Protests are spreading in Kurdish Turkey against the current Turkish incursion into Kurdish Iraq. What Istanbul has portrayed as an anti-terrorist operation is already, less than a week after Turkey’s recent military action commenced, starting to blow back, provoking ethnic unrest within Turkey. Do Turks realize how dangerous their little military solution is becoming…to them?
Ethnic Kurds in Turkey Protest Incursion
Large protests in support of the PKK turned violent in the town of Diyabakir on Monday as protesters clashed with police.
Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel Hamid said the situation in the town was tense and that reports of similar small clashes in other Turkish towns reflected the growing frustration of Turkey's Kurdish minority. She said that there was also growing anger on the Turkish side as the number of coffins of soldiers returning home continued to mount. There are fears for increased instability as local Peshmerga forces could engage Turkish troops.
Under the moderate Islamic party Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi (Justice & Development Party / AKP) now “ruling” Turkey (within the space it can carve out of a political system dominated by the military), a model of a third way for Moslem states—in addition to secular dictatorships and Islamic radicalism—is emerging. The PKK, which seems to be the most popular party in Kurdish as well as Turkish ethnic regions of Turkey, is arguably leading the way toward a modern, post-ethnic Turkish nationalism inclusive of the Kurds. Whether or not Turkey can manage to teach the PKK a lesson without inflaming old ethnic tensions within Turkey to the degree that will derail this long-overdue process is a critical question, not only for Turkey and its neighbors and their own large Kurdish minorities but more broadly for Pakistan, Israel, Indonesia, India, Iran, Somalia, and Lebanon—all of which face the same challenge of figuring out a route to modernization that will offer civil liberties, economic development, and mutual respect among minorities while avoiding the Scylla of dictatorship and the Charybdis of repressive Islamic fundamentalism. A tough stance against proponents of violence combined with a compassionate stance toward domestic minorities plus serious efforts to pull the standard of living in minority regions closer to that of the nation as a whole is in theory the right approach to achieve this goal. But the dynamics in which a tough stance against militants plays out typically tend to weaken the other two legs of such a policy. If Turkey can indeed manage to implement such a three-legged policy, then Turkey would constitute a major obstacle to the emergence of the Islamic political fault line so ardently being sought after by extremists.
Milestones to watch for that would indicate the worsening of this new crisis include:
- Kurds citing Kosovo independence as a precedent.
- Civilian Iraqi Kurdish deaths.
- Turkish troops firing on Turkish protests.
- Fighting between Turkish invasion forces and Iraqi Kurdish soldiers (the peshmerga).
- The PKK carrying out its threatened attacks in Turkish cities.
- Rise in popularity of the PKK within Turkey.
- Turkish repression against peaceful political action by Turkish Kurds.