Tag Archives: PKK

As Erdogan prepares to meet Trump, can US keep allies from bloodshed?

The timing of the Turkish airstrikes on Syrian Kurdish forces, weeks before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is due to visit the US President Donald Trump, is not a coincidence.

The attacks serve as a warning for the US, but it also aims to ensure Turkey retains an influence over proceedings in Syria, while simultaneously appeasing hawkish circles in Turkey crucial to Erdogan’s recent referendum win.

The attacks on the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) bases near the Syrian town of Derik, which also included Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) positions in the Shingal area in Iraq, led to diplomatic protests from the US.

The US is in a difficult conundrum. It relies heavily on Syrian Kurdish forces, whom they have stated many times as one of the most effective troops battling the Islamic State (IS).

However, keeping their once dependable allies in Ankara onside at the same time is proving an impossible balance.

Underlining this difficult predicament, Turkish airstrikes came as YPG led forces were in the middle of an intense battle to capture Tabqa from IS that would pave the way for the final assault on Raqqa.

The strong Turkish opposition to the growing ties between the Kurdish forces, whom they accuse of being an extension of the PKK, and the US is not new.

Turkey has attempted to pressure Washington on multiple occasions to sideline the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which the YPG forms as its largest and strongest contingent, and to propel Turkey, and its Syrian opposition allies, to lead the fight to drive IS from their stronghold of Raqqa.

This week, Erdogan stated the US-led coalition, working hand in hand with Turkish forces, “can turn Raqqa into a graveyard for IS.”

This suggestion of anti-IS alliance has been proposed countless times and has been evidently rejected by the US, which has increased their support of SDF forces in recent months.

Erdogan warned continued US support needs to stop “right now,” or risk bringing persistent strife in the region and Turkey while urging that without cooperation on the global fight against terrorism, “then tomorrow it will strike at another ally.”

The US has rejected the notion that the YPG and the PKK are one and the same. This places the US in an increasingly difficult standoff with Turkey.

According to Mark Toner, the former US State Department spokesperson, Washington had already communicated that “Turkey must stop attacking the YPG.”

Toner added the US supports “Turkey’s efforts to protect its borders from PKK terrorism,” but this stance fuels ambiguity in an already tense regional landscape.

The US policy towards the YPG forces, both now and in the future, remains incoherent and unclear.

Erdogan warned that “we may suddenly come at any night,” referring to further attacks on YPG positions. This would certainly undermine Kurdish support in the battle against IS.

For Erdogan to back down on his unwavering stance on the YPG now would risk a nationalist backlash.

It remains to be seen how far the US is willing to go to defend their Kurdish allies, who had even requested a no-fly zone.

The US had already expressed their disappointment over a lack of notice and coordination before Turkish strikes. Col. John Dorrian, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), described the time provided by Turkey as “inadequate.”

According to Dorrian, the US “had forces within six miles of the strikes,” while the operations box given by Turkey was too big to ensure the safety of US troops.

As a deterrence to further Turkish attacks, US armored convoys were seen patrolling some areas alongside Kurdish forces.

This came as US officers visited the site of the airstrikes, with reports of US forces attending funerals of YPG members killed by the air raid.

Deployments of US troops along the border areas was confirmed by Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis, who urged focus from all parties in the fight against IS as the common enemy.

An angry Erdogan remarked that “we are seriously concerned to see US flags in a convoy that has YPG rags on it.”

Erdogan is likely to protest strongly with Trump when they meet.

Ankara hoped Trump would abandon former US President Barack Obama’s policy in allying with the Kurds.

But, with the Kurds driving deeper in their assault on Raqqa, Trump has seemingly taken advice from his military leaders and stuck with the Kurds.

Any change now would spell bloodshed either way. Turkish forces would have to wedge through Kurdish territory, leading to certain conflict.

Conversely, Turkey’s resistance against the YPG would only embolden, especially as Kurds solidify their autonomous rule.

This regional powder-keg goes well beyond the question of who will take Raqqa. IS will be defeated, but the complex Syrian web from years of bloodshed will be much more difficult to untangle.

After IS, is the US willing to protect YPG forces at the continued expense of Turkey, or will it leave both allies to open a new chapter of bloodshed?

First Published: Kurdistan 24

Faced with a common enemy, a new front pitching Kurd against Kurd is a travesty

Even in the face of a common enemy, and at a historic juncture, relations between Rojava and the Kurdistan Region have been blighted by political differences. A prime example is the ongoing presence of the PKK and its affiliated armed wing, Shingal Resistance Unit (YBS), in Shingal region.

Although these forces played a crucial role in breaking the Islamic State (IS) siege on Shingal in 2014, and later in fighting alongside Peshmerga forces against IS, that critical juncture has been passed.

PKK’s continued presence has been a ticking time bomb.

In recent days, an armed confrontation between the YBS and Peshmerga forces in Khanasor that resulted in casualties and scores of wounded culminates the severity of the tensions between the two sides.

There are already many battlefronts facing each side, and it’s most regrettable to open a new front that pitches Kurd against Kurd.

In the dawn of the new Middle East, which has placed both Rojava and KRG in strategic positions, Kurds have an opportunity to rewrite many of the wrongs of history.

To realize such goals, Kurds need unity within borders, but also across their geographical divide; however, political motivations usually blight relations among Kurds and division harms their aspirations.

The disconnect among Kurds is illustrated in their difficulty of arranging a symbolic pan-Kurdistan national conference over past few years. Even those arranged, such as the recent one in Moscow, were never representative, owed to ongoing friction.

The Ezidi community has endured more than its share of tragedy in recent years, and using the local community as political leverage by the PKK will only prolong suffering.

Turning the Kurdistan Region landscape into a patchwork of militias will fuel further animosity and disintegration. Ezidis and Christians have every right to protect their population, but only under the umbrella of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Ultimately, only the Peshmerga forces have the right to be deployed in Kurdistani territories of Iraq.

Anything else results in the formation of unnecessary cantons, susceptible to influence by outside forces, and potentially pitching locals against Peshmerga forces and the KRG.

Motives behind the continued PKK presence are intended for controlling the strategic cross-border area and to maintain political and regional leverage.

A statement from the Kurdistan Region Presidency warned, “No party is allowed to interfere in the Kurdistan Region’s affairs or restrict Peshmerga movement in the Region.” President Barzani had given an order to Peshmerga Ministry to bring “the situation under control and prevent it from escalation.”

The armed clashes in recent days led to accusations from both sides of initiating the conflict. The commander of the Peshmerga forces in Shingal, Sarbast Lezgin, blamed the PKK for creating problems and urged them to leave the area, while also warning that “we will not ask for PKK’s permission to move forces in the Kurdistan Region.”

Lezgin’s call echoed similar statements from the Ministry of Peshmerga affirming that they do not seek authorization from anyone during force changeover, or deployments within the borders of Kurdistan Region.

Meanwhile, in a joint statement, Ezidi leaders including members of the Ezidi Religious Council (ERC) urged a stop to intra-Kurdish fighting and asked the PKK to leave the region.

“The wounds of Ezidis are still not cured, and we don’t want to face more injuries,” the announcement pleaded.

The friction centers on the presence of a 5000-strong Rojava Peshmerga force trained in the Kurdistan Region that is close to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and endorsed by Turkey. In spite of the grave battle against IS in Rojava, these Peshmerga forces have not been allowed to enter owed to mistrust.

The dominant Rojava parties aligned to PKK, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), and those close to the KDP, have signed three peace agreements, yet none have been implemented.

The YBS and Group of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK), an umbrella organization of the PKK, in separate statements, alleged the recent confrontations were a result of Barzani’s recent visit to Turkey.

The YBS see any deployment of the Rojava Peshmerga in Shingal as an “occupying force,” as they allege financing and training from Turkey.

For the PKK, it’s not just about Shingal, but keeping these Peshmerga forces off the vital border zone between Rojava and Kurdistan Region.

As many of the political leaders have condemned the incident, a political deal is needed to diffuse tension. For example, the KRG could open the border crossing, in return for PKK leaving the area.

YBS helping to stem IS in Shingal at a vital time, followed by Peshmerga forces assisting their brethren in Kobani, when the town was at its greatest hour of need, should have set the foundations for cross-border harmony.

Unfortunately, all too often, political affiliations and party interests quickly resume center stage.

First Published: Kurdistan 24

Lifting of MPs immunity from prosecution fuel for new social earthquake in Turkey

This week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ratified a bill lifting MPs’ immunity from prosecution. Although, it is a move that affects all opposition parties, it no doubt bites the Kurdish-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) the hardest with 55 out of 59 of their elected parliamentarians facing a summary of proceedings.

The billed was signed on June 7th, exactly a year to the date of the first Turkish general election of 2015 that saw HDP shatter the 10% threshold and make history by becoming the first Kurdish party to enter parliament. HDP and its leader Selahattin Demirtas become a thorn in the side of Erdogan. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) failed to attain the majority it craved in parliament thus undermining their open quest to implement a presidential system.

However, the cease-fire with the PKK was soon shattered and a level of deadly violence and bloodshed returned akin to the dark days of the 90’s.

Erdogan has always tried to label the HDP as the political front of the PKK and such indictment along with the resumption of violence saw the HDP lose votes in the subsequent snap election.

It is conveniently forgotten that the HDP did not just decide to turn up in parliament. It was through the support of the hundreds of thousands of voters. To claim that 59 members of HDP have links to terrorism is tantamount to claiming that all their voters are also terrorists.

And this is where the vicious cycle of violence continues in the Kurdish southeast. Is the Kurdish issue merely a terrorism problem and therefore about wiping out the militants from the mountains as Ankara officials claim or is it about a much deeper issue of Kurdish rights?

If the root of the issue is not addressed, then no matter how many more decades the war against the PKK continues or how many more Kurdish MPs are imprisoned, then we would merely see history repeating itself over and over again.

If any of the HDP PM’s are imprisoned or if the HDP is disbanded under the terrorism banner, as the case with many other Kurdish parties beforehand, then there is little doubt that violence will only intensify.

A strong Kurdish party in parliament for the first time in history should have been the platform for long-term peace. The Kurds finally had a voice in parliament and the HDP were the natural interlocutors in the peace process.

With this voice gone and with the Kurds witnessing the little rewards of a political platform, youth will turn increasingly to violent means with the polarization of the country hitting new heights.

Officials in the European Union and the United States may have condemned the move to lift parliamentary immunity but still the voices are relatively muted. The US needs Turkey in the fight against the Islamic State and the EU continues to rely heavily on Turkey to stem the flow of migrants, even if all the conditions of the recent migrant deal have not been met by Turkey.

One of those contentious issues was Turkey’s failure to comply with EU demands to narrow anti-terror laws. And it is such laws that have crippled the Kurdish issue beyond the narrow-angled fight against the PKK.

It has long been said that Turkey’s road to the EU membership runs through Diyarbakir. At the moment, with a lack of institutional stability not to mention the right constitutional and democratic order, that road firmly remains to be paved.

First Published: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

Erdogan’s presidential system already on show as Davutoglu stands down

To say that Turkey is passing through a sensitive juncture is a big understatement. A rekindled and bloody war with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the ever-present threat of the Islamic State (IS), millions of refugees from the Syrian civil war and a headache posed by growing Syrian Kurdish autonomy is underlined by political uncertainty.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) may have attained the majority it craves at the poll but only at the second time of asking with the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) breaking the 10% threshold to enter parliament on each occasion.

However, as much as polls revealed strong support for the AKP, it also underlined growing polarization between those who firmly support the policies of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and those keen to derail his desire to implement a presidential system.

Continuous crackdown on dissidents and opposition voices under the terrorism banner blur the lines yet further. Erdogan is at the forefront of moves to change legislation to strip HDP politicians of parliamentary immunity.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has been at Erdogan’s side throughout the rise of the AKP over the past 14 years. However, running as a foreign policy advisor and then Foreign Minister is very much different to that of Prime Minister.

In theory power lies in the hands of the Prime Minister and not the President in Turkey. The president is meant to distance himself from the any particular party. But Erdogan has not kept his ambitions of a strong presidential system or rewriting of the Turkish constitution a secret whilst retaining a strong influence over the AKP. In other words, the current system has a presidential overtone in all but name.

If there was any semblance of unity within the AKP or a party wide endorsement of Erdogan’s policies or goals, then this was shattered by the announcement of Davutoglu that he will be standing down later this month.

Resignations simply don’t just come of nothing and a central point of contention is likely to be a grapple of power between Erdogan and Davutoglu.

Turkey has become accustomed to quelling dissident voices and it just so happened that one of those voices was the Prime Minister himself.

If there was any doubt as to who was in charge then this has now vanished. Erdogan has already insisted that that there is no turning back on plans to implement a presidential system.

Erdogan’s tough stance was on fully display as migrant deal with the EU was on the brink of collapse. “We’ll go our way, you go yours” Erdogan exclaimed at any notion that EU could pressurize Turkey to taper down its broad anti-terrorism laws.

Davutoglu on the other hand was the central architect of the migrant deal and viewed by the EU as a more constructive and balanced figure. The official line would be that agreements are negotiated with states and governments, not individuals, but the EU are clearly weary of a tough and unwavering Erdogan calling the shots.

Erdogan has proven to be a strong and resilient leader who refuses to be pushed around by the EU or the United States.

Even if Erdogan gets his way and brings about a strong presidential system, this doesn’t equate to peace, national harmony or stability.

For one, Erdogan’s continued tough line on the PKK, HDP and any sense of Kurdish nationalism will ensure that the doors to any peace process will remain firmly shut and violence rages on.

It doesn’t mean that Erdogan will be unpopular, it just means that the camps of unpopularity will be just as strong and determined, creating a deadly split that will divide and paralyze Turkey at home and abroad.

First Published: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

Turkey’s battle against PKK – why washing blood with blood will never see a victor

As Turkey’s peace process with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) grinded to a comprehensive halt with the resumption of deadly violence in July 2015, Ankara has made a crucial error by shutting the “Kurdish opening”.

Describing the Kurdish issue as a “terrorism” problem merely scratches the surface and opens the door to more violence.

The truce between the PKK and Turkey that largely held for 2.5 years may be shattered, but can any side really argue they have benefited or have the upper hand from the new status quo?

After a recent bombing in Diyarbakir claimed by the PKK, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu vowed that the government will not stop until every street and home in southeast of Turkey finds peace and security. Davutoglu also previously pledged that militants will be “wiped out from the mountains.”

But if there were a military solution to the conflict, would it really have taken one of the most formidable armies in the world over three decades and billions of dollars to achieve?

In reality, tying the PKK noose around the Kurdish problem has narrowed the real issue. The majority of Kurds feel stuck by years of harsh government policies and militant tactics.

There is also fuel for hatred and animosity from both sides. With every death come new motivations to vengeance and a new score to settle, each of which inaugurates a ritual of washing blood with blood that might take decades to end.

The punitive curfews imposed, such as those in Cizre, invariably kill more hope amongst civilians than any number of rebels. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently claimed that over 5,000 PKK rebels had been killed or injured since last July. Some analysts had put the PKK force at about the same figure, yet where is the victory for Ankara?

As so many deep historical conflicts in the Middle East have shown, a vicious cycle of bloodshed has no restriction in supply for those willing to sacrifice for their cause.

The Kurdish south east of Turkey desperately needs investment and an escape from the shadows of the rest of Turkey. Years of impoverishment and suffering has taken immense toll on the region. High unemployment, especially among the youth, perpetuates disenchantment and bitterness.

At a very sensitive juncture for the Middle East and Turkey, simply focusing on the PKK in the war on terror avoids the real issue – combating the Islamic State (IS).

As Syrian Kurds press on towards increasing autonomy, Turkey has little choice but to accept regional realities—much in the same way that autonomy in Iraqi Kurdistan was heavily feared but eventually embraced by Ankara leading to strategic ties.

It would be unwise to suggest this can happen with the Democratic Union Party (PYD) overnight, but Turkey must separate its concepts of terrorism and Kurdish nationalism. Not every Kurdish nationalist is a terrorist and not every Kurd is a PKK sympathizer.

Neither the Kurds nor Turks are about to disappear from the regional scene. One way or another, the future of both nations is intrinsically linked. Turkey must do what it can to avoid continuous polarization of the Kurds. If the southeast starts to flourish and feel like real partners to Turkey, the rebel cause will swiftly lose its appeal.

First Published: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

AKP’s sweep to power in Turkey raises more questions than answers

As the Justice and Development Party (AKP) swept to a single-party majority for the fourth time since 2002, this was much to the surprise of many.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP won 316 seats in parliament in stark contracts to June elections.

The snap elections would afford a second chance to make amends and coalition talks were always going to collapse. It was merely months between the elections but many key events transformed the picture on the ground.

Erdogan argued that only the AKP could provide elusive stability at a time of increasing security threats and chaos and the people were seemingly swayed by this stance.

Turkey witnessed deadly Islamic State (IS) inspired bomb attacks, joined the war against IS, saw media raids on opposition media outlets linked to Fethullah Gulen but above all it was the restart of the war against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that changed the dynamic.

Without a doubt, the rise of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) led by Selahattin Demirtaş, gaining 13% of the vote in the June elections that directly led to AKP’s loss of the parliamentary majority.

The renewed violence with the PKK, which resulted in deepening unrest in the south-east, curfews and dozens of tit-for-tat killings, become a noose to tie around the HDP.

And it’s no coincidence that the AKP took significant votes from the HDP, who crucially still surpassed the 10% threshold to enter parliament, and also the anti-Kurdish Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

Ultimately, it was the millions of undecided voters that transformed the electoral landscape, opting for stability of a single-party rule against fragile coalition governments that have traditional failed in Turkey, amidst new regional sandstorms.

Erdogan used the security chaos to good affect but once the dust settles what kind of Turkey will be left?

First of all, for all of AKP’s significant support, the other 50% or so are deeply against them. With media raids before and after the elections setting a marker for dealing with Gulen-backed opposition, Erdogan is in no mood to relinquish his quest to eradicate the “parallel state” that he firmly believes is undermining government.

Secondly, Erdogan promised to continue the campaign against the PKK until the organization was “eliminated”.

Finally, Erdogan has made no secret of his desire to change the constitution to afford the presidency the power he craves. He is 14 seats short of the 330 seats needed to call a referendum on constitutional change but faces fierce opposition.

Above all, this leaves a Turkey that is as polarized as ever. There are more questions than answers despite the AKP’s sweep to power.

Does it indefinitely insist on a military solution against the PKK even when decades of such a formula have proved fruitless? How about the millions of Kurds that feels trapped between PKK violence and harsh government policies that ultimately voted for the stability of AKP?

The Kurdish question is not just a PKK question. Further democratic reforms are urgently needed to appease sliding Kurdish sentiment.

Then there is the fight against IS. For too long Turkey sat on the fence and the IS problem on its doorstep will only get worse. Turkey may want stability at home but it has to make tough calls to achieve this.

Insisting that the Syrian Kurdish forces, who are key players against IS, are no different to the PKK or not accepting the reality of Kurdish autonomy across the Syrian border, benefits no side.

Economic and foreign relation challenges only add to the complex picture.

Erdogan needs to make tough decisions if he is to bring Turkey the stability he preaches.

First Published: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

Transformation of realities on the ground in Turkey since June polls but snap election outcome unlikely to follow suit

Less than 5 months after the historic national elections on 7th June, Turkey heads to the polls once more on 1st November. In such a short period of time, a lot has happened in Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost their majority and much of that was owed to the success of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) led by Selahattin Demirtaş who gained 13% of the vote.

Coalition talks were destined to fail and the snap elections affords Erdogan and the AKP a second chance to win back their majority. Since June, the government has taken a number of steps home and abroad to transform the political calculus and its waning relations with the West.

A deadly Islamic State (IS) inspired bombing in Suruc not only opened the door to Turkey finally join the war against IS that the West long demanded but was also the basis for an agreement with the United States to use their strategically important Incirlik military base. This should have been a milestone but was quickly shadowed by Erdogan’s decision to expand the war on terror to its longtime foe the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and since then the reality of deadly conflict, curfews and instability threatens a return to the dark days of 1990’s.

The AKP’s start of a twin war against IS and PKK was a risky gamble and the polarization of Turkey has accelerated. For Erdogan to win back his majority, he needs to secure votes from the anti-Kurdish Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and dilute the gains of HDP or even push their votes back below the 10% threshold by tying the PKK noose firmly around Demirtaş.

The worst terrorist attack in the history of Turkey on 10th October in Ankara left over a 100 dead. IS were the prime culprits for the bombing but nevertheless the fact it was aimed at a Kurdish rally only made sentiment worse. HDP have complained of a number of other attacks on its party since June.

Then in recent days the government stormed the headquarters of an opposition media group linked to Erdogan’s longtime rival Fethullah Gulen and his Hizmet movement.

In terms of foreign relations, Turkey has also tried to mend bridges by agreeing a deal with the EU on Turkey’s substantial Syrian refugee population that has caused a major migration crisis with the majority travelling through Turkey, in return for kick-starting stalled EU accessions talks. In recent weeks it has even shown flexibility to the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in line with its Western allies.

But while AKP has undertaken steps to reheat its frosty relations with the US-led coalition, it’s hardly convinced with US policy in Syria that has moved the Syrian Kurds to the forefront of the struggle against IS as the as most trusted and capable allies of the US.

Turkey has vowed to do “whatever necessary” against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) amidst increasing Kurdish autonomy and power in Syria that only fuels the PKK dilemma in Turkey.

Whilst the actions home and abroad have changes the calculus, it is unlikely to result in a major transformation at the polls.

AKP votes are unlikely to shift sufficiently to harness a majority and once the votes have been cast, Turkey has to come to terms with its growing polarization, its renewed military struggle against the Kurds with the prospects of peace an increasingly distant reality, its fallout from media raids, the constant threat of IS and the growing power of Syrian Kurds on its door-step.

Similar to first election, the AKP is likely need to negotiate with coalition partners, if it was difficult the first time, then it’s a much tougher predicament this time around with hard compromise needed.

First Published: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

Turkey’s vicious cycle of conflict can be broken

A week-long curfew in Cizre was finally ended on Saturday but the fallout is likely to linger much longer and serve as fuel for more violence.

Since the ceasefire was shattered in July, the war between Ankara and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has intensified threatening to return Turkey to the dark days of the 1990’s.

With every death come new fuel for vengeance and a new score to settle. As the past three decades has proven, the end result is a vicious cycle that benefits no side.

If there was a military solution to the conflict, it would not have taken many decades and billions of dollars to achieve one.

The underlying problem is that the Kurdish issue has been invariably tied to the PKK dilemma. Kurds have become stuck between punitive government policies and the PKK.

The quest to eradicate the rebels has lost perspective and this is highlighted by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s recent comments that the militants can be “wiped out from the mountains”.

It’s an age-old problem of cutting branches versus addressing the roots. For every rebel that is taken down from the mountains, many more are keen to join the mountains.

The Kurdish populated areas have long been disenfranchised and impoverished compared to the rest of Turkey. The high percentage of unemployed youths needs jobs and prospects of a brighter future, away from the appeal of militancy.

One can only imagine what could have resulted in the Kurdish areas if the billions spent on the war were spent on the local economy and infrastructure.

The need for greater Kurdish rights and constitutional amendments goes beyond the PKK question – Kurdish disenchantment and disillusion goes back long before the PKK arrived on the scene.

As the doors to the peace process appear firmly shut, Ankara will make a big mistake by equally shutting the Kurdish opening. By leaving the Kurdish question merely to a terrorism problem – the only door that remains wide open is that of decades of more conflict.

The success of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the first Kurdish party to break the 10% threshold and enter parliament, could have been the springboard to kick start the peace process. In contrast, it can be argued as the government motive for the new round of violence.

HDP gains at the polls were clearly to the loss of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) who as a result of the HDP gains in parliament lost their majority.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan become embroiled on a quest to reclaim lost votes when snap elections beckoned after many doubted that coalition talks would succeed with a fine balance of votes and reluctant participants to any coalition.

Proposed snap elections on 1st November will prove even more crucial than the elections in June. The burning question is whether AKP can woo nationalist votes as it has sought by scrapping any peace deal with the PKK.

At the same time, with the escalating violence, Erdogan has attempted to tie the PKK noose around the HDP and ultimately portray the HDP as a “terrorist” party to dilute their voter base.

The crisis over Cizre, where the Council of Europe had urged Turkey to grant access to independent observers, servers to intensify the polarisation of Turkey.

The only solution is the promotion of a new Turkey where Turks and Kurds are equally represented. The south east must be allowed to come out the shadows of the west with investment, employment, infrastructure and renewed hope.

If the Kurdish question is not addressed, Turkey will retain a handicap that will continue to prove a detriment to its growth, stability and immense potential.

First Published: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

Turkey’s snap election promises yet more political deadlock and instability

Turkey faces a snap election on November 1st, just months after its last election. The elections of June 7th bore great significance as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its parliamentary majority owed to the success of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) that saw a Kurdish political party comfortably pass the 10% election threshold for the first time with 13% of the vote.

The first elections were symbolized by fierce rhetoric between HDP leader Selahattin Demirtaş and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. And the stage is set for a similar showdown ahead of the snap elections.

A few months may have passed since June but a lot has happened in this short time. The failure to form a coalition with either Republican People’s Party (CHP) or Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) was worsened as the wounds of war were re-opened with Erdogan declaring war on the Islamic State (IS) and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), with the PKK taking by far the brunt of air strikes.

By re-opening the conflict with the PKK and effectively ending the peace process after relative calm since 2012, Turkey entered a dangerous phase.

For many critics, the PKK conflict was orchestrated with snap elections in mind, echoing concerns that coalition talks were always designed to fail.

Erdogan and the AKP have eyes firmly on a re-shot at gaining a parliamentary majority. Attacks on the PKK which have resulted in the death of dozens of security forces in return, may net nationalist votes which were unease over the Kurdish peace process but this further entrenches the Kurdish voter camp with the HDP.

It is not clear how many nationalist and conservative votes the AKP could really grab from MHP or the CHP or if the MHP or CHP would in fact be real benefactors in any nationalist swing. The election re-run introduces more questions than answers. The AKP may increase its voter base but ultimately the HDP is unlikely to drop below the 10% threshold that the AKP desperately needs to form a majority government.

With the renewal of the PKK conflict, this put the HDP in a difficult corner. Erdogan has persistently tried to tie the PKK noose around the HDP. At the same time, the pro-Kurdish party has felt compelled to protect Kurdish interests and condemn government actions.

Erdogan has insisted that the November election is about choosing between “stability and chaos” – Turkey is certainly in a phase of chaos with two new fronts against IS and the PKK, failure to form a coalition government for first time in its history and not forgetting the economic alarm bells that will ring louder in the event of more upheaval.

The question that the electoral will have to ultimately decide is whether this chaos has been fermented by Erdogan.

In an ironic twist, the CHP and the MHP refused to take part in the first interim government in Turkey’s history, but the HDP accepted 2 seats, meaning the AKP was effectively in short-term coalition with the HDP and numerous other independents.

This scenario is hardly a coincidence but a ploy by the MHP and particularly the CHP who were incensed at not been given the opportunity to form a coalition, to put the AKP in an awkward position of a de-facto coalition with the HDP.

Come November, Turkey will be in a similar positon of having to form a coalition government. This time negotiations and terms will be even more painstaking and the AKP will be in a more difficult corner if it fails to achieve the majority that it craves with the war on PKK and IS festering long beyond the elections.

First Published: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

With eyes on a new election, Erdogan takes a dangerous gamble by attacking PKK

After decades of a bloody war between the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and Ankara, lessons are not been learnt with the peace process effectively dead in the ground and all the signs pointing to a swift return to the dark days of the past.

Decades of assimilation policies failed and now after the death of thousands on both sides of the divide, billions of dollars wasted and wounds that become more difficult to repair by the day, the lessons are been ignored. A military solution simply cannot serve either side.

But with Syrian mess becoming messier with Turkey joining fray against the Islamic State (IS) but simultaneously attacking PKK bases in Iraq, the ramifications of the renewed Ankara-PKK bloodshed goes well beyond the Turkish borders.

Many point to Turkey joining the IS fight as a sideshow to the main priority of hitting the PKK and undermining the Syrian Kurds whose territory and autonomy has grown with a series of victories over IS.

If Turkey fully commits to the fight against IS in Syria then it is no doubt a game changer, especially with the US-led coalition gaining vital access to Incirlik air base.

But the agreement poses many questions. Which force will man the proposed buffer zone? There are increasingly calls for a Syrian Turkmen force to take the lead in filling the vacuum, in which case it reinforces Kurdish anxiety that the buffer scheme is merely designed to curtail their expansion west of Kobane.

Furthermore, there are open contradictions on the role of People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the coalition campaign. Some Turkish officials have made it clear that coalition jets from Turkish bases will not be assisting YPG forces, whilst White House officials have stated to the contrary.

US is in a difficult position over the YPG who have been vital in stopping IS across the north with US air support.

It becomes difficult to differentiate the YPG and PKK forces when the PKK fighters have played a big role in Syria. Such PKK fighters may well shift their focus back to Turkey as tit-for-tat retaliation gathers speed.

It becomes clear that the “package” agreed between Turkey and US would comprise of Turkish action against the PKK as much as Washington has denied.

There have been skirmishes before between the PKK and government forces that saw the peace process intact. The decision now to open a new front has wide political connotations.

The People’s Democratic Party (HDP) led by Selahattin Demirtaş was the main benefactor of the June 2015 national elections securing a historic 13% of the vote.

Erdogan has eyes firmly on a new election as early as November as coalition talks point to increasing failure. This gives the Justice and Development Party (AKP) party a second lifeline to readjust and take power again.

The renewed conflict opens up the nationalist debate, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking to muster nationalist voters he lost with a new hardline view on the PKK. By ending the peace process, Erdogan achieves what the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) promised, potentially luring MHP voters.

HDP stands to become the biggest losers in any new election. It successfully wooed liberal, non-Kurdish votes but is increasingly taking political center of the PKK fallout. Erdogan has tried to tie a political noose around Demirtaş and fierce rhetoric emanating from the HDP camp as they defend the Kurdish position implicates them further with the PKK.

Even an investigation was recently launched against Demirtaş for allegedly provoking protesters last October over Kobane.

If HDP drop below the 10% threshold then the AKP gains dramatically in parliament. But if HDP politicians have legal cases launched against them, if any imprisonment is imposed or if the HDP is suddenly sidelined, then the bloodshed will simply intensify.

Either way, the AKP is taking a very dangerous gamble.

First Published: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc