"Ataturk let people speak their own language, then after the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, everything changed. From then on, the Kurds couldn't talk about their identity. President Demirel still hasn't given us Kurdish education or television or cultural rights. What kind of admission of our existence is that? War achieves nothing. The Kurdish people have rebelled 28 times but each time they didn’t achieve anything. But the PKK are our people, our children. They don’t come from outer space. If Turkey gives us more rights, maybe the violence will stop. These rights won’t be for the PKK, but for the Kurdish people. If the Turkish Government introduces some rights for the Kurds, this problem can be solved through politics, not in the mountains. I would like to live with Turkish people on equal terms. If we Kurds had this, I don’t know what I would say about an independent state.”

The Ottoman Empire fell in 1918 at the end of World War I, and several nations were formed from former Ottoman lands, one of which should have been a nation called Kurdistan. Two years later, the Treaty of Sèvres was created by the European Allies, promising the Kurds an autonomous nation. However, Mustafa Kemal, Turkey’s first president, refused this proposition. Kemal, often referred to as Atatürk, or “Father of the Turks,” emphasized the need for national unity. In July of 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne came into effect; it failed to mention the approximately 20 million Kurds whose homelands were split between Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. The treaty did state that “all citizens of Turkey should be equal before the law ‘without distinction of birth, nationality, language, race, or religion.” Despite this promising start, Atatürk carried out a ruthless crusade to forcably assimilate the Kurdish minority into the general population, forbidding Kurdish media, education, and culture.