Erdogan’s Broken Peace and its Catastrophic Aftermath

By Dr. Amir Sharifi:

The June 7 elections in Turkey and the electoral victory of the Kurdish Democratic Party (HDP) brought the world a new awareness of the Justice and Development Party ‘s (AKP) character and intentions in regards to the settlement issue and the global campaign against Islamic State. For over a decade before Recep Tayyib Erdogan became the Prime Minister and long before he became the President, Erdogan aggressively advocated the peace process. In both local and national elections, he used the settlement issue as his most important political strategy, which in essence reshaped the image of Turkey in the world. His insistence on the peace process created a contagious optimism among Kurds and non-Kurds. He repeatedly claimed that nothing would dissuade him from pursuing the peace process. With the exception of ultranationalists of the Nationalist Movement Part (MPH), most political parties including the Republican People’s Party (CHP) supported the settlement, seeking greater clarity about its content and directions.

The overwhelming majority of Kurds and their political parties in Turkey continued to support the settlement process despite some doubts and reservations. The US and Europeans Union embraced the settlement with eagerness. Procedural steps were taken; a commission of wise men was ritualistically formed; the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government Massoud Barzani was officially invited to Turkey to endorse and create greater momentum for the peace process, an occasion that AKP used to represent itself as a historic force that had the power and inclination to settle a troubling past. Confessions were made about past wrongdoing and promises of drastic economic reforms were made to rebuild marginalized Kurdish areas devastated and impoverished by the prolonged conflict and neglect. The question then is why Erdogan abandoned his crowning achievement and instead has reignited political hostility, reminding the world of the chronicles of violence of 1980s and 1990s as a result of which at least 40,000 people lost their lives.

Many analysts have argued that the settlement issue for Recep Tayyib Erdogan was a political ploy to strengthen enhance his national aggrandizement through the Kurdish votes; however, once the AKP government was about to lose and ultimately lost its votes to HDP in the June elections, the settlement issue lost its political appeal and traction. Erdogan himself directly embarked on ferociously naming and shaming Demirtash as his main rival and besmirching his political opponents and critics mercilessly in preparation for an all-out coup. Before leaving on a visit to China on July 28, Erdogan made it clear that he had already made up his mind about terminating the peace process when he declared, “I think it is impossible to continue the settlement process with those who target our national unity and brotherhood.” The attack on PKK was the culmination of what had already been brooding against all the other opposition parties, particularly HDP.

In an ostensible maneuver to target ISIS, the Turkish air force launched ceaseless air assaults on PKK bases in the Qandil Mountains and other PKK bases. Indiscriminate air raids have killed several civilians in areas in the Kurdish Regional Government’s region, prompting Masoud Barazani, the president of Kurdish Regional Government to condemn the attacks and call for the resumption of peace talks between PKK and Ankara. The Kurdish regions in Turkey have exploded with spiral violence as the Turkish security forces continue to attack and besiege Kurdish restive towns and districts. The Turkish Special Forces, under the pretext of a state of emergency have been imposing periodic curfews in several Kurdish towns including Varto, Semdinli, Farqin, Yukekova, Nusaybin, Lice, and Silvan where there have also been acts of violence against civilians, increasing extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, deliberate destruction of residents’ property and workplaces, and growing displacements of civilians let alone the PKK fighters and Turkish troops that have lost their lives in the deadly violence.

Erdogan’s purpose in these military strikes is to fan nationalistic feelings against Kurds in the hope of winning more votes in the early elections to regain the lost majority in the parliament. But the truth of the matter is that the six million people who voted for HDP are not prone to switch loyalties; nor will CHP voters be favorable to a political party that has shown itself to be governed more by political opportunism than a societal and moral outlook. Interestingly enough, a new poll recently conducted by the Gezici Research Company about a projected early election has found that respondents viewed all opposition parties including the HDP more favorably than the AKP. The results show “a 1.6 fall percentage points from the official results of the parliamentary election on June 7…the Pro HDP gained more support, increasing its votes from 13.12 in the general election to 14.1 percent in this survey.”

The AKP ostensibly joined the international coalition against ISIS to save itself from utter international isolation and to justify its war against Kurds who have already paid a high price in their decisive but effective fight against the Islamic State, which Turkey has yet to convince the world it has not supported. The US Defense Secretary Ash Carter on August 21 announced that Turkey is not carrying out its commitments in the war against the Islamic State nor is it tightening its borders, “a border over which logistics for ISIL and fighters cross, and so we’re looking for them to do more in that regard as well, and we’re in active discussions with them in that regard.” In the face of Turkish reluctance and even ties with Jihadists, those in the US administration who wanted to test Ankara’s strategy, have now seen that Erdogan is bent on defeating and destroying those who have proven the most effective in the war against the Islamic State. The US might have unknowingly in search of improved relations with Turkey contributed to Erdogan’s scheme to ensure his autocratic survival which was crumbling when his party lost its majority in parliament.

To put it simply, Erdogan has resorted to war against the PKK in the mountains to delegitimize the Kurdish political gains in the cities by manufacturing a false post-election crisis. Can the shaky peace process be saved before the conflict intensifies and expands even more? If there had existed any legal and political frameworks, on which the settlement was based, the peace process would not be so fragile to rest on the whims and wishes of politicians like Erdogan. At this point it seems that the violence will not decline without a third party intervention and international mediation; only a substantive negotiation with built in mechanisms about the renewed settlement process can contribute to both a genuine settlement process and the global war against the Islamic State.

Dr. Amir Sharifi – President of the Kurdish American Education Society Los Angeles

One Response to Erdogan’s Broken Peace and its Catastrophic Aftermath
  1. Jan Best de Vries
    August 22, 2015 | 15:43

    Dear Dr. Amir Sharifi,

    What I don’t understand is why the Kurdish organizations all over the USA don’t unite in explaining to both your media and government that its former president Woodrow Wilson has been tricked in 1916 by England and France, and again in 1919 on his 14 points of independence for all nations in the establishment of the British and French mandates Iraq and Syria and in 1923 in the unforeseen extension of Turkey in Anatolia,so that never a Kurdish state could be realized. What I mean is that the USA are not responsible for the mess we’re in now, so that your government should take the political initiative to finally put an end to it. We as non-Kurdish volunteers from small countries in Europe illegally help the Kurds in Rojava with weapons, with our private soldiers and teachers and are sending books to the libraries of the academies in Qamishlo and Amuda, but the Kurds in the US if united would be much more powerful to influence public opinion and to put pressure upon your goverment to at least protect the Kurdish population in West Asia. I foresee a civil war in Turkey and fear that the now free people in Rojava will be extinguished by Mr. Erdogan with the support of Mr. Obama. It’s really a shame for the West, when the US would not remind England and France of the trouble they stirred up in West Asia during the last century and just would continue their wrong policies at the time.

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