Turkey and Kurdish mirror images


Inspired by the Syrian Kurds’ recent experience, the PKK seems to have aimed at organizing a Kurdish uprising in the Hakkari and Şırnak provinces of Turkey. But do the Kurdish people support such an uprising?

Ali Gokpinar
9 September 2012

Last month I wrote that violence has become an everyday phenomenon. It has spread to major cities and ordinary civilians are between two fires.  My criticism of the AKP government’s ‘foreign powers’ discourse is still valid, but the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party’s (PKK) increasing violent operations on civilians and military bases compels me to argue that there is no more to be said. The PKK has started to use violence indiscriminately, indelibly associating the Kurdish cause with blood. The PKK seems to have aimed at organizing a Kurdish uprising, inspired by the Syrian Kurds’ recent experience, in the Hakkari and Şırnak provinces of Turkey. But do the Kurdish people support such an uprising: that is the question?

PKK insurgents killed more than 30 Turkish soldiers this week both in attacks against military bases and public buildings including the residence of the district governor of Beytüşşebap.  The purpose of the attacks was to defeat the Turkish security forces, and force them to leave the province to trigger an uprising. However, Kurdish people showed little sympathy towards such operations, not because they do not have grievances or loyalty to the Kurdish cause, but because they are smart enough to see how summary PKK authoritarianism is, not hesitating to use violent measures to establish rebel governance.

First, the Kurdish people want to maintain their non-violent methods and achieve some of their goals through the new constitution that is being prepared. Second, many of the people and local businessmen who support the Kurdish cause, are forced by the PKK to pay taxes to the organization in addition to the taxes they pay to the state. They are asked to use unofficial  PKK courts to solve their judicial problems, and to close their shops as a form of civil disobedience after certain incidents. To prevent the disobedience of local people, punishment has been meted out in different forms including violence that is not much different from the Turkish state’s practices in the early 1990s. Therefore, for many, there is a new oppressor: the PKK. How can we hope for a peaceful resolution of the Kurdish question given all of these circumstances? Given the AKP government’s reluctance to promote democratization, how can we set about  reconstructing harmony between the social classes in Turkey, especially after the impact of the Syrian crisis that has made our divisions in Turkish society so clear?

Turkey cannot stay indifferent to the developments in the region. But Turkey is neither Syria nor Iraq when it comes to controlling its territories, the strength of its security forces or its perspective on the Kurdish issue. Turkish Kurds live in Turkey, despite their close relationship with their Iraqi and Syrian fellows. The militarist, authoritarian and violent approaches of both sides can only cause devastation but not coexistence, leaving civilians between the two fires and ready to demolish each other.

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