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Dark days ahead for Kurds in Turkey

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Last Saturday bomb blasts in the Turkish capital Ankara left 128 dead and some 246 people wounded. The attacks targeted a peace rally organised by the pro-Kurdish HDP, and Ankara's main train station.

Primitive Rebels or Revolutionary Modernizers: The Kurdish Nationalist Movement in Turkey, by Paul WhiteThe bombings occurred in the wake of the ruling AK Party's recent electoral defeat and its decision to call a fresh election, due on 1 November. Since losing the last election, President Erdogan has effectively dumped a peace deal with the Kurdish nationalist PKK and restarted Ankara's war against the Kurdish people. Entire towns have been subjected to bloody sieges, and Kurdish camps in northern Iraq have been again bombed from the air.

The PKK and its ally the HDP have reiterated the Kurds' desire to return to the peace process, but Erdogan has ignored this. For the first time since the 1980s, Turkey is headed towards a full-blooded civil war, just when a viable peace solution to the Kurdish conflict was about to come to fruition.

Senseless and immoral behaviour, certainly, but grist for the mill of Erdogan's strategy of tension. Faced with losing power, he clutches at the straw of 'national security' to retain power.

This is not simply megalomania (although that is part of the equation), but also because Erdogan knows he faces prosecution if he relinquishes power, due to his increasingly blatant flouting of the constitution. He is also widely believed to have sent vast amounts of corruptly obtained money out of the country.

After serving the maximum time permitted under Turkish law as prime minister, he simply transferred to the presidency. In Turkey the president has supposedly limited powers, with the prime minister being the dominant force. Erdogan has subordinated Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (also from the AK Party) to his will, since August 2014. The boss of the intelligence organisation MIT, Hakan Fidan, is required under the constitution to report directly to the PM, but instead reports first and foremost to Erdogan.

Erdogan would love to postpone the election indefinitely, but the only pretext available to him under the constitution is if Turkey is at war with a foreign land. The only war Turkey could provoke with another country is with Syria, which would have the additional benefit of allowing Ankara to engage directly with the PKK's Syrian affiliate, the Partiya Yekîtî a Demokratik.

But Russia's direct involvement in Syria's civil war means that NATO member Turkey would be placing the West in direct military conflict with Moscow — arguably a prelude to a new world war, which Washington would never allow.

One other option is available to Erdogan: to utilise the resources of the security service that Fidan makes available to him. MIT is generously resourced and well connected, with contacts in armed groups of varying political and religious complexions, both inside and outside Turkey. It has been implicated in murderous black operations against the Kurds and been used to unseat Turkish governments.

Together with cells formed with Turkey's illegal 'deep state' apparatus in the 1990s, MIT helped to derail an earlier peace settlement with the PKK by killing 33 soldiers in Bingöl and blaming it on the PKK. These same forces perpetrated thousands of extrajudicial assassinations of PKK sympathisers.

Erdogan purged the organisation in recent years, after discovering it was cooperating in a coup plot against his government. He now has a formidable weapon in his hands to use against all who stand in his way — and to cultivate deepening paranoia in the minds of ordinary Turks towards their Kurdish brothers. Many in Turkey see MIT's hand in last weekend's bombing atrocities.

Erdogan's party could win the largest number of seats in the election, but still be unable to form a government. Even the fascist MHP (Nationalist Action Party) refuses to form a coalition with him, so the President is likely to become even more desperate. He may yet decide to invoke a 'state of emergency' in order to enforce his will. The Kurds will reject this and the PKK would return to a full war footing.

This, in turn, would prompt the MFP's fascist militia into the fray. A Turkish/Kurdish civil war would erupt and Turkey would descend swiftly into a Syrian-style conflagration.

Dark days lie ahead for ordinary Turks and Kurds in Turkey. Manipulated by their leaders on all sides, they will never find peace until the grip of ultranationalism (Turkish and Kurdish) is broken and rejected by the peoples of Turkey.

Paul White headshot

Dr Paul White is the author of two books on the Kurds: The PKK: Coming Down from the Mountains and Primitive Rebels or Revolutionary Modernizers? The Kurdish National Movement in Turkey. He conducted field research in a PKK guerrilla training camp, interviewing the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan and other Kurdish leaders and guerrillas. He lectured at Australian universities for some years, in the fields of political science and Middle Eastern studies.

Topic tags: Paul White, Kurds, PKK, Turkey, Erdoğan



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Existing comments

All may not be lost for the Kurds. With Kurds comprising 20 per cent of the Turkish population and having twice as many children as ethnic Turks, one writer I’ve always found to be very perceptive, predicts that once-great Turkey will be the next failed state in the Middle East: http://atimes.com/2015/10/turkey-is-the-next-failed-state-in-the-middle-east/

Ross Howard | 15 October 2015  

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