Turkey goes to war on Kurdistan

December 24, 2007 at 10:39 am (AK Party, kdp, kurdistan, pkk, turkey, voltairespriest, war)

PhotobucketYou probably didn’t know about this: it hasn’t been a prominent issue in the Left press, and hasn’t gotten much coverage in the mainstream papers either. But for those of you who didn’t know, the Turkish airforce has been bombing Kurdistan for the past two days. Remarkable that nothing much has been said about it by the “left” (one can only imagine what would be said if the jets were flying from Israel rather than Turkey), but there we have it. I’m highlighting the issue for you now anyway.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish Prime Minister and leader of the Islamic AK party, has simply kept asserting Turkey’s right to attack the left-nationalist PKK guerillas (who are based in Iraqi Kurdistan) as it sees fit:

“We, without enmity, use our right stemming from international law”

Meanwhile, there have been protests both from the Demokratik Toplum Partisi opposition in the Turkish parliament, and from Kurdistan Democratic Party leader and Iraqi Kurdistan autonomous regional President Masud Barzani. DTP Istanbul leader Halil Aksoy has condemned the USA for backing the Turkish military incursions:

 “You [the U.S.] have opposed millions of people and taken a hostile attitude against them”

Again, the left’s silence on the Kurdistan issue is palpable. Why is it that people who will go charging into political battle behind so many groups in that region, will not do so for one of the most significant stateless nations in the world – even when it finds itself under attack from a regional superpower and NATO member?

If there is one salutory lesson we should take into the new year it is that we as the left are supposed to oppose all oppression – whether the oppressed concerned are of political convenience to us or not. The Kurds’ story tells us that we are not always as good or as consistent as we ought to be. It’s time we changed that.

Biji Kurdistan.

Update 27/12/07 – Mizgin also has a great post on a similar subject


  1. voltairespriest said,

    Apologies to the more particular amongst you for the lack of proper Turkish alphabet lettering on names used. I usually can be bothered to place them all in, but this time I settled for the nearest English equivalents. It should be quite clear who I’m talking about, anyway.

  2. Dr Paul said,

    There are significant aspects to this issue. Is the PKK posing a real threat to Turkey? I doubt it, as it is a much weaker organisation than it was a decade or two ago. I think that the Turkish military — the real power in Turkey — is making an issue of the PKK as an excuse to bully the Iraqi Kurdish statelet, as the Turkish ruling class and military see any Kurdish state, even if not in Turkey, as a threat to the territorial integrity of their country.

    What is Washington thinking about this? It is a big embarrassment. The government of the Kurdish statelet in Iraq (formed of two family-based parties with rather dubious histories) is the only real friend that the USA has in Iraq. Turkey has traditionally been the USA’s main ally in the area. Publicly, the USA says that it has agreed with Turkey’s bombing the PKK; behind the scenes, I suspect that the USA is unhappy about it, but the Turks told Washington that they’re going to bomb the PKK and that the USA will have to lump it. And when it comes to the crunch, keeping Turkey on-side is more important than keeping the Iraqi Kurdish leaders happy. There is an added complication in that the USA is quietly backing the PKK’s Iranian associates.

    The broader ambitions of the Turkish ruling class must be considered. I think that Turkey is taking advantage of the flux in the Middle East to try to develop itself as a regional power. It refused to allow the USA to invade Iraq from its territory, thereby showing that it is willing to stand up to the world’s No 1 Power. It has given Washington an ultimatum over the PKK, which the USA has had to accept. Bullying the Iraqi Kurds is part of this.

    Why the silence on the left? Perhaps it’s because it’s a bit complicated; there’s no obvious good guys and bad guys, maybe? But then this didn’t stop the left from taking myriad positions on Yugoslavia, a very complicated affair indeed. Frankly, I don’t know.

  3. Alec Macpherson said,

    Dr Paul, the PKK may not be about to storm the walls of Constantinople, but over the past few months alone they have been responsible for attacks on both Turkish soldiers and civilians, often killing dozens at a time. So, yes, they pose a threat to Turkey.

    As far as I can see, the administration in Iraqi Kurdistan is supportive – or, at the very least, not obstructive – to the Turkish incursions and being in opposition to the PKK themselves. Knowing which side their bread is buttered, its sees its existence owed to previous No Fly Zones and removal of an ogre in the south. Neither Turkey nor the USA nor NATO nor Iraqi Kurdistan want a region wide conflagration.

    Most Iraqi Kurds, whilst sympathetic to the undoubted plight of many Turkish Kurds, are also not inclined to the PKK which has shown itself to be as, if not more, adroit at terrorising Kurdish civilians as the reactionary elements in the Turkish military.

    But, it’s fairly obvious why there are no mass street protests. Of course it’s because it’s not the Americans or Israelis, but when muttered about, it still refers backs to “neo-con backing”.

    That said, I haven’t seen the likes of Vanessa Redgrave come out and renew her support for Ocalan’s mob.

  4. modernity said,

    Alec is correct,

    the conflict between Turkey and the PKK does not fit neatly into a contemporary “anti-imperialism” box

    the fact that Turkey receives support from America, and also Kurds, is confusing to some people on the Left, who instinctively take their position from oppositionism to America’s allies, but in this case with two American allies, who is the crude anti-imperialist to pick?


    politics has been reduced to simplistic anti-Americanism

  5. Alec Macpherson said,

    Another point, by the quiet backing for “the PKK’s Iranian associates”, I assume Dr Paul means Pejak. This is an “associate” mainly in the sense that it’s part of a pan-Kurdish umbrella.

    Whilst not aspiring to a cabinet position in my own kitchen and not having access the US State Department briefings, I do not doubt there are some relations with Iranian seperatist groups. Yet the available information shows a much more nebulous link. True, Pejak reps have visited the US but they have also complained on *lack* of support, and pronouncements from the PKK boasting of cosy links seem to be their bigging it up.

    In short, this comment strikes as of the same class of truism as “the West funded associates of the Taleban” during the 1980s.

    I doubt that Voltaire believes that non-state actors should be guaranteed a condemnation-free run, but I do think he’s stuck in the mindset that state actors (especially allies of, or more accurately, ones which aren’t implacable foes of the USA) engaged in conflict automatically have the benefit of doubt weighed against them.

    The flag displayed above is of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region administration, I think. It is, if not in public, quite happy to see some troublesome PKK nests bombed.

  6. Mick Hall said,

    In some ways I welcome the fact that the left has not acted instinctively and supported the PKK, for as has already been said above this is a complex situation and the situation is far from that what it was when the PKK decided to engage in armed actions against the Turkish State.

    Firstly the current Turkish government have done much to avoid taking military action and many of us are totally perplexed as to why the PKK have chosen this time to Tweak Ankara’s tail. For the first time for some years we now have radical Kurdish members of Parliament who are members of the DTP, who are sympathetic to the PKK.

    It should be obvious to even the bone head leadership of the PKK that their insurgency is having the opposite effect of what they originally intended. They must have been aware that by stepping up their cross border raids it would give the Turkish generals all the excuse they would need to cross the Iraq/Turkey border in strength.

    That many of the Kurds living in Turkey believe this, was shown when more of them voted for an ‘all Turkey’ Party, ie theJustice and Development Party [AKP] of the Turkish PM Erdogan rather than vote for the Kurdish DTP.

    The PKK incursions across the Iraq/Turkey border that sparked off the current crises could not have occurred with out the US military knowing about it, and as some one else commented, the US may well be using the PKK to get at the Iranians and to punish the Turks after Erdogan refused to allow the US to use Turkey as a base to invade Iraq.

    What the British and Irish left should be doing is condemn the Turkish military for crossing into Iraq and demand they withdraw and that Erdogan’s administration step up the pace of political and cultural reforms which will benefit Kurds who live in Turkey. We most also vigorously condemn any attempt by the Turkish legal system to close down the pro Kurdish DTP.

    As to the PKK we need to state bluntly that they should look seriously at their current strategy of armed struggle as it is no longer 1984 and the current political situation hardly makes it viable. It is for the PKK to decide their movements strategy but friends should tell them bluntly if they carry on as they are they will become the pliable clients of the USA. The fact that in their public statements they have condemned the turkish military for crossing the ‘Iraqi border’, and that they have failed to mention Kurdistan speaks volumes about their current situation, as to does the fact that very senior PKK cadres are living openly in US occupied Iraq.

    As I have already said a complex situation and as the Left here is not up to speed on this issue it is no shame to think before we speak.

  7. Alec Macpherson said,

    Mick, I can certainly see the USA withdrawing co-operation with Ankara on certain issues, but active support for the PKK? Rightly or wrongly (mostly wrongly, I think) she had just invaded a far away country – Iraq – so what was going to happen when Turkey was attacked from across a contiguous border?

    Sometimes actions really do have unforeseen consequences, and there’s no shame in admitting Uncle Sam does not have full control of the world.

  8. entdinglichung said,

    at least in countries like Germany, Switzerland or the Netherlands, due to the presence of a large community of migrants from Kurdistan (in Germany somewhere between 500.000 and 750.000 from North-Western Kurdistan alone) and the state repression against Kurdish organisations (the PKK is banned since 1993 in Germany and since 1995 in France), the attacks of the Turkish army are an important topic for the left on the continent and there were e.g. in Berlin some demonstrations with a non-negligable participation of the “native” left … of course, someone is much more sceptical about the PKK than twelve years ago, e.g. because of all the PKK’s secret contacts and deals with imperialist and Arabian governments and their u-turns … on the other hand, there is also a new wave of repression against leftist forces from Turkey/North-Western Kurdistan on the continent e.g. the police raids against structures of the TKP/ML in Germany a few ago

  9. johng said,

    politics has been reduced to simplistically denouncing everyone as anti-american. irrespective of anything they say or don’t say. it is all a sensitive decent soul like myself can do but weep for humanity, apple pie and other good things. why oh why…

    (cont p54).

  10. Mick Hall said,

    I agree the USA is not omnipresent but they do control the sky above northern Iraq and thus if the Turks know what is going on down on the ground I feel the US does to. I also feel it is relevant that Ocalan’s brother seems to be living openly in the area, as to apparently are a number of the senior cadres of the PKK. However I take your point about unforeseen consequences etc.

    It is all very depressing and so predictable.

  11. voltaires_priest said,

    As far as I can see, the administration in Iraqi Kurdistan is supportive – or, at the very least, not obstructive – to the Turkish incursions and being in opposition to the PKK themselves.

    That isn’t correct Alec – Barzani (ie the KDP and the Kurdistan regional government) has opposed the incursions directly. He and Talabani really don’t have much of a choice given popular antipathy towards Turkish treatment of Kurdish people in past history.

  12. Renegade Eye said,

    I did earlier a similar post.

    Kurdish Turks told me the PKK is mostly at the border in Iraq near Iran, not Turkey.

    The bombing is really aimed at Iraqi Kurdish, to discourage any independence movement.

  13. entdinglichung said,

    the Iranian regime has executed Hasan Hikmet Demir, a PJAK-member with Turkish citizenship, see http://www.pjak.org/english.php?id=444

  14. Motab Khalife said,

    H Hei,jeg er kurder selv fra kurdistan.tyrker er teroriester og de vill alldit være det.sammen med iran og syria.kurdistan vil vere i blodet,sjela.sinne,beinet hjertet vort.uanset om vi blir slått,gasset,terorisert.uanset vil de aldri ta kurdistan fra oss.vi har levd i krig i flere hundre år så det er ikke noe nytt for oss.jeg hoper tyrkia ikke for vere med eu.se tilbakke i historien så ser du vor vi kommer fra. man trenger ikke ha høy qu for å se hvor vi kommer fra.vi går lang……. til bakke i historien.

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