Claim: Military operations in southeastern Turkey “anti-Kurdish”

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Claim: Military operations in southeastern Turkey “anti-Kurdish”

2016-02-24 07:27 GMT
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Russian state-run news agency Sputnik repeats claim that Turkish state is “anti-Kurdish” in various news articles

Turkish soldiers saving an elderly Kurdish couple stuck in their house because of the clashes

Russian news portal Sputnik claimed that the Turkish government has an “an ambitious anti-Kurdish initiative” and has been implementing “anti-Kurdish policies” as part of “a so-called antiterrorist operation” while quoting an author from the Independent newspaper who claimed that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “was supporting a Sunni Arab sectarian takeover that was anti-Shia, anti-Kurd and anti-secular and was bound to be resisted.”

A similar remark from the Huffington Post also claimed that “Turkey launched airstrikes on the ethnic group [Kurds] in Iraq and a military campaign inside Turkey,” implying that the main target of the Turkish state is the Kurdish people, not the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), a Marxist-Leninist militant group which seeks to establish its ideology in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast and is recognized as a terrorist group by Turkey, the US, the EU, and NATO.

Despite the common tendency to equate the Kurds with the PKK, in fact, the PKK does not represent the Kurds. Kurds themselves have been victims of PKK violence over the years.1 Operations by Turkish security forces against the PKK aim to defend the Kurdish public against these attacks.2 According to a survey, 92 percent of the Turkish public support anti-PKK operations. Another survey showed that the vote rate of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which is accused of having links with the PKK, fell to 8.4 percent despite it having gained 13 percent of the vote in June 7 elections and 10.8 percent in November 1 snap elections. Also, a recent study indicated 78.9 percent of the Kurdish community is against “self-governance”, a policy which the HDP promotes and the PKK fights for.

Moreover, a considerable increase in the reforms undertaken to solve the crisis in Turkey’s Kurdish-dominated regions have been observed since the ruling AK Party (Justice and Development Party) rose to power towards the end of 2002. Since then, the 51-year-old state of emergency in the southeast of the country was lifted; an institute for the study of Kurdology was established for the first time in the history of the republic; citizenships were returned to Kurds who in the past were denationalized; and the Kurdish version of the state-run TV channel TRT (The Turkish Radio and Television Corporation), TRT Kurdi, was established. For more information on these reforms, please click here.

Turkey resumed its operations against the PKK after the group unilaterally broke a two-year ceasefire with the state. On 21 March 2013, via a letter written by the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK announced a ceasefire and promised to withdraw from Turkey's borders. Yet the PKK did not stop carrying out attacks and threats during the ceasefire. Between 2013 and 2015, the PKK carried out 185 attacks on soldiers, policemen, and civilians and proclaimed self-rule in nine cities and provinces. On 11 July 2015, the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the PKK's umbrella group, announced that the ceasefire with the Turkish government was over. On 15 July 2015, Bese Hozat, the co-chair of the KCK Executive Council, said that the time has come for a "revolutionary public war." On July 20, Cemil Bayik, the co-chair of the KCK Executive Council, called for people to arm themselves and dig trenches. For more information on how the PKK ended the ceasefire, please click here. Notably, all of this happened before the Turkish government took the decision to retaliate.