Kurds rally to mark Lausanne treaty centenary

Kurds rally to mark Lausanne treaty centenary
Kurds protest to mark the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Lausanne, which was signed on July 24, 1923. The Treaty of Lausanne established the boundaries of modern Turkey.
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The Kurdish community protest to mark the anniversary of the Treaty of Lausanne. (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

Around 6,000 Kurds rallied on Saturday to mark the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Lausanne which defined the borders of modern Turkey but shattered aspirations for a Kurdish state.

The demonstrators marched through the Swiss city to highlight the consequences of the 1923 treaty for the Kurdish people.

The Kurdish community regularly meets in Lausanne around the anniversary date, attracting a few hundred demonstrators.

However, much larger numbers turned out for the centenary.

Demonstrators gathered at the city's port on Lake Geneva, by the Chateau d'Ouchy hotel -- which played a role in the treaty talks -- before marching uphill to the Palais de Rumine in the city centre where the document was signed.

Many carried flags representing the jailed Kurdish militant Abdullah Ocalan, who headed an insurgency waged by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) until his capture by Turkish forces in 1999.

Speeches in Kurdish and French were made in front of the Palais de Rumine, which now houses museums and a public library.

"We want to take advantage of this centenary to show the whole world that the Kurdish question remains unsolved, and that the consequences of the Treaty of Lausanne are still tragically felt," Hayrettin Oztekin of the Kurdistan Cultural Centre in Lausanne (CCKL) told Switzerland's ATS news agency beforehand.

The CCKL said the treaty "enacted the separation of the Kurdish people between four states -- Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria -- whose democratic record over the past century is largely negative".

Within Turkey, Kurds were abandoned by the great powers "to the nationalist and racist stranglehold of the Turkish state, paving the way for a century of massacres, forced migrations, repressions and assimilationist policies".

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Months of talks 

The Conference of Lausanne opened in November 1922 to negotiate a new treaty to replace the 1920 Treaty of Sevres between the Allies and the Ottoman empire, which Turkey no longer recognised under its new leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

The conference, with Britain, France, Italy and Turkey as the main players, was coordinated by the British foreign minister George Curzon.

The treaty resulted in forced population exchanges between Turkey and Greece. It allowed for unrestricted civilian passage through the Turkish Straits.

Eastern Anatolia became part of modern-day Turkey; in return, Turkey gave up its Ottoman-era claims to Syria and Iraq to the south.

Armenians and Kurds played no part as their territorial ambitions were dashed.