Zoroastrianism And Kurds

ome Middle Eastern governments often use religion as a tool to attack their opponents. In Turkey, the authorities have for long tried to portray the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) as non-Muslims in order to delegitimize their movement among Muslim Kurds and Turks.

Charging the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and the PKK with promoting Zoroastrianism is yet another campaign by Turkey against the Kurdish rebel group.

The idea that Kurds are actually Zoroastrians is not something new. Kurdish nationalists such as the Bedirkhan brothers tried to revive Zoroastrianism and Yezidism as the original religion of the Kurds in the 1920s and 1930s. By this the Bedirkhans aimed to separate the Kurds from their Muslim neighbors and give them a glorious pre-Islamic history that had once boasted many empires.

They did not emphasize much on the Kurdish Islamic warrior Salahadin al-Ayyubi that rallied the Muslims against the crusaders in the twelfth century. Similarly, Turkish nationalists tried to promote Shamanism as the original religion of the Turks. But despite these efforts, Islam remained an important element among Kurdish nationalist movements.

It is unlikely that Yezidis are originally Zoroastrians. The Zoroastrian religion is a dualist religion (with good and evil constantly fighting each other), while the Yezidi faith revolves more around a single deity as the Satan.

Therefore it is possible that the Zoroastrians would regard the Yezidis as devil-worshippers, just as some Muslims do.

There are still many Kurds (especially in Europe) who think Kurds are originally Zoroastrians and wear Zoroastrian symbols, even though they are non-religious and do not have much knowledge about Zoroastrianism and its rituals.

The PKK was particularly influenced by the ideas of early Kurdish nationalists. Its media promoted the idea that Kurds are originally Zoroastrians. Other Kurdish political groups also came under the same influence.

But in 1991 the PKK took a positive approach about Islam and thus managed to win some sympathy. Some say the PKK tried to merge Kurdish nationalism and Islam for its own cause.

In recent years the PKK has also used Imams, Friday prayers and Islamic language as a means to compete with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP0. In return, the Turkish government is said to have plans to recruit 1000 Kurdish Imams in its battle to win the hearts and minds of the Kurdish people.

The Turkish government and its media always depicted the PKK as non-Muslims ever since the rebel group’s foundation. But they never accused it of promoting Zoroastrianism. The use of religion has turned more serious in the recent years in Turkey. However, following the military coup in 1980 the military took an interest in promoting a mix of Islam and Turkish nationalism.

Before 2002 the PKK had almost never been associated with Zoroastrianism by the Turkish media and authorities. So the idea surfaced when the pro-PKK newspaper Ülkede Özgür Gündem published a survey in 2006 that said PKK rebels in the Qandil Mountains preferred Zoroaster and Jesus to Mohammed as their prophet.

The Turkish government didn’t miss a chance to use the findings of the survey against the PKK, especially during the elections of June 2011.

In 2011, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, “the Kurds at Imrali are Zoroastrians. But I know that my Kurdish brothers and sisters will say they are Muslims.”

One can say that the Turkish government uses this new language of religion that emerged in 2006 to weaken the PKK’s image in the eyes of people. Since both the PKK and Turkey have started to use religion to gain popular support, it is likely that the PKK will expand its Islamic discourse to maintain the support of the oft-religious Kurdish population in Turkey.

The PKK will certainly not lose its secular and socialist outlook. It may only try to embrace more Islamic Kurds in the future. This move is also influenced by the success of political Islamic movements in the region.

from http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/religion/2823777/posts

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