The West has long betrayed Turkey’s democracy - analyst

Western democracies have remained largely silent against Turkey’s authoritarian regime, whose crackdown on opposition parties is most evident in its fight against the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Middle East analyst Seth J. Frantzman said.

Ankara created “a largely imaginary ‘terrorist’ group to fight,” in 2015, when the Kurdish peace process fell apart and Turkey “unleashed its army to destroy Kurdish villages and cities in a war on PKK activists,” Frantzman wrote in the Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

After tens of thousands of casualties from both sides and huge economic loss in the region for decades, then-prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2009 initiated a process of talks between Turkey’s intelligence service and the leadership of the PKK, an armed group that has been fighting for Kurdish self rule in Turkey for four decades.

The talks, which continued in a semi-public manner after 2013, failed in July 2015 as relations between the two sides came under pressure due to the Syrian conflict and domestic politics. An intensified conflict ensued, causing hundreds of civilian deaths, forced migrations and the demolition of city and town centres in southeast Turkey.

Soon thereafter, the government removed parliamentary immunity from HDP members, arrested party co-chairs Selahatin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ along with other lawmakers and members of the party, who are likely to never be released, Frantzman recalled.

Meanwhile, Turkey has launched military operations into neighbouring Syria and Iraq, ethnically cleansing the Kurdish region of Afrin in the former, in a bid to “fight terrorism,” the analyst wrote.

During military operations into northern Iraq in the spring of 2020, “Turkey bombed minority Yazidi areas, claiming Yazidis were now part of the PKK,” he added.

“At each juncture when the Turkish ruling party needed to silence critics at home, a new war would result. Turkey shipped Syrians to fight in Libya in 2020 and provoked a war between Azerbaijan and Armenia,” Frantzman said.

Western media at times echoes the Ankara regime narrative that Turkey has lost “40,000” people fighting terrorism, but most of the 40,000 casualties were killed by the government in attacks on “terrorists,” Frantzman noted.

A study by citizen journalist group 140Journos of publicly available sources found that between 1984 and 2017, Turkey lost 6,520 members of its security forces, while 5,669 civilians died in the conflict. The remaining deaths, 29,639 people, were from the ranks of the PKK, according to journalist Nedim Şener.

NATO member Turkey “appears to have used its role with impunity and used the US ‘war on terror’ as an excuse to launch a war against any opposition voices, the free press and student protesters,” the analyst wrote.