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Erdogan’s Underreported War Against The Kurds

By Missing Peace
Turkish President Erdogan finally decided to allow the US to use Turkish air space to attack ISISTurkish President Erdogan

Last Monday, an Islamic State terrorist detonated his suicide belt near the historic Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, killing ten tourists–most of them Germans. 15 others were wounded in the suicide attack that was covered by virtually all world media.

The European Union quickly responded to the ISIS attack on Turkey, which aspires to become a member of the EU. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Frederica Mogherini, issued a statement that expressed solidarity with the Turkish government and people in the battle against “terrorism.”

“The EU and Turkey stand united against all forms of terrorism. The fight against terrorism was recognized as a priority at the EU-Turkey Summit on 29 November 2015 and we must step up our efforts in this regard in full respect of our obligations under international law, including human rights and humanitarian law,” the statement read.

State Department spokesman John Kirby later stated that the Obama administration had issued a condemnation of the attack and had reaffirmed its “strong commitment to work with Turkey, a NATO ally and valued member.”

Meanwhile, a different kind of terror that has disrupted the lives of the large Kurdish minority in Turkey has gotten less attention. This war against Kurdish nationalists is conducted by the Turkish government and its president.

In the summer of 2015, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan ended a fragile truce with the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers Party, after he lost the Turkish elections. Erdogan’s AKP party lost its absolute majority in the Turkish parliament after the new Kurdish-dominated HDP party secured 13 percent of the vote.

Shortly after this election defeat, a violent campaign against the HDP started that many in Turkey believe was orchestrated by Erdogan and the AKP. In July, the ceasefire between the Turkish army and the PKK finally collapsed after a suicide bombing in the border town of Suruc killed 32 people, most of them young Kurdish activists.

The PKK responded to the bombing by renewing its attacks on Turkish targets, and the Turkish army launched a ground offensive against the PKK.

The Turkish air force later bombed PKK bases in northern Iraq after Erdogan closed a deal with U.S. President Barack Obama over the use of the Turkish airbase Incirlik for attacks on Islamic State. Under that deal, Turkey officially joined the US-led coalition against ISIS; but in reality, Turkish warplanes bombed PKK targets only.

Erdogan’s strategy paid off in new early elections that were held in November last year after the AKP sabotaged efforts to form a coalition government. He succeeded in rallying the Turks behind his nationalist anti-Kurdish agenda, and the AKP regained its absolute majority in the Turkish parliament.

Bolstered by his election victory, Erdogan stepped up his campaign against the Kurdish PKK, considered a terrorist organization by both the European Union and the U.S.

The Turkish president minced no words when he told the PKK: “you will be annihilated in (your) houses, (your) buildings, (your) ditches which you have dug. Our security forces will continue this fight until it has been completely cleansed – no matter the cost in human lives and suffering.”

Between 3000 and 5000 Kurds – most of them PKK members – have lost their lives since the cease-fire collapsed last year. Whole Kurdish cities are placed under curfew while the Turkish army hunts down PKK activists. The Kurdish villages and cities are “under virtual siege – without food, electricity, medical supplies and other essentials,” Global Research reported at the beginning of January.

Kurdish citizens in Turkey report that Erdogan’s army uses tanks and artillery in civilian areas, and that schools, hospitals, and other civilian infrastructure have been destroyed in many Kurdish areas.

The central command of the Turkish army boasts that hundreds of PKK members have been killed since late December 2015. Army snipers kill every Kurd who dares to go outside of his house during the long curfews.

Turkish journalist Asli Aydintasbas wrote that Turkey’s Human Rights Foundation reported that there have been 52 intermittent curfews in seven Kurdish towns where 1.3 million people live, sometimes lasting as long as 14 days. The organization puts the civilian death toll since the summer at 124.

“I feel nervous even admitting this to myself but some of the photographs coming out of the region have an unnerving similarity to early images from Syria in 2011 — with buildings bearing signs of last night’s fighting or smoke rising on the horizon from gray, concrete-colored towns,” Aydintasbas reported.

All this is happening in a NATO country that just hosted a G20 meeting,” the Turkish journalist added, while criticizing the world for remaining silent about what is happening in Turkish Kurdistan.

First published at Western Journalism