‘The AKP wants to drive all the Kurds of Turkey to madness”

This one is my column dated October 7, in TZ:

It is one of those “interesting” times, as the Chinese saying goes — indeed, so intense and worrisome that wherever one looks these days, one only sees trouble on the rise.

Celal Başlangıç is a colleague of mine who I have known for decades. He is one of the few real experts on the Kurdish issue, who has been following every development in the region since the early 1980s.

When President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a flash decided to discontinue the so-called “peace process” and the destructive violence flared up again, Başlangıç was on the field as a witness to all the events taking place.

Most recently, Başlangıç was busy following a European parliamentary delegation, whose attempts to enter the Kurdish town of Nusaybin were blocked by the Turkish authorities.

Here is how he described it:

”Everybody was a witness. It was as if a ‘theatre of horror’ was touring the region. It staged the same savage and bloody play in Cizre, Nusaybin, Bismil, Silvan and Varto. The other towns in the region anxiously wait and wonder when the ‘theatre of horror’ will visit them. There is a huge psychological warfare inherent in this play. Dead bodies dragged behind vehicles belonging to the special ops teams… The corpse of a female guerilla, who after being tortured, thrown out onto the street stark naked, whose pictures were later served into the social media… As we saw in Silvan, a 75-year-old woman killed by snipers while trying to help a wounded person… Locals in towns with populations of 100 or 150,000 kept inside their homes, without water or food, medicine or doctors, constantly fired at… After being witness to all of that, I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say: The AKP wants to drive all the Kurds to madness!”

These are the descriptions largely ignored by Turkey’s mainstream media, and all the others reporting on the horror do so at the risk of being declared as aiding and abetting terrorists. Yet, it comes to nobody’s mind to ask whether or not an election under those circumstances will bear any meaning at all for the continuity of what many daydreamers still want to see as “Turkish democracy.”

This completely erratic, self-destructive policy has taken the official Turkish mindset hostage and threatens to diminish all sorts of options for success in the envisaged warfare against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as well.

”Turkey, which turned itself into a jihadi freeway in its determination to bring down the Assads,” reminded David Gardner in the Financial Times, “has in practice boiled down its Syria policy to a single issue: how to stop Syrian Kurds capturing more territory along its southern border.”

Patrick Cockburn, also agreeing in assessing all the risks inherent in this officially obsessive mindset, wrote in The Independent:

”Whatever Turkey’s intentions in Syria since the start of the uprising in 2011, it was not to see the Syrian Kurds gain control of a band of territory across its southern frontier. A Turkish ground invasion into Syria, though still a possibility, would now be riskier with Russian aircraft operating in areas where Turkey would be most likely to launch an incursion.’

”The danger for the Turks is that they now have two Kurdish quasi-states, one in Syria and one in Iraq, immediately to the south. Worse, the Syrian-Kurdish one, known to Kurds as Rojava, is run by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) which is effectively the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has been fighting the Turkish state since 1984. Any insurgency by the PKK in Kurdish areas in south-east Turkey in future will be strengthened by the fact that the PKK has a de facto state of its own.”

Now, with the entry of Russia as an antagonist, Turkey’s “zero problem neighborhood policy” is facing its final test, predicted already as a failure, to be buried for good.

Dialogue with most of the neighbors is either minimal or non-existent. With Iran recently and now Russia joining the non-friendly bulk around, one wonders if any of Turkey’s allies are aware what sort of consequences await an increasingly vulnerable, rudderless Turkey if hostilities escalate to new heights in the entire region.


About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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