Turkey’s “War on terror” by Can Irmak Özinanr



The hope for peace and justice that arose after the elections in June 8th in Turkey is replaced by a new fear of war. The ruling party AKP (Justice and Development Party) which has lost the right to form a government alone during the elections decided to start a war against all kinds of “terrorism” by equating the sectarian religious ISIS to Kurdish guerrillas of PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party). AKP even accuses PYD (Democratic Union Party) of Rojava as being terrorists because of their relation with PKK.  In spite of declaring war both on ISIS and PKK, Turkish air forces are mainly bombing PKK shelters on Kandil Mountain in Iraqi Kurdistan. Turkish state and PKK were negotiating the conditions for peace for a long time, after the bombings PKK made public that they finished the ceasefire. The war between Turkish state and government started again. Now there are news of the death of soldiers and guerrillas everyday. The war is not only about bombings, it also brings oppression for the Left in Turkey and mainly to the Kurdish movement.  To understand what is going on today we must remember the atmosphere after the elections in Turkey.

From elections to the war

In the elections HDP (People’s Democratic Party) which is mainly composed of the Kurdish Freedom Movement and its allies including socialist groups, Muslims, LGBTs, Armenians and other minorities etc. 13 percent of the votes and won 80 MPs. Up to now Kurdish parties had got 6 percent of the votes and in the last two elections they won seats at the parliament with independent candidates. It was a big victory for the Kurdish movement and all of the Left because the electoral threshold which was brought by the military coup in 1980 was surpassed by a widespread, leftist campaign and this campaign also managed to overcome the so-called conflict between secular and religious people supposedly represented by secular Kemalist CHP (Republican People’s Party) and Conservative AKP. This rise of HDP also prevented AKP from forming the government of its own which have been the case since 2002 and making Tayyip Erdogan president in a presidential government system.

The hospitality of the government to HDP and Kurdish movement appeared before the elections and it resulted with the end of the negotiation process after their defeat in elections. Of course the reasons of this result is deeper than the defeat of AKP in the elections (like their Syria policy and their disturbance of the Rojava cantons) but the fear of losing the power is one of the main reasons of this war against Kurdish movement. Yalcin Akdogan, the deputy prime minister recently told that the negation of HDP to Erdogan’s presidency ended the peace process. Prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu went even further. According to him Gezi Park Protests was the reason for stopping the peace process. So it is now clear that AKP is identifying the crisis in the peace process with its own political crisis.  

Erdogan was telling that there is no longer a Kurdish question in Turkey, he was rejecting the agreements between AKP and HDP but nobody expected to go on a war that quickly. It all started with Suruç Massacre on 20th of July. Some 300 revolutionary socialists who were members of SGDH (Federation of Socialist Youth Assosications) wanted to attend the reconstruction of Kobane for solidarity. So they went to Urfa- Suruç, a frontier zone with Kobane with the toys, books and stuff they collected. A bomb attack killed 32 of them, it is said that an ISIS suicide bomber did the attack. ISIS did not claim responsibility for this attack. As a matter of fact most of the opposition in Turkey –which have faced these kinds of attacks before- have a suspicion of the role of the state in this attack. These young socialists were followed step by step by the police, they knew about everything about the young socialists but they did not hear about a bomb threat by ISIS. It is not very trustworthy for those who know the long tradition of the Turkish state.

After the massacre, a branch of PKK killed two police officers, PKK approved that the killings were made by local branch of their organization but they said it is not a central decision while Selahattin Demirta? co-chairman of HDP denounced the attack on police officers. Three days after the attacks an armed conflict occurred between ISIS and Turkish army. After that Turkish air forces bombed Syria, President Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu declared the new “war on terror” against PKK and ISIS as well as other “terrorist” organizations.  

Imperialism and the new war

We remember the “war on terror” from the early 2000’s as George W. Bush’s war concept which burned Iraq, Afghanistan and all Middle East and led to the birth of sectarian organizations like ISIS. Just like Bush government, AKP is using the war both to demonstrate Turkey as a strong military force and to implement repressive politics inside the country.

Turkey is a sub-imperialist force in the region. It has strong connections with NATO and always been an ally for USA.  Despite the conflicts about Israel and Turkey’s complex relation with ISIS, US and Turkey are allies in the last instance. It is why Erdogan always tried to convince USA for a new war on Assad regime but never succeeded. Now, calling a war against ISIS, it seems like he managed to convince USA to a war in Syria in a different context. Now, USA is supporting the war on PKK and using the Incirlik Military Base for their air forces.

So the new war between Turkish army and PKK goes hand in hand with US imperialism’s new “war on terror”.

Using the war to discipline the society

AKP acts like that there had been no elections in the country.  They lost the right to rule by their own but the former government is still taking big decisions like going into the war. There are negotiations between CHP and AKP to form a coalition but it seems like it won’t work. The fascist party MHP is closer to AKP’s new policy because their main political aim is based on anti-Kurd politics and they have been calling for the end of the negotiations with PKK since the beginning. But it is clear that Erdogan wants a new election and a coalition that will carry the country to the early elections but that won’t step back from the war policy.  

The main focus of the ongoing war policy is pointing HDP as a target while escalating nationalism. Whoever speaks for the government blames HDP for the death of soldiers and police officers while HDP is calling for the ceasefire both to Turkey and PKK.  AKP also tries to use juridical ways against HDP. They called for the cancellation of the parliamentary immunity of Selahattin Demirta? and some other MPs and accused him of being the voice of the “terrorists”.  

The repressive politics does not only take place in the parliament but also on the streets. Since the Suruç Massacre most of the demonstrations are banned or attacked by the police. There have been broad police operations as a part of “war on terror”. Most of the operations are leaned to the leftist organizations. Between 21-28 of July, 1034 people were was detained related with PKK and other leftist organizations, 49 of them were arrested while only 140 was detained related with ISIS and 5 of them were arrested.   

One of the most important facets of this war policy is isolating Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of PKK who is imprisoned in Imrali island since 1999. Nobody including his lawyers could talk with Ocalan since five months.  

The operations and banning of the peace demonstrations hand in hand with the escalating nationalism and accusing HDP for the soldier funerals, and isolating Ocalan are parts of the strategy of the government to get rid of HDP, shaping the society around a discipline which is based on AKP’s rule. This repressive politics and war targets the hope gained around HDP campaign during the elections but they won’t succeed.

The voice of peace is still strong if we organize  

The demand for peace in Turkey has been strong for almost ten years. This demand did not express itself on the streets many times but by looking at the support for the negotiations with Abdullah Ocalan and PKK it can be said that most of the population in Turkey is fed up with the war with Kurds. We can still see it on some funerals of soldiers. Some families are calling for the end of war.

What is missing in the West of Turkey is a big peace movement. There is a big potential for a movement but the anti-war activists could not find the proper way to organize this potential. It is not easy but it is very possible. Now anti-war campaigns are formed in big cities called Peace Bloc and they are trying to organize big demonstrations against the war. If these demonstrations can move big masses, it will deepen the political crisis of the ruling AKP government.   

AKP is not winning anymore, they are not hegemonic as they used to be. That is why they choose war. Since Gezi Park protests and the accusations of corruption they are in a big crisis and always trying to overwhelm this crisis by creating new enemies. The case for the socialists and anti-war activists in Turkey is to detach the working-class base of AKP and winning this base to the politics of peace and justice. HDP election campaign showed that this is possible when you raise a voice that nullify the “enemy creation” of the ruling party and show a real alternative.  

We know that the peace process was ended by the government and we must find the proper way to explain this truth to the base of AKP. The demands of the anti-war movement should be clear. The isolation of Ocalan should end, the peace process should start again. We still have the experience of the big anti-war movement which stopped Turkey from being a part of Iraq war in 2003. We rely on this and I am sure that voice of the peace will be heard stronger. 

Can Irmak Özinanr- Member of DSIP (Revolutionary Socialist Workers Party) in Turkey 

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