War on Kurds resumes in Turkey

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Writing one week before the Turkish general election, I pretty much know what the results will be. I should not take the risk of putting them on paper here, as the elections will have taken place by the time Socialist Review reaches its readers. But nothing has happened in the five months since the last election to cause any significant change in the results.

There were two striking aspects of the results last June. The predominantly Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP) broke through the 10 percent threshold to get 80 MPs elected and, as a direct result of this, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), in power for 13 years, failed to get a large enough majority to form the next government.

President Erdogan and the AKP then scuppered attempts to form a coalition government, forcing an early election.

What has happened since is not election campaigning but war. The two and a half year old ceasefire between the Kurdish movement and the Turkish state has been shattered. The peace process which had promised so much and reached its highest point last February has been derailed, perhaps for good.

There can be no doubt that this was government policy.

They relaunched the war against the Kurdish liberation movement, the PKK led by Abdullah Öcalan, as part of a broader strategy, with the full agreement of the armed forces.

Some have argued that this was Erdogan’s revenge against the Kurds for eating into the AKP’s parliamentary majority. But this is too simplistic. There is much more to it than simple electioneering.

Turkey has fought a war against the establishment of a state by the Kurds within its borders, and refused to accept even an autonomous region or, indeed, full official recognition of the Kurds and the Kurdish language.

The Turkish state has always attempted to prevent Kurdish success across its south eastern borders in Iraq and Syria.

When the Kurdish entity in Northern Iraq was set up with US support, there was little Turkey could do. The fact that the Barzani leadership there is not hostile to Turkey made it a little bit easier to swallow.

Now, for the past year, there has been a second Kurdish state across the border, in Syria, and this one is run by the PKK itself.

Though it is branded as a “terrorist organisation” by the US and the EU, the PKK has gained great prestige — and American help — as the one force in the area which has successfully fought against ISIS.

It is the need to counter PKK achievements which has made the Turkish state restart a war which has already this summer claimed hundreds of lives on both sides.

It is a futile gambit by Turkey. There can be no military solution to the Kurdish problem.

The desire to see the PKK beaten in Syria explains Turkish reluctance to join the US-led coalition against ISIS.

But the PKK’s successes have now forced Ankara to reach agreement with Washington, open the Incirlik air base to US forces, and take a more active role against ISIS.

The ISIS response has been to carry its barbarity onto Turkish soil. A bomb in Suruç, close to the Syrian border, killed 33. Two suicide bombers at a peace rally in Ankara killed more than 100 in early October.

Turks and Kurds at home and abroad have been paying a high cost for AKP government policies in recent months.