Turkey’s 'Middle Easternization' process is now complete

Turkey’s 'Middle Easternization' process is now complete

Only two days after Turkey lost 16 of its soldiers in a heinous attack by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Dağlıca in southeastern Hakkari province, 14 police officers were massacred in an explosion on Sept. 8 in eastern Iğdır, on the border with Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic. These two most recent and most fatal incidents followed dozens of other terrorist activities since mid-July which have killed in total more than 100 security personnel and wounded dozens more. 

Differently from the initial stages of its acts, in which casualties were limited to one or two personnel, the PKK seemingly changed its tactics to increase the effect of its moves by multiplying the number of fallen soldiers and police officers. Rather than opening fire on security forces and ambushing them, the PKK now intends to kill more soldiers by planting strong explosives and mines on roads mainly used by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).

There is no a clear explanation why the PKK changed its tactics, but it can be observed this new campaign comes in reaction to intensified military operations by the Turkish army in the southeast and in the northern Iraq. Turkish warplanes have long been bombing PKK positions inside Turkey and in northern Iraq, which obviously annoyed the PKK’s leadership, especially at their headquarters in the Kandil Mountains in northern Iraq. 

It can also be claimed this new tense and fatal conflict between the PKK and the Turkish army is the clearest signal of the entire collapse of the Kurdish peace process with no chance to revive it, even after the Nov. 1 election. 

The situation we have found ourselves in is unfortunately not very promising for the future. Once described as the island of stability and comfort in its neighborhood, today’s outlook for Turkey does not offer anything other than an ordinary Middle Eastern country full of political instability, violence and broken social unity. Turkey’s image has been so rapidly tarnished in recent years that almost everybody has forgotten it was depicted as a rising star thanks to its democratic and economic achievements. 

Today’s Turkey has lost the chance to resolve one of its most important problems, the Kurdish question, through dialogue and peaceful means. Those in power do not hesitate to fully inactivate their political interlocutors through smear campaigns without considering the consequences of a long and destructive violent campaign on Turkish democracy, economy and social integrity. Reports of attacks on Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin as well as on the bureaus of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the western parts of the country in reaction to the PKK’s acts are enough to make us all deeply worry. Warnings from Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu that these developments should not kick-off a massive ethnic fight between Turks and Kurds in the country are timely and important, but we hope that it’s not too late.  

To make matters worse, a violent attack by a group of around 200 persons led by a Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmaker against daily Hürriyet’s building on late Sept. 6 has made us all deeply concerned about freedoms and democracy in this country. What is worse is the silence from government officials on the attack against one of the country’s most important mainstream media outlets. Remaining silent on such a violent act is obviously an indirect acknowledgement of the move and thus saying “It serves you right!”

Even indirect approval of such a violent act is one of the most important deviations from universal democratic norms and standards, which heralds the completion of Turkey’s Middle Easternization process.