By Gareth Jenkins (vol. 7, no. 18 of the Turkey Analyst)
On October 7, 2014, Turkey was swept by some of the most violent civil unrest in a generation. At least 23 people were killed and hundreds injured in an eruption of Kurdish nationalist anger at Ankara’s perceived indifference to the apparently imminent capture by the Islamic State of the predominantly Kurdish Syrian border town of Kobane.
The U.S.-led attacks against ISIS are criticized by Islamist commentators in Turkey. Ali Bulaç, a leading Islamist intellectual, writes that the attacks lack legitimacy in the eyes of the mainstream Sunni Arab world. Abdülkadir Selvi in the pro-government daily Yeni Şafak writes that Turkey is not going to allow the use of the İncirlik air base in the attacks, as this would expose Turkey to the danger of being attacked by ISIS. Taner Akçam in Taraf writes that it is highly unlikely that Turkey would go to war against ISIS, as the organization is Sunni Islamic. Ergun Babahan on the t24 news site delivers a harsh indictment of the Turkish government, which he accuses of supporting ISIS as a proxy force against the Kurds in Syria.
The question whether or not and to what extent Turkey is going to participate in the fight against ISIS is at the center of the attention of the Turkish columnists after the release of the Turkish hostages held by ISIS. Abdülkadir Selvi in the leading pro-government daily Yeni Şafak writes that Turkey is never going to participate in operations “directed against the Islamic world.” Ali Bayramoğlu, also in Yeni Şafak, writes that Turkey is concerned that the fight against ISIS is going to bestow new legitimacy on Bashar al-Assad, and that the PKK is going to become empowered as a part of the coalition. Ergun Babahan on the t24 news site cites Kurdish news sources that claim that Turkey has been providing weapons and ammunition to ISIS forces that have laid siege on Kobane, and warns that the Kurds cannot be controlled by using the methods of the Cold War.
By Gareth H. Jenkins (vol. 5, no. 17 of the Turkey Analyst)
On August 28, 2012. Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), declared that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) had usurped the authority of the Turkish state over an area of 400 square kilometers of the district of Şemdinli, close to the Iraqi border. The claim was exaggerated, in terms of geographical extent and the degree of PKK control. But there is little doubt that in recent months the Turkish security forces have been losing ground on the battlefield. However, even if the military eventually regains the upper hand, in the longer term Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s insistence on pursuing hard-line policies seems likely only to strengthen the PKK, More critically, the continuing rise in anti-Kurdish racism and ethnic violence suggests that, whatever happens in the PKK insurgency, an even more important war could be lost.
By Gareth H. Jenkins (vol. 5, no. 9 of the Turkey Analyst)
On April 22, 2012, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the center of Diyarbakır, the largest city in the predominantly Kurdish southeast of Turkey, for a celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birth. The event was organized by a coalition of NGOs affiliated with the radical Sunni Islamist organization known in Turkey as Hizbullah (which is unrelated to the Lebanese Shia organization with the same name), which many assumed to have been crippled by the killing of its founder Hüseyin Velioğlu in January 2000. However, Hizbullah’s ability to mobilize such a huge number of people suggests that it has not only recovered but is now stronger than ever. Its ability to combine a strong commitment to conservative Islamic values with an advocacy of Kurdish cultural and political rights looks set to pose a serious challenge not only to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) but also to more secular Kurdish organizations such as the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.