In May, the trial of American pastor Andrew Brunson - who was imprisoned on charges of paradoxically being a member of both the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and the Gulenist movement at the time – took an interesting twist. A so-called “secret witness” testified that not only was the apolitical U.S. pastor a member of the PKK, but that he was working with them to form a Christian Kurdish state. Of all the lies said about the PKK, this is likely the least outrageous one. At this point, Kurds are numb to these absurdities, while Turkey seems to be getting lazy about the credibility of the stories it tells. Why Western states are party to Turkey’s war on the PKK, is unclear. But Brunson’s case is just one smaller example of a broader problem: supporting Turkey’s so-called war on the PKK endangers not just Kurdish dissidents, but everybody.
It is bewildering that the world continues to stand idly by as Turkey imposes its assimilation policy, a policy which surpasses apartheid and refuses to even recognize the existence of whole peoples’; a doctrine which exterminates culture, beliefs and whole civilizations. For Turkey to go after its own dissidents, it just needs to say it is fighting the PKK. The situation now is even direr. With new constitutional powers, president Erdogan has the right to do almost anything he wants. He has gained professionalism in blackmailing the West and the poor and the needy of the Islamic world. He can do so because he can lie.
When the International community hears a lie, it should call it out. Just as the Cyprus occupation 44 years ago was ironically called “Operation Peace”, while July 20th is the “Peace and Freedom Day”, the invasion of Kurdish areas in Syria was sardonically called “Operation Olive Branch”. The Western governments know this, but they continue to provide the country with so much military and intelligence support from NATO.
Turkey’s so-called war on the PKK, which actually and in reality is a war on the Kurds, is not a source of peace but a source of war.
Turkey’s so-called war on the PKK, it’s so-called war on “terrorism”, which takes its armed forces across Syria and all the way to Iraq is destabilizing the whole region. This “terrorism” label has become a gold mine for Turkey, especially for president Erdogan. He just needs to refer to “PKK terrorism” or “affiliated with PKK” to invade lands of Syria and Iraq and steal their wealth and force the population into his version of Islamic laws, to push EU countries to surrender for blackmail, to accuse Greece, Cyprus, Israel or any other state, organization, NGO´s or respectful individuals as pastor Andrew Brunson for supporting “PKK terrorism”.
It is this “terrorism” label which Turkey is now using to force the US to abandon the city of Manbij and Ankara even goes so far as to repeat daily that the withdrawal of YPG units/ SDF forces isn’t going as according to plan.
Turkey claims that its actions are making the world safer. Actions like the invasion of formerly Kurdish-held Afrin? Afrin was under the authority of the Kurds that Ankara arbitrarily deemed as “terrorists”, and was a haven for IDP’s. Compared to the rest of Syria, it was a place of relative peace. After the fall of Afrin 18th March this year, the city has been under the control of President Erdogan. The city is administrated by a so-called local council of 30 members who, in turn, support fighters in extreme groups like the Sultan Murat Brigade, and possibly those formerly affiliated with ISIS and Jabhat Al Nusra (pro-ISIS graffiti has been found around Afrin city). Turkey has also forged its own police force, which oversees the illegal settlement of thousands of families into the abandoned homes of Kurds in Afrin. According to reliable information, there are now at least one thousand of those “Local Police Forces” in Afrin trained in Turkey by the Turkish Police Academy Presidency. All of this is overseen by so-called FSA fighters, who have been accused of anti-Kurdish racism, looting, and kidnapping. This is likely Erdogan’s plan for the city of Manbij, with the green-light of US forces.
Domestically dissidents are targeted; in fact, even the apolitical are randomly targeted if they can be used as a bargaining chip. Abroad, Turkey’s war against the PKK has opened new fronts in the Syrian civil war, and has even threatened clashes between Turkey and Washington.
There is a big elephant in the room here.
The U.S. and European states must delist the PKK. It’s simple. Turkey has attacked the leading force in the fight against the war on ISIS by calling them “PKK affiliates”. Turkey has attacked dissidents, journalists, election observers, teachers, even 18-year-old students by calling them PKK affiliates. Turkey has invaded Syria, and is now making inroads in Iraq, because it says it is fighting PKK affiliates. To continue calling the PKK a terrorist organization means to continue to allow Turkey to wreak havoc. The PKK which seeks to be seen as a political party, advocating a political resolution to the Kurdish question across the Middle East, must be allowed to respond to the lies made against it. How much more propaganda, harassment, imprisonment, and murder of Kurdish people will it take to understand that for millions of Kurds, the PKK is a representative body for their demands and aspirations?
Delist the PKK, otherwise, you will see Turkey continuing its modus operandi. Remember when the parliament of Turkey voted to bar the US and International troops during the first gulf war from using their base, arguing that they would only do so if they received compensation? Turkey’s unreliability as a partner of the U.S. back then will be repeated with the new economic conflicts in Iran. And when brought to task, Turkey will likely say that they will cooperate with their NATO partners only if more is done to fight the PKK.
In 1999 when Mr Ocalan was arrested in an international plot, the PKK was trying to find a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question. The PKK has tried on more than one occasion to launch a peace agreement.
Delisting the PKK from terrorism will open many windows of opportunity. The US and EU must play an active role and to act responsibly and show that dictatorships, totalitarianism, and theocracy cannot be accepted.