Just hours after the Turkish Armed Forces and Ankara government claimed victory amid an end to military operations in Nusaybin and Şırnak, a bomb exploded in Istanbul’s historic district of Vezneciler, killing 11 and injuring 36 citizens as of noon on Tuesday. But for all the people who have personally dealt with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and according to my intelligence sources, this attack was coming.
The PKK might have lost a lot of manpower on the field. It may have forced the Turkish army to knock down entire villages, destroy and bulldoze towns and literally kill 1,000 militants (this is the official figure). But so why do we still feel like it is not over and will never be over? Partly because of the usual song sung by “pro-government experts” who say there are external powers and foreign intelligence behind all this. Dr. Eray Güçlüer from ASAM claims it is all because the “foreign powers” want to cut the ties of Turkey with the Islamic world.
No “pseudo terror analyst” looks at the background and reads the history of the PKK. No real “security expert” is familiar with the PKK’s dynamic shift and easy metamorphosis. Paul White’s reference book on the organization, “PKK: Coming down from the Mountains,” chronicles how many attacks the outlawed Kurdish group launched even after Abdullah Öcalan was captured and put in prison. So why should it be over now? Especially on the grounds that the U.S. is pushing for an ultimate cease-fire and partial autonomy in northern Syria.
Despite all the technology, all the drones, et cetera, the PKK still is a human machine. It carries the strength and weakness of a “revolutionary” group. With a picture of and destroyed Nusaybin, it can mobilize youth groups and leftists. Because in the end, everyone thinks “the Turkish state won by losing everything.” It paralyses all of us with an attack in Istanbul for a couple of hours, then everything goes back to normal. The irony of all this lies in the fact that by normalizing violence and terror, both the government and the PKK think they can win. The people on the other hand, constantly feel like losers.
The Turkish Army and security forces may have won the battle on the field, but with empty classrooms, destroyed homes and destroyed villages, not only the Kurds in the southeast lose heart but also citizens in western cities and towns feel it will never be over. The psychology of kids that see their entire house blown up and or seniors that see their memories buried in the ground will never be healed.
Now there is talk of a “pre-emptive strike” strategy in Ankara. The state wants to target five specific districts that it claims harbors PKK camps. Tunceli, Diyarbakır, Bingol, Ağrı and Silopi are at the heart of this strategy.
So once again, Turkey will bomb its own territory to get rid of terrorism. With every flight of an F-16, there will be a bigger hole in the hearts and in the state budget. Once again, the PKK will force the state to go bankrupt just like it did in the 1990s.
If you cannot kill an ideology with a better idea, if you can not replace a thought with a higher one, you can only try to destroy it with highly priced toys and human casualties. And that becomes a scenario replayed every two decades over and over again.