Turkish troops out of Kurdistan!

February 24, 2008 at 9:44 am (AK Party, kdp, kurdistan, pkk, puk, turkey, voltairespriest)

PhotobucketWithin the past four days, following a lengthy campaign of aerial bombings, a Turkish ground invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan has begun. 10,000 troops in total rolled across the border on Thursday night, according  to the Turkish Daily News. This was on the pretext of hunting members of the PKK who live in camps around the mountainous north of the region. As the troops (whose numbers have been massing on the Iraqi border for months) went into Iraqi Kurdish territory at around 7 pm, the Turkish army’s general staff issued a statement which said:

“The Turkish Armed Forces, which attach great importance to Iraq’s territorial integrity and stability, will return home in the shortest time possible after its goals have been achieved”

Whether this is to be believed or not remains to be seen. Indeed, if the “achievement of its goals” is the elimination of the PKK “threat” then even taken at face value the statement is cold comfort for the Kurds – previous failed attempts by the Turkish army to eradicate Kurdish nationalism resulted in a bloody and drawn-out conflict between 1984 and 1999 which is reckoned to have claimed over 30,000 lives.

This is not a case of the military launching an operation in defiance of a civilian government, either. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AK Party government in fact ordered the attack, it is believed with the tacit support of the USA – in spite of some muted protests. The US will certainly be loathe to enter a direct confrontation with a NATO partner, particuarly a regional superpower of Turkey’s standing in a part of the world where the USA is not overwhelmed by huge numbers of Muslim friends.

The Kurdistan Regional Government, headed by Kurdistan Democratic Party leader Masud Barzani, has issued a statement condemning the invasion whilst making clear that it does not support the PKK. For the time being this will suit the Turkish troops, whose lives wouldbe made considerably more difficult if Barzani were to order the mainstream Peshmerga in the region to fire on the invaders. It is, however, quite clear that the Peshmerga’s neutrality in the conflict is far from guaranteed in the longer term.

The conflict has escalated within the last 24 hours, with the Turkish army claiming to have killed 44 rebels and the PKK responding with a claim to have shot down a Turkish helicpter. The death toll will undoubtedly continue to mount over the days and weeks to come, almost certainly without any “clean” outcome one way or the other. Conventional ground forces have found since time immemorial that they can hold an area, only for it to be reoccupied by guerillas once they leave. The PKK may not have the forces to drive the Turkish forces out, but neither do the Turkish army have the means to eradicate the PKK. The result will be a bloody mess.

In a situation like this, progressive and left-wing people worldwide should stand with the people of Kurdistan whose territory is being overrun by invading troops. We should condemn any civilian deaths that the Turkish troops inflict, and we should call for those troops to be withdrawn. The Kurdish people have the right to their own territorial integrity, and the language being used by the Turkish government to justify the invasion (“terrorists” in particular) is eerily remniscent of the language used by US administration to justify the war in Iraq. We on the left stand with oppressed peoples, against such aggressors and we support the right tonational self-determination. It is for that reason and with those principles in mind that I believe we should be calling for Turkish troops out of Kurdistan.


  1. David Broder said,

    Good post.

    Given that most of them are Kurds, it’s surprising that the Worker-communist Party of Iraq’s English page doesn’t have anything about it.

  2. Alec Macpherson said,

    But the PKK is a designated terrorist organization, reserving criticism where it’s due in bucket loads in Ankara. There was no reasonable evidence of an imminent threat to the USA’s territory from Iraq in 2003. There is to Turkey from the PKK.

    The current situation for Kurds in Turkey is by no means rosy, but it has improved immeasurably over the past decade. The PKK threatens to destroy that for its pursuit of the same utopic dream which marred so much of the globe last century.

    I prefer not to dismiss arguments simply because they’re vaunted by revolting rump organizations such as the SWP. Fortunately, the PKK has done enough to justify our scorn.

    The 30,000 dead you cite have been contributed to no mean extent by the PKK themselves. It has established a reputation for targetted violence against non-combatants and like another proscribed Marxist insurgent group, the LTTE with the Tamils, has systemicatically smashed the boot down onto the Kurdish peasantry’s face and perfected the art of suicide-bombing, with the psychological disconnect arising amongts the recruited popuation.

    According to Human Rights Watch:

    Between 1992 and 1995, the height of the conflict [with the Turkish authorities], Ocalan’s PKK is believed to have been responsible for at least 768 extrajudicial executions, mostly of civil servants and teachers, political opponents, off-duty police officers and soldiers, and those deemed by the PKK to be “state supporters.” In addition, the PKK committed numerous large-scale massacres of civilians, usually against villagers or villages that were believed to be connected with the state civil defense “village guard system.” In twenty-five such massacres committed between 1992 and 1995, 360 people were killed, including thirty-nine women and seventy-six children. These actions were not committed by rogue units or commanders, but were PKK official policy.

    Nor should Ocalan be seen as a Kurdish national hero.. He’s a Marxist tyrant, through and through, who has been reputed to have been perfectly willing to co-operate with Ba’athists in Damascus and Baghdad in their destruction of Kurdish self-determination and peasant and other political classes:

    And yet Öcalan has not only refused to provide assistance to Kurds in Syria, he cooperated with the government in Damascus that brutally oppressed them. Similarly, for more than a decade he supported Saddam Hussein’s offensives against Kurdish nationalists in northern Iraq (or “South Kurdistan,” in PKK parlance). The PKK’s machinations have left Kurds throughout the region, who were never united to begin with, more divided than ever. (may require subscription)

    Dear old Lenny did the same.

    I’m always of the view that military action is the last resort and, by default, treat the current invasion of IKR with skepticism. However, the degree of omission and disengenuinity in this article is precisely the same simplistic syllogisms which did for the protests against the other Iraq War.

    Have we learned nothing?

    (And Will, spin on that you gap-toothed moron.)

  3. Seán said,

    Well said.

    The official line is that it is an ‘incursion’, rather than an invasion. Invasion sounds too war-like for our media esp. when our allies are involved. Kosova gets independence, the Kurds get bombed and invaded. Can’t hear too many cries for Kurdish independence by western governments. Maybe the turks are just ‘liberating’ the Kurdish people like the US and UK forces did in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  4. Dr Paul said,

    The Turkish ruling class and the Turkish military (who really run the show in Turkey) feel that any Kurdish state is a threat to the integrity of the Turkish state, and the PKK is just an excuse to threaten the de facto Kurdish state in Iraq, as they feel that setting up one in Iraq will encourage Kurds in Turkey to do likewise. Turkey’s rulers have ambitions for the country as a regional strong-man.

    The US response is interesting. Whilst they have used the two main Iraqi Kurdish parties as puppets during their whole Iraq adventure, when it comes to a clash between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurdish proto-state, Washington chooses Turkey; or, to put it better, is effectively forced to back Turkey, as the Turkish ruling class carries a lot more weight in the region than the Iraqi Kurdish government, and Washington cannot afford to alienate it. The US response is a sign of the weakness of the USA.

    However, the Turkish rulers are in a bit of cleft stick. The experience of Kosovo — the carving out of a Western protectorate from a sovereign state — must have exacerbated fears of a similar event involving Kurdish territory occurring just over their borders and having echoes within their borders. Hence the latest incursion. But there is also the question of Cyprus. Here, the Turks have their own ‘Kosovo’, albeit not recognised by the big powers.

    The USA’s positive response to the Turkish incursion into Iraq implies that Washington will not be backing an independent Kurdish state in Iraq, as it is unacceptable to Turkey. But is the USA in control in Iraq? There is already a de facto Kurdish state there. The USA will not want Turkey to do much more than it is doing; but will the latter stop at these cross-border attacks; might it go further and attempt a full-scale invasion, perhaps using the Kurdish harassment of Iraqi Turkomen as an excuse?

    Once again, the Kurds are victims of big-power manoeuvres.

    A useful article is at http://www.wsws.org/articles/2008/feb2008/iraq-f25.shtml

  5. Mike said,

    So the PKK are not a great organisation. No, they’re not. Neither were the IRA, but no socialist would dream of not condemning Bloody Sunday or calling for British troops to get out of Derry. The KLA leadership was frankly racist and organised murderous attacks on Serb civilians in the aftermath of the war, but no-one called for the Serbian army to re-invade and carry on with their genocide.

    The issue in cases of national liberation is never the morality of the participants. Since they are bourgeois nationalists necessarily fighting a dirty war I take it for granted they’re not people I’d get on well with. However, making accusations of moral turpitude against the side one doesn’t favour (when the same, or worse, is true of the other side) is a negation of politics – in fact the usual content of Socialist Worker editorials…!

  6. Steven Johnston said,


    If the PKK are behind this then damn their eyes!

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