Erdogan turns to repression as he loses support

Submitted by Matthew on 19 August, 2015 - 12:05 Author: Ralph Peters

In the last week of July, Turkey began its bombing of Kurdish forces of the PKK in Syria and Iraq.  

The cover given for the bombings was Turkish President Erdogan’s eventual agreement to take action against Daesh (ISIS) and support the US’s bombing of them. But the truth is very different.

The bombings began as the two year truce broke down between Turkish armed forces and the Kurdish PKK — the militia, primarily based in Turkey, which has had an on-off war with Turkey for 30 years.

It also followed the massacre of young pro-Kurdish socialist activists in the town of Suruc who had gathered there to travel to Rojava in order to help with reconstruction efforts.

The Suruc massacre was committed by a Daesh suicide bomber. It caused outrage as the Turkish security forces have continued to turn a blind eye to Daesh activity in south eastern Turkey — the area where Kurds form an overwhelming majority.

Major protests had already happened across Turkey about Turkey blocking aid to those defending Kobane from Daesh, which, in turn, led to President Erdogan losing his government majority. The pro-Kurdish, pro-Rojavan HDP (Peoples Democratic Party) achieved 13% of the vote allowing them into parliament in significant numbers for the first time.

The HDP has taken a primary role in trying to mediate a continuing truce between the PKK and the Turkish government over the last years. On a number of occasions during the siege of Kobane there were rumours that the PKK had pulled out. But a return to warfare by the PKK would have rekindled memories of civilian atrocities had been committed during their last war.

Turkey’s bombings and threatened repression are clearly intended to provoke violence with the Kurdish people across Turkey.

They have been coupled with threats made both against the legality of the HDP as well as on the freedom of some of its leaders. Two weeks ago Erdogan called for immunity from prosecution to be withdrawn from Kurdish politicians who had links to the PKK.

The PKK is still classified as a terrorist organisation both in Turkey and by Turkey’s NATO allies in Europe and the US – a classification that has long infuriated the majority of Turkey’s Kurds.

The HDP tried to rally its forces in a political demonstration on 10 August. At the same time its co-chair Selahattin Demirtas said the "PKK weapons must be instantly silenced; their hands have to be taken away from triggers."

The HDP has probably little likelihood of counselling demobilisation on the PKK whilst the Turkish aerial bombardment of PKK bases continues.

They are probably hoping that US pressure may be brought to bear on Turkey to stop the bombardment. After all the US has had a scarcely hidden relationship with the Rojavan Kurdish fighter of the YPG/ YPJ who are the only forces on the ground to have beaten back Daesh in Syria.

The duplicity of the US has been an open joke to many observers. On the one hand they want to be seen to be supporting the secular militias of Rojava against ISIS: on the other hand they allow the Turks to bomb the PKK, many of whom have evacuated from Turkey and are in the same areas of Northern Syria as those Rojavan militias and civilians.

But the US can’t be trusted.

Saudi Arabia, with whom Erdogan is close, has also stepped up its activity in Syria. The US may hope that the Saudis can bring together a less wild but undoubtedly brutal and sectarian Islamist force that can reduce any need for the secular Kurds of Rojava with their radical politics and the fighting capabilities against the Daesh.

On the other hand Erdogan is also losing support not only politically but geographically.  In the Turkish province of Şırnak, an area to the north of the Syria/ Iraqi border, a People’s Assembly is said to have declared the province autonomous from Turkey.

Erdogan is still weak after the elections. Of course the Kurdish forces will need to defend themselves from the repressive acts of the desperate Erdogan government.

An escalation of the repression has to be combatted primarily by the Kurds and others of the HDP joining with trade unions and workers and others in a political campaign, rather than a divisive military one to make sure that Erdogan is not able to re-make his government in an environment of repression and growing violence."

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