Turkish support of Palestinian statehood and human rights in the Middle East is all the more ironic as the real issue of the region, a solution to the Kurdish national struggle is overlooked.
As Turkey attempts to accelerate itself as a reborn champion of the Middle East, at the same time its highly anticipated “Democratic Opening” aimed at resolving its age old Kurdish dilemma has ground to a halt. Turkey continues a reach out to its neighbours but increasingly neglects to resolve historic problems on its doorstep.
In the past few years, Turkey has increasingly strengthened its influence over the eastern Mediterranean and the greater Middle East. While for decades Turkey looked more closely to its West than its Eastern frontier, there has clearly been a shift as it tries to muster an Ottoman-like prominence over the region.
With the prospect of EU membership seemingly becoming more distant and the growing economical connotations that have come with improving relations with its eastern neighbours coupled with the huge energy incentives that come with Turkey’s unique geographical location, Turkey has realised that the key to its future lies with its past.
As Turkey has moved closer to its Arab and Iranian neighbours its relations with Israel have deteriorated exponentially much to the dismay of the US. The growing popularity of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan coincides with the Arab spring where Turkey promoted itself as a saviour of repressed peoples and a stalwart of human rights.
While Arabs may have gained tremendously from the historic revolutionary dawn, this has placed Israel into tight corner where its relative peace with Egypt and its neighbours has been greatly jeopardised.
One the back of rising anti-Israeli rhetoric, now Turkey finds itself at the spearhead of a contentious plan by the Palestinian government to push through recognition of statehood at the UN. This has placed the US under a challenging predicament were it could easily veto such proposals but ultimately face a great own-goal in its credibility in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
At same time as building bridges with the Arab community, Turkey continues to foster warm ties with Tehran. Suddenly Turkey finds itself with a hand in critical matters across the region from Cairo, Jerusalem, Damascus, Beirut and Baghdad to Tehran.
With Turkey enjoying a regional renaissance akin to its yesteryears keeping them onside has been ever more critical for the US.
All the while as Turkey flexes its new socio-political muscles, its Achilles heel remains on the backburner but as fervent as ever – a genuine solution to its Kurdish problem. It seems that whenever a social earthquake strikes the Middle East from the post Ottoman days to the current Arab spring, it is the Kurds that lose out.
Turkey’s passionate defence of what it deems rightful Palestinian statehood is all the more ironic as it denied the mere existence of the Kurds for decades. But as the Kurdish problem gathers dust on Ankara’s political shelf, just who is pressurising the Turks to resolve its age old problem?
Palestinian may be deserving of statehood but can anyone genuinely say that a 22nd Arab state is more justified than Kurdish independence?
The Kurds continue to act as one of most pro-US groups around, yet the US is rushing to appease Turkish demands at the expense of Kurds to save face at the UN and keep its other historic allies onside. A trade-off for a Turkish backdown on its insistence on unilateral Palestinian declaration of independence is likely to be direct American assistance to oust the PKK rebels, including deployment of US predator drones.
It is remarkable that as the Kurdistan Region gets bombed from both sides of its border and as Baghdad attempts to dilute their power to the south, the US keeps a silent profile.
Rather than propelling the steady Kurdish advancement, it appears leaning towards its “bigger” partners who appear intent on not just reining the Kurdish rebels but the region itself. Turkish and Iranian firepower serves as a reminder to the Kurdistan Region as much as the rebels just who calls the shots in the region.
Kosovar independence was fast tracked with the assistance of the EU, US and Turkey as a justified special case, much in the same way as South Sudan and now Palestine looks to join the list sooner or later.
Ironically, those same powers also consider Kurdistan a special case but to detriment of the Kurdish nation. Kurdish independence is considered a special case due to geopolitical ramifications i.e. fear that Kurdish independence in any of its parts would cause tidal waves and instability in others.
However, those that consider Kurdistan a special case are those same powers that created this artificial predicament.
As Kurdistan was selfishly carved up and denied the same rights that were given to other ethnicities, who asked the Kurds how they wanted to decide their own destiny?
While all parts of Kurdistan have undergone decades of repression and genocide under successive regimes, where was the US, UN and Europe to champion their rights or talk about “justified cases”?
Any established nation has the right to unmolested existence, to decide its own affairs and to express cultural freedom. No nation has the right to submerge, rule-over or deny outright another nation.
These fundamental principles are one of the main reasons why the League of Nations and later the UN was created and why many wars have been waged against rogue regimes and dictators trespassing international charters.
Clearly, in the case of Kosovo, South Sudan and Palestine such international charters are interpreted and implemented to suit strategic, ideological and political goals.
The Kurdistan Region can be a power to be reckoned with if it maintains internal unity and refuses to succumb to bullying from regional and global powers and double standards to the adoption of UN charters.
There is no doubt that the Kurdistan Region relies greatly on Turkish and Iranian support but they must not accept to be viewed as inferior partners but great strategic actors in their own rights. Kurdistan has masses of oil at its disposal and neighbouring partners are starting to realise a long held anxiety, a Kurdish boom underpinned by oil.
PKK and PJAK must lay down their arms for the days of armed struggles are gone. But the end of such rebel groups must be met with a genuine opportunity for peace and brotherhood. If Turkey continues to view the Kurdish issue as a terrorist issue then another 100 years will not end bloodshed and suffering. If the fundamental social polarisation remains intact, the demise of one rebel will simply result in the rise of another.
As Turkey builds extensions to its formidable looking house, without a true resolution to its Kurdish issue, its foundations are susceptible to crumbling at any time.
As for the US and UN, rather than a continuation of supporting policies detrimental to the Kurdish cause, they must employ a genuine desire and effort to resolve the real issue of the Middle East – Kurdistan, not Palestine.