Is Syria becoming a ‘second northern Iraq’?

Is Syria becoming a ‘second northern Iraq’?

Two concerns were always present in the minds in Ankara about the Kurdish situation in Syria.

When Ankara had to burn the bridges with Damascus a while after the uprising reached Syria, these concerns turned into troubles.

The first one of them is the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) presence in Syria. This has to be seen in two subtitles: The support the PKK has collected from the Kurdish grassroots in Syria, and the assistance the Damascus regime provides for the PKK.

And maybe a third one: The fact that the PKK is operating in the Kurdish zone of Syria as if it were a paramilitary force on behalf of the Damascus regime… There is no unconditional “favor” indeed.

The phenomenon that we call “the Syrian regime’s support for the PKK” is the retaliation for the multi-variety support Ankara is providing for the rebellion in Syria.

The second part of the trouble is the potential of the Kurds in Syria to separate from the country. This too has become visible and tangible after the rebellion.

It has to be acknowledged that the Kurds in Syria, even though they have a politically segmented structure, have been acting with a remarkable awareness of ethnic interests from the beginning of the rebellion. Indeed, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is the projection of the PKK in Syria, should be exempt from this “local sensitivity.”

Others, except the PYD, keep the same distance from both the oppressor and the oppressed regarding the clashes in the country as a “domestic issue of the Arabs.” Because, whoever wins in Syria, at the end of the day, the Kurds are able to see that they will still remain to be oppressed under the rule of the present oppressed who have a tendency to transform into new oppressors.

One part of the recommendations of Ankara to the Damascus regime before it cut loose from them was the improvement of the situation of the Kurds in Syria. Ankara wanted the weak building called “Syria” to be reinforced by structural columns and support its foundations against the earthquakes of the Arab rebellion. The Damascus regime had deprived a segment of the Kurds of their citizenship rights. Ankara asked Damascus to issue identification for them, thus, if the “Syrian” building fractures or collapses, then the Kurds should not opt for building their own building.

Turkey continued to pursue the goal of Syrianization of the Kurdish community in Syria after it bunt bridges with Bashar al-Assad. It was coached that Kurds should also join the Syrian National Council (SNC) that was set up in Istanbul sponsored by Ankara. The aim in this was to provide that the Kurds, after the collapse of the Baath regime, should not opt for separation but identify themselves within the newly formed Syria.

In the present situation it is difficult to shove the Kurds under the SNC; because the Kurds do not want frightfully to draw the fury of the Baath regime on themselves.

In an interview published last week in daily Taraf, what Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş told Neşe Düzel shed light on a reality of today.

“Neşe Düzel: While the borders are being redrawn, will the Iraqi Kurdistan and Syrian Kurdistan unite?
Selahattin Demirtaş: I don’t see this happening in the short run. If Iraq is separated into three, it means the borders will be redrawn. A Kurdistan in Syria may be official. For the moment, there is already a Kurdistan state within Iran. As a result, from Hatay to Iğdır, Turkey’s entire south border will officially be with Kurdistan. Then, Turkey should put its thinking cap on and say, ‘I must urgently make peace with my own Kurds.’”

A Turkey with a “Kurdish issue” has always had troublesome relations with Kurds across its borders. The northern Iraq example is there.

If one of the outcomes of the Syrian crisis will be “Kurdish autonomy” then that region will indeed turn into a second “northern Iraq” from Turkey’s angle.

However, more seriously, because of a direct or indirect PKK threat toward Turkey from that region, the emergence of that region as a military target on Ankara’s radar.

Whatever its justification may be… In an environment where the crisis in Syria is becoming more international, military operations from Turkey to Syria’s Kurdish region will draw the attention of the world to Turkey’s own Kurdish issue at a level unprecedented in recent years.

The more Turkey avoids solving its own Kurdish problem, the more inevitable this outcome will become: the internationalization of the issue.

Kadri Gürsel is a columnist for daily Milliyet in which this piece was published on April 16. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.