If one was to foretell the collapse of three dictatorial regimes in the Middle East at the end of 2010, he would have been portrayed as somewhat of a psychotic. Such is the sheer velocity of the revolutionary whirlwind that has swept through the Arabian terrain that the question on every lip is not whether hardened dictatorial regimes can fall but who is next to succumb under the potent storm.
As fierce gun battles rage across Tripoli, the regime of Colonel Gaddafi is well and truly over and the Libyan people can look forward to a new historic dawn and the rebuilding of their country. In the case of Libya, it wasn’t as much a revolution as a brutal civil war that won the day. Nevertheless, the end result with crucial NATO backing was just as symbolic.
A short distance across the Middle Eastern plains lies another embattled country and another dictator desperately trying to cling on to power. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has only remained in power for as long as he has under a rapidly escalating humanitarian crisis and growing protests due to a sense of double standards from the international community.
It is easy to forget that Libyan protests in Benghazi snowballed into a rebel resistance force with the diplomatic, political and military support and encouragement of the Arab League, U.S. and Europe. The Syrian opposition has not been as directly empowered due to geopolitical considerations, with neighbouring Turkey weary about emboldening the Syrian Kurds and with Tehran, who enjoys strong influence over Damascus, Lebanon and Palestinian territories, anxiously watching developments.
For the Kurds, who have been fighting for their own respective rights and preservation of their culture and identity for decades, this is where the sense of hypocrisy becomes more tragic.
For successive decades, Kurds have endured terrible crimes against their population and acts of genocide and persecution, irrespective of the country they inhabit. Rather than receiving assistance or any semblance of acclaim that recent uprisings have attracted, the Kurds were left to persevere alone while much of the world turned a blind eye.
As Turkey joined the mass hailing of the fall of Gadaffi, pledged millions of dollars to Libya and talked of their moral obligation to Somalia, it was at the same time heavily pounding Iraqi Kurdistan territories in chase of the PKK, resulting in mass destruction of countryside and the much regrettable loss of civilian lives.
This only begs the question of why a Turkish life is considered any more sacred than that of a Kurd. Why do Turks mourn the tears of their mothers and loss of Turkish lives with such national tragedy and rejoice at the death of Kurds or celebrate with sheer nationalism with a backdrop of tears from Kurdish mothers?
The Turkish national forces hailed the alleged death of 100 or so PKK rebels after six days of fierce bombing like a victory against the heart of the resistance. But what does the loss of 100 PKK rebels actually entail? Does this bring Turkey closer to ending their decade old battle against the PKK? Sadly, the answer is no and the loss of more lives and further bloodshed only adds to the 40,000 plus running tally that this battle has taken so far.
As Turkey cuts the branches of its problems, the root only grows stronger.
After promising developments under his tenure, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is sadly proving that he will simply succumb to the wishes of ultra-nationalist brigade that has marred ties with the Kurds since the inception of the republic.
For Turks, the Kemalist ideology that underpins the Turkish state has taken mystical proportions. Under this Kemalist shadow, the Kurds have been perceived as a plague of the nationalist doctrine and thorn in the ideological framework of the republic.
Kurds did not choose to be a part of Turkey, Iraq, Syria or Iran as their existence was selfishly carved by imperial powers. Now Kurds who have inhabited this region for thousands of years are ironically perceived as trespassers in their own land.
As Turkey flagrantly violates Iraq’s sovereignty, it doesn’t feel the need to provide any justification other than the preservation of Turkish rights. With every bombing of Kurdistan and the increasing heavy handed tactics in Turkey’s Kurdish regions, Turkey moves further and further away from peace and the gulf between Turks and Kurds only widens.
A life is sacred whether it is that of an Arab, Turk, Iranian or Kurd. Each ethnicity has the right to live in peace, freedom and within its own national identity. However, the plight of the Kurds has been commonly overlooked by the US and European powers. Such a policy of double standards may have been barely forgivable in yesteryears but in this day and age is an absolute dent in the credibility of any UN charter or institution.
The Kurdish cause has been merely been brushed aside as a terrorist issue. The fundamental issue for Turkey is not 5000 or so rebels but 15 million Kurds. With the Kurdish political process effectively stalled and any semblance of peace with the PKK becoming more of a distant reality, this has placed the general Kurdish population into a difficult and untenable corner.
As soon as Kurds talk of national identity or their fundamental rights or as soon as Kurdish politicians threaten to grow in influence, they are cast aside under the PKK camp.
The Kurds want no more than any other nationality – employment, equality and freedom. With the building of solid and genuine bridges across Turkey there is no reason why the Kurds cannot become a celebrated component of Turkey, especially with the carrot of the EU, than the ubiquitous Turkish conundrum.
The Kurds are here to stay and the sooner that they are embraced with equal rights, the sooner that the greater Turkey can truly excel.
The time for armed resistance and bloodshed is over but Ankara must seriously convince the Kurds that they have genuine intent to treat the Kurds with fraternity and equal rights. With Kurds feeling as trapped as ever between the state and the PKK and with channels of dialogue and democratic openings seemingly closed, unfortunately the situation will only worsen as the camps become more entrenched.
Much like the decade old regimes that are fast collapsing across the Middle East, Turkey must not take it position as a regional power for granted. It can ignore the escalating friction with the Kurdish community at its peril. This is the same country that went to war with the Greeks in 1974 to defend the rights of Turkish Cypriots and has tried to maneuverer as a modern-day Ottoman incarnation through an increasing father-figure role in the Middle East and frequent rhetoric against repression in Israel, Syria and Lebanon, yet who continue to believe that a Kurdish problem does not exist.
As for Iraqi Kurdistan, their precarious existence could not be better illustrated in recent weeks. Repeated shelling and bombings by both Turkey and Iran is worsened with growing tension in disputed territories to the south.
Remarkably, this is happening under the doorstep of the US forces and more than likely such bombings have been made possible with US intelligence. It also begs the question of why Baghdad has been so tentative in condemning the Iranian and Turkish acts of aggression. After all, isn’t Kurdistan supposedly a part of Iraq?
The bombings have an air of warning about them, not just to the PKK but to the Iraqi Kurds. This is a show of firepower and muscle flexing to demonstrate who is in charge as much of a quest to uproot the PKK.