by Stephen Smellie, co-convenor, Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan
Since Turkish President Erdogan decided that the peace talks with the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) were to be abandoned in February 2015 the country has descended into violence. Hundreds of civilians have been killed in state-imposed curfews and bombardments of Kurdish towns in the east of the country.
The peace process, initiated by imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, which was on the verge of achieving a democratic solution to decades of civil war with the PKK ready to lay aside the armed struggle, was abandoned.
The peace process had encouraged all sections of the 20 million Kurdish community within Turkey to look toward democratic means of struggling for their rights. The creation of the People’s Democracy Party (HDP), an alliance of Kurdish and leftish parties, sought to build a constituency across the whole of Turkey.
This initiative, proposed by Ocalan, where the Kurds worked with progressive forces to seek a democratic solution within Turkey opened up a genuine hope for peace. Ocalan called on the PKK to put down the guns.
Co-chair of the HDP, Selahattin Demirtas, met with PKK leaders and urged them to support the peace process. Days before the Prime Minister was due to sign an agreement, the President called a halt to any further talks. From then on, attacks on HDP activists became frequent as the general election in June drew nearer.
Turkey’s support for Daesh/ISIS in Syria was exposed and the freedom that their fighters had to cross the border at will gave them an opportunity to launch attacks including on an HDP rally in Diyarbakir on the eve of the election which killed four people and injured hundreds of others.
However, the HDP were able to secure 13 per cent of the national vote breaking the undemocratic tariff of 10 per cent before any deputies are elected. 83 HDP deputies prevented the President’s AKP (Justice and Development Party) from retaining their majority in parliament and scuppered plans to change the constitution to give the President more powers.
The 83 were the most diverse group of politicians ever elected to the parliament. 40 per cent were women, They included other minorities as well as Kurds and Turkey’s first openly gay deputy and the first Ezidi woman elected.
Shortly after, 33 young socialists on route to assist in the re-construction of Kobane were blown up by an ISIS suicide bomb in the border town of Suruc. This gave Erdogan the excuse to declare war on the terrorists.
One minor attack on ISIS in Syria was then followed by hundreds of bombing raids against PKK bases in the mountains of Southern Kurdistan/Northern Iraq. Kurdish towns that had voted 90 per cent for the HDP were placed under curfew and the killing started. The peace process had been replaced by a war process—a war on the population, to show that if people vote for the HDP, they will get violence.
Over 100 trade unionists protesting in Ankara for peace and democracy were killed in another ISIS attack. Like the attack in Diyarbakir, despite hundreds of casualties, not one police officer or security personnel were injured, leading to suggestions that they had known about the attacks and allowed them to happen.
This intimidation led to the HDP losing votes in the re-run election in November, although managing to hold onto 11 per cent and 50 deputies. The AKP got their majority back but they were still short of the two thirds majority they need to change the constitution.
And so the violence has continued. Atrocities have occurred at the hands of Turkish police and army. 50 civilians burned alive in a basement in Cizre. People leaving their homes, to help dying people in the street, were shot dead. The ancient heart of the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, Sur, destroyed by tanks and mortar fire while the civilian population tried to resist.
PKK fighters have attacked military and police personnel and groups have emerged in the towns digging ditches and erecting barriers to try to stop the armoured vehicles from terrorising the communities. But ditches and barricades are no defence against the air and missile attacks that the Turkish airforce has launched against their own citizens.
Now, in the past couple of weeks, the President has got agreement from Parliament to remove the immunity from prosecution of the deputies.
The majority of HDP deputies have been charged with various offences, including supporting terrorist organisations and policies—in truth, for speaking out against the barbaric policies of the government.
The judiciary will now begin proceedings against them and they are likely to be removed from parliament, giving Erdogan the two thirds majority he needs to vote through more powers for his office. A very Turkish coup indeed.
MEPs, MPs and MSPs are being urged to ‘sponsor’ an HDP deputy so that when they are attacked there will be a response from across Europe.
However, whilst Northern Kurdistan has been burning, hundreds killed and democratically elected politicians threatened for criticising government policy, European leaders have been willing to throw billions of Euros at Turkey to stop the flow of refugees from reaching Europe.
Brexit campaigners have used Turkey as a scary reason for voting to leave Europe. Not because it has a government that believes in mass murder as a legitimate political tactic but because the Turkish population might en masse decide to relocate to Greater London and the shires.
Europe’s leaders, ever the hypocrites, fawn over Erdogan to stop the refugees and are willing to ignore the atrocities he commits every day against the Turkish population.
Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan seeks to raise awareness of the plight of the Kurds in Turkey and elsewhere and demands that our politicians refuse to support any more aid to Turkey and particularly any more arms sales whilst they engage in a war against the Kurds.
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