Will Turkey be able to deal with its big issues?

The human cost of the PKK conflict in Turkey

I chose to analyze the topic Turkey and Kurds, about which I found many websites. I read deep analyses on Foreign Affairs Magazine and Limes on line, and news on sites like BBC, The Guardian, AlJazeera, Nena- news.it, Al-Monitor.com and others.

I didn’t realized before how much the Kurdish issue is deeply rooted in the Middle-East area. It has been going on from the end of the first World War without a solution. Since then, Kurds  have always fought to retain their ethnic, political and cultural identity.

It seems to me that Kurds don’t have a common vision about their future and they never have had a common political view. For example, in Turkey there is a moderate left party like HDP and others like PKK that are on more violent and radical positions, especially their most extreme fringes. A cease-fire was signed in March 2013 between PKK and the Turkish government. It looked like the end of a 30-year low-intensity war and the begin of a democratic political dialogue on Kurdish issue but, in July 2015, the relations between PKK and the government broke down again.

The present situation shows an escalation in fighting in Kurdish area in which the Turkish troops are bombing civilians, while in other parts of the country Turkish army and the civilians  are suffering constant attacks and suicide bombings from the Kurdish rebels.

In addition to this, President Erdogan is proposing to strip the citizenship to everyone related to Kurdish terrorism, including not only rebels but also, journalists, academics, politicians,.. everyone who support the Kurdish claims

The Kurdish question is only one of many problems Turkey has to deal with. There are arguments inside the country, like the secular nature of the state, the democracy, the freedom of expression and it cannot be forgotten the 3 million refugees from Syria, and almost 140.000 from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and other.

Outside, Turkey has difficult diplomatic relations not only  with its neighbours but also with Russia and the European Union, not to mention the old issue of Cyprus Nord.

Will Turkey be able to deal with these big issues? I think that the situation is very complicated and not solvable in a short time. However  for the Kurdish question, I believe that it would be desirable to cease the fire and to resume the peace talks.

Maria Maddalena Vanzin




Kurds, second-class citizens or not citizens at all?


Protest march against Erdogan’s new war on Kurds, in Journal-neo.org

News of 5 April, in Middle East Eye web site, reported some phrases of a speech in which President Erdogan proposed to strip the Turkish citizenship to the supporters of Kurdish rebels locked in conflict with government troops. President Erdogan pointed out that the supporters are terrorists and also what is the definition of terrorism. He said that “Supporters (of terror) who pose as academics, spies who identify themselves as journalists, an activist disguised as a politician … are no different from the terrorists who throw bombs,”.

The idea of stripping the citizenship came up after the last two month increasing violence due to the worsening and then break of the negotiations with PKK in July 2015. Recently there have been frequent government retaliations, in Kurdish area in which the rebels have their refuge, and consequently violent answers from Kurds.

In addition, the Nationalist Movement party’s leader Devlet Bahçeli asked for withdrawing  the parliamentary immunity of the members of the Parliament affiliated with PKK, that is to say the HD Party, and he also made a motion, to the Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, to destroy the meridional district of Nusabybin after having evacuated the local residents.

News  of 22 April, in nena-news.it and bbc.com, reported  how the situation has  recently developed. Yesterday four Turkish academics went on trial in Istanbul.  They have been accused of having signed a petition, with more than 1,000 scholars, asking the end of the military campaign against Kurds in the south-est of the country. Moreover the same day, in another court of law in Istanbul, two journalists responded to the accusation of spy, attempted coupe and to support terrorism.

These days have also seen an escalation of violence  in Kurdish area where, according to nena-news.it, many cities have been bombed and are under curfew. In Nusaybin about 35,000 civilians, have been  under siege for two months and they are without food, safe water, medicines  and electricity.

Maria Maddalena Vanzin

Kurds in Turkish parliament

The story of Kurdish movements for revolution and independence from Turkey in order to create an independent State see a long list of parties born and then died or banned. Last year saw a sizeable entry of Kurdish members in parliament.

The two recent elections in Turkey have seen the rapid rise and fall of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party HDP (People Democratic Party). The party has its roots in the violent Kurdish political movement but has recast itself as a left-liberal inclusive pacifist movement and a bulwark against President Erdogan  growing authoritarianism. In the June’s election  the HDP gained 79 seats in parliament, a victory for the party and his charismatic leader Selahattin Demirtaş. Demirtaş  is the voice of a new Turkey that goes beyond  the defence  of interests and cultural ethnical claims of the Kurdish minority and gives voices to claims of rights of women, gays and lesbians. His political program convinced also the Kurds  that previously voted for  the AK party of President Erdogan.  AK party’s message of change and reforms towards the resolution of the Kurdish issue appealed to Kurds in previous elections. In recent years, AK party relied on a services policy, and chose to emphasize the infrastructure projects undertaken to improve socioeconomic conditions in the southeastern provinces. This fell short of convincing the Kurdish electorate’s expectations for further political reforms. As the character of Kurdish politics was undergoing a structural transformation in the region, AK party fell out of sync with the new Kurdish psyche, as was demonstrated in  Uludere and Kobane. While AK party took a courageous step by initiating the resolution process in 2013, it apparently failed to maintain the momentum when it came to delivering on further cultural and language rights.

The faltering of the peace process due to other domestic crises which the AK party had been struggling with, the mixed messages during the election campaign, and the placement of locally not appealing candidates obviously undermined AK party’s credibility in the eyes of the Kurdish electorate. Many Kurds who viewed AK party as the agent of change came to question its commitment to the resolution of the Kurdish issue.

The further months have seen the death of this dream and the new elections in November, due to the failure of the AKP of having a majority in Parliament. In the Nov. 1  elections, the HDP vote declined to 10.8%, resulting in the party losing 21 of the 80 ( or 79 according to other news) parliamentary seats it had won just five months earlier. More recently, prominent voices in the mainstream, secular-liberal media who had supported Demirtas, or at least seemed sympathetic to his cause, began to oppose him and his party. Many political commentators believe the HDP “squandered” the opportunity it had created earlier in the year and will never regain it.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/12/turkey-quick-rise-and-fall-of-pro-kurdish-party.html#ixzz45pDzWxIC

According to the author of the article the main reason of this failure is the break of the sluggish yet still effective peace process remained ongoing between the government and the PKK.

Maria Maddalena Vanzin



Turkey under attack: explosive growth of sucide bombing. Isil or Kurds?

19 March  2016, a bloody suicide bombing referred to Isil, hit the popular Istiklal Street in central Istanbul’s Taksim square area, leaving on the ground at least five people while 36 were injured.

14 March 2016, another suicide bombing in Ankara, this time charged on TAK (Kurdistan Freedom Hawks)  a break-away faction of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party).

Turkey is dealing today with many problematic situations outside its boundaries: war against Isil in Syria, broken relationship with Russia, Refugees from Syria on which it made an agreement with the European Union. The big long-standing  issue inside the country is Kurds. The Kurdish question  has been unresolved since the end of World War One and the dissolution of the Ottoman empire. Kurds, as we know, don’t have an own state and are living in different but also neighbouring countries where they are fighting their governments in order to achieve independence or at least some kind of autonomy or representation in Parliament.

The situation in Turkey is complicated because Kurds are divided in moderates, the HDP which gained 59 seats in the last elections, and the militant PKK. After many years  of troubles and struggles the Turkish government  appeared to be arriving to a peaceful relationship with PKK , but two years ago the relationship got worse and now PKK is banned again. Not to be underestimated is the relationship between Turkey and Kurds in the other countries. Turkey blamed Kurds in Syria but has good relations with Kurds in Iraq.

But who are the Kurds?


Kurds are between 25 and 35 million of people, the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle east without a State. After World War One and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire there was the idea to create an independent Kurdistan but this hope died with the Treaty of Lausanne which set the boundaries of modern Turkey and left Kurds with minority status in the countries where they lived and still live today, mainly in south-eastern Turkey,  north-eastern Syria, northern Iraq, north-western Iran and south-western Armenia. We have to consider also the Kurd diaspora outside middle east, millions of people escaped from war and persecutions.

There is deep-seated hostility between the Turkish state and the country’s Kurds, who constitute 15% to 20% of the population.

Kurds received harsh treatment at the hands of the Turkish authorities for generations. In response to uprisings in the 1920s and 1930s, many Kurds were resettled, Kurdish names and costumes were banned, the use of the Kurdish language was restricted and even the existence of a Kurdish ethnic identity was denied, with people designated “Mountain Turks”.

In 1978, Abdullah Ocalan established the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), which called for an independent state within Turkey. Six years later, the group began an armed struggle. Since then, more than 40,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced. In the 1990s the PKK reduced its demand for independence, calling instead for greater cultural and political autonomy, but continued to fight. In 2012, the government and PKK began peace talks and the following year a ceasefire was agreed, although clashes continued.


The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has been a thorn in Turkey’s side for decades.

The ceasefire collapsed in July 2015, days after a suicide bombing blamed on IS killed 33 young activists in the mainly Kurdish town of Suruc, near the Syrian border. The PKK responded by attacking Turkish soldiers and police, and the Turkish government launched what it called a “synchronised war on terror” against the PKK and IS. Since then, hundreds of people have been killed in clashes in south-eastern Turkey and in air strikes on PKK camps in northern Iraq.

PKK is considered a outlaw organization from the Turkey government and western countries too. Moreover the Turkey’s government says the Syria YPG (People’s Protection Units) and the Syria PYD ( Democratic Union Party) are affiliates of the PKK, share its goal of secession through armed struggle, and are all terrorist organizations.

Not to forget the TAK, a Kurdish militant group which has claimed responsibility for the bombing in the Turkish capital of Ankara that killed 28 people, according to a statement on its website. The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) said the bombing was in response to security operations in the predominantly Kurdish south-east, and that attacks would continue. TAK was once linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers party (PKK). Some Turkish officials allege that TAK still acts as a militant front of the PKK, but TAK says the relationship has been severed. Like PKK, TAK is considered terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.

TAK has previously claimed responsibility for several assaults that left an aircraft cleaner dead. In 2012 the group attacked a Turkish military bus and killed two soldiers and injured 12 people in a coastal resort town. Other notable attacks include the June 2010 bombing of a bus carrying military personnel in Istanbul that killed three people and a September 2011 explosion in central Ankara, where three people were killed and 34 others wounded.

Kurds in Turkish government, the elections of June and November and the People’s Democratic party (HDP).

HPD is often described as Turkey’s answer to Greece’s Syriza and Spain’s Podemos, this democratic-socialist party stood for the first time as a party in June with promises to drive forward the Kurdish peace process and end ethnic, religious and gender discrimination. With a programme focused on minority rights, the rights of women and LGBTs (lesbian gay bisexual and transgender), it was founded in 2012 and led by chairman Selahattin Demirtaş and chairwoman Figen Yüksekdag. Before winning 80 seats in June, the HDP’s MPs stood as independent candidates since Turkey’s election threshold of 10% only applies to political parties. It is the only political party in Turkey that has a 50% women quota. The HDP describes itself as an environmentalist and anti-capitalist party that opposes nuclear power and vows to improve workers’ rights.


 Maria Maddalena Vanzin