The gains Turkey may hope to make from the defeats of the Kurds

Christopher de Bellaigue writes: Whatever the fate of Kobani, Turkey’s complicity in its human miseries has already had fearsome effects beyond this parched, benighted bit of land, where, ninety-nine years ago, some of the survivors of the Ottoman genocide of the Armenians slogged into Mesopotamia. Last month, from his headquarters in northern Iraq, the PKK’s operational commander, Cemil Bayık, presented more evidence that Turkey had been arming ISIS, and threatened to end its twenty-month-old ceasefire if Turkey did not stop its “war” against the Kurds of Syria.

Then, on October 7, the PKK demonstrated its undimmed ability to bring chaos to metropolitan Turkey, organizing violent protests not only across the country’s Kurdish-majority region in the southeast, but also in several cities further west. These were met — again, violently — by the security forces and by members of a Kurdish Islamist group that has been useful to the state in the past. More than twenty people were killed before the PKK’s incarcerated leader, Abdullah Öcalan, reportedly sent word that the unrest should stop.

One might wonder why the Turkish government would risk endangering a peace process with the PKK that has greatly contributed to Turkish stability, improved human rights and the rule of law, and facilitated economic development. The Turks may be calculating that the PKK cannot easily abandon a process that has brought its members new political power in some Kurdish areas and allowed Kurdish nationalist MP back into the national parliament. They also seem to believe that the Kurds are due a sharp reality check as to the impossibility of replicating Syria-style autonomy in Turkey. The ISIS advance on Kobani could serve that purpose, while the contraction of the Kurdish fief pushes the nationalists onto the tender mercies of the Turkish state — as Kobani has demonstrated. Weakened by the defeats suffered by its affiliate in Syria, the PKK may be less able to resist political demands made by the Turkish government if serious negotiations are renewed toward a final settlement. [Continue reading…]

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