Paramilitary beats putschist soldiers with belt on Bosphorus bridge
The question of how to solve the crisis caused by the deteriorating relationship between the EU and Turkey is gathering pace by day it seems. On Friday, President Erdogan threatened to open the border gates to allow millions of refugees to travel to EU in response to Thursday’s non-binding vote by the MEP’s in the European Parliament to freeze Turkey’s accession talks. It was the latest chapter underlining Turkey’s tailspin into a dictatorship.
Turkey’s accession talks into the European Economic Community, the predecessor of the EU began in 1987, with the idea that whilst serving Europe’s strategic and economic interests, Turkey can also be modernised through adhering to European values as part of the negotiations. Whilst sound in principal, this strategy requires a nation striving for progressive evolution; and Turkey does not fall into this category yet.
Erdogan’s revelation of the deep-rooted fascism at all levels of society in Turkey is proof of this and Turkey’s international allies, intending to protect the aforementioned interests in the region, have allowed Turkey to maintain a façade of democracy whilst refusing to make structural and social reforms. It’s inability to solve the Kurdish issue has consequently resulted in the NATO member resorting to extortion and brutal military suppression of the Kurdish movement, coupled with systematic state sanctioned propaganda, both domestically and internationally, for close to a century.
The lengths to which Turkey has gone to deny Kurds status of any kind in the region can be epitomised by the events of the past couple of months alone. It’s insistence, and subsequent failure, to be allowed to take part in operations to liberate Mosul and Raqqa was aimed at halting the Kurds’ progress. In order to distract from its bankrupt Syrian and Iraqi policies, Erdogan accelerated his clamp-down on Kurds at home by arresting Kurdish MPs. The sinister nature of the mentality that has resulted in the state effectively taking elected Kurdish MPs prisoner was revealed by Huseyin Kocabiyik, the AKP MP for Izmir, tweeting, “In the event of assassination attempts of state leaders, people will overrun the prisons and hang FETO and PKK terrorists” a week after those arrests. It is a stark admission of the desperation taking hold amongst AKP circles as well as political defeat.
Whilst these are indicative of Turkey’s willingness to resort to such desperate measures as extortion aimed at EU and the Kurds, what is becoming clear is that Turkey has never had a Kurdish problem, rather the region has always had a Turkish problem. After all, Turkey has been legitimizing the crimes it has committed against Kurds by pointing the finger at the PKK for close to four decades. The Kurdish issue is a symptom of the greater problem that is attached to it, and Turkey has been expertly diverting attention away from its own failures at state level by pouring vast resources into presenting it as a Kurdish question.
All this is unravelling rather quickly however, and the recommendation by the MEP’s to freeze Turkey’s accession talks follows Austria’s decision to impose an arms embargo on Turkey, a German courts recognition of Turkey’s support for terrorism and a Belgian court’s recognition of the armed struggle in a landmark case against Kurdish politicians accused of being members of the PKK. What needs to follow is a recognition that the EU and the Middle East has a Turkish problem. Until this is widely recognised and openly debated on an international level, coupled with strong leadership from the West to deny Turkey the platforms of censorship and propaganda abroad, Turkey will not change. This may well involve economic and military sanctions, but considering it took a world war to tackle fascism in Europe, it will be a smaller price to pay.
That Turkey is employing the full force of its military and political capabilities to prevent Kurds from gaining status anywhere, is indicative of the important role Kurds will play in bringing stability and democratic reforms to the Middle East. It is also a recognition of that ideology’s last battle for survival by presenting it as a war on Kurds, where in fact it has always been a war between fascism and democracy within Turkey. Defeating that ideology does not only serve Kurds but Turks themselves.
When Hilary Benn gave his impassioned speech in the UK parliament following the Paris attacks last November, he was referring to the rising threat of Islamofascism presented by ISIS. In the context of widespread recognition of Turkey’s complicity in the rise of ISIS and the parallels in AKP’s ideology with the most reviled terrorist group in history, that speech is more relevant to the rising threat to global security coming from the last remaining home of fascism that is Turkey. Thus, Turkey’s Kurdish issue has always been a smokescreen for the real Turkish question.
- Ozkan Kocakaya
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