kurds, why do you insist on being called Turks, you know that if you want to you have the opportunity to become Kurdish prime ministers?" as evidence of justice and equality?
Or would we Turks insist on the recognition of our identity, language and history as "equal" citizens?
IN TODAY'S Turkey, there are Turkish and Kurdish citizens. The history has developed along the "Turkish" line. And we have insisted that the Kurds accept unjust demands that we Turks would not accept, and as a result and explosive situation emerged, the country faced terror first and now is embroiled in a civil war.
Whenever the citizens who believe that the bloodshed can be stopped through democratic means with the recognition of the Kurdish identity express their views, they are confronted by the authorities and their supporters with pejorative questions, "What is democracy? What is Kurdish identity?"
To us Turks democracy is to accept the Kurd's demands in today's Republic of Turkey as legitimate as the demands we would make if we, Turks, were citizens of a "Republic of Kurdey".
Is spilling so much blood justified so as to deny the people whom we accept as our equals the very same rights and liberties we would demand for ourselves?
Here we are, those who say "No it is not justified" we want democracy.
Mr. Ahmet Altan was fired for his article entitled "Atakurd" published in the Turkish mass circulation daily, 'Milliyet' on April 17, 1995. To protest his dismissal, the editor of the paper Ufuk Guldemir and a columnist Can Dundar resigned from the paper. On October 18 Mr. Altan was sentenced to a conditional 20-month imprisonment and fined approximately 12 000 USD for having "incited people to mutual enmity through discrimination against races and religions". The conditionality means that Mr. Altan will be imprisoned only if he commits the same crime within the next five years.
I believe that Turkey can develop to be a more tolerant, more democratic country. Would I not, publishing this text would be useless. I publish this text not to insult but to support the Turkish way toward democracy.