Kurdish issue – Erdogan’s big headache

Kurdish issue – Erdogan’s big headache


By Manolis Kostidis – Ankara

Kobani was the spark that caused the fire in the Kurdish issue. The PKK, after the ceasefire was declared in 2013, waited the democratisation steps promised by the Turkish government. While Ankara was delaying these steps, the Kurds of Turkey, most of who live in areas near the border with Syria, discovered that Ankara was providing munitions to the jihadists.

Immediately, some terms of the plans for the Kurdish started to circulate in the Media, as Ocalan’s ultimatum requesting some conditions of the peace process to be announced until October 15. Among the conditions that were announced, was giving immunity to rebels, their incorporation to society through socialisation programs etc.. After last week’s uprising, Kurds are expecting in project that is promoted by Ankara for the resolution of the Kurdish issue, to be added the condition of the partial autonomy of local administrations. The Ideal scenario for the Kurds would be the creation of cantons, such as those created by their fellow Kurds at the Syrian Kobani, which are democratic, advocate religious freedom and conduct their own policy.

“The modus vivendi between Turkey and the Kurds must change immediately. A basis for the coexistence between Kurds and Turks must be created for stability in the country and the region”, says political analyst Cengiz Candar.

“The Kurds have great anger for Erdogan. They think that he has deceived them. His disregard for their fellow countrymen in Kobani has made them furious. He promised them democratisation, but now creates a monarchist and police-dominated country. Turkey walks in dangerous paths as Erdogan’s fear for democracy increases and is, therefore, capable of everything”, says Hasan Cemal, who is considered amongst the leading analysts of the Kurdish issue.

Indeed, after the uprising of the Kurds, Ahmet Davutoglu announced new measures to enhance the role of the police. The Turkish Prime minister said that “no matter how many of our armoured vehicles the protesters burn we will buy many times that”, and the government announced that even the Molotov cocktail will be considered a weapon and masked demonstrators terrorists! The “icing on the cake” of new measures is the penalisation of any comment on twitter against a government minister. According to the newspaper Taraf, upon conviction of a citizen for comments on the internet, that person will face up to five years in prison.

However, the Economist, stresses that while Erdogan before the presidential elections last August showed an attempt to approach the Kurds, in order to have their support in the Presidential elections, in recent months he is “flirting” with the nationalists and generals without making good in his promises.

Indicative of this is the fact that the Turkish president supports all the options of the Head of Turkish Armed Forces Necdet Ozel, who called the PYD (an offshoot of the PKK in Syria)  a “terrorist organisation”, despite the fact that the U.S. does not include it in the list of terrorist organisations. At the same time, turkish fighter jets began to bombard positions of the PKK, putting an end to the ceasefire agreed in 2013.

The position the PKK will take is considered crucial to the peace process in the Kurdish issue. The situation in Kobani plays an important role in future developments in the Kurdish issue. “The peace process provides for the disarmament of the PKK, but under present conditions this is impossible”, says a member of the pro-Kurdish HDP, Altan Tan, and stresses that “if Kobani falls then the issue will remain unresolved”.

However, many questions surround the stance of the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, who has been a prisoner in the hands of the Turks since 1999. With his message to his compatriots he managed to stop the episodes that occurred in the previous week.

The latest information indicates that Abdullah Ocalan will meet with representatives of the HDP, on Tuesday, and will send extremely important messages both to the rebels of the PKK and the Turkish government.

The impression is that the Kurdish leader has agreed on many points with the Davutoglu government on the democratisation and the provision of civil rights to members of the PKK. The content of Ocalan’s message will be affected by the messages he will receive both from the Kurds in northern Iraq and the leaders of the Kurdish cities organization KCK.

There are many inside the PKK, who disagree with the continuation of the dialogue with the Turkish government as he has failed to complete the consultations with Ankara and get something in return. “In the future the PKK could break into smaller groups without Öcalan, but it will survive, however Ocalan without the support of the PKK will lose his authority”, says Tan.

Political analysts recognise that the main fear of Turkey is that the help the U.S. might send to the PYD may pass in the hands of the rebel of the PKK. This point is highlighted by the academic at the University of Ankara, Arzu Yilmaz, who states that “lately the Kurdish issue has once again started to be viewed as a security and not as a political issue”.

Kobani and the relations between Turkey and the U.S.

The intervention of U.S. in Kobani with aircraft bombing, seems to have temporarily stopped the onslaught of jihadists and temporarily relieved the 1,500 Kurds, who struggle not to let the city fall to the hands of the Islamic State.

Turkey did not provide any assistance to the city’s defendants and blocked the attempts of the Kurds to send munitions to their compatriots, despite the pressures of Washington, whose strategic objective is the dissolution of  the Islamic State.

There is currently still pending the concession of the Turkish base Incirlik for the take off of American bombers. Indicative of Turkey’s negotiations with the Americans is the publication of the website Daily Beast (Newsweek), which reveals that Ankara does not allow the takeoff of fighter jets from Intzirlik in Adana, but has given the “green light” for the takeoff of unmanned aircrafts (drones) from the same base! “They allow us to make use of these aircrafts with no limitations. The controversy continued for the fighter jets”, said an American official. To the issue also referred indirectly the national security advisor of the United States, Susan Rice, who stated that Turkey has approved the use of the base by American aircrafts.

The Pentagon spokesman Patrick Ventrell simply said: “we continue to work with our allies and Turkey to defeat the Islamic state”, suggesting that Ankara will finally take up its role in the war against the jihadists. The drones that have been used for years by the Americans in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, and wherever they want to intervene “from away” have the ability to record positions on the battlefield, as well as fire short-range missiles.

Ankara will insist on its position, and the question is the benefits it will gain in order to provide the bases. The Turkish government insists that along with fighting the Islamic State, must continue the efforts to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the creation of buffer zones within Syrian territory for hosting refugees – positions that Russia and European countries reject.

Officials of the United States and Turkey have continued talks in recent days to “explore ways for Turkey to contribute” as reported Pentagon spokesman Admiral John Kirby. Also, American officials had contacts with representatives of the main Kurdish party in Syria, “the Democratic Union Party”, which is the Syrian branch of the Kurdish PKK.

British newspaper Daily Telegraph says that “Erdogan is confronted with three enemies: the Kurds of Syria and Turkey, the Islamic State and the forces of Assad. Currently, Assad and the Kurds are seen as the worst threat by Erdogan. That is, Turkey and the Islamic State have a common enemy. As such, Ankara considers it more reasonable to simple monitor the fighting between the forces of the Islamic State and the Kurdish forces and Assad”.

The british newspaper stressed that Ankara did nothing to help Kobani, “because Turkey is against any scenarios that involve the creation of a Kurdish state, and Erdogan believes that he owes nothing to the Kurds”.