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Rebellion of Kurds in Diyarbakir: “price to be paid” is Turkey

Protesting Kurds in Diyarbakir. Photo: rusvesna.su

On February 8, 2016, the West once again came into discredit after armed squads in several European big cities (Paris, Zurich and others) brutally dispersed many-thousand-strong protests and marches of the Kurd refugees from Turkey. The demands of the Kurds to the West were clear – “Stop genocide of Kurds in Turkey!” Actually, the western community was reminded of its months-long indifference to what is happening in the southeast of Turkey. Turkish Kurds, including leader of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş who paid a private visit to Russia in late December 2015, has been beating the alarm and directly calling the crimes of the Turkish authorities in the towns of Şırnak, Yüksekova and Cizre as genocide of Kurds. Unfortunately, the “democratic” West sent out a word that it does not care for all that.

However, now the situation in the territories historically known as Western Armenia and Mesopotamia is much more dramatic. By some data, at least 30,000 Kurdish guerrillas mainly from the Workers Party of Kurdistan (PKK) are fighting against Turkey' security forces. There are also members of Kurdistan Hawks - a little-known organization, as well as of various leftist youth groups and other squads among them.

Terror assaults against Kurds in Diyarbakir started yet in May 2015, but the situation has grown extremely tense since September 8 when in response to the police violence one of the Kurdish groups attacked Turkey’s security officers: two gendarmes were killed and Ankara imposed a curfew in Diyarbakir, the so-called “capital of the Turkish Kurdistan.” However, the December terror attack in Sur that killed dozens of Kurds has inherently sparked an armed rebellion. It started with protests of Sur residents demanding to cancel the ban on public demonstrations. Turkish gendarmes dispersed the protests using riot control tools and then even weapons. Clashes spiraled into skirmishes. On December 14, 2 were killed and 4 were wounded in the clashes with the Gendarmerie. According to Ihlas Haber Turkish news agency, clashes continued on the following day too and Diyarbakir resembled a “battlefield.” It was widely rumored that a local Armenian (Catholic) Church was damaged. The rumors were confirmed after a while. Reportedly, the Turkish police officers even robbed the church.

It was after those incidents that the Turkish government actually declared martial law, deployed troops, including armored vehicles. Combat air force controls Diyarbakir. Needless to say that not only foreigners but also Turkish parliamentarians, human rights defenders, mass media and others were not let to the city. The developments in December enabled Kurdish guerrillas to oust the troops and seize Silvan, a small town not far from Diyarbakir. It is hard to say what happened there next. By all appearances, since late January – early February, the “capital of Turkish Kurdistan” became a battlefield of Kurds and Turks. On February 1, three Turkish officers and two gendarmes were wounded in the town. The two officers died at hospital. Since February 2, tanks, armored vehicles and jet aviation have been used against Kurds (video footage is available online). Apparently, the zone of hostilities is expanding – “Special Security Zone” (i.e. martial law) was announced in Tunceli and Agri provinces, including around Ararat Mount, like in August 2015. Maybe it was just a dramatic coincidence, but the situation escalated even more after Selina Doğan, an MP from the oppositional (“Kemalists”) Republican People Party (CHP) somehow entered Diyarbakir. Later, after leaving the town, she shared her impressions on Facebook calling Diyarbakir… Tigranakert. Both the Turkish nationalists and the notorious “moderate Islamists” led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ahmet Davutoglu, who continue their policy of “Neo-Ottomanism,” were extremely concerned about that post in social media.  

Whether Selina Doğan is Armenian by origin – as Turkish media claimed – is a racial and ethnic question rather than political, considering that the Turkish society is “incurably sick” with various phobias towards non-Turks. Meantime, recalling the historical name of that city – Tigranakert – the deputy actually recalled that the notorious “Kurdish problem” in the Middle East is coupled with the Armenian Cause in “Big Politics.” Tigranakert is the capital of the Armenian king Tigran the Great. It was neither Turkish nor Kurdish city. Later the occupants of Western Armenia and Mesopotamia renamed it for several times (Amid, Diyarbakir). Since last summer, it has been reported that Turkey broke the ceasefire with Kurds from PKK and the Kurds, in turn, resumed the armed fight etc. In addition, after the nephew of Abdullah Ocalan, the former leader of PKK, was killed in Vienna, the Kurdish leader urged his supporters “to stop visiting him at prison” on Imrali Island and “forget him.” This was interpreted as almost a direct order for Kurds to be ready for sacrificing Ocalan and for escalation of the war against Ankara. It was clear that the clashes with Turkish security forces would sooner or later reach Diyarbakir – Tigranakert.

However, the situation is much more complicate. It was not for nothing that the February 8 large-scale protests of Kurds in European cities demanding to stop genocide in the southeast of Turkey were coupled with other developments, statements and comments. On that day, Turks were bombing the rebellious Sur province. Video footage of those bombardments is not very clear, but the fire of mortars and tanks is heard very clearly. Destroyed buildings and facilities are an evidence of the fact that like last summer-autumn in Şırnak, Yüksekova and Cizre, Turks targeted civilian facilities. Since last December, the Turkish government has been reporting very contradictory data of their success in Diyarbakir and Cizre - either 6-70 or 750 killed “militants.” Therefore, one can think that Diyarbakir (it was not a small city!) was entirely occupied by PKK troops and their allies. As for the Kurdish activists, they report no figures, just saying that more than 90% of the killed Kurds are civilians, not guerrillas.

On the same day, President Erdogan launched forth into an anti-American panegyric with rhetorical questions: “How can we (Turks) trust you (U.S.)? Is it me who is your partner or the terrorists in Kobani?” As you can see, the Turkish leader spoke about Syrian Kurds, not the Turkish ones, as there are temporary centers for training armed squads of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Ayn-al-Arab (Kobani). On January 29 in Geneva, during the Syria Peace Talks, Turkey and the henchmen of Ankara and Saudi Arabia blocked PYD Leader Salih al-Muslim from the process despite the demands of Russia and Iran.

It is known that during the Geneva Talks, U.S. representatives led by Brett McGurk, President Barack Obama's special envoy to the Global Coalition to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, visited Ayn-Al-Arab and met with PYD military command – Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG). It is noteworthy that another two incidents happened after that visit:

1) Kurds of Syria’s northeast resumed protests against Turkish occupation and its attempts to transfer the borders deeper into the territory of Turkey. Kurds remind that Turks crossed the border yet on December 22 (!): “We told them that they are violating our rights and penetrating into private areas. They responded that they act in conformity with the Command’s orders. Ankara ordered transferring the border. Although, the local residents took the streets, they pulled the necessary vehicles and began to work,” a resident of Syria’s north, Kurd by nationality, Yusuf Ramadan told RT. Kurds provided a video footage demonstrating that Turkish bulldozers are building fortifications inside Syria. Earlier last summer, some media outlets reported about plans to create a buffer zone on the border of Turkey and Syria. On January 30 2016, local residents launched the first protests against Ankara. On February 4, the protests continued.

2) Amina Osei (PYD), Jazira Canton VP of Foreign Relations, said a representation of the Syrian Kurds will open in Moscow on February 20. Later offices will open in Washington, London, Berlin, and some Arab countries.

On February 8, the Turkish authorities “invited” German Chancellor Angela Merkel for “persuasion” and squeezed incredible verbal concessions out of Germany - Turks are “devoted friends,” Kurds are “terrorists” and Russia’s actions result in “sufferings of thousands of women and children.” On February 9, in Budapest, Foreign Minister of Turkey Mevlut Cavushoglu urged the friends and allies of Turkey to choose between Ankara and the Islamic State terrorist organization. It is evident what makes Ankara to feel that nervous and hysterically demand its NATO allies to make a choice. First, Russia and Iran are gradually increasing the “indoctrination” of Kurds, though the Syrian ones so far. Second, yet ahead of Geneva-3, the Syrian authorities met and agreed with the Syrian Kurdish organizations and PKK in Al-Qamishli and Deir-ez-Zor. Third, Brett McGurk’s visit to Ayn-al-Arab unveiled Washington’s intention to “compete” with Russia and Iran for the Syrian Kurds, which made Ankara guess that U.S. is ready to sacrifice it for its own success. Fourth, on February 8, at a briefing in Washington, State Department spokesman John Kirby failed to say who it Washington’s ally in the fight against “IS” – Turks or Kurds? He described Turkey as an “ally,” a “friend” and a “partner.” In response to the verifying question “How do you manage a situation where your one ally considers your other ally a terrorist?” Kirby failed to say who was more helpful in the fight against ISIS – Turkey or the Kurdish fighters. “Everybody who has taken the fight to Daesh is helpful in their own way,” he said.

Turkey does not doubt that Syria has agreed with “its” Kurds and PKK. Therefore, it could have acted in cooperation with Russia and Iran and the Kurdish rebellion in Diyarbakir, Cizre and other cities could be a response to Ankara’s “game” with the “Islamic State” and Barzani clan in Iraq. Turkey was extremely concerned also about the statements by Maria Zakharova, Russia’s Foreign Ministry official representative at a briefing in Moscow (on Feb 5) saying that a referendum for withdrawal of Iraqi Kurds from the country must be within the competence of relevant state agencies, while Moscow is for exercise of their rights “within the existing state borders.” That is, Russia will not support officially the secession of Iraqi Kurdistan from Iraq and destruction of that country. This will transfer the “Kurdish problem” at least to Syria, or even to Turkey. Actually, all this may reanimate the Armenian Cause – Turkish MP Selina Dogan deliberately or accidentally “remembered about it.” Ankara comprehends that the “Kurdish problem” and the Armenian Cause in a tandem is much worse than if anyone simply “remembers” about possibility of denouncing a range of treaties (“autonomy” of the Armenian vilayets in 1913; Sevres, Moscow, Kars and other treaties) and the “price to be paid” is Turkey.

Since February 7, the hostilities in Diyarbakir have calmed down – experts say both Turks and Kurds are waiting for military support…

Sergey Shakaryants, political analyst (Yerevan) for EADaily

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