Op-ed: Turkey has declared war against the Kurds
“All friends, enemies, and the mountains shall know that the Turk is the master of this country. All those who are not pure Turks have only one right in the Turkish homeland: the right to be servants, the right to be slaves,” Turkey’s Minister of Justice, Mahmut Esat, declared in 1930.
The notion of a “pure Turk” is without a doubt an invention of Kemalist theories; such actuality ceases to exist. However, this should still raise concerns for where Turkey is heading today. For Kurds, there has been zero progress in the attainment of true democracy in the Turkish state.
Turkish authoritarian president Recep Tayyip Erdogan would prefer to think Turkey is unique and advanced. The United States, European Union and NATO have only promoted his anti-Kurdish agenda by turning a blind eye towards his atrocities against the Kurds. How can this be? The powers mentioned all supposedly believe in the idea of pursuing democratic values.
Erdogan leaves room to question whether the latest coup was staged in order to gain more power to further punish the Kurds. Let’s not forget when the coup did take place, pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) politicians stood in solidarity with Turkish members of parliament to defend the notion of democracy. This was not enough. In return, Erdogan decided to exclude Kurds from the aftershock of the coup.
Thus far, Erdogan has purged Kurdish lawmakers, shut down nearly all Kurdish TV, newspaper and radio stations in the State, and arrested democratically elected mayors of the predominantly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir (Amed). According to Sarhun Oluc, Vice Co-Chair of HDP, Erdogan has also shut down internet access in 20 Kurdish cities: Diyarbakir, Erzurum, Kars, Ardahan, Agri, Bingol, Erzincan, Mardin, Batman, Siirt, Van, Elazig, Mus, Bitlis, Tunceli (Dersim), Gaziantep, Hakkari, Urfa, Kilis and Adiyaman.
Even long before the coup, Turkey arrested 2,468 party members of the Kurdish pro-autonomy Democratic Regions Party (DBP), which favors Kurdish cultural and political rights within Turkey. The World Press Freedom Index ranks Turkey 151st on its list, just one ahead of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Erdogan has also extended the state of emergency for an additional 3 three months.
In addition, Turkey has conducted an early morning raid in the homes of 11 prominent Kurdish MPs from the HDP including co-Chairs Selahattin Demirtas (Diyarbakir MP) and Figen Yuksekdag (Van MP).
Others arrested include:
- Sirri Surreyya Onder- Ankara MP
- Nursel Aydogan- Diyarbakir MP
- Ferhat Encu- Sirnak MP
- Mehmet Ali Aslan- Batman MP
- Gulser Yildirim- Mardin MP
- Ziya Pir- Agru MP
- Abdullah Zeydan- Hakkarri MP
- Leyla Birlik- MP- Sirnak MP
- Idris Baluk- Diyarbakir MP
According to the site turkeypurge.com, post-coup numbers are:
- 105,097 sacked
- 74,561 detained
- 34,087 arrested
- 2,099 schools, dormitories, universities shutdown
- 6,337 academics who have lost jobs
- 3,640 judges and prosecutors dismissed
- 186 media outlets shut down
- 133 journalists arrested
If ‘democratic values’ is what the Western powers are after, then why are they not condemning those who infringe on those values? Turkey has unofficially declared war against the Kurdish population through structural violence. The Erdogan regime expects to kill, torture, arrest, silence, impose ideologies, remove democratically elected leaders and liken Kurds to terrorists without any repercussions. In what world would anyone expect the Kurds to not rise up and defend themselves?
Imagine if the Kurds in Iraq allowed Saddam Hussein to continue his genocidal approach, or if the Kurds in Kobane allowed ISIS to simply walk into the town, impose Islamic ideologies and execute the population. Is the State of Turkey not the real terrorist here? Are they simply untouchable because of “sovereign borders?” or because they are a NATO ally?
It is time for the international community to abandon Turkey, not doing so would delegitimize the very ideals of Western democracy and values. Kurds have long suffered under such regimes; Erdogan is nothing new, just as ISIS is soon to be gone. Kurds are not only fighting for rights in the four surrounding states but also face Sunni and Shiite militias. With enemies all around, Kurds are bound to defend their historical territories.
Labeling the minority population as terrorists is a simple excuse to impose a destructive agenda, and Kurds are well aware of this tactic. It is no secret that the Kurdish region in Turkey contains resources, most importantly the mouths of the great rivers, Tigris and Euphrates, that run well into Syrian Kurdistan and Iraqi Kurdistan. Kurds reside in the heart of the Middle East, a flourishing mountainous region filled with natural resources, oil, gas as well as agriculture.
If Turkey wishes to bring stability into the country, it cannot be done with the current path. Turkey must change or it will not only force the Kurds to rise, but also turn its own Turks against one another. A civil war in Turkey is highly possible, and the international community must act before it’s too late. Pretending Turkey is fighting terrorists within its borders is unsophisticated and a bluff.
History has proven that Kurds will not become “servants and slaves” to any state; it’s time for the West to wake up.
Diliman Abdulkader is a masters student in the School of International Service.