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Turkey left Kurds nothing but with assimilation!

Last week on Saturday, we started the day with the news of a military operation by the Turkish Armed Forces in Northern Iraq. During this operation called Claw-Eagle, more than 10 Turkish soldiers, intelligence agents, and civilians died in a cave between two hills. They had been kept hostage or captive by PKK almost six years.

PKK (The Kurdistan Workers’ Party) was keeping them as bargaining chips to exchange with some PKK members in Turkish prisons. We will not discuss hostage operations of PKK or using them as bargaining chips. Of course, this is unrighteous and illegitimate. No one can defend it. However, it is questionable that this kind of military operation could save those hostages. Meanwhile, the expectations of the decision-makers of this operation (probably including the Erdogan regime) should be questioned.


First of all, there is a key point to be determined: PKK was keeping prisoners to exchange with its members in Turkish prisons. So, there are two possibilities about how they died during the operation: 1) PKK killed them since bargaining with the Turkish Armed Forces was no longer possible, 2) They died during the bombardment. Both possibilities would be the direct result of the military operation. I think the Erdogan regime was well aware of the possibility of results of such an operation.

Since saving hostages with such an operation was not likely, why did they order it? What were their expectations? Most possibly, the main objective of Erdogan and the ‘deep state’ is to bring the Kurdish political movement out of legitimate politics. HDP (The Peoples’ Democratic Party, Halkların Demokratik Partisi in Turkish), achieved to increase its votes especially in Western Turkey since 2015 and the 10-percent election threshold is no longer a threat for them. It became the third party in the Turkish parliament. Selahattin Demirtas and other constructive politicians included many effective figures from various circles and ethnic groups and transformed the HDP from a Kurdish party into a Turkish left wing democratic movement. This was a great achievement. We cannot define the CHP as a leftist party and this fact is clearer now. On the other hand, the HDP is the only party effectively resisting rapidly establishing the autharitarian Erdogan regime which has been consolidated since 2016.


Erdogan was in a desperate situation because of the anti-corruption investigation against his inner circle and he negotiated with the ‘deep state’ to be saved. And he ended the Kurdish opening or the Solution Process in return. In fact, Oslo negotiations with the PKK and regular talks with Abdullah Ocalan ( founder of PKK) at Imrali prison were ordered by Erdogan and the AKP (Justice and Development Party). Moreover, Erdogan challenged criticisms of the MHP( Nationalist Movement Party, Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi in Turkish) and the CHP (Republican People’s Party, Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi in Turkish) about these talks. He clearly stated that he had ordered these talks and made this attitude an integral part of his party’s profile. As a result, the AKP collected votes from the Kurdish population concentrated in southeastern Turkey. Conservative Kurds were comfortable with casting ballots for the AKP. They also cooperated with the HDP in the parliament and allowed HDP politicians to meet with Ocalan for the sake of mediation. The ruling party took more steps like establishing a Kurdish public TV channel and opening Kurdish literature departments in universities. All these steps were taken back once and for all after December 17 corruption investigation in 2013. Turkey abruptly did a sharp u-trun from these policies to the hawkish and merciless ones against Kurds just like in the 90s.

In 2015, the Kurdish political movement became one of the archenemies of Erdogan. Turkish forces bombed and leveled some Kurdish towns with the ground. Heavy weapons were used in Cizre and Diyarbakir (especially Sur district). People could not bury their deaths because of the intense fire. Dead bodies were dragged by military vehicles in the streets. Howling wolves and three crescent figures of the Gray Wolves were drawn on the walls of Kurdish houses. Dark days began with otherization and executions for Kurds.

This fact should be understood: The state denying Kurds their fundamental rights, assimilating them, jailing their elected representatives, replacing Kurdish mayors and appointing trustees, and even preventing them to give Kurdish names to their children is the same state oppressing the other political and social groups in Turkey! Now they expect us to believe their story of the “hostage saving operation”. But it is no more a trustable state. It declared hundreds of thousands of citizens terrorists and traitors overnight. It jailed hundreds of journalists with fabricated evidence. Turkey is the second-worst jailer of journalists after China. Freedom of the press had never been under such a fierce attack in modern Turkey. Now this state is telling a story and declaring another group as traitors and terrorists. Of course, I am not talking about the PKK. But the HDP and the leftists are the targets of the regime just like the Gulen movement.

Be honest to yourself and answer: Can Kurdish people freely take part in politics in the current circumstances? They were called to take part in politics in a legitimate political landscape rather than fighting in the mountains. But are they allowed to do this? Where are Demirtas, dozens of other Kurdish MPs, and elected mayors now? In prison. What does Turkey offer today for Kurds other than assimilation?


Are Kurds equal citizens in Turkey? If you are really honest, you cannot say yes. Kurds have no future in this Turkey. Kurds are second-class citizens today. They can be tolerated only if they are assimilated and waive fundamental rights of Kurdish identity.

As a social scientist, I should state: Kurdish separatism will never end until a ‘federalist’ solution is applied. And when the rule of law weakens, Kurdish separatism strengthens in Turkey. But no one can claim that Erdogan and his deep-state partners from MHP shares these facts or concerns. Even CHP and IYI Party (Good Party) share the same anti-Kurdish sentiment with AKP, MHP, and the deep state structures. There is no doubt that ‘Kurdophobia’ is the most common ground of the Turkish state. Erdogan is betting on this sentiment. Nobody from either CHP or IYI Party can take the risk to criticize the government’s harshening Kurdish policies. The plan is clear. They will gamble on nationalism and anti-Kurd sentiment to benefit from reflexes of national unity. Their objective is to push the HDP out of legitimate politics and fill the gap with the AKP and the MHP. This may also be an early or surprise election plan.

And the possible scenario: They will harshen the regime and increase the level of Kurdophobia which is already an immanent part of the Turk-Islam synthesis. Nothing could legitimate closing down of the HDP and pushing the Kurdish political movement to an illegal point more than the death of more than a dozen people. When the opposition ‘Nation Alliance’ ends, the consolidation of the regime will go into new phases. I think this is the main objective of this operation. Yet, these hostages could have been saved. A prisoner exchange could have been possible. Many states like Israel and Britain did not hesitate to go into this kind of negotiations on many occasions and they freed tens of militants in exchange for a single soldier. Soldiers, intelligence officers, and civilians died in this operation. Was it worth it?

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Dr. Mehmet Efe Caman is a Scholar of Politics at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN). Dr. Caman’s main research focuses on Democracy, democratization and human rights, Turkish politics, the Middle East, Eurasian politics and post-Soviet regions, the European Union. He has published a monograph on Turkish foreign policy, numerous book chapters and scholarly articles in English, German and Turkish about topics related to his research areas.

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