War and peace in Turkey

War and peace in Turkey

Turkey’s rulers sound like the country is on the verge of a formal declaration of war against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). The YPG is already listed as a terrorist organization, as a branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and recognized as one of the major threats against Turkey’s security. However, it is only after U.S. policy culminated in openly providing weapons and political support to the YPG under the pretext of the Raqqa operation that Turkey’s ruling powers started to voice an extreme reaction.

I have supported a peaceful resolution process, rather than military confrontation, with Kurds at home and abroad, and I have long criticized the concept of “war on terror” instead of a negotiated political solution. Still, even I think that Washington’s public snub of Turkey’s concerns amounts to a major provocation of Turkey’s rulers. It can be argued that U.S. support of Kurdish forces is a matter of realpolitik, a strategic choice that is not acknowledged by the Turkish government. However, it is still not surprising that government officials feel humiliated by the public displays of U.S. support for the YPG. 

I am aware of the fact that Turkey is paying the price not only of the militarization of the Kurdish problem, but also of its regional political delusions. I also think it is paying the price of Turkey’s alienation from its Western allies. This is a very high price, which puts at risk the wellbeing and future of the whole country. Western and Kurdish politicians should consider the shortcomings of pushing Turkey towards a war in which all parties will lose in the end. 

U.S. and Western political powers may be fed up with the bluffs of Turkey’s rulers, who do not refrain from manipulating the fear of further destabilization of the region. However, understandable conflict with Turkey should not lead to blind confrontation with it, which risks total catastrophe. We know what happens in those countries whose the rulers are denounced as dictators by the Western powers and their regional allies: Look at the cases of Iraq, Syria and Libya – none is in better shape now.

Turkey currently suffers not only from a democracy deficit but also from the problem of governability at home, and of alarming isolation abroad. The main opposition party opted to start a “justice march” from Ankara to Istanbul as a last resort, after all political and judicial space was blocked by the ruling party. The Republican People’s Party (CHP) has been very careful about adopting the most peaceful method for the march, and despite this the president and his party still attack the CHP for “being in tune with terrorists.” 

Under the circumstances, it may seem like Turkey’s political problems are no longer curable. However, any prospect of war is the worst scenario and will further worsen political prospects. Even if the country’s rulers may sound careless in this respect, Turkey’s allies and friends should try to restrain from pushing it in this direction.

The same is true for all of us, the dissidents in Turkey and abroad, including the Kurdish opposition. We have to avoid the idea that anything that works against the ruling party is good for the opposition, or that the collapse of authoritarian rules will automatically lead to a bright democratic future. The struggle for democracy should under all circumstances be persistent and fearless; it should never resort to mindlessness and carelessness.