Turkey in Conflict Inside the Apple of Discord -Abdur Rahman Fuad


The Turkey-PKK(Kurdi) conflict is an armed conflict between the Republic of Turkey and Kurdish insurgent groups which have demanded separation from Turkey to create an independent Kurdistan,  or to have autonomy and greater political and cultural rights for Kurds inside the Turkey. The rebel group is the Kurdistan Workers’ Party which is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States, and NATO. The PKK’s military presence in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, from which it launches attacks on Turkey, has resulted in the Turkish military carrying out frequent ground incursions and air and artillery strikes in the region, because the Kurdistan Regional Government claims it does not have sufficient military forces to prevent the PKK from operating. The conflict has particularly affected Turkey’s tourism industry and has cost the Economy of Turkey an estimated 300 to 450 billion dollars.
Here, we back to the history of Turkey-Kurdi or PKK conflict that may be cleared to us to make out this article. Since the PKK was founded on 27 November 1978 and it has been involved in armed clashes with Turkish security forces. The full-scale insurgency however, did not begin until 15 August 1984, when the PKK announced a Kurdish uprising. The first insurgency lasted until 1 September 1999 when the PKK declared a unilateral cease-fire. The armed conflict was later resumed on 1 June 2004, when the PKK declared an end to its cease-fire. Since summer 2011, the conflict has become increasingly violent with resumption of large-scale hostilities. In 2013 the Turkish Government and the jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan started a new process regarding the Kurdish question. On 21 March 2013, Ocalan announced the end of armed struggle and a ceasefire with peace talks. On July25, 2015, The PKK finally cancelled their 2013 ceasefire after a year of tension due to various events when the Turks bombed their positions in Iraq, in the midst of their defense against ISIS.

Facts behind this conflict
The Kurdish population stands at about 20-25 million. It is concentrated in the parts of eastern Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Iraq that make up the region known as Kurdistan. About 12 million Kurds live in the southeast region of Turkey alone.
Twenty percent of Turkey’s population is Kurdish. Iraq is 15-20% Kurdish, Syria less than 10% and Iran 7% .
The majority of Kurds are devout Sunni Muslims.
Abdullah Ocalan is 50 years old and was born in a Turkish village on the border of Syria. He is separated from his wife and has no children.
At least 134 teachers have been murdered under Ocalan’s orders. One of Ocalan’s aims is to protect Kurds from being forced to learn the Turkish language and abandon the Kurdish culture.
The Turkish army is responsible for burning almost 3,000 Kurdish settlements and displacing two million people.
Ocalan, who has a tyrannical reputation, has been at the helm of the PKK, commanding its rebels, since its inception. He has never fought in a battle.
More than 35,000 people have died in the Kurdish conflict since the PKK turned to terrorism in 1984.
Human Rights organizations are concerned about Turkey’s treatment of Ocalan, in prison and otherwise. Not only does he face a possible death penalty, but he was not permitted to meet with his lawyers after his capture. Turkey refuses to try Ocalan in front of an international tribunal, but has promised that his trial will be fair. ( To know more, reads- http://www.infoplease.com/spot/kurds1.html)

The PKK has also contributed to the escalation. Its fighters have reportedly committed a series of attacks in recent days. PKK militants killed two officers and injured four other soldiers in an attack on their military vehicle. In Diyarbakir, militants fired on a tearoom in Diyarbakir, killing a police officer and a civilian. Also the Turkish government has been attacked on rebel’s parties by air jet strikes. This is only the beginning threatens PKK and they will plan further attacks if the Turkish government does not stop its strikes. Here, we will focus on the reason of Turkey-PKK conflict.

Combined Attacks is not Hopefully
In last of July, it seemed as if Erdogan would finally do what the West has long hoped he would, namely to take action against IS after years of tolerating the militant group. After the outrageous suicide bombing at a Kurdish youth rally on July 20 that left 32 dead in the town of Suruc, across the border from the Syrian Kurd enclave of Kobane, US President Barack Obama spoke with his Turkish counterpart on the phone. Both sides agreed to join forces in the fight against IS, something the Turkish government had stubbornly resisted until then.
The US Air Force is now permitted to use multiple Turkish military bases. As well as NATO air base at Incirlik to stage its air strikes against IS militant’s access it did not have before. This dramatically change reduces the distances US jets that have to fly Instead of taking off from their bases in the Persian Gulf and refueling mid-air. The planes now only have to travel 150 kilometers from Incirlik before reaching IS-controlled terrain.

A Cynical Excuse to Wage War
Erdogan’s true intentions quickly to be clear that he wanted to use the opportunity to fight what he and the other hardliners in his party felt was the greater evil. This has created an absurd situation in which Turkey is now striking at both IS and toughest opponents. Seen in this light, Turkey appears to be using the Suruc suicide bombing as nothing but a cynical excuse to wage war, not against IS, but against the terror organization’s victims. The Turkish fighter jets take off to attack the PKK headquarters in the hard-to-reach Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq, as well as their non-consecutive area in Turkey. Turkish tanks have also fired on fighters of a PKK offshoot in Syria who were near IS positions.

Disconnected from Reality
In June, after 13 years in power, Erdogan’s party lost its absolute majority in parliament and is now dependent on a coalition partner for the first time in its history. For Erdogan, the election result is a setback. Since he had hoped for a two-thirds majority, which he needs in order to amend the constitution to create a presidential system and prop up his dominant position for years to come. But the Kurdish HDP thrashed his plan when it entered parliament.
One point can be true that, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had 45 days to form a coalition which deadline is August 23. So,Erdogan apparently wants people in Turkey to have the impression that only a one-party government dominated by the AKP can manage the chaos in the country. He wants the HDP to be labeled a party of terrorists, pushing it below the 10-percent hurdle required to secure seats in parliament in the next election.
The question is whether this strategy can be convincing. analyst assume that Erdogan could draw voters from the far-right extremist MHP party to his AKP with his nationalistic agenda. HDP voters’ loyalties appear to be unshaken even despite the recent tumult. Opinion polls show that only six percent of them would vote for another party should new elections be called.

Facilitating IS’ Rise to Power
So far, the Turkish government has consistently denied supporting IS. But in the gray zone between active support and passively looking the other way, Erdogan’s government has facilitated IS’ rise to power.
Since the summer of 2012, when large numbers of foreign jihad recruits began flooding into Syria from Turkey, Turkish authorities have allowed them to enter and leave through provincial airports in the south. IS recruitment was long tolerated within Turkey, and members of IS were even allowed to use border crossings. It was only later, and little by little, that Ankara changed its stance.
In return for providing support to the international coalition against IS, the Turkish government has long called for the establishment of a “protective zone” in northern Syria, and now the Americans have agreed. It will extend about 100 kilometers from the border town of Azaz north of Aleppo to Jarabulus, and about 50 kilometers into Syria areas that the IS still controls. The plan to drive the jihadists out of the region, other than with increased air attacks, has remained vague, except that rebels supported by the Americans and the Turks are to advance into the region. But which rebels, and how will they accomplish this?

Erdogan Fears Kurdish State
In doing so, the YPG (people’s protection Units in Syria same as Kurds) was able to create a corridor between two of the three previously isolated Kurdish “cantons” in northern Syria. If the militia, together with other rebels, could now drive IS away from the border entirely, all of the “cantons” would be connected. Erdogan was already threatening war after the capture of Tal Abyad.
Media organizations aligned with the government reported that 18,000 Turkish troops were being mobilized to invade the region that now encompasses the “protective zone.” On June 29, the Arab-language newspaper Al-Araby al-Jadeed, predicted that Erdogan and his prime minister would push for a Turkish intervention, especially in the region of Jarabulus, to prevent Kurdish forces from advancing any farther under the pretense of fighting IS. Now, only one month later, at least part of this prediction has come true. Although Turkish ground troops are not involved yet, it cannot be ruled out that this will happen soon.

US Intensifies Cooperation with Turkey
While the European NATO partners, especially the German government, criticize the Turks for their attacks on the PKK, the Americans apparently view the situation differently. For them, it is more important that the Turks, after years of unsuccessful attempts to win them over, are finally willing to help in the fight against IS.
The US State Department declared that while PKK is a terrorist organization, improved cooperation with Turkey that would now make it possible to offer the Syrian group YPG improved air support. In doing so, it created a separation between the two closely cooperating organizations, a distinction that apparently only exists in the minds of Washington politicians.

What is the Next Peace Process?
For the Kurds, the conflict is no longer an issue of solely striving for democracy on an individual level as it has been portrayed. Instead, the Kurds see that, the Kurdish issue as a national question with all its attendant rights and privileges and while their movement falls short of secessionism, achieving their goal requires significant levels of power devolution and the rearrangement of public administration to reflect a new and multicultural Turkish political identity.
In contrast, the government has been aiming to keep the Kurdish issue as much as a function of Turkey’s democratic deficit, hence curable with nationwide democratisation steps aimed at the identity groups, as possible. Such an understanding expectedly falls short of meeting Kurdish demands.
Emboldened by the domestic atmosphere, and by the benchmarks set by the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq and a fledgling Kurdish autonomous region in Syria, Turkey’s Kurds expect a significant level of power devolution from centre to the periphery and change within the political system. These concessions would be considered integral to any meaningful settlement of the issue. Unless both sides can reconcile their differing views on the inherent nature of the Kurdish issue in Turkey, the peace process cannot reach its stated goal that achieving a political settlement which is amenable to both sides.
Moreover, since the commencement of the Arab Spring, the PKK has heavily invested political capital in the Kurdish part of Syria, popularly known by its Kurdish name Rojava.
Developments in Syria function as a make or break point for Turkey’s Kurdish peace process. This point was conspicuously confirmed when the Kurdish political movement initiated waves of protests, in October 2014, over the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) siege of the northern Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane.

Revitalizing Peace Process
The PKK does not seem to have a clear idea as to what will become of it once the armed struggle phase of the Kurdish conflict in Turkey is over. In spite of all of these complications, there are sufficient structural reasons. Why the peace process can be revitalised especially, if those reasons are coupled with political flexibility and strong leadership.
During a peace process, the ability to define the problematic areas and issues that prove inimical to the process are crucial for the successful continuation of the process down the road and Turkey and the Kurds are finally in a position to do that. Identifying the major issues preventing peace will directly aid in the reconciliation process.
After each failure, the negotiating parties learn something about the nature of their divisions and can use those lessons in their new trials in moving forward in the peace processes. Keeping this in mind, Turkey’s Kurdish peace process is no doubt experiencing hard times. Once again, mangled bodies of young Turks and Kurds are dominating the headlines.

NATO Needs Clear Turkey Strategy
In the fight against the IS, NATO must establish a clear stance towards its member Turkey. Politically speaking, NATO is not only obliged to step in to help Turkey, but Turkey must act in NATO’s interests as far as possible. NATO partners are supporting the Kurds in northern Iraq, but at the same time their positions are being attacked by Turkey. In this way the image of a united NATO is fraying at the edges. NATO needs to take action here. It has to make it clear that the fight against the IS must be fought together. NATO must stand united but the fight must be a creative one. This terrorist gang cannot be defeated with bombs alone.
Here is little debate that, the war with the Kurds is being used as a tool to reverse the election defeat. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) recently began conducting nationwide polls to see how it might fare in snap elections, which could be held as soon as November. The outcome of these polls will be indicative of which direction they will go.
Though the PKK undoubtedly began the shooting war, it’s also true that conflict with the Kurds suits the AK Party’s electoral purposes. So far, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, a close Erdogan ally has failed to strike a postelection coalition deal with any opposition party. For the Erdogan generation, the old tribal differences between Turk and Kurd that saw the southeast of the country turned into a vast militarized zone in the 1980s and millions of Kurdish villagers expelled from their homes were set aside in favor of making money and pursuing the good life. Renewed war risks escalation into nationwide conflict that could derail everything Erdogan created from Turkey’s prosperity and stability to his own legitimacy.

The Writer is a Masters student of University of Dhaka