Since Turkey started a military operation in Afrin to clear its border from terrorist elements including the PKK, its Syrian offshot the YPG and remaining DAESH remnants, a number of false claims have been made in various news articles. As Fact-Checking Turkey, we gathered three important points that are misleadingly stated in news stories regarding the Kurdish issue in Turkey.
CLAIM 1: Turkey pursues hardline policies on Kurds
Since the 2000s Turkey has undertaken a number of important reforms for its Kurdish community. In January 2009, the first state channel broadcasting in the Kurdish language was established. The ban on speaking Kurdish for prisoners during the visits was lifted and the opportunity to testify in court in the Kurdish language was introduced. Undergraduate and graduate programs about Kurdish language and the literature were opened at universities of in the Kurdish-majority southeastern Turkey, starting from the establishment of the Kurdology Institute within Mardin Artuklu University in 2013. Traffic signs were made bilingual, namely in Turkish and Kurdish in the city of Diyarbakir in 2016.
In addition to these developments, the government announced an “investment and encouragement plan” in order to compensate for the losses of the citizens who were badly affected by the PKK’s terror attacks during 2015 and 2016 in Turkey’s southeastern regions, particularly in Mardin, Diyarbakir, Sirnak and Hakkari. In total, an amount of 323 million Turkish liras were paid for compensating the damages of the citizens affected by the PKK’s terror attacks. For a more detailed report of the improvement of Kurdish society’s situation and rights, please click here
CLAIM 2: The peace process came to an end because of the Turkish government
Turkish government endeavored to end the uprising of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is a designated terror group in Turkey, the US
and the EU
, in a peaceful way by launching a “Peace Process”. In order to achieve this goal, the government prepared the legal framework for granting amnesty to PKK militants and ensure their disarmament. Thus, the Turkish government allowed the return of some militants and dropped charges against them under the principle of “effective remorse”. The first group of the militants returned to Turkey from the PKK’s armed camps in northern Iraq on 19 October 2009. The group was wearing their combat clothing and they announced they did not regret any of their activities. Still, they were released under the effective remorse law and the government proceeded with the Peace Process. Finally in April 2013, Turkey and the PKK entered into a de facto ceasefire. That was followed by a series of legal amendments introduced by the government on 30 September 2013 and called the “Democratization Package”.
However, PKK militants and the pro-PKK politicians continued to act in contradiction with the spirit of the Peace Process. It announced that it had established the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H) to act as the PKK’s youth armed group in the urban centers. It also “founded its own courts”, “collected taxes” and abducted people including minors, in order to make them fight within their ranks.
Finally, the PKK broke the ceasefire in the summer of 2015. On the night of 22 July 2015, two police officers were killed by PKK militants while they were asleep inside their homes in the town of Ceylanpinar, Turkey. The PKK claimed the responsibility
on the same day. Turkish jets bombed the PKK’s military camps in return and Cemil Bayik, one of the PKK leaders, called for arming and creating “liberated zones” in city centers
. Thus, a two-year ceasefire that the Turkish government worked to secure despite a considerable pressure came to an end. PKK militants tried to create “liberated zones” inside several town centers like the Nusaybin, Cizre and in Sur districts of the city of Diyarbakir during the autumn 2015.
CLAIM 3: Kurdish politicians have been thrown out of politics
From the re-escalation of hostilities to today’s date, several members of the HDP were sentenced to prison terms. The arrests of these politicians have been perceived or presented by some international media as a political persecution of pro-Kurdish politicians. However, they were sentenced to prison terms because they supported the criminal activities of the PKK with thier words and actions. For instance, former HDP co-chair Figen Yuksekdag said
in a party rally: “We depend on the YPG and the PYD” in reference to the PKK’s political and armed branches in Syria. Yuksekdag announced she “sees no problem” in announcing their support for the YPG, which is a designated terror group in Turkey. HDP parliamentarian Abdullah Zeydan threatened
the Turkish government, saying “PKK is so powerful that it can drown all of you in its saliva”.