The West Must Stop Giving Turkey a Free Pass (New York Times)

(2.February.2016) Last month, more than 1,200 Turkish and foreign academics signed a petition calling attention to the continuing humanitarian crisis in many Kurdish-majority towns in southeastern Turkey, which are the site of fighting between the Turkish Army and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K. The petition decried the Army’s shelling of urban areas and the imposition of weekslong, 24-hour curfews, which have left many civilians unable to bury their dead or even obtain food. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly denounced the signers as “so-called intellectuals” and “traitors.” Within days, antiterror police had detained and harassed dozens of the signatories.

Mr. Erdogan’s actions shouldn’t have been surprising. The president has a history of jailing journalists and cracking down on media companies critical of his policies. And yet this time the response from his supporters was exceptionally chilling: A pro-Erdogan organized crime boss proclaimed, “We will take a shower in your blood,” while the office doors of some of the academics were ominously marked with red crosses avis viagra.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who as a former academic might have been expected to come to his colleagues’ defense, announced that he “did not regard the petition as falling under the rubric of free speech.” He then set out on a trip to several European countries in order to encourage foreign investment in Turkey’s foundering economy. In Britain and Germany, Mr. Davutoglu received a warm welcome from Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor Angela Merkel. The European Union’s response to the latest crackdown on dissent in Turkey amounted to little more than a statement calling the persecution of the academics “extremely worrying.”

Many prominent Western academics and non-governmental organizations have been vocal in censuring the persecution suffered by their Turkish counterparts. The European Union’s lack of action on Turkey’s crackdown on academic freedom and human rights would therefore be inexplicable but for one crucial detail: As the European Union faces its largest refugee crisis since World War II, the 2.5 million Syrians currently in Turkey are a huge bargaining chip for Ankara. Europe’s leaders are well aware of this.

Just weeks before Turkey’s early elections on Nov. 1 , Ms. Merkel came to Istanbul to meet with Mr. Erdogan and strike a deal: If Turkey helped stem the flow of refugees into Europe, Germany would help push forward talks on Turkey’s membership in the European Union. Many people fear that Ms. Merkel offered another compensation in exchange for help on the refugee issues: The European Union would tolerate Turkey’s human rights violations and its reckless handling of the Kurdish conflict.

The United States, which has crucial air bases in Turkey, cannot afford to alienate the Erdogan government, either. When Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. visited Turkey recently, he made a point of meeting with journalists who had been fired under government pressure. But afterward, Mr. Biden declared that the Turkish government was the United States’ “strategic partner” — an apparent gesture of reconciliation by Washington. Like many Western governments, the Obama administration has distanced itself from Mr. Erdogan since his suppression of the Gezi Park protests of 2013.

The diplomatic balancing act cannot go on indefinitely. The Syrian Kurdish group known as the Democratic Union Party, or P.Y.D., a branch of the P.K.K., is an American ally on the ground against the Islamic State and has received American military aid. Meanwhile, Turkey continues its attempt to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad by supporting Jaish al-Fatah, a Syrian rebel group that includes the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s Syrian branch.

Turkey and the European Union are in a more complex entanglement. At present, the European Union wields considerable leverage over Turkey, both as the market for more than 40 percent of its exports and as the arbiter of its long-stalled membership bid. Europe’s current strategy of placating Mr. Erdogan for the sake of its own short-term interests is misguided. As the Paris and Istanbul attacks have shown, Europe and the Middle East are part of one open system: Chaos and conflict in one region is sure to have repercussions in another. The millions of Syrians seeking refuge in the West, as well as the thousands of jihadists going to Syria from Europe, are now Europe’s problem — a problem that cannot be solved by building walls.

With the Middle East ravaged by religious radicalism and sectarianism, the European Union and the United States can’t afford the Turkish government’s brutal military efforts against the Kurds or its undemocratic war on academics and journalists. Only a secular, democratic Turkey that can provide a regional bulwark against radical groups will bring stability to both the Middle East and Europe. As Mr. Erdogan seeks to eliminate all opposition and create a single-party regime, the European Union and the United States must cease their policy of appeasement and ineffectual disapproval and frankly inform him that this is a dead end.

America, Turkey and Saudi Arabia Are Pouring Fuel on the Fire in Syria (Huffington Post)

(14.May.2015) Politically, the Republic of Turkey and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia could not be less alike. Turkey was founded 90 years ago on the basis of modern, secular, republican values, while Saudi Arabia is one of the few remaining absolute monarchies in today’s world. And yet, the two powers have found common cause on many issues in the Middle East: Yemen, Bahrain and above all, Syria. Turkey supports the Saudi-led military operations against Yemen’s Houthi rebels; it has also turned a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s heavy-handed suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations in Bahrain — a Shiite-majority country ruled with an iron fist by its Sunni monarchy. (On a 2013 visit to Bahrain, then-Foreign Minister Davutoğlu described the tiny island nation as “a good example of sectarian harmony.”)

Both Riyadh and Ankara support the Jaish al-Fatah (Army of Conquest) in Syria, which comprises numerous insurgent groups including al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, the al-Nusra Front, which the U.S. and others have designated a terrorist organization. The Army of Conquest has stated that its aim is to overthrow al-Assad with the support of Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Over the past few weeks, it has captured the strategic Idlib region on the border with Turkey.


To make sense of this unlikely alliance between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, let’s travel back in time to 2011. Amidst the turmoil of the Arab Uprisings, Erdoğan was counting on the overthrow of the dictatorships of al-Assad, Qaddafi, Mubarak and others, fondly imagining that Muslim Brotherhood parties would then come to power across the Middle East. This was the “Islamic order” of which Erdoğan and his colleagues dreamed, an order which was to be led by Turkey. In an apparent homage to the Ottoman sultans’ tradition of performing their prayers in a newly-conquered capital, Erdoğan declared that he would soon be praying in the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. However, Erdoğan has been unable to make good on this promise.

Erdoğan’s Syrian venture — the most ambitious such undertaking in the entire 90-year history of the Turkish Republic — has also proved to be the undoing of Turkey’s foreign policy. Intent on overthrowing al-Assad from the very beginning, Erdoğan is one of those responsible for the devastation in Syria today, along with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United States. A March 24, 2013 report in the New York Times stated that 120 cargo flights from Qatar and Saudi Arabia had carried military supplies to Turkey destined for the rebels in Syria. This weaponry was then delivered to the rebels in trucks alleged to belong to Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT). In January 2014, gendarmes in one of Turkey’s border regions, acting on information from public prosecutors, tried to search some of the trucks, leading to a major political scandal for Erdoğan. A number of those who ordered the search, including four public prosecutors and one colonel, are now under arrest on charges of espionage. Moreover, all of the shipments are known to have taken place with the knowledge of the C.I.A.

Since 2012, the city of Adana, just 60 miles from the Syrian border, has been home to a “nerve center” set up in order to provide assistance to the Syrian rebels and staffed by intelligence operatives from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. In fact, U.S. support for the Syrian opposition is hardly a secret. Senator John McCain courted controversy by his 2013 trip (via Turkey) to Syria, where he posed for photographs with the Syrian rebels, describing them in a tweet as “brave fighters in Syria who are risking their lives for freedom and need our help.”

On May 12, top senior U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlovewe — the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) of NATO Allied Command Operations and head of the U.S. European Command — also came to Turkey. Breedlove visited a training center in the city of Kırşehir, near Ankara, which was recently created in order to train the Syrian rebels. Here, under U.S. and Turkish supervision, weapons training will be provided to a total of 15 thousand Syrian rebels over a three-year period. The U.S. and Turkey refer to these individuals as the “moderate opposition.” Just what that term means in the context of Syria — currently the destination of choice for jihadis from all parts of the globe — is unclear.

In fact, Turkey’s foreign policy has failed not only in Syria but throughout the Middle East. Turkey currently has no ambassadorssh in five Middle Eastern countries: Syria, Egypt, Israel, Yemen and Libya. The 2010 Mavi Marmara crisis with Israel was the first indication of the diplomatic troubles in store for Turkey, followed two years later by the downing of a Turkish fighter jet by Syria. Just this week, Libyashelled a Turkish cargo ship off the coast of Tobruk, leading to the death of a crew member. In a less tragic but equally significant development, Egypt, Cyprus and Greece recently excluded Turkey from their newly-formed partnership to extract gas from the Eastern Mediterranean. As Turkey becomes more and more isolated in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia remains its only real ally in the region. However, it is the Saudis — not Turkey — who make the rules in this alliance.


The 2011 Arab Uprisings, which overthrew Qaddafi and Mubarak and created havoc for al-Assad, have become a nightmare for Saudi Arabia as well. The emergence of democratically-elected governments in the Middle East could be the death blow to the Saudi monarchy, which is unconcerned with popular opinion. The same applies to the sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf, such as Kuwait and the U.A.E., which also fear the tidal wave of change that toppled the military dictatorships of Libya and Egypt. Accordingly, Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. backed the 2013 military coup by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi; the two countries are regarded as el-Sisi’s staunchest allies.

Saudi Arabia’s other nightmare is Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East. It is not totally accurate to view the Saudi-Iranian rivalry merely through the lens of Shiite versus Sunni. During the 1990s, Shiite Iran was the biggest supporter of the (Sunni) Islamic groups fighting in Bosnia as well as those vying for power in Algeria. Iran has also been one of the main allies of Hamas — a Sunni organization — in the Palestinian Territories. It was Iran, as well, that incited the demonstrations against Salman Rushdie that raged across the Muslim world in 1989. In short, contrary to popular belief, Iran has often succeeded in transcending the Sunni-Shiite divide in the Muslim world. Though one would hesitate to describe Iran as a democracy, its elections and parliamentary system — as well as its revolutionary, anti-Israel, anti-Western discourse — make it far more appealing to Muslims worldwide than U.S. ally Saudi Arabia. The recent nuclear negotiations between Tehran and the West have created the real possibility of lifting the sanctions on Iran and integrating it into the global economy — all of which would spell catastrophe for Saudi Arabia.

Even a sanction-crippled Iran is a redoubtable opponent for Saudi Arabia in Syria, Yemen and Iraq; if its economy is resuscitated, Iran might very well unseat Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Middle East. Accordingly, Saudi Arabia is attempting to secure the support of the Middle East’s Sunni majority against Iran by portraying this conflict as a Sunni-Shiite rivalry. Saudi Arabia is also the main partyresponsible for converting what were initially peaceful demonstrations in Syria into a Sunni revolt against the Alawite regime of al-Assad — and then into an all-out sectarian war.


Due to the failure of Turkey’s over-ambitious foreign policy, it has had no choice but to join a broader Sunni alliance under Saudi Arabia’s leadership — especially given Turkey’s need for Saudi and other Gulf state capital in order to prop up its own faltering economy. Four years ago, Turkey sought to make the rules in the Middle East; it is now forced to take a backseat to Saudi Arabia. There are currently two million Syrian refugees in Turkey. A large amount of territory across the border in Syria is under the control of ISIS, and jihadi groups are gathering recruits from all over the world (including Turkey) for the ongoing war in Syria. In June 2014, the Turkish consulate in Mosul, Iraq was raided by ISIS, which abducted 49 Turkish citizens (consisting of diplomats and other staff), only releasing them after a secret deal with the Turkish government. For four years, all of Erdoğan’s predictions about the Middle East have turned out wrong. In his mind, ousting al-Assad is the only way to redeem himself and his country. But given the dire state of Iraq after Saddam’s overthrow, and of Libya after Qaddafi’s, no one has the slightest idea what a post-Assad Syria would look like.

During the 1980s, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. armed thousands of international jihadis — the mujahideen — who were flocking to Afghanistan to fight the Soviet Union; Reagan even met with a group of their leaders in the Oval Office in 1983. Just two decades later, however, it became clear that the U.S. had been playing a dangerous game in backing these “freedom fighters.” Unfortunately, the very same scenario is now being repeated in Syria — with Turkey assuming the role of Pakistan. The U.S., Turkey and Saudi Arabia have effectively created a new Afghanistan on the shores of the Mediterranean. And yet, instead of trying to extinguish the conflagration in Syria, they continue to pour fuel on the fire.

The Beginning of the End for Erdoğan (Huffington Post)

(8.June.2015) With yesterday’s historic elections, 13 years of AKP rule in Turkey came to a crashing halt. Having lost its majority in parliament, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s party will no longer be able to form a single-party government. In practical terms, this means the end of Erdoğan’s dreams of changing the Constitution to create a presidential system. From now on, Erdoğan is no longer the only one in charge in Turkey.

The country’s three opposition parties — the CHP (social democrat), the MHP (Turkish nationalist) and the HDP (a progressive party rooted in Turkey’s Kurdish movement) — collectively make up a parliamentary majority. They may re-open the investigation into corruption charges implicating numerous high-level members of the AKP, including Erdoğan himself. They may call Erdoğan to account for his many other unconstitutional actions as well: intimidating the Turkish press, illegally building his own presidential palace on protected land, spending billions of dollars of treasury money, putting the interests of his business cronies above those of society and impeding the workings of the justice system. Tough times are ahead for Erdoğan, who — at least in theory — is supposed to remain in office as president until 2019.

A native son of Kasımpaşa, an impoverished working-class district of Istanbul, Erdoğan first came into the public eye in 1994, when he was elected mayor of Istanbul at the age of 40. As the voice of the poor and oppressed, Erdoğan has won all eight of the elections in which he has run over the past 20 years. Over these two decades, however, both Erdoğan’s public persona and the nature of his political office have undergone a dramatic transformation.

An Illegal Palace for Turkey’s New Sultan

Erdoğan has come a long way from the shantytown neighborhood of his youth. Today, he resides in a 1,150-room palace built at a price tag of over 600 million dollars. Constructed illegally on protected land, this lavish building, the Ak Saray, or “White Palace” (its name is a reference to the ruling party’s initials), is the most tangible symbol of the 21st century sultanate Erdoğan has fashioned for himself. How this system operates is by now quite well-known.

Companies and foundations established by Erdoğan’s children and relatives oversee investments worth millions of dollars. Erdoğan’s numerous cronies in the mining, construction, energy and media sectors receive AKP support in the form of state tenders; in return, these same companies (which incidentally have purchased many of Turkey’s newspapers and television stations) ensure that ordinary citizens receive non-stop positive coverage of Erdoğan and his party.

Over his 13 years in power, Erdoğan has managed to shut down any and all institutions capable of challenging his authoritarian rule. First, hundreds ofjournalists, politicians, high-ranking military personnel and state bureaucrats were arrested and jailed for years on trumped-up charges of plotting a coup. Little by little, opposing or criticizing Erdoğan became equated with being a coup-plotter, a traitor, an agent of the West and/or of Israel. The public’s simmering discontent at this slide towards authoritarianism eventually boiled over in the summer of 2013 following protests about a plan to build a shopping mall on the site of Gezi Park in downtown Istanbul. The police’s heavy-handed response soon caused the protests to escalate into nation-wide anti-government demonstrations in which eight protesters were killed and hundreds wounded.

In December of the same year, serious allegations of corruption surfaced against Erdoğan, his family members, his ministers and businessmen with close ties to him. However, as with the Gezi protests, Erdoğan dismissed the ensuing legal investigation as a “coup attempt,” this time blaming it on Fethullah Gülen, the leader of the Gülen religious movement and an erstwhile ally of Erdoğan’s. The investigation was severely hampered by the arrests of many of the prosecutors involved, and the charges were eventually dropped.

Erdoğan’s Autogolpe

Contrary to popular belief, a coup d’état need not be carried out by the military. Democratically-elected presidents have also been known to carry out autogolpes (self-coups) by chipping away at their countries’ legal and political institutions. This was the case with Getúlio Dornelles Vargas in Brazil during the 1940s and 1950s, Juan Domingo Perón in Argentina during the same era and Alberto Fujimori in 1990s Peru. After Erdoğan was elected president in August of 2014, it became clear that the country was in the throes of a Latin American-style autogolpe by its former prime minister, who announced that Turkey was taking a moratorium on the parliamentary system.

As president — traditionally a ceremonial, mostly symbolic office in Turkey — Erdoğan is constitutionally obligated to remain unaffiliated with any political party. This has not prevented him from promoting the AKP at large electoral rallies paid for with state funding (an additional violation of the constitution). At these rallies, openly flouting the secularist principles of the Republic of Turkey, Erdoğan has not hesitated to use religion to drum up support. Waiving a copy of the Quran, he has accused his political opponents of being unbelievers, while also seeking to please Turkey’s Sunni-majority electorate at the expense of its large Alevi community.

Erdoğan: No Longer Invincible

Yesterday’s elections shattered the myth of Erdoğan’s invincibility, which has long been a potent source of his charisma as a leader. The AKP, which netted almost 50 percent of the vote in the 2011 elections, received barely 40 percent in yesterday’s race. When Erdoğan began his rise to power in 1994, the electorate perceived him as a leader whose piety made him immune to corruption; he was “one of them,” a man of the people who had grown up in a poor, religiously devout community. Now, however, Erdoğan is seen as presiding over a venal political system which exploits religion in order to remain in power.

Erdoğan has surely realized that the tide of his political power is turning: this may account for his increasingly erratic and unpredictable behavior of late. Throwing diplomacy to the wind, Erdoğan has made disconcerting public statements such as the Westerners “look like our friend but they want us dead.” He has threatened opposition journalists, saying that they will “pay a heavy price” for their activities, referred to the New York Times as the instrument of “Jewish capital” and accused the BBC and the Guardian of “not knowing their place.” One can only guess what further reckless behavior Erdoğan might have displayed had Turkish voters not decided to clip his wings once and for all.

Many of the great movers and shakers of Ottoman and Turkish history — from Mehmed the Conqueror to Atatürk — have become the subject of films and television programs in recent years. One day in the not-too-distant future, audiences worldwide may have the chance to see a film narrating the life-story of a modern-day Turkish politician who rose from humble beginnings to become the leader of his country, consolidate his power and eventually build his own palace in the capital. To judge from yesterday’s elections and Erdoğan’s now-inevitable fall from grace, this film is bound to end on a tragic note.

Turkey’s Erdoğan Is Hanging on for Dear Life (Huffington Post)


(15.September.2015) The June 7 elections in Turkey spelled the end of 13 years of single-party rule by the Islamist Justice and Development Party. The electorate’s messages were clear. First and foremost, in the most decisive way, the electorate denied Erdoğan his wish to become the all-powerful executive president of a transformed Turkish political system. The electorate mandated parliament to assume its powers and asked that the political parties form a coalition government that would break the immense centralization and concentration of power in Erdoğan’s hand.

Following the elections, the country’s three opposition parties — which collectivelymake up a majority in parliament — might have reopened a parliamentary investigation into corruption allegations against Erdoğan, members of his family, his ministers and his cronies in the media, construction and energy sectors. However, like the Ottoman sultans of centuries past, Erdoğan resorted to all manner of intrigue to undermine his political opponents and protect himself. Flouting long-standing precedent, Erdoğan has not allowed any party leader other than Prime Minister Davutoğlu to try to form a government, thwarting efforts to build a coalition within a 45-day window and forcing the country to hold new elections on Nov. 1.

Thus, Turkey will hold general elections for the second time this year — a first in its more than six decades of multi-party democracy. In these elections, Erdoğan aims to regain the 18 MPs (out of a 550-member parliament) that he needs to reestablish a single-party AKP government, and, if possible, change the constitution to create a presidential system. In effect, Erdoğan is saying to voters: give me the majority I need to change the constitution, or suffer the consequences — i.e., political turmoil and social instability.

This has not proved to be an empty threat. Since June 7, Turkey has gradually begun to spiral out of control, with a plummeting currency and a rapidly deteriorating security situation.

Erdoğan has officially declared an end to the two-and-a-half-year peace process he had achieved with imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. Despite calls for peace by the Kurdish-oriented party HDP and its leader Selahattin Demirtaş, the past two months have seen a ramping up of attacks by the PKK that are taking the country to the brink of civil war. More than 100 soldiers and police officers have lost their lives as a result. As tensions have risen, pro-government mobs — one of whichincluded an AKP deputy — have attacked newspapers, opposition party offices and headquarters with stones and clubs, even setting fire to some buildings. In the midst of a political and security crisis, it is doubtful whether Turkey can hold truly free and fair elections six weeks from now. Why then has Erdoğan opted for such chaos and conflict?

Erdoğan’s ‘kleptocratic regime’

In December of 2013, police and prosecutors launched an investigation into major allegations of AKP corruption. The numerous charges included the awarding of plots of land in prime Istanbul locations to construction firms close to Erdoğan; thesmuggling of gold to Iran; and bribes totaling millions of dollars. Erdoğan describedthese investigations as a “coup attempt” on the part of the shadowy Gülen Movement (whose leader, Fethullah Gülen, lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania); he then dismissed from duty all prosecutors and police officers involved in the case. Erdoğan’s echo chamber in the media quickly followed suit, claiming that western countries were conspiring against Turkey. Though the legal investigation itself was called off, dozens of recordings were uploaded to YouTube (where they generated millions of hits) containing incriminating conversations by Erdoğan and his family members, his ministers and his business cronies. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition party, the CHP, has called for a renewal of the corruption investigations; Kılıçdaroğlu has stirred up controversy in the past by referring to Erdoğan as the “prime thief” and the AKP government as a “kleptocratic regime.”

The AKP’s supporters have mostly shrugged off such accusations, pointing to the rise in living standards under Erdoğan — a viewpoint summed up by the slogan“they steal, but they get things done.” But the surfacing of such massive evidence of corruption has cost the AKP in the ballot box: for the first time since 2002, the party has lost its majority in Parliament. The corruption files will almost certainly be reopened — heralding the beginning of the end for Erdoğan and his circle. Erdoğan evidently hopes that if the peace process with the PKK unravels and the fighting resumes, the resulting chaos will turn the tide in his favor in the Nov. 1 elections. But this desperate strategy is fraught with peril.

The Turkish army: a dangerous ally

In ordering the Turkish army to recommence operations against the PKK, Erdoğan has effectively called off the peace process. Yet relations between Erdoğan and the army — his current would-be ally — have never been smooth. From 2007 onwards, 68 generals — out of a total of 362 generals and admirals in the entire Turkish armed forces — have stood trial on charges of plotting a coup and creating an armed terrorist organization. In other words, one out of every five generals in the Turkish army has been imprisoned under Erdoğan. In August 2011, four top generals — including the chief of staff of the — resigned in protest at these prosecutions, widely regarded as show trials. Initially supporting these proceedings, Erdoğan later took a different tack, claiming that they had been conducted by the same Gülen Movement which later wiretapped Erdoğan himself, and stating that he had been “tricked.” Hundreds of imprisoned generals, colonels and other officers were set free after four years in prison.

It now appears that the PKK was stockpiling large amounts of weapons in cities and in the countryside during the 2013-15 ceasefire, during which the AKP issued strict orders to the army not to conduct anti-PKK operations. Many Turkish officers who were opposed to the ceasefire to begin with surely feel that they are being used as political pawns by Erdoğan, who is now asking them to give their lives fighting the PKK.

Last month, at the funeral of his brother who was killed in this conflict, Lt. Col. Mehmet Alkan shouted, “Who is my brother’s true killer? Who is truly responsible?” Many others attending soldiers’ funerals nationwide have denounced Erdoğan. As one slain soldier’s relative yelled at an AKP minister who showed up at the funeral, “If we had elected Erdoğan president, all these would not have happened at all, correct? You said this yourself. How many more will we sacrifice until we elect him as president? Damn you all.”

It is unclear if these are merely individual opinions or reflect a broader sentiment on the part of the army. One thing, however, is certain: more and more people are coming to view the latest anti-PKK operations as “Erdoğan’s War.” The Turkish army was largely responsible for overthrowing the Ottoman sultan in 1922 and establishing the Turkish Republic; it is understandably apprehensive about being asked to fight on behalf of a modern-day sultan like Erdoğan.

Erdoğan is taking a big gamble in the run-up to the elections. Once able to count on support from both Kurds and Turkish nationalists, he is now losing votes on both sides. Erdoğan’s ploy is to act first as an arsonist and then as a fireman, calculating that Turkish voters, on Nov. 1, will entreat him to put out the very fire he has started. However, the fire of the Kurdish conflict is likely to grow more and more uncontrollable. Meanwhile, Erdoğan must deal with the political opposition in Parliament; the corruption charges hanging over his head like the Sword of Damocles; and last but not least, the Turkish army, which has carried out four military coups to date and intervened in politics countless times, which Erdoğan has now brought back into the political fold.

Sultan or not, Erdoğan is hardly in an enviable position.


Why Turkey Aims for ‘Zero Problems’ With Russia’s War in Syria (Huffington Post)

(9.October.2015) Russia’s intervention into Syria shines a light onto the stark contrast between Ankara and Moscow on what to do about the Syria conflict. Since the outbreak of the Arab Uprisings in 2011, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been the most dependable ally of the Assad regime in Syria. President Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, on the other hand, has incessantly called for the overthrow of the Damascus government. While Erdoğan has made a concerted effort to organize and arm the jihadis fighting Assad, Putin has categorically referred to all such groups, even those backed by Turkey, as “terrorists.”

For the past three years, Ankara has been demanding a safe zone in northern Syria where oppositional forces can regroup, as well as a no-fly zone to protect them from Assad. The apparent goal behind this plan was to allow the West’s and Turkey’s Syrian protégés to conquer Aleppo (Syria’s largest city) and eventually take Damascus as well. Putin’s latest maneuver, however, has rendered such schemes completely impractical. Its deployment of surface-to-air missiles and air-to-air combat fighters is an obvious warning to Turkey. Unlike the air force-less Islamic State and Syrian opposition, Turkey has, in the past, downed a Syrian fighter jet and Syrian helicopters. Turkey’s inaction following incursions by Russian fighter jets into its airspace must be judged in this light.

Yet while Erdoğan is an outspoken politician who rarely hesitates to criticize the EU, the U.S., and Israel, he has been — comparatively — mild in his rhetoric towards Russia. At no point over the past four years has Erdoğan issued a harsh reproof of Putin, not even after Russia’s recent aerial bombardments, about which Erdoğan merely expressed his “regret and dismay.” To grasp Erdoğan’s seemingly contradictory stance towards Putin requires some knowledge of the system of crony capitalism that has sprung up and flourished — particularly in the energy and construction sectors — in both Turkey and Russia.

Russia is, by a wide margin, the world’s largest exporter of natural gas, some $73 billion worth in 2013. Turkey is the second-biggest purchaser of this gas and has one of the highest rates of dependence, relying on Russia for 57 percent of its own natural gas. Earlier this year, to everyone’s surprise, Erdoğan awarded a bid for the $20 billion Akkuyu nuclear power plant (intended to reduce his country’s energy dependence on natural gas) to Russia. In 2014, the volume of trade between the two nations totaled $31 billion.

While Russia’s exports to Turkey amounted to $25 billion, Turkey’s exports to Russia came to only $6 billion. With a balance of trade unfavorable to Turkey, and Turkish dependence on Russia for the bulk of its natural gas, Erdoğan’s decision to grant the nuclear power plant bid to Russia would be inexplicable were it not for the fact that his business cronies have invested billions of dollars in Russia, particularly in construction.

During Erdoğan’s 13-year tenure at the top, Turkey has witnessed a boom in the construction sector. Since 2002, when the AKP first came to power, investments in construction have exceeded $600 billion, with the greatest profits invariably reaped by companies close to Erdoğan. In return, such companies have purchased newspapers and television stations, helping to create a pro-government media and to stifle opposition journalism. The aforementioned Akkuyu nuclear power plant, which will make Turkey entirely dependent on Russia for its energy, will be built by the construction firm Cengiz Holding, a parent company of pro-AKP media outlets.

Turkish firms too are heavily invested in Russia. Under Putin — who effectively controls the entire Russian economy — Turkish construction firms have been awarded all manner of projects, from shopping malls to facilities for the Sochi Winter Olympics. The largest foreign construction firm operating in Russia, Rönesans Holding, is a Turkish company and has completed more than $6 billionworth of projects there.

Moreover, Turkey is keen to elevate the image of Putin in the eyes of Russia’s 20 million Muslim citizens, many of whom are ethnically related to Turks. A Turkish firm was responsible for building the brand-new Moscow Cathedral Mosque, whose lavish opening ceremony last month was attended by both Putin and Erdoğan. Another Turkish company is scheduled to build a new mosque in Crimea, with construction costs to be met by the Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs.

The strength of the ties between Ankara and Moscow is evident not only from Erdoğan’s jesting remark to Putin, “Make us part of the Shanghai Five, and we’ll reconsider the EU [accession process],” but also from then-Foreign Minister Davutoğlu’s pronouncement that Turkey was in an “alliance of destiny” with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Reciprocal investment is not the only tie between modern Turkey and Russia: they increasingly have begun to resemble one another. In the last few years under Erdoğan’s governance, Turkey has seriously regressed in crucial areas including the rule of law, transparency in business life, and freedom of the press. In contrast to Western criticism, Putin has always maintained his close friendship with his Turkish colleague. Both have seen recurring wide-scale popular demonstrations against increasingly authoritarian regimes and, in response, Russia and Turkey occupy the number one and two spots respectively in number of law enforcement personnel per capita viagra bon pour.

Despite such similarities, Turkey and Russia remain divided on the crucial question of Syria and Assad. Even on this subject, it is hard to imagine Erdoğan seriously challenging Putin. Ankara’s complaisant attitude towards Russia in the recent civil war in Ukraine, or during Russia’s 2008 military occupation of Georgia (whose government was backed by Erdoğan), is a clear acknowledgement of the limits of its own political power. Ultimately, Russia is a global power sitting atop vast reserves of oil and natural gas. Turkey, by contrast, is a modest regional power whose influence in the Middle East has been diminishing since the Arab Uprisings.

In the years leading up to 2011, when Turkish regional hegemony was at its zenith — and Erdoğan and Assad were still on good terms — Davutoğlu famously described his country’s foreign policy as being based on “zero problems with neighbors.” This naively optimistic assessment was eerily echoed by Davutoğlu’s recent statement — following repeated violations of Turkish airspace by Russian fighter jets — that “Russia is our neighbor and friend, and our interests do not conflict.” Aware that Turkey will emerge the loser in any confrontation with Russia, Erdoğan has pragmatically accepted Russia’s geopolitical superiority, while seeking to reap the maximum financial gain in the process.

Turkey’s Unwillingness to Take on ISIS Has Come Back to Haunt It (Huffington Post)

(14.October.2015) “We in Turkey will now lead the wave of change in the Middle East. We will continue to be the pioneer in this wave of change.” Thus did then-Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu define his country’s role in the Middle East in a speech to Parliament in April 2012, amidst the backdrop of the Arab Uprisings. Turkey’s leadership now finds itself in much the same position as the U.S. neo-cons in the post-2001 era, whose plans to export democracy to the Middle East foundered upon the doomed invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Unlike the U.S., however, Turkey lies right next door to the country where it has promoted “regime change.”

This fact was driven home Saturday when two suicide bombs went off at a peace rally in front of the main train station in downtown Ankara, within two miles of the Turkish Parliament, the Prime Ministry, the Chief of Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces, the headquarters of the Turkish National Police and the country’s National Intelligence Agency (MİT). The blasts, for which ISIS is believed to be responsible, killed 97 people and wounded over four times as many. Turkish police have reportedly identified the two bombers as Ömer Deniz Dündar and Yunus Emre Alagöz, who are both believed to have links to ISIS.

Despite the prime minister’s avowals to the contrary, it is clear that the civil strife and jihadism which have torn apart states like Libya, Iraq and Syria have now begun to menace Turkey as well. The AKP’s disastrous Syria policy of the past four years has come back to haunt its creators.

In 2011, as the first revolt broke out in Syria, Davutoğlu and Erdoğan assumed that Assad’s regime would be overthrown within months, despite the misgivings of then-President Gül, AKP cabinet ministers and members of Turkey’s opposition parties. However, this armed uprising, under the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood (which the AKP saw as its ideological ally) soon fell apart, leaving a void to be filled by radical groups including the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, the al-Nusra Front.

Ankara’s continued support for these groups has created an impasse in Syria and also led to friction with the U.S., especially after reports surfaced that Syria-bound jihadists had received many tons of weapons delivered via trucks belonging to MİT. (In a May 2013 White House meeting with Erdoğan, Davutoğlu and MİT Director Hakan Fidan, President Obama openly confronted Fidan on this issue, saying, “We know what you’re doing with the radicals in Syria.”) As a result, the U.S. repeatedly denied Turkey’s requests for military intervention in Syria as well as a no-fly zone and safe haven in the north of the country. Washington still has bitter memories of the 2012 attack on its consulate in Benghazi and the killing of its consul after helping to overthrow Qaddafi; fearing a similar outcome in a post-Assad Syria, it has chosen to avoid directly intervening in that conflict.

In 2014, the balance of power in Syria was further transformed when ISIS took control of a vast area stretching from the northern outskirts of Baghdad all the way to Aleppo. Despite these alarming territorial gains, the AKP has continued to insist that its highest priority is defeating Assad, not the Islamic State, which it views as a symptom rather than the underlying disease. This calculation is no doubt influenced by the fact that ISIS is waging war on the PYD, the Syrian branch of the PKK, against which Turkey has fought a bloody 30-year counterinsurgency campaign.

Over the past few years, the ISIS-Turkey saga has taken some extremely bizarre turns. Officially listed by Turkey as a terrorist organization, ISIS kidnapped 49 people from the Turkish consulate in Mosul (including the consul and other diplomats) in June of 2014. After three months of negotiations, Ankara succeeded in having the hostages freed, although the details of these transactions remain sketchy at best. Erdoğan merely stated that “diplomatic negotiations took place,” while Davutoğlu explained that “elements which ISIS … would not want to upset” had been a factor in the hostages’ release. It remains is still unclear how the state carried out “diplomatic negotiations” with a terrorist organization or who exactly it was that ISIS “would not want to upset.”

The Turkish authorities have even turned a blind eye to ISIS activities within Turkey on numerous occasions. Two years in a row, in 2014 and 2015, hundreds of ISIS sympathizers gathered in Istanbul to perform their prayers for the Eid al-Fitr holiday at the end of Ramadan; on neither occasion did the police intervene. ISIS militants wounded in Syria have been treated in hospitals in Turkey. Though Turkey’s health minister has declared it a humanitarian duty to care for all patients, terrorists or not, it remains unknown what happened to these militants following their treatment. The international media has run stories of ISIS’s recruitment centers in an Ankara shantytown and in other Turkish cities and of the hundreds of people bused to Syria in order to join the Islamic State.

And now ISIS is alleged to have carried out the single largest terror attack in Turkish history, right in the heart of Ankara. I say “alleged” because ISIS (which is notorious for filming its acts of violence and uploading them onto social media) has not claimed responsibility for any of the attacks it is said to have carried out in Turkey. These include a bombing of the Kurdish/progressive HDP election rally in Diyarbakır this past June, in which four people died; and another one the following month in Suruç, on Turkey’s border with Syria, with a death toll of 33. The targets in both the Suruç and the Ankara bombings were leftist/secular groups campaigning for peace and for closer ties between Turks and Kurds. Turkey’s police are known for their overzealousness in monitoring gatherings by such groups; however, they took no security precautions prior to the Ankara rally, which had been announced days earlier and was attended by thousands from all over the country. Both Davutoğlu and Minister of Internal Affairs Selami Altınok have since denied that any negligence took place.

Following each attack, the AKP has made a point of referring to ISIS, the PKK and the DHKP-C in the same breath, as if all three groups were equally likely culprits. The DHKP-C is a marginal leftist armed group without any popular support; as for the PKK, the AKP had been conducting peace talks with its leader Öcalan for two years prior to Suruç. As it well known by now, the PKK’s Syrian branch, the PYD, has been ISIS’s most redoubtable opponent in Syria and has received support from the U.S. and other Western countries. It is striking that the Ankara bombing occurred just a day before a planned PKK ceasefire; could it be that ISIS hoped to derail this ceasefire in order to prevent a large-scale PKK attack on its own forces in Syria?

All these mysteries and unanswered questions have left many Turkish citizens with a profound sense of distrust in their own government. The general feeling is that the AKP’s Syria policy — in particular, its unwillingness to take on ISIS — is endangering Turkey’s democratic, secular order. No part of the country, not even Ankara, is felt to be safe anymore.

Notably, no government representatives have attended the funerals of the bombing victims, perhaps out of fear of growing societal outrage against the AKP. Even after such a dire attack, at a time when all political parties should stand united, Prime Minister Davutoğlu has been unable to meet with his political opponents in Parliament. Turkey heads towards its elections next month amidst grave security risks and intense social polarization. In such a toxic atmosphere, the upcoming elections seem to promise little in the way of hope.

Turkey, the U.S. and Europe Are All Partly to Blame for the Festering Syria War (Huffington Post)

(14.January.2016) On Tuesday, 10 German tourists lost their lives when a bomb went off in Sultanahmet Square, in the heart of Istanbul’s tourist district, ringed by centuries-old Byzantine and Ottoman sights such as Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. The suicide bombing appears to have been carried out by a Syrian member of the so-called Islamic State. Unlike previous ISIS-linked terrorist attacks in Turkey over the past year, this one specifically targeted foreigners. This alarming development shows that even Istanbul — a cosmopolitan, culturally European city in the northwest corner of Turkey — is not immune from the violence of Syria’s civil war.

Now about to enter its sixth year, that conflict has killed more than 250,000 people and caused 4.6 million refugees to flee to neighboring countries. Turkey alone hosts 2.5 million Syrian refugees; 2015 saw unprecedented numbers of Syrians traverse Turkey in their quest for asylum in Europe, as the Turkish government looked the other way. Increasingly reluctant to take sole responsibility for millions of refugees, Ankara is using them as pawns in its negotiations with the European Union, in particular with Germany.

Until recently, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had welcomed Syrian refugees with her country’s open-door policy; however, this policy has become more and more unpopular with the German public. Accordingly, Merkel came to Istanbul in October, just two weeks before Turkey’s Nov. 1 snap elections — in a clear departure from diplomatic precedent — in order to strike a deal with Erdoğan concerning the refugees.

The terms of this unsavory deal were simple. The E.U. would refrain frompressuring Erdoğan on his imprisonment of journalists and the Turkish army’s heavy-handed measures against Kurds in the southeast. In return, Erdoğan would halt the flow of refugees coming through Turkey, effectively turning his own country into a giant “concentration camp” for Syrians. In addition, the E.U. agreed to provide Turkey with 3 billion euros in aid.

Brussels even delayed the publication of its annual progress report on Turkey in order not to tarnish Erdoğan’s image before the elections. For all the E.U.’s rhetoric about human rights, democracy and freedom of the press, the leader of its most influential member, Chancellor Merkel will obviously not hesitate to sacrifice these principles in order to placate a strategic ally.

Turkey bears a large share of responsibility for the festering of the civil war in Syria. For the past four years, Ankara has done all it can to overthrow the Assad regime by arming the Syrian opposition. To that end, Turkey — along with Saudi Arabia — recently helped create the Jaish al-Fatah (Army of Conquest), an alliance of diverse jihadi groups, including the al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch. Since 2011, Turkey’s 900-kilometer border with Syria has become highly permeable, traversed not only by Ankara-vetted jihadis and weapons shipments, but also by members of ISIS.

The U.S. and E viagra il faut.U. are also to blame, having assisted Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in their destabilization of Syria. For example, an operational center set up in Turkey in 2012 to coordinate the various Syrian rebel groups is known to have had CIA agents among its staff. France — which lately experienced jihadi violence on its own soil during the Paris attacks — was also one of the chief backers of the armed opposition in Syria. (France likewise played a leading role in the 2011 NATO bombing campaign in Libya that resulted in the toppling of the Qaddafi regime; as the country then descended into civil war, European and American forces simply walked away.)

Germany, by contrast, was content to look on from afar as long as it remained unaffected by the violence unfolding in the Middle East. The political right in Germany, as elsewhere in Europe, effectively said, “Let the Muslims kill each other … if radical Muslims go to fight in Syria, we’ll no longer have them in our midst.”

But the Paris attacks and the Sultanahmet bombing show that the bloodshed of the Syrian civil war is no longer confined to Syria. Merkel’s strategy of making concessions to Erdoğan (if only to solve the refugee crisis) is unlikely to bring stability to Turkey and Europe.

First of all, there is the deteriorating security situation in Turkey’s Kurdish regions. For more than three decades, Turkey has fought against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in its mountain strongholds; now the Turkish army is bombardinglarge urban areas with tanks and artillery, leading to a mass civilian exodus from the cities of the southeast. Little by little, the Kurdish conflict is coming to resemble a civil war again, raising concerns that Kurdish refugees from Turkey may join the flood of Syrian refugees bound for Europe.

Then there is ISIS, which has carried out four major terror attacks in Turkey over the past half year. In the first three, ISIS exclusively targeted Kurdish and secular leftist groups. The latest attack in Sultanahmet, by contrast, was aimed at Turkey’s tourism sector — and thus its economy. At present, Turkey is the sixth most popular tourist destination in the world; every year, 35 million tourists visit the country, spending 34 billion dollars and providing employment for 800 thousand people. If ISIS continues to attack tourist sites in Turkey — as it has in Egypt and Tunisia, it could cause Turkey’s already fragile economy to collapse.

In today’s Middle East, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Libya are currently embroiled in civil war. NATO member Turkey, long an oasis of relative stability in the region, must now contend with multiple crises: millions of desperate Syrian refugees, the threat of future ISIS attacks and its own restive Kurdish population. Yet, in the face of these life-and-death issues, Erdoğan seems incapable of a measured response. Seeking to end the Kurdish conflict by tanks rather than talks, Erdoğan recently became incensed by an academic petition criticizing Turkey’s prosecution of that conflict, denouncing its 1,000+ signatories as “so-called intellectuals! You are not enlightened persons. You are dark.”

Though all agree that the Syrian crisis cannot be solved without a regional consensus, Erdoğan has openly provoked one of its main players, Russia, by shooting down one of its fighter jets (the first NATO member to do so in 60 years). Finally, despite his wish to end the massacres in Syria, Erdoğan cynically uses millions of Syrian refugees as a bargaining chip with the E.U., whose leaders are behaving just as irresponsibly as he is. There is a desperate need right now — in Turkey, Europe and the U.S. — for leaders who will take a principled stance on the Middle East, putting the interests of future generations above opportunistic self-interest. Otherwise, the entire world will suffer the consequences.

Pakistanization (Hurriyet Daily News)

(7.October.2014) The 1979 Iranian Revolution is often regarded as the turning point in the uneasy relationship between religion and state in the Middle East. And yet it was Pakistan, not Iran, which became the world’s first official Islamic republic several decades earlier, in 1956. Upon the breakup of the British Raj in 1947, Pakistan was created as a home for the Muslims of the Subcontinent, alongside the Hindu-majority nation of India. The military and civil authorities that have run Pakistan in alternating succession since independence have generally fostered its religious rather than its national identity.

In the 1970s, religion began to play an even greater role in Pakistan’s domestic and foreign policy. For the first few decades of its existence, Pakistan had included the territory of present-day Bangladesh, then known as East Pakistan. Yet the Pakistani state was unable to prevent the secession of its ethnic Bengalis – who made up more than half its population – in 1971. Hundreds of thousands died in Bangladesh’s war of independence, in which the Pakistani army committed wide-scale atrocities with the assistance of the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party. Abdul Quader Molla, a leading figure in the Jamaat-e-Islami, was executed last year for his role in those atrocities.

The Jamaat-e-Islami was founded by Islamic ideologue Abul Ala Maududi, who declared secularism to be a form of kufr or blasphemy. So close were the ties between Maududi and the Pakistani military that Army Chief of Staff Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq even distributed copies of Maududi’s works to his soldiers. Thus, the Pakistani army was distinct from its Cold War-era counterparts in Iraq, Syria, and Egypt in embracing political Islam rather than nationalism. Seizing power in the 1977 coup, Zia began to use the Jamaat-e-Islami both to Islamize his own country and to gain influence in Afghanistan, which was run by a pro-Soviet regime. Led by figures like Burhanuddin Rabbani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Afghanistan’s Jamiat-e-Islami (modeled on its similarly-named Pakistani counterpart) began receiving full support from Zia soon after he took power.

Following the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. became a strong supporter of Zia’s regime. Throughout the 1980s, Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Wahhabi and Salafi groups flocked to Pakistan from all corners of the globe for indoctrination and military training. Zia used these foreign combatants, as well as Afghanistan’s own 3.5 million refugees, to build an Islamist puppet regime in Afghanistan, while billing the anti-Soviet jihadis to the U.S. as “freedom fighters.” At first, the U.S. had dismissed Zia’s pan-Islamism as mere rhetoric. But as the 1980s drew to a close, it realized it had been sowing the dragon’s teeth in backing the jihadis, and withdrew its support for them. After the Soviet pullout, the U.S. vainly attempted to keep power from falling solely into the hands of its former protégés in Afghanistan.

At the end of the Cold War, the Pakistani army was left with a legacy of thousands of armed jihadis. With the support of Pakistani intelligence, these groups escalated the conflict in Kashmir, while also carrying out terrorist attacks in large cities in India. Once again, Pakistan tried to obtain U.S. aid for its jihadi “freedom fighters.” However, Pakistan’s support for terror only led to its further isolation. Then came the September 11 attacks and the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan. Reluctantly, the U.S. sought assistance from Pakistan in overthrowing the Taliban regime.

Today, Pakistan is a textbook example of a failed state. Technologically advanced enough to possess nuclear weapons, it experiences frequent power outages lasting for hours. The country’s literacy rate is less than 40 percent. Its frontier provinces lie outside the army’s control, while its cities are plagued by sectarian conflict. In fact, Pakistan is merely a more extreme version of a well-known global phenomenon which one might term “Pakistanization.” Pakistanization refers to a society divided along ethnic and sectarian lines. A society in which the state is owned by interest groups and cannot function effectively. A society where merit has lost all meaning, where frantically chasing after profit is all that matters. A failed state and a failed society. Does this sound at all familiar?

The influx into Turkey of nearly 2 million refugees of Iraq’s and Syria’s sectarian wars, and Turkey’s geographical proximity to radical groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on its southern border, have recently led to the frequent use of the term “Pakistanization” in reference to Turkey. Having spent a week talking to journalists and academics at panels held at Pakistani universities, my impression is that Pakistan looks with admiration upon the secular, democratic nation of Turkey, whose political experiences of the last 90 years have been followed very closely in Pakistan.

Pakistani intellectuals see Turkey – with its secular, democratic system and its aspirations to EU membership – as a shining star in the Eastern world. Indeed, the further East one travels, the more one appreciates the gains that Turkey has made since 1923.


Amidst the Medieval Darkness of ISIS, the Kurds Stand for Secularism and Democracy in the Middle East (Huffington Post)

(6.March.2015) Last week saw the death of Yaşar Kemal, an ethnic Kurd who is regarded as one of Turkey’s greatest novelists. The very same day, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a left-wing Turkish political party focused on Kurdish affairs, gave a joint press conference with the government, urging the armed insurgency known as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to lay down its arms.

This call for peace may herald the end of the armed conflict between the PKK and the Turkish state, a conflict that began in 1984 and effectively became a civil war during the 1990s. Founded as a Marxist-Leninist organization by Abdullah Öcalan in 1978, the PKK championed the political and cultural rights of the Kurds. It also sought to end the dominance of the ağas (tribal landlords) and şeyhs (religious leaders) in Turkey’s Kurdish regions, much like the struggle faced by the hero of Kemal’s famous 1955 novel, Memed, My Hawk.

Indeed, Kemal’s literary oeuvre, extolling human dignity in its fight against injustice and tyranny, has long been a source of inspiration for the Kurdish movement in Turkey viagra belgique ordonnance. Kemal’s novels suggest that this struggle will only succeed through wide-scale participation by the poorer classes of society. Accordingly, the Kurdish movement has attempted to steadily broaden its base of support over the past 30 years by publicizing its demands to the Kurdish masses.

Kemal devoted his own life to the cause of peace, making frequent appeals in his later years to end the ongoing violence. Recently, Turkey has begun to see the fruits of his labors.

In March of 2013, Öcalan (who has been imprisoned on Turkey’s İmralı Island for over a decade) proclaimed a cease-fire between the PKK and the Turkish state, offering hope of a solution to this 30-year-old conflict, in which a staggering 40,000-plus people have died.

By comparison, less than 1,000 lost their lives in the rebel group ETA’s 40-year conflict in Spain, while 1,800 died in nearly three decades of sectarian strife in Northern Ireland.

How ISIS Changed the Kurdish Question

Why have Öcalan and Turkey’s ruling AKP waited until now? Part of it can be explained by the evolution of Turkey’s Kurdish movement, with its steadily-expanding base of support. The Kurds no longer need to take to the mountains and fight in order to make their voices heard.

This past October, following Islamic State’s siege of the Syrian border town of Kobani, there were rumors that the Turkish government was aiding ISIS. Hundreds of thousands of Kurds in eastern and southeastern Turkey took to the streets in protest. For a full two days, the Turkish government was unable to maintain control in some cities and towns, and dozens of people were killed. The situation only returned to normal after an intervention by Öcalan. Both sides are now aware that the rules of the game have changed: a reignited conflict between Turks and Kurds could turn into a civil war resembling 1990s Yugoslavia.

Another key factor is the PKK’s changing image in the West. In addition to bombing ISIS targets around Kobani, the United States has been providing arms to the Syrian branch of the PKK, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), to help it fight ISIS.

ISIS has now retreated from Kobani, and the PYD controls a region in northern Syria the size of New Jersey, a region known as Rojava. There, in accordance with Öcalan’s doctrine of “democratic autonomy,” Arabs, Assyrians and Kurds share power, and alluphold the ideal of a modern secular society. By contrast, just a few hours south, in ISIS’s de facto capital of Raqqa, women are forced to wear burqas, and beheadings are carried out in public. Last month, French President François Hollande held a top-level meeting with PYD leaders. In short, the PKK is trying to shed its image as a “terrorist” organization in the eyes of the West and enter into a partnership with the U.S. and the EU. It has nothing to gain from a renewed declaration of war upon Turkey, a NATO country.

A Real Chance for Turkey’s Kurds

Moreover, the HDP stands a real chance of gaining seats in parliament in Turkey’s June 2015 elections. For the past 20 years, Kurdish parties in Turkey have typicallyreceived around 6 percent of the vote, circumventing the 10 percent threshold for parliamentary representation by running as independent candidates. Such a high threshold is found in no other parliamentary system in the world; it was devised precisely in order to prevent the emergence of a Kurdish party in parliament.

However, thanks to the cease-fire in place since March 2013, the HDP’s leader Selahattin Demirtaş managed to net an unexpected 9.78 percent of the vote in the August 2014 presidential elections. In order to tip the scales in its favor this year, the HDP needs the support not just of Kurds but also of left-wing voters throughout the country.

As for the AKP, it receives roughly half the Kurdish vote in the east of Turkey, consisting of conservatives as well as those seeking to benefit from AKP largesse. Erdoğan hopes to reach out to Kurds by appealing to a shared Islamic identity, eventually allowing him to install Kurdish puppet leaders, as Putin did with Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.

At this point, both Erdoğan and Öcalan clearly think that continuing the struggle through non-violent means is more in their interest. Erdoğan is attempting to consolidate his share of nearly 50 percent of the vote by promoting himself as the leader who finally achieved peace.

The AKP era witnessed the removal of certain obstacles to the Kurds’ cultural rights. There is now a state-run Kurdish-language television channel, and those who wish to do so can enroll in Kurdish language private courses. But these are basically token measures. There has been no progress on more substantive reforms such as primary, secondary and university education in Kurdish, or giving greater autonomy to local governments in Kurdish-majority regions. It is impossible to see the Erdoğan regime carrying out such reforms, given its habit of criminalizing and suppressing all oppositional protests. Erdoğan must now deal not only with the PKK in Turkey, but also with de facto independent Kurdish states in northern Iraq and in PYD-controlled northeastern Syria.

Without a doubt, the question on everyone’s mind is whether the HDP can exceed 10 percent of the vote in the June elections. If not, then Turkey will face the spectacle of a parliament without official representatives of the Kurdish movement, despite the latter’s receiving around 4 million votes. This will give rise to a serious crisis of legitimacy in Turkish politics.

Turkey’s Kurdish movement has managed to survive and grow for 30 years in the Middle East, where politics is a dangerous business. Whether in Iran, Iraq, Syria or Turkey, the Kurds are now one of the key players in the Middle East, having won the world’s admiration for their defeat of ISIS in Kobani. Should Turkey’s Kurds clear the 10 percent electoral hurdle, there is no doubt that they will become even more influential. Secular, democratic and a champion of women’s rights, the Kurdish movement has emerged as the most serious rival to radical groups like ISIS, with its medieval mentality.

An optimistic intellectual by nature, Yaşar Kemal famously stated, in an article titled “The Criteria for all Values: Peace,” that humanity “was moving like a stream of light towards peace, freedom, and equality.” In this time of great darkness in the Middle East, the Kurdish movement has reason to be hopeful about the future.