Attack on Turkey’s HDP exposes depth of unresolved Kurdish question, researcher says

Thursday’s fatal attack on the Izmir offices of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has proven that without a solution to Turkey’s Kurdish issue, “there will only be more deaths, deepening autocracy, and entrenched conflict”, researcher Meghan Bodette wrote for the National Interest on Monday.

The attack that killed a young female member of the HDP by Onur Gencer, a former public healthcare worker, who has shared on social media photos of himself wielding Turkish army issued weapons in northern Syria, “laid bare the violent roots of Turkey’s unresolved Kurdish question”, she said.

Gencer had planned for a massacre, Bodette wrote, echoing remarks made by HDP co-chair Mithat Sancar, who told reporters on the day of the attack that a large scale meeting had been cancelled at the last minute.

“The Izmir shooting was not the first time that a civilian Kurdish party was met with armed force by a pro-government attacker,” Bodette said.

An estimated 17,000 people, most of them Kurdish, have gone missing or fallen victim to homicides in the past three decades. The government started to look into the cases in 2015, Daily Sabah reported, but not much has come out of the investigations.

“In all of these cases, no independent investigation to confirm or deny active state collusion has ever been allowed to take place,” the researcher said. “There is also no way to know how many more attacks will follow.”

Bodette mentioned two Islamic State (ISIS) bombings that targeted the HDP in the summer of 2015, and said the shooter Gencer was “far from the only Turkish citizen with ultra-nationalist prejudices to have spent time in Syria’s conflict zones”.

Erdoğan has been losing support among the electorate, she said, and as his votes fall further, “there are, without a doubt, others willing and able to do what (Gencer) did or worse - a serious challenge for democracy and stability in the country”.

“There will always be a ready-made justification for the next death, the next autocratic overreach, and the next war,” until the Kurdish issue is resolved, she said. “This is not a problem the international community can ignore.”

Turkey’s western allies, in supporting its efforts to find a military solution, have “created an internationalized conflict, and a government that now threatens their own interests”, the researcher said, calling for international support for a political settlement of the Kurdish issue.