Today, July 24th 2023, marks the centenary of the Lausanne Treaty. Following the first world war, the Conference of Lausanne began in November 1922 between the Ottoman Empire and the allies to arrange a new agreement that would replace the Treaty of Sevres, that Turkey’s new leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk would not recognize.
Concluding in July, the treaty the conference produced mandated population exchanges between Turkey and Greece as well as unrestricted civilian passage through the Turkish states. The greater Kurdistan was divided into four parts among the newly created states of Syria and Iraq and the rest of the Ottoman Empire to modern day Turkey. Kurds, as well as Armenians, had no role in the whole treaty- and their territorial ambitions were shattered. The treaty hindered the emergence of democracy and enabled authoritarianism in the Middle East.
The trauma from this betrayal is still prevalent a centennial later. On July 22, 2023, 6,000 Kurds rallied in Lausanne in attempts to urge the international community to rethink the agreement and acknowledge the consequences it has had on the Kurdish peoples. Demonstrators hailed from all around Europe, and marched from Lake Geneva to the Palais de Rumine, the location where the treaty was signed.
Berivan Firat, a spokeswoman for the Kurdish Democratic Council of France, told AFP: “The Kurdish people, like all the peoples of the world, claim a right to be able to live with their identity on their own lands. This treaty opened the door to all sorts of bullying, all sorts of massacres toward the Kurdish people. Our detractors are the worst dictators in the Middle East and it is time to decriminalize the Kurdish movement and especially to review the Treaty of Lausanne, which has no value for us. It is null and void.”