Category Archives: Kurdistan

A Note on Turkey and the Kurdish Issue: “Hearts & Minds” out the Window

There has been almost two months since around seven hundred (700) Kurdish inmates went on hunger strike in Turkish prisons. They are demanding better conditions for the PKK’s (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) imprisoned leader (Abdullah Öcalan) as well as greater minority rights for the Kurds, such as the right to use their language for instruction purposes and in courts. This development has sparked a broader debate involving, among other things, Prime Minister Erdoğan questioning the motives of the inmates and the extent to which the strike was real – calling it a “show”. An important degree of attention has also been given to the health of the inmates and the possibility that after a point, deaths may begin (see here, hereand here).
As if these were not enough – let alone the greater regional geopolitical instability due to the Syrian crisis and the increased clashes between the Turkish government and the PKK – two events came to add complexity to the Kurdish issue and all but help the difficult situation. On the one hand Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), during the 10th congress of the party – which will also decide about the next party leader – statedthat “there is no Kurdish issue” while he blamed the government of planning to release Öcalan. One would of course expect that from an opposition party and especially from a man who is fighting to keep its chair at the leadership of the party. Yet, considering the current stage of the Kurdish issue such remarks are clearly, to say the least, not constructive.

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Turkey’s Worst Nightmare

Turkey’s worst insecurity, and thus nightmare, is nothing else but its territorial dismemberment and therefore anything that has to do with Kurdish autonomy regionally or nationally. As the situation in Syria is getting worse, Assad is focusing on securing Damascus and his own self and family, thus leaving the forces of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in charge. The PYD is said to be linked to and have similar goals with the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has been fighting against the Turkish state for Kurdish autonomy since the early 80s. The fact that Kurdish flags in northern Syria and on border checkpoints with Turkey are becoming more and more can only be alarming for Turkey that is experiencing a déjà vu.

The first negative development for Turkey came with the gradual emergence of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq. Ankara watched its establishment and solidification, during the two Iraq wars, without being able to do something while the Kurdish issue was one of the reasons the Turkish-American relations entered a period of decline, with the 2003 Iraq war notably being the starting point.

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