Lessons from Tel Abyad

One of the main issues discussed after the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government lost its majority in Parliament on June 7 is how the solution of the and”Kurdish problemand” will fare. AKP leaders say it is impossible to solve the matter without their partyand’s involvement.
The pro-Kurdish Peoplesand’ Democratic Party (HDP) says it can team up with any party, even the pro-Turkish Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), towards a solution. However, as of yet, the MHP will not even consider participating in a coalition government with the HDP, which they associate with the notorious Kurdistan Workersand’ Party (PKK).
What the and”Kurdish problemand” is has still not officially been determined. The AKP government, just like most Turkish people and the military apparatus, sees it as a security matter. That is why the government made the grave mistake of negotiating the solution with the PKK, believing that the organization will lay down its arms. But doing so was conditional to major changes in the present political and legal systems, which the government never thought of making. Consequently, the process failed.
Furthermore, the PKK had already accepted immobilization in Turkey — we owe the present tranquility in the country to this self-declared truce of the organization — but never promised to lay down its arms. This was only normal because Kurds all over the Middle East are under attack, particularly in Iraq and Syria. As a seasoned fighting group, the PKK went to the rescue of Kurdish enclaves in both countries.
At the moment, the PKK is supporting the Syrian Kurdish Peopleand’s Protection Units (YPG) in their struggle with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Together with the Arab Burkan al-Firat forces and backed by the US air force, the YPG have ousted ISIS from Tel Abyad, right across from the Turkish border town of Akandcakale. This is a strategic zone on the Syrian-Turkish border that controls the border crossing where ISIS obtained its human and material supplies. US President Barack Obama complained that Turkish officials andquothavenand’t fully ramped up the capacity they needandquot to seal the border.
Is it true that the (former) Turkish government aided ISIS, which is currently committing crimes against humanity? May be not directly but imbued with the passion of bringing the Syrian government down, the Turkish government has helped many shady opposition groups who later took the name or joined ISIS. This is partly due to a cultural affinity to anything bearing the name Muslim.
When Kobani was under attack from ISIS and Kurds were desperately defending their town (November 2014-February 2015), Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made his sentiments very clear: and”One terrorist group is fighting against another. They are the same for us.and” Being the initiator of the and”settlement process,and” such words were contrary to his mission. However, the Turkish establishment, including the AKP leadership, never considered reconciliation with the Kurds as their democratic equals. Kurds could only be counted and cared for if they obeyed the Turks and their state.
Having hardly digested the emergence of Iraqi Kurdistan, the Turkish establishment is opposed to the making of another regional Kurdistan besieging Turkey. This position has become so obvious that Kurds, who voted for the AKP in previous elections, this time switched over to the HDP, opening the door to its representation in Parliament with 81 deputies.
Although the Kurds are a peace partner in Turkey, a commercial partner in Iraq, the Turkish governmentand’s and nationalistsand’ bias against Kurds overlook the fact that Kurds are cleaning up the Turkish border from ISIS while trying to connect two Kurdish cantons, namely Kobani and Jazeera, to each other.
Another factor that the Turkish establishment overlooks is the fact that the influx of Syrians into Turkey by the thousand (now 2 million and increasing) will stop. Needless to say, Ankaraand’s wish was to create a safe buffer zone on the Syrian side and put all the refugees there. But, this did not work because Turkey could not find a supporter with teeth in the Western camp and Damascus said it would consider it an invasion.
Ankara was not able to effect its plan of creating a buffer zone along its southern border. However, it was not as upset when ISIS captured Tel Abyad in 2013 as it is today. Observing President Erdoganand’s and the armed forcesand’ discomfort in the face of YPG victory in getting the town back, one wonders how Turkey can solve its Kurdish problem with so much bias and emotional baggage against them?

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman