What is happening in Turkey now shows how deep the world community has stuck in double standards. Protecting the rights of all sorts of minorities (for instance, gays in Chechnya - no one has ever seen a gay there), they ignore the rights of the people who have been resisting the annihilation policy for decades, particularly, Kurds. In Iraq, they have managed to create autonomy that certainly guarantees their rights and security, but they can just dream of such autonomy in Turkey. Even dreaming in Turkey is not safe. Intimidation, punitive operations, ethnic cleansing have become a common thing for the country where the authorities fail to be on civilized terms with part of the population. Kurds in the southeast of Turkey have found themselves on the verge of extermination.
Nearly 15 million Kurds reside in the territory of modern Turkey accounting for 15%-20% of total population. According to Kurdish organizations, they number nearly 20 million. Although they are densely populated in the southeast of Turkey, there is a significant number of Kurds also in central regions, in the west, mostly in Izmir, and in big cities such as Istanbul, Mersin and Adana.
Repressions of Turkish authorities forced many Kurds to flee their homes and move to central and western provinces. Yet in 1980s, when fighting against units of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Turkish troops deported over one million of people allegedly cooperating with PKK. There have been five failed attempts to reconcile with PKK. Turkey’s government started persecuting also representatives of Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), the most influential political organization of Kurds in the country. Successor of Democratic Society Party – a Kurdish nationalist party banned in December, 2009 – BDP heads administrations of 98 cities and regions, including a megacity, 7 regional centers, 51 district centers, 39 other municipal units. At present, 6 parliamentarians of Peace and Democracy Party are under arrest on charge of complicity with banned PKK. Under such pretext, Turkish troops have been conducting a military operation in the regions densely populated with Kurds since December, 2015.
Informal capital of Turkish Kurdistan, Diyarbakir, is regularly surrounded by Turkish troops. The city’s activity has been paralyzed fully. The so-called “counter-terrorist operation” has resulted in destruction of hundreds of communities. Some settlements have been ruined completely, including the areas around Nusaybin, Cizre and Silopi. Witnesses say Turkish troops apply various types of banned weapons, including cluster bombs, in addition to air strikes and artillery. At present, more than one million people have fled their homes. Migration of the Kurdish population continues.
Turkish human rights organizations are raising alarm. The civilian casualty ratio keeps rising, as military actions continue. Families bearing no relation to Kurdish rebels have become victims to military operations. Atrocities are reported. Witnesses say that in Nusaybin, Turkish troops bombed houses with women, children and elderly people inside. Civilians, including women and children, have been burned alive in basements where they hid from air strikes.
Dozens of burnt bodies, mostly civilians, were found in villages near Mardin and Midyat provinces. Not far from Nusaybin, beheaded Kurdish rebels were found. Civilians in Cizre were executed, though Turkish troops were informed that rebels had left the town by that time. That is why Turkish authorities do not let foreign journalists visit the given regions. Everyone who dares to travel to those regions are arrested, including foreign journalists. Curfew in the southeast just intensifies persecutions and outrage. According to different sources, including Turkish general staff, local media and Human Rights Watch NGO, casualties, including civilian, military and partisan, have reached several thousands of people. The infrastructures in the region have been damaged severely.
Noteworthy that during the recent years, Kurds had been actively restoring Diyarbakir, Mardin, Midyat and other towns in the region, restoring the tourism sector. The local self-government helped ethnic and religious groups in the region start their small businesses, cultural and religious centers, organizations. Diyarbakir was symbolizing tolerance in Turkey. Meantime, Ankara perceives any sign of tolerance as a threat to national security. The ongoing outrage against Kurds may be Turkey’s regular attempt to change demography in the region by force. Destabilization of the situation in the regions with ethnic Kurdish population prompts migration to Western countries having big Kurdish communities. Turkey purposefully destroys Kurdish genetic pool, killing representatives of Kurdish elite, creating unbearable living conditions, which deteriorates the social and economic situation in the region and leads to poverty. The Turkish authorities fear strengthening of political organizations in the regions populated with Kurds. Politicians loyal to the government usually win nation-wide elections in Turkey, while oppositionists face imprisonment.
Lack of unity in Turkey helps the authorities successfully remove the Kurdish factor from agenda.
Many parliamentarians in Turkey are Kurds by origin, but they not only fail to protect the rights of their compatriots, but also assist to repressions and outrage. There are many ethnic Kurds in the government too, including several deputy prime ministers and ministers, who do nothing to help their people. Besides, the authorities try to create new parties and organizations to divide the population into loyal and not loyal ones, which will help disintegrate the Kurdish voters.
It appears that Turkey’s president is trying to settle the Kurdish issue by force. First, Erdogan’s hardline policy on Syrian Kurds helps him wage the fight inside the country too. The authorities believe that Syrian Kurds and the ones in the southeast of Turkey pursue common goals. Therefore, Turkish troops try to threw armed groups of Kurds from the key positions in Syria, first. U.S. and Russia will not be creating any serious obstacles to Turkey. Counter-terrorist operations on the southeast of Turkey will be continued to weaken the combat efficiency of local rebels. Turkey will continue its dialogue with Iraqi Kurds that do not interfere with the internal affairs of their Turkish compatriots. Common economic interests of Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan have turned into a certain format of cooperation against Turkish and Syrian Kurds.
And finally, the recent referendum in Turkey has granted the highest possible power to Erdogan, which will affect the Kurdish issue seriously.
International organizations have been putting a blind eye to Turkish army’s atrocities in the regions populated with Kurds for many years. Besides, in cooperation with Turkey, Western countries have put Kurdish military and political unions on the list of terrorist organizations. With the current strain in the relations of Turkey and EU, Brussels has remembered about the Kurdish issue.
While part of the world community is trying to “sympathize” with Kurds, ethnic purges continue in the southeast of Turkey and it is nearly impossible to stop them in the current geopolitical conditions.
Arman Hakobyan for EADaily