Kurdophobia is Fuelling Fascism in Turkey

By Ozkan Kocakaya:

The explosion of anti-Kurdish sentiment in Turkey in the past year has revealed deep, unresolved issues for the country that the state has largely managed to conceal from the international arena for decades. When the HDP comfortably broke through the notoriously difficult 10% threshold to send Kurdish MPs into parliament in the June 2015 elections, they set off a chain of events to force the country to revisit these issues, and the AKP has resorted to confronting them in a manner that precisely pinpoints the country’s inability to reform and overcome them. It is easy to label any authoritarian ruler a “fascist” when they begin to display characteristics of intolerance and autocracy. However, in Turkey’s case, the ease with which Erdogan has managed to revive Kurdophobia to garner widespread nationalist support is indicative of deep rooted fascism that has never truly been eradicated.

It would also be short-sighted to point to Erdogan as the main problem. Turkey has a history, one which is not worth revisiting in detail, of intolerance towards ethnic groups. Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians and Kurds have all suffered in a country where an ideology of Pan-Turkism has been driving the policy towards ethnic minorities ever since the late 19th century. The point of remembering this dark chapter in Turkey’s history is not to trigger animosity towards the country, but to highlight the fact that Kurds are the last large ethnic group in the country who have not accepted Turkish identity as their prevalent one, hence the resurfacing of this unresolved subject ever since Erdogan decided that war against the Kurds was his best chance of support to remain in power.

It has been so effective that the AKP has managed to blend fascism with religious fanaticism and nationalism to create a potent form of hatred towards Kurds in a short space of time, one which would not have been possible had it not already existed. We mustn’t dismiss this as simply a Turkish issue either. Brexit, rise of nationalism across Europe and Donald Trump are proof of the ability of politics to manipulate people’s inherent fears and intolerance towards ethnic groups. However, what is unique to Turkey is the genuine threat of ethnic massacres towards Kurds from within a NATO member. It is the elephant in the room that is often dismissed as implausible in this day and age, but a country whose fascism is fuelled by fear of further loss of territory is capable of resorting to a civil war of the type that is plaguing Syria in response such a threat. Turkey itself is not entirely convinced of its own sovereignty and hence the disproportionate responses to any perceived threat towards it.


The AKP government is currently masking this intention and legitimizing its treatment of Kurds by declaring it as a “war on terrorism”. The levelling of Kurdish towns, dismissal of thousands of Kurdish teachers, widespread arrest of Kurdish politicians and journalists are all carried out under the cover of protecting territorial integrity against the PKK. Whilst the Kurds are the focal point of this clampdown, the government’s willingness and effectiveness in targeting Gulenists, secularists and any other opposition are further proof of entrenched fascism that can so easily be manipulated.

Turkey’s Western allies may fear setting a precedent in being seen to be sympathetic to the PKK, but allowing Turkey to extend its tentacles of censorship of the crimes the state is currently committing, and their perceived reluctance to publicly criticise the treatment of Kurds in Turkey simply highlights their own political shortcomings. However, the root of the issue in Turkey is that unlike Germany, Italy and Spain, Turkey never sincerely reformed to eradicate fascism as has been so coarsely revealed by Erdogan.

Turkey is on the cusp of change where a growing desire from within for true democracy and human rights in the country is currently clashing with old fears over sovereignty and an outdated political system, and the Kurds are at the bitter end of that clash. In fact, Kurds are the only genuine force, politically and militarily to affect this change, an asset which the international community need to recognise, as they have done in Syria.

The HDP’s genuine desire to reform the political system to one of inclusivity is an opportunity that may not come around again for a generation if Turkey is allowed to deepen this war. It may have taken a bloody and prolonged conflict to confront fascism in the past, but it need not be the case this time around. Just as the Nazis did, the AKP has slowly grown into probably the largest organized crime syndicate in the world. But Turkey’s economic, military and political reliance on international powers means there is genuine opportunity to push through change in a different way. It won’t just be the Kurds, but Turks themselves that will be the beneficiary in the long run. Otherwise, the West will forever be undermined for failing to halt Erdogan’s ethnic war against the Kurds as well as facing an unstable Middle East with long-term implications for security in Europe, for far longer than is necessary.

Ozkan Kocakaya is originally from Turkey, of Kurdish origin. After gaining a BSc and an MSc from the University of Liverpool in IT and business related subjects, he began a career in the finance industry, where he still earns a living. Having a keen interest in literature and a passion for Kurdistan, he devotes his spare time to writing fiction to promote Kurdish history and values, as well as blogging about current affairs in his home country.

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