Confrontation with Kurds could put Turkey on ‘road to hell’

Friday 18/09/2015
Kurdish mourners gather for the funerals of people killed during clashes between Turkish forces and militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Kurdish-majority city of Cizre, on September 13th.

Istanbul - The headquarters of a pro-Kurdish party was torched, overland buses from the Kurdish region were pelted with stones and a Kurdish man was humiliated by his neighbours — the latest flare-up of the Kurdish conflict in Turkey indicates the gulf between Turks and Kurds is becoming deeper.
Hundreds of people have died since clashes between Turkish se­curity forces and rebels of the Kurd­istan Workers’ Party (PKK) started in late July, shattering a 2-year-old truce that had raised hopes of peace more than 30 years after the PKK took up arms against Ankara.
The violence has stoked tensions among the public as some Turks hold the country’s estimated 12 mil­lion Kurds responsible for PKK ac­tions and for a perceived upsurge in separatist tendencies that threaten national unity.
Following the death of 16 sol­diers and 14 police officers in PKK attacks in early September, crowds of Turkish nationalists attacked dozens of offices of the legal pro- Kurdish group Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). Demonstrators burned parts of HDP headquarters in An­kara. During a march in Istanbul, Turkish right-wingers said military operations against the PKK were not enough. “We don’t want an op­eration. We want a massacre,” the crowd shouted.
In Beypazari, west of Ankara, Kurds fled after attacks by Turk­ish nationalists during an anti-PKK march. Several bus companies sus­pended service between predomi­nantly Kurdish eastern Turkey and cities in the west after stones were thrown at buses bearing number plates from Kurdish regions. East of Ankara, nationalists set fire to a bookstore in Kirsehir after a rumour that the shop belonged to a Kurd. The shop owner, Sait Akilli, who was injured in the incident, said he was an ethnic Turk.
In Mugla in south-western Tur­key, a Kurdish man said neighbours beat him and forced him to kiss a bust of Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
The man, Ibrahim Cay, told lo­cal media he had posted pictures of himself in traditional Kurdish clothes on social media before the incident. His attackers took his dress to be a PKK uniform.
Even after police took him to a nearby hospital, a crowd of 300 peo­ple gathered outside the clinic “to lynch me”, Cay said. He added he had left Mugla and would not return although he had lived there for eight years, producing fruit and vegeta­bles on his land.
Burhan Kuzu, an adviser to Presi­dent Recep Tayyip Erdogan, fanned tensions by implying that many PKK rebels were not Muslim, but Chris­tian. In a tweet on September 7th, Kuzu said the bodies of PKK fight­ers killed in clashes should be ex­amined. “It will turn out that a big group of them are not circumcised,” he said.
HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas accused Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of steering the country into chaos. “They have taken the decision for civil war,” Demirtas said. “An op­eration is under way to destroy and burn everything that looks like it is Kurdish and to bring opposition in society to their knees.” He called on Kurds to fight back if attacked.
Turks and Kurds were being pushed towards “war between brothers”, veteran journalist Hasan Cemal wrote in an article for T24, an online news platform, saying: “This road leads to hell.”
Ilker Basbug, a former chief of general staff of the Turkish military, told the right-wing Sozcu newspa­per he was concerned that Turks and Kurds were being pushed into a new confrontation. “These actions drag the country towards a catastro­phe,” said Basbug.
Before the latest escalation, many Kurds in Turkey said they felt like outsiders in their own country. In a poll by the Istanbul-based think-tank Bilgesam in 2014, 24% of Turks asked said they would neither allow their daughter to marry a Kurd nor would they accept a Kurd as a neigh­bour.
Only 3.3% of Kurd respondents said the same things about Turks. One in three Turks asked said they do not want a Kurd to become prime minister or president. Almost 44% of Kurds said they had experienced discrimination because of ethnicity.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu condemned attacks on the HDP and on the Istanbul head­quarters of the Hurriyet newspaper, which has been accused by govern­ment supporters of siding with the PKK and the HDP. “No one must take the law into his own hands,” Davutoglu said on Twitter on Sep­tember 8th. “We will not allow a fight between brothers.”
A group of 12 large non-govern­mental organisations (NGOs) rep­resenting businessmen, trade un­ionists, lawyers and civil servants issued an appeal entitled “No to ter­ror, yes to brotherhood” on Septem­ber 14th. “Our biggest strength is our brotherhood,” said Rifat Hisarciklio­glu, head of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Tur­key (TOBB), who headed the initia­tive. “It is the day for Turks to reach out to Kurds and for Kurds to reach out to Turks.” The NGOs called for a rally in Ankara as a demonstration of Turkish-Kurdish friendship.