Category Archives: PKK

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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Syrian Crisis: Facts and «Collateral Damages»

In terms of the Syrian crisis it is already clear that certain issues will keep playing a decisive role in the upcoming developments, or that they could constitute outcomes of the conflict. These issues could be divided into internal and external.

As far as the external issues are concerned, it has become obvious that the al-Assad regime has by its side the undisputable powers of Russia and China. It is noteworthy that these two countries have recently announced that they will not be accepting any western intervention in Syria, thus responding to Obama who said that the use of chemical weapons by the regime would be a “red line” for the US and a reason for the use of military force. In this light, opponents of the Syrian regime remain the western states with leading country the US, while Turkey plays a central regional role against the Assad regime – both as a meeting centre of regional and international actors for the management of the crisis and the organization of the Syrian opposition/resistance, as well as a refugee hosting centre and a (indirect) supporter of the Syrian rebels. Important role in supporting the rebels are also playing Arab countries such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, while it has been reported that N. Iraq trains and reinforces Syrian Kurds for the armed resistance within Syria. Moreover, Turkey and the US have been discussing along with other western allies the establishment of a partial no-fly zone over Syria for the protection of non-combatants. In the context of the external dynamics of the Syrian crisis, it important to mention Iran which is one of the very few allies of the Syrian regime and one of the reasons why the US (and Israel, among others) want Assad replaced.

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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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