Why are Kılıçdaroğlu and CHP in target of terrorism?

Why are Kılıçdaroğlu and CHP in target of terrorism?

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of Turkey’s social democratic main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), escaped an assassination attempt on Aug. 25 in the northeastern province of Artvin, near the border with Georgia.

Kılıçdaroğlu was traveling in a motorcade from Şavşat to Ardanuç in Artvin for the inauguration of a facility in the CHP-held municipality when fire was opened on his security escort, passing through a steep valley. Three soldiers were heavily wounded in the attack, (one of whom died later on). 

A member of the security team, which had been upgraded by the government due to intelligence that Kılıçdaroğlu might be attacked, shot a militant who had aimed to launch a rocket at the CHP leader’s motorcade, according to Interior Minister Efkan Ala. Kılıçdaroğlu was taken from the region safely in an armored police car. 

Ala also said the attack was carried out by militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). If so, this would be the first attack by the PKK on an opposition leader since it started its armed campaign to carve out an independent Kurdish state from the territories of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria in 1984. So far more than 40,000 people have been killed in that campaign.

But the part of Turkey where the attack on Kılıçdaroğlu took place has almost no Kurdish population. There is no past record of significant PKK activity in the region, despite Interior Minister Ala’s statement that the attack could be part of the PKK’s plan to spread its activities in the Black Sea region. As it is hard for the PKK to find non-Kurdish recruits, especially in big cities and minimally Kurdish-populated parts of the country, it formed in March - together with nine minor militant leftist Turkish organizations - a shadow organization called the Peoples’ United Revolutionary Movement (HBDH). A few of those fringe organizations are known to be active in the eastern Black Sea region in northeast Turkey, and they might have carried out the attack on behalf of the PKK.

The shadow HBDH organization is similar to one established in Syria under the name of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), with the participation of some Arab tribes, in order to camouflage the domination of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian branch of the PKK. It recently claimed responsibility for two attacks on Aug. 22 and 23 in the Nazımiye and Ovacık townships in the eastern province of Tunceli.

The interesting thing is that Nazımiye, predominantly populated by Turks of Alevi faith, is the birthplace of CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu. The attack there came three days after a statement by Kılıçdaroğlu saying the CHP was ready to give all necessary support to its rival Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government in order to put an end to terrorism in the country. That statement followed PKK bomb attacks on Aug. 18 in the eastern provinces of Elazığ, Bitlis and Van, which resulted in the killing of 10 people and the wounding of 294.

In between there was a huge bomb attack on a wedding party on Aug. 20 in the southern province of Gaziantep by the Syria border, killing 54 people, 30 of them children. President Tayyip Erdoğan said the indications pointed to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as the culprits. On Aug. 24, Turkey started a major operation into Syria in order to support the Free Syria Army (FSA) advance to take the Syria border town of Jarablus from the hands of ISIL. Another aim of that operation was to not allow Jarablus be taken by the PYD, which Turkey sees as a part of the PKK’s united Kurdish state strategy. 

On the same day as that operation started, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Turkey. After a 3.5-hour meeting with Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, Biden said the PYD should return back east of the Euphrates River, a request that Turkey has asked the U.S. to maintain. Upon the urging of Washington, the PYD is now turning back, apparently to prepare for an operation on Raqqa, the ISIL headquarters in Syria.

The PKK gets no benefit from the normalization of Turkey’s relations with any other countries - be it the U.S., Russia, Iran or Germany. It seeks to foster instability in order to catch Turkish governments off balance.

The attack on a main opposition leader who pledged support for the government against acts of terror showed that he is in the PKK’s crosshairs. Kılıçdaroğlu, however, said after the attack that his party’s stance against terrorism would continue stronger than ever.