Southeastern Turkey archaeologist: Kurdish history was 'victim of ideology'

Kurdish archaeologist Ahmet Kınay says that Kurdish society has overlooked its own history in favor of ideological in-fighting, and that its misconception that historical research is nationalism has pushed it away from looking into its heritage.

Jînda Zekioğlu / DUVAR

Kurdish archaeologist Ahmet Kınay's family left their village for the city because of societal pressures, but Kınay was not happy in Istanbul, which is why he decided to pursue his interest in Kurdish history through studying archaeology.

In the course of his education, Kınay noticed the extent of the assimilation policies employed against Turkey's Kurdish population, he said, because there were no historical recollections about the minority.

"We didn't have a single class about Göbekli Tepe/Gire Miraz/Gire Navoke. In the whole entire world history class, there wasn't a word about the Kurds," Kınay said, referring to the ancient site of Göbekli Tepe in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa.

'Not all nationalism is fascism'

Kınay noted the rise of nationalism in the global zeitgeist, saying that since history is the basis of nationalism, there's a misconception within the Kurdish community that all historical research is nationalism.

However, Kınay says that nationalistic feelings aren't fascism for groups like the Kurds who have been the target of assimilation efforts.

"If we lose our sensitivity toward these nationalistic feelings, we will become estranged from one another. That will lead us to a point of [saying,] 'What do I care about the Kurds in Iran!'"

Hasankeyf was cultural ethnic cleansing

Kınay said that the submersion of the ancient town of Hasankeyf by the Ilısu Dam was "cultural ethnic cleansing," and that a history, culture and heritage was lost with the ruins.

"The government invested in its future, but of course they transported their own cultural legacy through a million-dollar project," Kınay said in reference to the transportation of Islamic ruins out of the city before submersion.

"The message is 'we were the only ones here,' just like how ISIS tore down Palmyra to show 'there was no life before Islam,'" Kınay said, referring to ISIS' demolition of the ancient Semitic town of Palmyra in northern Syria.

Kınay also criticized Kurdish politicians for not having sufficiently protested the destruction of the ruins in Hasankeyf.

Kurdish history is 'victim of ideology'

Kınay said that Kurdish history has become the victim of ideology, meaning that the community has focused too much on ideological debates among themselves and the historical legacy was overlooked in the process.

"We've been fractured in a thousand ways because of all the wars in history. Instead of investing in Kurdish irredentism and tradition, we waste energy on ideological work," Kınay said, pointing to the deep ideological divide between Zaxo and Şırnak, two southeastern towns in Turkey separated by a mere five kilometers.

The Kurds are a people who were convinced that they had no part in history, Kınay said, pointing to the fact that the community didn't believe beer and wine were discovered in the Kurdish town of Godin until a Netherlands brewery named a beer after the town.

"I hear the words 'Don't get too excited' and 'Don't put everything on the Kurds' all the time [from Kurds]," Kınay said.

Kınay said he finds the following quote from from Rupert Hay's book "Two Years in Kurdistan" to be accurate:

"Kurds have a strange habit of underestimating themselves and their brothers."