Saturday, December 19, 2015

Turkey, Kurds, Ferguson, and the West's Conundrum

A House Foreign Affairs Committee bill would provide giving Iraqi Kurdistan, directly, anti-tank and anti-armor weapons, armored vehicles, long-range artillery, crew-served weapons and ammunition, secure command and communications equipment, body armor, helmets, logistics equipment, excess defense articles and other military assistance that the President determines to be appropriate.   In fact, whatever Turkey's Kurds need to establish an autonomous Kurdistan in Turkey.

A Senate bill co-sponsored by  some Democrats and by Republican presidential candidates Rand Paul (Ky.), Marco Rubio (Fla.). Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) provides for directly arming to the Kurds, rather than arming them through Bagdad.

President Obama objects.  The stated basis of  the objection is that arming Kurds directly would further weaken the Shiite-controlled national Iraqi government in Bagdad.

An unstated but more compelling objection is that it would trouble a NATO partner, Turkey.  For background, see

t Asia 

Kurds and Turkey are at war.

Turkey has good reason to fear arming Kurds.  Kurds are the best fighters around, and Turkey treated its Kurds abominably until it decided it wanted to join the European Union, which ha high standards of treating its peoples.  Now that desire is fading and Turkey is looking eastward, to the Turkic Union, and is again treating Kueds badly.

From the West's point of view, Kurds are the best fighters around against the Islamic State; [IS] and Kurds were the best allies the West had in the Bushco's Iraq War.  The West has good reason to arm the Kurds.

How to support the Kurds and Turkey and end IS at the same time?  Certainly not with bluster,as the Republicans propose, but cautiously, deliberately, and with careful diplomacy.  That approach doesn't make good sound bites; it does make good sense.

Here is some useful information about unrest in Turkey, more organized than in any other Western country, for now.  (Turkey is Western, though Islamic -- for now.)

December 15, 2015
Demonstrators remove security barriers during a protest against the curfew in the Sur district of the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Turkey, Dec. 14, 2015. (photo by REUTERS/Sertac Kayar)
 Ocalan silent as Kurds' fight for self-rule rages on
The cobbled alleys of Diyarbakir’s ancient Sur district are filled with shell casings and shattered glass. Black-masked teenagers touting Kalashnikovs and hand grenades mill around sandbag fortifications.
“We will defend our neighborhood till the last drop of our blood, till the revolution in Kurdistan is complete,” one of the youths told an Al-Monitor correspondent in Sur. That was on Dec. 11, when the Turkish authorities briefly eased a curfew that was slapped on six neighborhoods in Sur almost two weeks ago, allowing trapped residents to flee with the few possessions they managed to grab. “We are caught in the war. What else can we do? All we pray for now is peace,” said Remziye Kaya, a mother of six, as she hurried away with a small electrical stove.

Peace seems an increasingly elusive goal ever since a two-year cease-fire between Turkey’s Islamist government and rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) collapsed in the wake of a deadly suicide bomb attack carried out by the Islamic State (IS) in the town of Suruc. Some 33 peace activists, many of them Kurds, were killed.

The PKK has long claimed that Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has used IS to sabotage the Syrian Kurds’ experiment with self-rule in the steadily expanding band of territory they control along the Turkish border they call Rojava.

Conspiracy theories abound as to who reignited the 31-year conflict — the government or the PKK — and why. At this point it hardly matters; the war is swiftly escalating, and the Kurds have raised the stakes like never before.

In a clutch of towns and cities across Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast, armed youngsters loyal to Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned PKK leader, and calling themselves the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H), have seized control of entire streets and neighborhoods, erecting barriers and declaring autonomy. The spirit of rebellion has permeated Sur, where pro-PKK slogans and posters of the mustachioed Ocalan cover bullet-riddled walls. Several young fighters interviewed by Al-Monitor all said that they would end their revolt only if ordered to do so by Ocalan. But since April 6, the Turkish authorities have not allowed any of his regular visitors, including the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmakers who used to carry messages from him, to meet with Ocalan in his island prison.
The resulting vacuum has been filled by Cemil Bayik, the hard-line PKK commander who says he supports the YDG-H’s moves.
“This is a first, and the unrest could spread to the rest of the country,” warned Ahmet Sumbul, the managing editor of Mucadele, an independent local daily. “Don’t forget there are 5 million Kurds in Istanbul alone and most are young, unemployed and alienated, too,” he told Al-Monitor. Many are the children of the 1.5 million or so Kurds who were forced to flee their villages in the 1990s as a result of the scorched-earth campaign against the Kurds.
Martin van Bruinessen, a respected Dutch scholar and the author of several groundbreaking books on the Kurds, noted in an interview with Al-Monitor, “A few years ago, they were throwing stones at the police; now, a few years older, they carry firearms.” Local sources told Al-Monitor that these weapons are mostly being funneled by the PKK. The YDG-H “don't seem to be particularly afraid of being killed. The current level of state violence is likely to radicalize them even further. Unless the state is willing to kill large numbers of them, this is a war the state cannot win. And it will not be easy to stop the escalation,” van Bruinessen added.

While few believe that the YDG-H can hold the areas under its control indefinitely, its actions are piling pressure on the AKP, which became the first Turkish government to openly negotiate with the PKK and Ocalan. But the government’s refusal to grant the Kurds' demands for political autonomy enshrined in a brand-new constitution lies at the heart of the current deadlock.

Arzu Yilmaz, an Ankara-based academic who studies the Kurds, told Al-Monitor, “The Kurds want to be formally acknowledged as self-governing equal partners and for this new arrangement to be constitutionally guaranteed.”

Her views are widely echoed by PKK commanders and the HDP alike. Hishyar Ozsoy, an HDP lawmaker from Bingol, whose great grandfather, the legendary Sheikh Said, led one of the earliest Kurdish rebellions in 1925, said in an interview with Al-Monitor, “This is not about human rights. This is about collective rights, and nothing short of self-rule will satisfy the Kurds.”

“But the government is stuffing its ears,” he added.

To be sure, the government is growing more hawkish by the day. Round-the-clock curfews are being repeatedly imposed over traditionally restive towns like Silvan, Nusaybin and Cizre.

Some 22 mayors from the pro-Kurdish HDP have been locked up on thinly supported terrorism charges. “Special” police and military teams backed by tanks and armored personnel carriers have laid siege to the “liberated” zones and engaged in bloody street battles in a bid to flush and starve the youths out. They seem to be switching tactics.

“When the state temporarily lifts the curfews, it’s so that civilians can leave,” explained Gultan Kisanak, the fiery co-mayor of Diyarbakir in an interview with Al-Monitor. “The immediate purpose is to have a free hand to crush the youths. The larger goal is to scatter the Kurds, just as they did in the ’90s.”

Her reasoning may well be true and is repeated in public by fellow HDP officials. This in turn places huge moral pressure on ordinary Kurds caught in the crossfire to risk their lives and stay.

“The breakdown of the peace process and willingness of the Turkish government and PKK to bring war to the cities is taking a terrible toll on the Kurdish population,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, a senior Turkey researcher for Human Rights Watch. “Credible allegations of police ill-treatment are on the rise. The enormous hardships people face under curfews with armed clashes raging — no water, no electricity, no food, no schooling, no medical treatment — mean that people are being driven out of the affected neighborhoods,” she noted in an email exchange with Al-Monitor.

Figures vary, but at least 150 people are said to have died since the violence flared in June. Muharrem Erbey, a respected human rights lawyer and member of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party, an HDP affiliate, believes that the security forces are responsible for most of the deaths. Reports of torture under police detention are also on the rise. “One of my clients had a truncheon repeatedly jammed up against his anus in a police van. He can barely walk,” Erbey told Al-Monitor in an interview.

The government may be calculating that the endless self-sacrifice being demanded of ordinary Kurds will turn them against the PKK. Meanwhile, Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu declared that the security forces would go “door to door” to root the “terrorists” out.

In Sur alone, thousands of businesses have been shut down. “Sur is the commercial heart not only of Diyarbakir but of the entire southeast,” said Shah Ismail Bedirhanoglu, who presides over the Southeastern Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association. He told Al-Monitor, “We are ruined, but it is poor people who are paying the highest price.”

Some HDP officials agree that popular anger is rising. “If there were an election today, the HDP would not make it into the parliament,” Imam Tascier, an HDP lawmaker from Diyarbakir, told Al-Monitor. Yet Tascier insists that the government is to blame for the current impasse, and like the youths in Sur, he believes Ocalan needs to be brought out of his isolation. Bedirhanoglu agrees.

“Ocalan’s silence is sowing confusion in the minds of the HDP and the PKK,” he said. “Above all, the Turkish state has to recognize the Kurds' demands for self-rule. The alternative, Allah forbid, is an all-out civil war,” Bedirhanoglu concluded.

Amberin Zaman
Amberin Zaman is an Istanbul-based writer who has covered Turkey for The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Telegraph and the Voice of America. A frequent commentator on Turkish television, she is currently Turkey correspondent for The Economist, a position she has retained since 1999. She is a columnist for Al-Monitor's Turkey Pulse. On Twitter: @amberinzaman


Abdullah Öcalan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
❊    ❊    ❊
Abandoning his precapture policy, which involved violence targeting civilians as well as military personnel, Öcalan has advocated a relatively peaceful solution to the Kurdish conflict inside the borders of Turkey.[55][56][57][58][59] Öcalan called for the foundation of a "Truth and Justice Commission" by Kurdish institutions in order to investigate war crimes committed by the PKK and Turkish security forces; a parallel structure began functioning in May 2006.[60] In March 2005, Abdullah Öcalan issued the Declaration of Democratic Confederalism in Kurdistan[61] calling for a border-free confederation between the Kurdish regions of Eastern Turkey (called "Northern Kurdistan" by Kurds[62]), East Syria ("Western Kurdistan"), Northern Iraq ("South Kurdistan"), and West of Iran ("East Kurdistan"). In this zone, three bodies of law would be implemented: EU law, Turkish/Syrian/Iraqi/Iranian law and Kurdish law. This perspective was included in the PKK programme following the "Refoundation Congress" in April 2005.[63]

Since his incarceration, Öcalan has significantly changed his ideology, reading Western social theorists such as Murray Bookchin, Immanuel Wallerstein, Fernand Braudel,[64] fashioned his ideal society as "Democratic Confederalism" (drawing heavily on Bookchin's Communalism),[65] [see Part 2, Opportunities and Dangers in Wet Asia, supra] and refers to Friedrich Nietzsche as "a prophet".[66] He also wrote books[67] and articles[68] on the history of pre-capitalist Mesopotamia and Abrahamic religions.

Öcalan had his lawyer, Ibrahim Bilmez,[69] release a statement 28 September 2006, calling on the PKK to declare a ceasefire and seek peace with Turkey. Öcalan's statement said, "The PKK should not use weapons unless it is attacked with the aim of annihilation," and that it is "very important to build a democratic union between Turks and Kurds. With this process, the way to democratic dialogue will be also opened".[70] He made another such declaration in March 2013.

On 31 May 2010, however, Öcalan said he was abandoning an ongoing dialogue between him and Turkey saying that "this process is no longer meaningful or useful". Turkey ignored his three protocols for negotiation that included (a) his terms of health and security (b) his release and (c) a peaceful resolution to the Kurdish issue in Turkey. Though the Turkish government received these protocols, they were never published. Öcalan stated that he would leave the top PKK commanders in charge of the conflict. However, he also said that his comments should not be misinterpreted as a call for the PKK to intensify its armed conflict with the Turkish state.[71][72]

More recently, Öcalan has shown renewed cooperation with the Turkish government and hope for a peaceful resolution to three decades of conflict. On 21 March 2013, Öcalan declared a ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish state. Öcalan's statement was read to hundreds of thousands of Kurds gathered to celebrate the Kurdish New Year and it states, "Let guns be silenced and politics dominate... a new door is being opened from the process of armed conflict to democratization and democratic politics. It's not the end. It's the start of a new era." Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed the statement and hope for a peaceful settlement has been raised on both sides.

Soon after Öcalan's declaration was read, the functional head of the PKK, Murat Karayılan responded by promising to implement the ceasefire, stating, "Everyone should know the PKK is as ready for peace as it is for war".


Recent images of Kurdish unrest in Western Turkey:

Kurdish leader calls for 'honourable resistance' after Turkish forces kill 55

A picture made avaliable 18 August 2015, Members of Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H) youth organization of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), guard in Silvan district, near city of Diyarbakir, Turkey, 17 August 2015. EPA/STR

After killing of Diyarbakır Bar President Tahir Elçi, curfew has been declared second time in Turkey’s southeastern Sur district of Diyarbakır province

Clashes have erupted in Turkey’s southeastern Diyarbakır province after police refused to permit a rally protesting an ongoing curfew. Two people were killed and two others were wounded in the violence

Demonstrators gesture during a protest against the curfew in Sur district in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır on Dec. 14

Walled city of Sur, Turkey


       Oh the folks will rise 
With the sleep still in their eyes
And they’ll jerk from their beds and think they’re’
But they’ll pinch themselves and squeal
And know that it’s for real
The hour when the ship comes in 
Then they’ll raise their hands
Sayin’ we’ll meet all your demands
But we’ll shout from the bow your days are numbered
And like Pharoah’s tribe
They’ll be drownded in the tide
And like Goliath, they’ll be conquered
                                        Bob Dylan, in an early incarnation, when he still trusted the people . . . .

No comments: