"It's a delicate situation, and one that requires a clear-eyed view of what's actually happening. But both American press coverage, and America's official response to the problem have been misleading. I've seen a series of errors in fact and judgment that if uncorrected, could drag the United States into yet another regional conflict."
~ Andrew Lee Butters.
~ Andrew Lee Butters.
I have read so much garbage about the situation with Northern Kurds and PKK in the last couple of weeks that there is no point in even responding to it all. Take a browse through Technorati or Google Blog search with the terms "Kurds," "Kurdistan," or "PKK," and you'll see exactly what I mean. What is most striking about posts on the situation is the extremely high level of ignorance displayed by most who write on the subject. None of these writers has any context; they know nothing about the Dirty War; they don't even know that there are 20 million Kurds in Southeast Turkey.
Most of these are blowing their opinions out of their asses, and are totally bereft of any knowledge of the Kurdish reality in The Southeast--except, of course, for one particular blogger from The Netherlands, who admits he has a Turkish girlfriend, in which case we know from what part of his anatomy he opines. Then we have the propagandists for the extreme Right, neocon elements (like the freaks at Pajamas Media), or the nutcases on what passes for the Left (like the lemmings at Daily Kos).
The most pathetic thing about all of this garbage is that, in the West, it is nothing to access information published by fairly neutral parties, such as human rights organizations, in order to learn context. There is little censorship of this kind of information on the Internet so there is no excuse for all the stupidity.
Having said all that, there has been one voice from Western journalism that has written two short analyses of the situation that have been on target. One was published last week and one has been published today. Both are from a journalist who's been to Qendil and, thus, understands the geography as well as the implications of "official" reportage (read: Propaganda).
From Andrew Lee Butters at TIME:
1) The press keeps repeating that the PKK are a separatist group. The PKK was indeed a separatist group in the 1970's and 1980's, a time when the Turkish state practiced widespread discrimination against its Kurdish citizens, including banning the use of the Kurdish language. But the PKK has given up its demands that an independent Kurdish state be carved out of Turkey, and moderates in the organization have called for a peaceful, democratic solution to the Kurdish question.
Why does this matter? Because the PKK's new platform is a basis upon which Turkey could start political negotiations. But instead of dealing with the demands, Turkey either tries to ignore the PKK or destroy them. Neither has worked.
2) I keep seeing things written about the PKK staging "cross-border raids" and I myself once made that mistake, writing back in June. But in fact most of the fighting that is taking place is well inside Turkey. There are PKK guerillas scattered all over Turkey, perhaps twice as many as there are inside Iraq. And although the most recent attack on Sunday did take place in the border area near Iraq, that doesn't necessarily mean these fighters were coming from Iraq.
Why does this matter? Because it gives the impression that Turkish miltary operations in Iraq, or the "hot pursuit" of PKK fighters might stop clashes with the PKK and help the Turks dismantle the PKK. But they won't. The main PKK bases in Iraq are far away from the Turkish border. They are in fact near the border with Iran and would be extremely difficult to reach except by air-strikes, which are of little use aginst guerilla forces. They will do nothing to stop fighting with the PKK inside Turkey.
Likewise, in a few places I've also seen statements about how the PKK bases in northern Iraq are key to sustaining the PKK's armed struggle. Perhaps, but perhaps not. The PKK has significant fund-rasing and political activities in Europe, including satellite television stations. But Turkey isn't threatening Europe. Just Iraq and America.
3) When Turkish soldiers are killed by the PKK, the press calls them "PKK attacks." But is the PKK attacking or is the Turkish army attacking the PKK and sustaining casualties? The Turkish army is engaged in large-scale operations in PKK areas. A PKK spokesman told me today that these fights are taking place when Turkish search-and-destroy missions stumble upon PKK fighters or are ambushed. We don't really know the truth one way or another, because the Turkish army has sealed off the areas where it is operating.
Again, this matters because the Turkish army's version of events makes it sound like the PKK is hell-bent on provoking the Turkish army. And very possibly hard-liners within the PKK are determined to goad the Turkish military into invading northern Iraq, which would be a disaster for Turkey in the long-run. But it is also possible that hard-line elements in the Turkish military are trying to provoke clashes with the PKK and use that as an excuse to threaten the Kurds of northern Iraq, and gain leverage over its civilian adversaries in the Turkish government. It's no secret that there's no love lost between the former Islamists of the ruling AK party, and Turkey's secular generals. And Turks have been long implacably hostile to the whole idea of a Kurdish mini-state in northern Iraq, and refuse to recognize the Kurdistan Regional Government there.
4) I've seen a few things written about Iraqi Kurds allowing the PKK to use northern Iraq as a safe haven, and US Undersecretary of State David Satterfield today accused the Iraqi Kurds of not doing enough to control the PKK. But the Iraqi Kurds don't have very many options. Their pershmerga soldiers are busy in Baghdad and Mosul and along the Kurdistan's borders with Arab Iraq, trying to keep the lid on Iraq's raging insurgency. How are they supposed to also defeat a hardened-guerilla group in mountain terrain -- a job that the huge Turkish army hasn't been able to do in 30 years?
The reality is that the PKK's presence in Iraq is the result of an unresolved Turkish civil war spreading into the failing state next door. There needs to be a political solution: peace talks, amnesty for the PKK, reforms to how Turkey deals with its Kurdish population, PKK disarmament with international monitors, security coordination between Iraq and Turkey, and Turkish recognition of the Kurdistan region in Iraq.
Gelek sipas, Andrew. Dest xweş.