SEMİH İDİZ > The Kurdish phobia rears its head again

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Prime Minister Erdoğan cannot have it both ways. Referring to Sunni Arabs who have risen against the al-Assad regime as “freedom fighters who are combating state terror,” but then turning and calling the equally oppressed Kurds who are making political headway now in the confusion that reigns in Syria “terrorists” is hypocritical.

Developments in Syria, with Kurds controlling parts of Northern Syria along the border with Turkey, have reanimated the Kurdish phobia of nationalist Turks, who are now seething with anger over the prospect of “another northern Iraq” emerging on Turkey’s southern border.

Prime Minister Erdoğan, who for all his “Kurdish opening,” which was supposedly aimed at alleviating Turkey’s Kurdish problem, has been relying more and more on nationalist quarters over these past few years. This is why with the news coming from northern Syria he wasted no time in playing to the nationalist gallery.

With Syria’s “Kurdish reality” suddenly dawning on Turks, Erdoğan clearly feels he has to do this, even if his remarks are aggravating as far as Turkey’s own Kurdish problem is concerned, and also risk spoiling Ankara’s developing ties with the Kurds of northern Iraq.

“It is our most natural right to intervene [in northern Syria], since those terrorist formations would disturb our national peace,” Erdoğan said last week during a television interview. Turks consider the armed Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is only one of the Kurdish groups active in Syria, in the same light as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

PYD leader Salih Muslim, a Turkish-educated urbane Kurd, admits sympathy for the PKK but insists that the PYD is a different group, with its own agenda that has nothing to do with Turkey. Given that it has ties with the PKK, despite Muslim’s remarks, the PYD nevertheless provides political ammunition for the Turkish government, enabling it to raise the specter of “Kurdish terrorism.”

Ankara’s phobia, however, is not just towards the PYD alone, but to the resurgence of any Kurdish entity in northern Syria. The idea that the Syrian Kurds, with support from the northern Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), may establish their own autonomous or even independent region along the border with Turkey is simply too much for nationalist Turks who fear Kurdish separatism.

There is a sort of déjà vu situation here: Ankara for years used a similar approach, employing the same hostile jargon, against Iraqi Kurds, but could do nothing to prevent the emergence of an all-but-independent Kurdish entity in northern Iraq in the end. Not only did it fail to prevent the formation of such an entity, it actually went ahead and developed good ties with it, as Turkey’s relations with the Shiite-led central government in Baghdad deteriorated.

Now we see the same thing in northern Syria, with similar threats from Ankara fed by the very same Kurdish phobia. Given the way things ultimately developed for northern Iraqi Kurds, one has to ask just how wise this course is for Erdoğan and his government.

The much more sensible course would be to cultivate ties with Syrian Kurds, which would also help isolate PKK elements in that country, in a way that is beneficial to both sides. Syrian Kurds are also aware, after all, like their northern Iraqi brethren, that good ties with Turkey are better in the long run, especially given the turmoil that is bound to continue one way or another in Syria.

Alienating the Syrian Kurds, and risking the developing ties with northern Iraq’s Kurds, simply because Turkey has not been able to overcome its Kurdish phobia and resolve its own Kurdish problem, is clearly the worst course Turkey could follow.

What makes it even worse is that Turkey will most likely be unable to do anything to prevent the emergence of an autonomous or independent Kurdish region in Syria, if developments in that country provide the Kurds with another historic opportunity, to complement the one they gained in Iraq.


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Blue Dotterel

8/2/2012 2:30:01 AM

Sipan. ethnic Kurds have the right to be citizens of the Turkish Republic within whose borders they reside. Turkish is the national language and they should be required to speak it; however, given that one-fifth of the country is ethnic Kurd, the Gov't should see fit to give it second language status. The Kurds do have full rights as citizens of the Republic, which is better than Israeli Arabs enjoy. Kurds can study and speak Kurdish today.

Selim Bisevac

7/31/2012 10:37:26 PM

@MARA I agree with you America has enough problems of its own and needs to deal with jobs , health care etc and yes all interventions to date have led to disastrous outcomes. In essence all nations should and must determine their own destiny. What should be clear to all is that whatever the outcome be it a democracy, or any other system let the people choose!

sipan silwaneyi

7/31/2012 10:25:37 PM

The kurds in Turkey have full rights to be Turks, but they have no rights to be Kurds, they have been encouraged, and even forced to study Turkish, but they get imprisoned and even killed, or labeled as terrorist if they try to study or speak Kurdish.this is the situation of 25 to 30 million Kurds in Turkey, since the creation of the republic until today.

Blue Dotterel

7/31/2012 8:49:40 PM

Mara, Agnes, Romney is actually worse than Bush and Obama - well maybe not Obama. Only the American people can stop the US corporate protection racket from destroying more peoples and nations in order to subject them to neo-liberalism and the freedom of giant corporations to control global wealth, while impoverishing the majority of humanity. Unfortunately, most Americans actually support being fleeced by bankers, and think Greeks are lazy and deserve their suffering. Ignorance is bliss.

ismail demir

7/31/2012 7:56:13 PM

If kurds are not happy with Turkey,Turkey should allow to form kurdistan between diyarbakır and hakkari as they had merwani kurdish state in the past.In exchange Turkey Kurds should live there.Turkey does not have to tolerate terorism for Turkey s mercy to accept Iranian Kurdish refugees at 16. century.

mara mcglothin

7/31/2012 6:00:31 PM

AGNES Whether Romney is another Bush remains to be seen and if that is a good thing or a bad thing also remains to be seen. What has changed is the thoughts and voices of the American people. There are many who like myself are tired of being the police for the World. We need to sit back and let others determine their own destinies. So Romney would have a different mentality of the public to deal with. A whole different ball game.

Blue Dotterel

7/31/2012 4:04:30 PM

Agnes, Kurds do have the rights of true Turkish citizens. They are not deprived of their rights as Israeli Arabs are or T. Cypriots were prior to 1974. A large proportion of ethnic Kurds do not even live in the southeast of Turkey, and most would prefer not to. Eastern Turkey does require a greater investment in education as many Kurds are extremely conservative as their adherence to honor killings, particularly of women, tends to indicate.

Rebwar Rashed

7/31/2012 3:22:42 PM

Thanks for good words ASLI AYDINTAŞBAŞ, SEMİH İDİZ and BARÇIN YİNANÇ Turkey can never stop the Kurdistan liberation movement. It is an end chapter. I recommend you take further steps and go in dialogues with the PKK. Why not? Are all Turkish atrocities and your bad politics toward the Kurdish people since 1923 the PKKs fault? Turkey will gain much if you solve the Kurdish question by peaceful and political means. PKK can make Turkey a good neighbor to Kurdish people. We can be good partners!

Agnes Smith

7/31/2012 1:38:12 PM

@ Blue - and enter Mr Mitt Romney whose intentions are clear! Another Bush on the horizon. Scary. If only TK could find some oil and gas, we had a rational and educated leader, Turkish Kurds the rights of a true citizen - give them education hope and jobs and bring them down from mountains. Wouldn't that be nice.

Rimon Tree

7/31/2012 12:06:31 PM

@ URI as I have already said once, this is split-lip AKP logic, which is based on PM's and FM's emotions, not rationality!
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