There have been many changes in Turkey since the national election held on 7th June 2015. As readers will remember, Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of the Republic and his party, which has been in power for 13 years, have been both defeated in the elections, with a narrow margin and were not able to build a single party government. Due to the great success of pro-Kurdish party HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party), which was able to pass the 10 percent election threshold, the governing party AKP lost power and T. Erdoğan’s aspirations of becoming a dictator, under the guise of a “presidential system,” remained unrealized, at least in the short run.
But the story didn’t end there, as it should have in a democratic country. Since none of the political parties in the parliament could obtain the necessary majority to form a government, party leaders made declarations stating their intentions to form a coalition and are still holding meetings for a possible – though not very likely – agreement. It seems that these “negotiations” will continue for a while, probably without any resolution so that an early election will take place in coming November.
Seizing of power by a not-so-visible coup d’état and establishment of an interim regime
So far, so good and everything looks normal. But here we face another reality, which is peculiar to Turkey. One can easily say that there are two power centers in Turkey’s politics. One is located in the parliament, that is, a properly elected government, a prime minister, her cabinet and the opposition parties. The other is a constellation of power composed of T. Erdoğan – as its leader – the military, MIT (National Intelligence Service) and some high level figures in AKP.
The limited parliamentary democracy has not been functioning in Turkey since the elections of June. Under these circumstances the second power center, taking advantage of the political vacuum has seized all the power, taken a series of very important and dangerous decisions regarding both the domestic and international relations and now carries out comprehensive military and police operations against ISIS (so called “Islamic State”), PKK and some radical leftist organizations.
So an illegitimate power bloc is now governing Turkey. A not-so-visible coup d’état has taken place and an interim regime has been established.
The Suruç massacre and Turkey’s siding with the international coalition against ISIS.
On 20th July a suicide bomber member of ISIS exploded himself in Suruç (a Kurdish town near to the Syrian border where refugees from Kobane stay) and killed 32 young socialists who were there carrying humanitarian aid to Kobane. This massacre was the final ring of a chain of attacks against the Kurds and their friends organized with the collaboration of Turkish Intelligence Service (MIT) and ISIS. A member of a research delegation sent to the region by CHP (a statist political party) openly accused MIT for having tolerated the suicide bomb attack.
And this was also the last attack against the Kurdish political movement organized as a result of this collaboration. From that moment on Turkey changed its policy against ISIS by a 180-degree turn by finalizing negotiations with USA, which were under way for a couple of months.
Turkey’s illegitimate power block treated the Suruç massacre as an attack to the country’s security and declared that it will join the international coalition against ISIS by opening its air bases in İncirlik and Diyabakır to US warplanes. Turkish F-16’s bombed ISIS’s positions in Northern Syria at least twice.
However Turkey’s “operations against terror” were not restricted with the bombing of ISIS positions. Prime Minister Davutoğlu made it clear that this would be a full-fledged campaign against all “terrorist organizations” threatening “our security” and Turkish F-16’s also bombed the bases of the PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party) in Northern Iraq.
Obviously bombing PKK’s bases was a clear violation of the cease fire which has been continuing for about 2.5 years as a result of the “peace negotiations” which began in early 2013 with the dialogues between the imprisoned PKK leader A. Öcalan and state security officers.
Combining “the war against ISIS” and “the war against the Kurdish Movement”
First, Turkish government policy against ISIS was not sustainable. The tactic of covertly supporting ISIS against Syrian Kurds who defeated ISIS several times served the interests of the Kurds rather than those of Turkey. PYD (Democratic Union Party) which represents the majority of the Syrian Kurds and is at the same time a sister organization of PKK gained international recognition and sympathy. YPG (People’s Protection Units), the armed branch of PYD, are still conducting operations against ISIS with the coalition air support.
Second, Turkey’s support of the jihadist groups such as ISIS in Syria was in sharp contradiction with the policy of the US. It was not possible for Turkey to obtain US support for its attacks against the Kurdish Movement unless it joined the coalition against ISIS and thus contributed to US efforts to contain ISIS, if not to defeat it.
Third and most important, the Kurdish Movement and Kurds in general who were taking great advantages from the “peace process”. As long as the cease fire continued, PKK could send part of its guerilla forces to Northern Syria (called “Rojava”) to fight ISIS. Likewise, thousands of Kurdish young men and women could go to Rojava to help their compatriots by joining the ranks of the YPG. On the other hand, due to the climate of peace, the pro-Kurdish party HDP had room to organize and carry on a successful election campaign and convey its views to the Turkish people. Thus HDP could pass the election threshold of 10 per cent with strong support from Kurdish voters and some support from Turkish voters as well. Thanks to this electoral victory HDP prevented AKP from coming to power again with a single party government.
The trade-off between Turkey and the United State and the targeting of the Kurdish population
The illegitimate power block, which defends the “red lines” of the Turkish Republic, couldn’t tolerate the gains of Kurds both in Rojava and Turkey. It decided to agree with US policy against ISIS and a trade-off took place: Turkey would join the coalition against ISIS and open two very crucial air bases to the use of the US air force. In return it would be permitted to resort to the “violent solution” of the Kurdish problem, at least for a while.
Now Turkish warplanes are bombing PKK bases in Northern Iraq every day, Turkish security forces are oppressing peaceful demonstrations violently and using a very disproportionate force against the protesters clashing with police in Alawite and Kurdish neighborhoods.
There are mass detentions including members and administrators of pro-Kurdish parties.
The PKK is retaliating against the bombings of its bases in Northern Iraq by killing soldiers, police officers and a high-ranking military officer. At least a dozen people have been killed within a week as the result of Turkey’s war against the Kurds.
In sum, the illegitimate power bloc consisting of the military, National Security Council, MIT, some elements of AKP and led by T. Erdoğan have managed to turn the whole country into hell and we have every reason to assume that things will be worse if those who defend peace in Turkey both in the domestic and international arena do not exert strong pressure against Turkey’s new war against the Kurds.
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