Violence in The East

Various videos have surfaced online depicting the conflict in Eastern Turkey. The videos have shown that truly, the deep state, the army and nationalist elements of Turkey are still prevalent and very strong. One such video shows a police chief shouting at unarmed Kurds handcuffed on the floor saying “şimdi Türk’ün gücünü göreceksiniz” – now you will see the power of the Turk.

Even more so than the tension with Armenians due to more recent developments, Turkish-Kurdish relations have been greatly strained. Living side by side, nationalism on both sides has caused great rifts. President Erdogan negotiated a successful ceasefire with the PKK – the leading Kurdish militia group antagonistic to the Turkish state – two years ago. Now, ostensibly due to leading a ‘War on Terrorism’ on two fronts (against both ISIS and the PKK) the ceasefire has been violently ripped apart, and conflict has once again fallen upon the blood-stained lands of Anatolia.

With such developments, Turkey has seen an increasing polarised view of the conflict. The Turkish state, absolute about destroying any potential threat to its sovereignty in the South-East, has begun bombing the Kurdish positions in Iraq, in much greater force than against ISIS locations. In fact, Ankara has been criticised by Washington; the Wall Street Journal reported a senior U.S Military official describing how “ISIL was a hook… Turkey wanted to move against the PKK, but it needed a hook”.

There have thus been numerous assaults on individuals, organisations, buildings, villages, and towns that may have any potential links to the PKK. This has meant that innocent Kurdish and Turkish civilians have been killed in their hundreds. Towns have been blockaded, bombarded, and stormed. The most recent example being Cizre in the South-East, a small border town victim to state enforced violence. To show their solidarity with the oppressed civilians in the town, HDP (the parliamentary Kurdish party) members of parliament have walked all the way to the town on foot with Selahattin Demirtas, the leader of the party, and Garo Paylan, the Armenian minister of Istanbul joining the ranks.

Back to the topic of recently surfacing videos. In one of them, the town of Cizre engulfed in gunfire is seen at night; those recording are heard shouting in the direction of the town “Ermeniler sizinle gurur duyuyor – hepiniz Ermenisiniz”. The Armenians are proud of you – you are all Armenian. Similarly, in another video, at the funeral of a fallen Turkish soldier, a male relative is seen mourning and venting his anger towards Armenians. But the conflict is a Turkish-Kurdish one. Why mention Armenians?

These scenarios allow us a glimpse into the mindset of the nationalist elements in Turkey. On the one hand, the labelling of Kurds as Armenians could be seen as a scare tactic, to demean the Kurds, and conjure past images of destruction of a culture and uprooting of its people from their land. But I would be cautious, and more inquisitive. More truthfully, the Turkish state and nationalist outlets have been calling the Kurds Armenians for years now, and for another more important reason. Abdullah Öcalan, the incarcerated founder and leader of the PKK organisation is regularly depicted as Crypto-Armenian by the obscenely nationalist elements of Turkey. Misinformation is everywhere. This has led to many conspiracy theories that the PKK is an Armenian funded and organised movement to destroy Turkey from the inside.

With a very poor coverage of this violence and intrigue in western media outlets, one can be forgiven for not knowing much about the conflict, and with all the different points of view, misinformation, and multitude of events surrounding the Middle East, the renewed Turkish-Kurdish conflict can seem to be a further confused war. But I will leave you with this. During an interview with ATV and A Haber on the 6th September, Erdogan declared that if his AK party had secured the required 400 deputies for a majority, then this violence wouldn’t have happened. I find this a very telling statement revealing his true intentions.

— Raphael Gregorian

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