The fears of Turkey on the referendum in northern Iraq

The fears of Turkey on the referendum in northern Iraq

The historic referendum that will take place in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region is what Turkey has been denying for decades. Now that the decision is at the door, Turkish officials are halfheartedly making angry statements about a possible independent Kurdish state. But while the Turkish Armed Forces are carrying out an exercise on the border, Turkey’s top soldier Gen. Hulusi Akar is in New York with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, cutting ribbons and inaugurating buildings. So really, it is hardly convincing if Turkey is serious about its cross-border ambitions.

The crux of the matter should have dawned on people last week when Hatun Tuğluk, Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Deputy Chairwoman Aysel Tuğluk’s mother, passed away. Aysel Tuğluk, who has been in jail for some time got special permission to attend her mother’s funeral in Ankara. But a group of mob disrupted the service, threatened the other HDP members, and claimed that the place was not an “Armenian cemetery” and that they would not let her be buried there. Osman Baydemir, the spokesman of the HDP, claimed that the mob had brought tractors to take the corpse out. The incident terrified everyone including Justice and Development Party (AK Party) members, the president’s spokesman, etc. Usual condemnations came one after the other, and the issue died when three members of the mob got arrested and jailed.

The problem starts right there. In many Turks’ minds, Kurds are a part of this nation but different from them, so they should not be equal. Prof. Tanju Tosun from Ege University defined the psyche as “Willingly Distancing” in an interview with Birgün Daily. The late Hatun Tuğluk’s funeral is the most extreme example of this, but even in well- educated circles, in the middle-class neighborhoods in cities, in the well-protected polished new suburbia there is that hidden wall.

If the Kurds of this nation start feeling that they will not even be given a place to die here, they will look for a second place to live and die. Turkey’s geopolitical interests, big powers, Sykes-Picot are all pointless arguments if you make your citizens look for a second homeland. Let us remember dear Hrant Dink’s words. “I do want land from Turkey,” he had said, “not to take away but to rest in peace when I die.”

Unfortunately, Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), has created that second homeland for Kurds brick by brick, stone by stone and with the help of the Turkish state and businesses. So it is absurd and hypocritical to say things like “We will never allow a Kurdish corridor on our southern border.”

The fundamental diversion lies in the perspective of Ankara’s fear of losing land versus Barzani’s fear of losing people. If Turkey becomes a true “homeland” for Kurds even after an independent state, if the Turkish state and citizens win the hearts and minds of its own Kurdish population, Ankara should have no fear. But if a Kurdish mother’s prayers are about her son or daughter to live in Erbil and not die in the mountains, we all have a lot to worry about.

Israel’s support for an independent Kurdish state can be a huge conspiracy for many. But if main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkulu can be openly threatened by an academic and if Aysel Tuğluk has to bury her mother in Tunceli instead of Ankara where she lived in the last years of her life, one has to start watching the Einstein documentary “Genius” and see how Germany turned into a nightmare for minorities.