“The Kurdish Struggle: Repression, Geopolitics, and the Turkish Election”

The Kurdish Problem for President Erdogan

Kurds are Muslim ethnic people and they have their own cultural and linguistic traditions. After World War I, the western government promised them to provide their own homeland, but that didn’t turn out well, and now approximately 30 million Kurds are separated across countries like Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. And almost half of them live in Turkey. Among these countries is Iraq, which has an autonomous Kurdistan province known as Iraqi Kurdistan.Turkiye’s persecution of Kurds.

Turkiye has been involved in the criminal prosecution of Kurds for years and has a policy of “assimilating the Kurds into Turkish ethnic identity, denying their culture and traditions.” And this has increased under President Erdogan, whose “iron hand” policy against Kurds has suppressed them by all means, neglecting their unique identity and forcibly assembling them into Turkish identity. Such has been the scenario under President Erdogan that Kurds in Turkey are free to be Kurds only when they accept that they are Turkish citizens.Repression of the Kurds in TurkeyRelations between ethnic Kurds and Turks have been remarkably strained in recent history. According to The Kurdish Project, Turkey’s modern borders run right through Kurdistan. Kurdistan, a historically Kurdish region that is not a state, includes areas in Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria.Since the founding of Turkey, Kurdish culture, language, and expressions of identity have been heavily suppressed, and tensions have increased significantly over the past 40 years. In an interview with The Borgen Project, retired US diplomat Fred Lundahl said: “What the Kurds have had to deal with to do something and be respected has always been difficult.” The Turkish government suppressed Kurdish culture, not even the names that Kurdish families gave their children. In 2003, Turkish authorities passed a reform law aimed at restricting the use of names that use the letters x, q, and w, which are traditionally found in Kurdish names. “Because they [the Kurds] were immediately recognised by their names […] they were basically suppressed during this time,” Around the same time, in a criminal case, authorities in the southern Turkish city of Diyarbakr tried to prosecute seven parents who gave their children Kurdish names. The prosecutor claimed that the names were secret codes for a plot by Kurdish terrorists against the Turkish government. Although the judge ultimately dismissed the case, opposition to Kurdish expression continued.

The Genesis of the Kurds

‘USA engagement in eastern Syria has been challenging for Washington as continued instability caused by the Islamic State has hampered USA presence in the region. Moreover, the United States needed a reason for its presence, and thus, amid all this, in 2015, the United States tried to partner with Kurds and later formed the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Usa and its allies like France ,Uk continues to arm Kurds fighter ,which served many purpose for Washington as it was a direct answer by Washington to Islamic state and Moreover it can also act as the proxy for Usa in the region.But the formation of the Syrian Democratic Forces was not liked by President Erdoan, as this brought him a dual continental problem, both from inside and outside. As from inside, Turkiye had long-standing differences with the Kurdish Workers Party, also known as the PKK (Turkiye considers this organisation as a terrorist organisation), and amid this, the added external problem of the SDF and its continued buildup by Western-aided support brought them closer to the Turkiye border, raising problems for Turkiye. Erdogan sees the Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria as terrorists linked to the PKK.Well, many regional geopolitical experts are of the opinion that for President Erdoan, “There is no real nationalist anger against ISIS, but there is nationalist anger against the PKK.” And the reason that can be drawn is that PKK is an internal challenge for Erdoan, but the Islamic States are not directly a challenge for Turkey.

Erdoan’s U-turn

Turkiye hosts Syrian refugees who have migrated from war-torn Syria, but the condition at which these refugees live is questionable as Turkiye’s worsening economy and recent earthquake have made it more fatal. And as a result of this, President Erdogan has decided to relocate these refugees back to Syria.But relocating them back to Syria requires the removal of Kurdish militias from northeastern Syria. And President Erdoan has pledged to create a safe zone in Syria so the refugees can return to their homeland.But this decision by President Erdoan has raised lots of humanitarian questions, and many even say that President Erdoan wants to get rid of the refugees.

Kurds, Russia, and President Assad

In recent years, Turkish operations inside Syria have increased, one of which was “Operation Dragon,” which was a counter to recent explosions that have been reported inside Turkey by the PKK. But the Turkish offensive in Syria had further instabilized the region, but the major impact has been on SDF.And since President Erdoan came to power, the SDF presence around Turkiye in Syria has reduced, and amid all this, the SDF made an agreement with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad with mediation from Russia. Since Russia has been an outright supporter of Bashar Al-Assad’s regime and rejects the American presence in the region, it has been an opportunity for Russia to not only act as a stable agent but also reduce the presence of the US in the region.

Kurds and there Nato connection

The recent problem with Sweden’s accession to NATO has been due to the opposition by Turkiye, which says that Sweden has long supported the PKK terrorist group and that Turkiye in return needed the affiliates of PKK from Sweden. Though on April 4, 2023, Finland became a member of NATO, the Turkish opposition was the same.Many say that Turkiye’s opposition to Sweden is part of Erdoan’s politisation, and this would weaken NATO amid the Ukrainian war. Many also demand that Turkiye be expelled from NATO.

How will Kurds impact the upcoming Turkish election?

The Kurdish official said that if there is an open, honest, and sincere debate and negotiation, the HDP can support Klçdarolu within the bounds of certain principles. Instead of joining the Nation alliance (the “Table of Six”), HDP is getting ready to run in the elections under the Labour and Freedom alliance, which has been developed with other left-wing democratic parties and platforms. The Kurdish-led party is thinking about engaging in negotiations within the parameters of the HDP’s “Justice, Democracy, and Peace Proclamation” in exchange for Klçdarolu’s support. The following forms the main structure of this declaration: Strong democratic institutions, an independent court, adherence to popular opinion, and a democratic resolution

With the Turkish presidential election right around the corner and Kurds being the kingmakers in the election, President Erdogan’s policies against Kurds matter, and moreso it’s also a challenge for the international community to look into the continued violation of rights of Kurds under President Erdogan’s regime. 

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