AKP’s attack on HDP will jeopardize ties with West

AKP’s attack on HDP will jeopardize ties with West

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government continues its cross border operations full speed, as the Turkish Air Forces conduct intensified bombardments on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) targets in the northern Iraq. The attacks on the PKK camps, headquarters and logistics facilities began last week simultaneously with a separate campaign on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) although the latter seems to be weaker and less efficient in comparison with the former. 

Of course, all countries have the right to take security measures and actively fight against terror organizations in a bid to protect their citizens, as well as the public order. Terror acts do not only target civilians and security officials but also democratic values, freedoms and the peace of a country. Recent terror attacks in the country in the last two weeks claiming scores of lives are of this kind and obviously need to be responded to. An aerial campaign on the PKK facilities as well as internal security raids should be counted in this frame. 

However, the government is not only fighting the PKK but also the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and its top leaders, a party that received 13 percent of votes in the last elections. In parallel with the operations, a smear campaign against Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ was kicked off by senior AKP officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. 

A number of criminal complaints issued by AKP officials poured in right after Erdoğan called for the prosecution of individual leaders of the HDP, while summary of proceedings about nine lawmakers have been submitted to parliament. The AKP brought the fight against the PKK to the political arena and to the parliament at the expense of ignoring the votes of 6.5 million Turkish people cast for the HDP. 

For many, this is already an indication that the AKP will use its fight against the PKK and the HDP as part of its early election campaign, when it will depict the HDP as not much different from the outlawed PKK. It seems it’s not important for the AKP to deny its three-year efforts to mature the Kurdish peace process, as it realized that it could not capitalize on it in polls. That’s the main reason why Erdoğan and the government suspended the Kurdish peace process and jumped back to its nationalist rhetoric and actions.  

International reactions on recent developments have been balanced so far, as almost all allies of Turkey acknowledged its right to fight terror, the ISIL and the PKK. 

However, Turkey’s Western partners, especially the European Union, are likely to voice their concerns as this smear campaign on HDP leaders grows. The calls for resumption of dialogue and end of armed conflict will likely be raised more frequently in the coming days. 

Just to recall: EU’s chief diplomat phoned Demirtaş on July 26; EU ambassadors met the two co-leaders on July 31, the same day Johannes Hann, EU’s commissioner for enlargement, held a phone conversation with him again. Ambassadors of the United States and United Kingdom, as well the Iranian envoy, met Demirtaş separately last week to be informed about these developments. 

The message is clear: a prolonged operation into northern Iraq would not be welcomed. This would harm the stability reached in the region, while Iraqi and Syrian Kurds have become number one allies of the U.S. in the fight against ISIL. The second message is that the Turkish government should stop attacking the democratically elected HDP and its leaders. 

The government’s insistence on these issues will further hurt its relations with its Western allies.