TURKEY’S Modern Tragedy: And the War on the Kurds…

Kurdish civilians in Southern Turkey

There seems to have been less mainstream media attention than there should be concerning the Turkish state’s escalating policy of curfews, military incursions and violent crackdowns on Kurdish towns and cities of south-eastern Turkey.

Turkish tanks are reported to have been shelling the town of Cizre, while military operations in Diyarbakir and Silopi are ongoing.

Tanks and heavy weaponry, traditionally used only in full warfare, are instead being used against civilian locations where thousands of non-combatants live.

A terrible reality is confronted in the petition “We Will Not Be Party to This Crime”, which was recently drawn up by Turkish academics; ‘The Turkish state has effectively condemned its citizens in Sur, Silvan, Nusaybin, Cizre, Silopi, and many other towns and neighborhoods in the Kurdish provinces to hunger through its use of curfews that have been ongoing for weeks. It has attacked these settlements with heavy weapons and equipment that would only be mobilized in wartime. As a result, the right to life, liberty, and security, and in particular the prohibition of torture and ill treatment protected by the constitution and international conventions have been violated‘.

Another petition has been sent to President Barack Obama, led by Anna-Sara Malmgren, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University, and Robert Hockett, Edward Cornell Professor of Law at Cornell University, and calling on the White House to take action to curtail the Turkish state’s war on Kurdish neighbourhoods in eastern and south-eastern Anatolia. ‘We write you with a growing sense of alarm, and a simple request, concerning actions now being taken by the government of Turkey against its own citizens’, the petition says, ‘As you have no doubt been briefed, the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has in recent months been blockading and indiscriminately shelling ethnic Kurdish neighborhoods in eastern and southeastern Anatolia.’

Acknowledgement to Feminist Philosophers blog, which made me aware of the petition. You can add your voice to the petition here, if you wish.

A further, grim sense of the situation has been provided in a statement by Kurdistan National Congress (KNK), January 2016; ‘After the coup against the 7 June 2015 elections, under the leadership of President Erdogan, the Turkish state launched a full-blown war against the Kurds. The state, which has even deployed the navy in Kurdistan, is utilising all its traditional dirty tactics. For several weeks curfews have been imposed in many towns and cities across Kurdistan. These are still continuing in Cizre, Silopi and Sur. The curfews are also on and off in places like Nusybin, Dargecit, Lice and Varto. Until now, the Turkish state has killed a total of 260 civilians in these towns and cities. Most of these killings have been caused by artillery fire from tanks, rockets and sniper fire… Turkish state is attacking Kurdish elected officials by prosecuting them, relieving elected mayors of their duties and imprisoning journalists. Turkish military forces are targeting especially women and children. Recently three Kurdish women politicians have been killed by Turkish state forces in an extrajudicial killing in Şırnak’s Silopi district’.

The statement goes on to accuse the state of a ‘depopulation policy’ against Kurds, and suggests that the Turkish regime is re-enacting the genocides of a hundred years ago, and cites the Mayor of Adana (AK Party), Huseyin Sozlu, having declared in a public statement to Kurds in Turkey, “You will end up like Armenians”.

The statement calls ‘upon the whole world to raise their voices against the Turkish state and Erdogan’s massacre of the Kurdish people’.

Amnesty International  meanwhile accuses Turkey of carrying out ‘collective punishment’ in the Kurdish southeast.

How much of this is true, how much is exaggerated or being used for propaganda purposes, is difficult to know.

But the present Turkish state’s war against the Kurds has continued to build and build, and seems to be part of a more expansive totalitarian march that includes a harsh war against journalists, liberals, and now academics and intellectuals.

We’ve talked about the war on journalists and the attacks on opposition figures already; but the Turkish state’s war on intellectuals and academics draws very real parallels to classic dictatorship models, with some calling this present state of affairs ‘Turkey’s Kristallnacht’. Disturbingly, where Hitler and the Nazi regime were preoccupied with ‘the Jewish Problem’, Erdogan and the current Turkish state is preoccupied with the ‘Kurdish Problem’ and is dealing with that ‘problem’ more and more harshly with each passing week, as well as using that issue to inflame nationalist fervour among sections of the population.

This uncomfortable historic parallel is exacerbated by Erdogan himself bizarrely citing Hitler’s Germany as an example of a successful presidential system.

 Aftermath of the Ankara terrorist attack, Turkey, 2016 

The actions of the Turkish state continue to tick off the text-book check-list for the aspiring despotic dictatorship: refusing to legitimize genuine democratic election results, oppressing and even murdering journalists, attacking, killing or imprisoning opposition figures, persecuting and outright attacking a minority group, conducting false-flag terrorism to accomplish political goals, conducting a propaganda war to incite racial or nationalist tensions, and going after intellectuals, liberals and academics.

Witness the press conference held simultaneously in Istanbul and Ankara by academics from various Turkish universities. They revealed a petition signed by some 1,128 academics from different fields at universities both in Turkey and abroad, including scholars affiliated with Harvard, Cambridge universities. They stated that they were part of the Academics for Peace Initiative and they called for an end to the ‘massacre’ of Kurds. President Erdogan’s response was to label the academics as ‘terrorist’ propagandists, with 27 of them arrested by police for ‘insulting’ the state. They were later released, but all 1,128 Turkish signatories of the petition are under investigation, according to the Doğan news agency. If convicted, they could face between one and five years in prison.

This campaign against intellectualism would’ve seemed inevitable, as it follows logically from the violent oppression of journalism that has been demonstrated in, for example, the murder of Serena Shim, and the arrests of Cumhuriyet  Editor, Can Dündar, and Ertuğrul Özkök, a reporter for Turkish daily Hüriyet – all primarily for trying to expose the Turkish state’s links to ISIS/ISIL and other terrorist groups.

Meanwhile assassinations of Kurdish politicians, activists and civilians has been ongoing. The shooting of prominent Kurdish lawyer and political activist Tahir Elci, dismissed by some state voices as ‘an unfortunate accident’, was almost certainly a targeted assassination, while false-flag terrorist attacks like the one in Ankara last year were almost certainly Turkish ‘deep state’ attacks designed to kill or otherwise intimidate progressives, students and Kurdish activists.

Despite the ruling AK Party having won its election majority recently – in a highly questionable result that contradicted the June 2015 election in which the progressive and pro-Kurdish HDP had won more than 13% of the vote – Erdogan’s government has only escalated its attacks on opposition, journalists and Kurds.

But now the Turkish state has forsaken subtlety and appears to be engaged in unrestrained military action against part of its own population.

To the AKP, not only are all Kurds loosely regarded as ‘terrorists’, but even non-Kurdish left-wingers have begun to be regarded in the same light, with all dissenters in the society increasingly labelled as a threat. This is standard practise for oppressive governments worldwide and throughout history, of course – the presence of ‘terrorists’ or a perceived terrorist threat are a god-send, because not only can the state take all sorts of measures for the sake of ‘security’ and ‘order’, but it can also use ‘terrorist’ as a blanket term for any unwanted opposition, dissent or social or political activism, and the fear of the real ‘terrorists’ can easily be redirected into anger towards the fictional ‘terrorists’.

In the supposedly democratic nation with EU membership aspirations, press freedom is pretty much non-existent now.

In an atmosphere of intimidation and fear, Turkey imprisons more journalists than any other modern nation; in spite of this tight control of information, people like Serena Shim and others have nevertheless managed to expose Turkey’s criminal role in supporting the Islamic State terror group and sustaining/funding the War in Syria that has killed over a quarter-of-a-million Syrians.

The tragedy, as I have written here before, is that apart from possibly Lebanon (and potentially post Arab Spring Tunisia), it is difficult to think of a ‘Muslim’ society as progressive, modernist and liberal as Turkey has traditionally been, particularly as it has also been a democracy. This makes Turkey a relatively unique society in the world and a positive example of how moderate Sunni Islam and modern democratic and secular government and principles can work effectively in tandem and for the good of a society.

 Turkish supporters with flag 

At a time when Muslim countries elsewhere are either harsh dictatorships, nations in a state of collapse or war, or aspiring-but-failing quasi-democracies, a Turkey true to its principles would stand as something of a shining beacon of both secular democracy and the modern-day capacity for a Muslim society to exist effectively and happily in that state of secular democracy.

Also given its unique position as the literal bridge between Europe and the Middle East, such a Turkey would, in these highly toxic and increasingly sectarian times, be all the more important and valuable a society and nation with a great capacity to play peacemaker and bridge-builder. Instead, the Turkish state now appears to be an oppressive dictatorship, terrorising parts of its own population, exporting and enabling terrorism abroad, and in essence becoming everything that its constitution was supposed to ensure it would never become.

Curiously, although Turkey has been accused by Amnesty of crimes in the south-east against Kurds, it hasn’t yet been directly condemned for its support of ISIS/ISIL and Al-Nusra in Syria, which has essentially been war

on Syria by proxy. But on the other hand, NATO-backed Kurdish YPG fighters have been accused of committing possible war crimes against Syrian civilians.

Which demonstrates how hopelessly complicated everything has become.

S. Awan

Independent journalist. Pariah. Believer in human rights, human dignity and liberty. Musician. Substandard Jedi. All-round failure. And future ghost.


  1. I like your posts my Earthling friend, because I see that you try to separate the nations and governments’ policies, so for example in here as you tried to use “Turkey government or politicians” instead of a nation. You are not racist and thank you for you’re doing this. Because every events emerge the racists against Turks, and they are starting to talk almost until saying “Let’s kill the Turks”.

    At southeastern Anatolia, no one knows exactly what happened, because Turkey government banned broadcast. And people were in needed of the news which came from everyone. If this government wouldn’t have done this, it had been possible that the world public was going to take health news from the region. And I have to mention that almost all tv channels or newspapers in Turkey are into the hand of government or pro-government. The others are struggling with the lawsuits which were opened by government, and you know mostly is behind the bars. Already I guess after presidantal system which Tayyip Erdogan desired, all opposition people will be behind the bars, whether they are journalists or not.

    Right now, ordinary Turkey people who live except this region, hear the news about martyrs of soldiers and police officers who fight agains PKK terrorist organization and die in every single day. Almost everyday, three or five soldier and police officers die.

    I am writing these because of to be understood of the public psychology. I am not supporting to this psychologhy, only I can understand. I know most people are ignorant, but I belive that decision to be ignorant or not to be is into people’ hand.

    I believe that the events are happening in south eastern Anatolia according to big plan of zionists. I’ve written today in another my friend’s blog to these lines:
    “…one important Kurdish leader said four years before,
    “An autonomous Kurdistan in Northern Iraq was established. It’s capital is Arbil.
    An autonomous Kurdistan in northern Syria is being established. It’s capital is Qamishli.
    An autonomous Kurdistan will be established in Iran. Capital will be Mahabad.
    An autonomous Kurdistan will also established in Turkey. Diyarbakir’s name will be changed as “Amed”. Amed will be the capital city.
    This 4 capital city as well as in the European Union, they will take near side Armenia and Jordan, also by removing the boundaries they will pass “common currency”; and “Greater Kurdistan Union” to become real.”

    you want to see all talks in here that link:

    Playmakers defined to the all players in this region, and every player play own game into the rules including Turkey government, including all Kurdish groups. Any of them doesn’t care about Kurdish or Turkish people. And all them tries to create conflict among Kurds and Turks. But luckily there isn’t. You can think if there isn’t why these events happen. I want to give example for this by explanation. Firstly the historical bounds among Turks and Kurds are strong and marriages have been made between Kurds and Turks along hundreds years. Most people doesn’t know actually, they are Turk or Kurd in real:)) And the biggest Kurdish population is in Istanbul on this planet. Istanbul has 3 million Kurdish population. All population of Istanbul is about 15 million people. And 2/5 economy of all Turkey is into hands of Kurdish businessmen. In parliament, except HDP there are at least 80-90 Kurdish deputy. And this can be surprise for you, MHP ( Turkish natioanlist party at parliement) has got Kurdish deputy.

    Combine all these, at the picture that emerges, I guess the answer of “why conflicts are experiencing only in here, not the other parts of Turkey?” is in the middle. “Why there isn’t conflict at Istanbul where 3 millions Kurdish live in, but there is in Cizre?”

    In this context, no one cares actually the dying of poor and innocent people at the region. Already we see the Syria same thing.

    I’d like to add two things beside. Second picture at this post, crying man on the ground with fallen banners and flags, it was pictured after the Ankara massacre by ISIS. And that people not only Kurdish, there were to many union at that day at Ankara, and they were Kurds and Turks, their common part are against this government policy. At this event, like at Suruc massacre by ISIS the people who have been killed were Kurds and Turks. And this government never gone to the Ankara or Suruc for condolence. But recently you know German tourists have been killed at Sultanahmet, and government has been there such as making advertisement.

    And the picture the large and big Turkish flag into people’s hand was pictured in 29 October, so at Turkey Republic Day celebrations. And do you know Tayyip Erdogan almost banned the celebrations 29 October like many important days of republic of people during last 14 years. Every year he said another thing against republic. Last one he said in 2015:
    …In first years the founders of republic, they were celebrating the 29 October with feast, making waltz and drinking vine. The poor and hungry citizens were watching them openmouthedly…” These words have been said against Ataturk and the first parliement.

    • Thanks very much for your insightful and detailed input, my ET friend – it is always appreciated. I know you have a very strong perspective on the situation and I’m always happy when you share it.

  2. The Kurds as per their own admission participated in Genocidal attacks , murders and pillaging and raping of Armenians and Assyrians all through the 19th and early 20th century at the instigation of their patrons the Turks . Now they are being targeted in their turn , a big whoopee !!

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