In Turkey, Kurds See Airstrikes and Protest Crackdowns as Political Revenge

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Scholar and activist Sardar Saadi discusses the political context of the recent airstrikes launched by Turkey against the Islamic State and Kurds in Iraq and Syria.

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JARED BALL, PRODUCER, TRNN: What’s up, world. Welcome back to the Real News Network. I’m Jared Ball here in Baltimore.

Over the weekend Turkey launched air strikes against the Islamic State and Kurds in Iraq and Syria, effectively ending the two-year-long ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, also known as the PKK. This comes days after Turkey granted the U.S. permission to use air bases along the Syrian border. Will this closer cooperation between the U.S. and Turkey undermine recent political gains for the Kurds in the region?

Joining us once more to discuss these and related issues is Sardar Saadi, who joins us from Diyarbakir in Southeastern Turkey. Welcome back, Sardar, to the Real News Network.

SARDAR SAADI: Thank you so much.

BALL: So as we talked a little bit off-air and as I said in the intro, does this latest violent attack, do these latest bombings threaten–or is the purpose really to undermine peaceful or nonviolent options for the Kurdish population?

SAADI: I think in some ways it does, but we need to see the happenings of last week in Turkey in a larger context of the regional and internal politics of the AKP government, the Justice and Development party’s government in Turkey.

So after last Monday’s explosion in Suruc that killed 32 activists and wounded 100 activists from all around Turkey, people were so angry against the government because they felt the regional politics of the AKP government has failed and has led ISIS to spread across Turkey, and move around and threaten and kill people. So the whole Kurdistan, Kurdish region of Turkey and the major cities, Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, witnessed–they witnessed protests against the Turkish government. And then surprisingly, on Wednesday Turkey decided to join the fight against ISIS after getting approval from the United States, which also guaranteed its use of Incirlik Air Base, in their fight against ISIS. And the United States fight against ISIS.

So I feel the Turkish government’s politics in the last few years, which has been to overthrow a [inaud.] regime and to prevent the Kurdish minority in Syria to form their own autonomous region with their own administration and with their own territory, has fell. Because they couldn’t find any allies in the West for these politics. And the Kurds in Syria and in Iraq have been the most effective forces on the ground in the global fight against ISIS.

So after the Turkish government saw that this fight against ISIS has become more priority, they also decided to join this fight but with their own condition. What are their condition, it’s basically you should abandon Kurds and do not support them, and we will replace them. And the Turkish government has emphasized like so many times that the PKK, the Peoples’ Protection Unit, YPG and YPJ, the Womens’ Protection Unit, the PYD, the political party, of the Kurds in Rojava, they all belong in the same category, they are all terrorists. Terrorist organizations.

So they joined this fight, and its’ a very ironic–and people in Turkey are mocking this strategy. Because it’s clear that the Turkish government is not so [different] in their fight against ISIS. When they threw a few bombs on ISIS positions in Syria, they had thrown hundreds of bombs on the PKK’s positions in North Iraq, killing many fighters and many civilians have been inured, based on some reports. And also while they arrest the few ISIS supporters in Turkey, so far they have arrested hundreds of Kurdish and leftist activists in Turkey. And even the way they have arrested the ISIS supporters, ISIS [inaud.] and the Kurdish and leftist movement, the Kurdish and leftist activists is very different.

Police has arrested these ISIS supporters based on some videos shown on YouTube in a very respectful way, while they have brutally attacked the houses of these Kurdish and leftist activists. And for one day, [inaud.] was shut down. And right now, so many Kurdish and leftist alternative media outlets are, filter–I myself cannot access them in Turkey right now. A peace march in Istanbul was banned. Another peace march in Ankara was attacked, was brutally attacked.

So this change in the Turkish politics in the fight against ISIS in regional politics, especially about Syria, is directly affecting their own, internal affairs. And why this is happening, on June 7, about a month and a half ago, during general election the AKP government lost its majority government, and the Kurdish and leftist parties, they had an alliance and they won historic elections. And right now the Kurdish political parties, they called this brutal crackdown on the protests and the political movement of the Kurds in Turkey as a revenge against the Kurds. And that this all has been seen as a pretext for an early election that the AKP government would gain its majority, and they could go ahead with their plan, the, changing the Turkish constitution, and the political system.

And this is very much Erdogan’s personal ambition for becoming president and the leader of the new government in Turkey.

BALL: Sardar Saadi, there’s a lot to be considered here. We greatly appreciate you taking the time to help us work through this at times complicated and confusing situation. We appreciate you joining us here at the Real News Network.

SAADI: Thank you.

BALL: And thank you for joining us here at the Real News. And for all involved, I’m Jared Ball. Here in Baltimore and as always, to you we say peace if you’re willing to fight for it as Fred Hampton used to say, and we’ll catch you in the whirlwind. Thank you very much for watching.

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