More than any other time, the Kurdish obsession takes hold of Turkey. Since its very formation in the seventies, and its transformation into an armed movement led by Abdullah Ocalan, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and its goal to establish an independent state of Kurdistan, have represented one of the main problems facing Ankara. Till the moment, the Turkish inside is still living the consequential events of the everlasting Kurdish-Turkish struggle that is once peace-like and other war-like. However, it seems that this sort of monotonous struggle is starting to create a new dimension along with the developing events in Turkey’s Southern neighbor, Syria.
Awakening of the Memory
Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis on March 15, 2011, Turkey has never been neutral towards what is going on in Syria. Yet the Turkish positions and statements of its high-level officials led by Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have taken a strict form based on direct intervention in the events. The Turkish position didn’t only demand Syrian President Bashar Assad’s step-down, but also went further militarily supporting the armed groups fighting against the regime, and making Istanbul the breeder of the Syrian opposition conferences. This represented a remarkable change in the Syrian-Turkish relationships that used to be positively based on cooperation on the levels of security, politics, and especially economy since President Assad’s first of its kind visit to Turkey in 2004 following the crisis caused by the PKK.
The year 1998 brought the climax of a crisis between Damascus and Ankara when the Turkish leaders threatened to invade the Syrian lands on the pretext of stopping the PKK’s attacks and because Syria was sheltering at that time the PKK’s leader Abdullah Ocalan. However, Ocalan’s departure from Syria, and the Libyan threat to close all the Turkish companies on its land, contributed to avoid moving toward the worst in this crisis.
Currently, history’s memory remembers this event after a new different crisis between the same sides had emerged starting from Turkey’s direct intervention to breach the Syrian peace out of supporting the armed groups; hence will it end by a direct Turkish intervention after what was reported about the PKK’s control on the Northern Syrian Kurdish region with the regime’s green light to annoy Turkey and embarrass it?
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Erdogan’s current threat to intervene in case of transforming the northeastern Syrian area to a starting point from which the PKK members would act against Turkey raises the following question: Did Turkey start paying the costs of being an essential foreign side in the Syrian crisis? Did the regime start to use its strongest playing cards to address a message to Turkey as a part of the new policy it decided to adopt after the explosion of the National Security building, in which this policy started the military settlement first in Damascus then in Aleppo?
What is noteworthy is that the Kurdish reality is much complicated and full of contradictions concerning the position from the events in Syria especially between the Iraqi Kurds and the Syrian ones. In further details, Turkey is trying to cooperate with the Iraqi Kurds, in spite of the struggles between both sides, in order to control Syria’s Kurds behavior and prevent them from signing any implied agreement with the Syrian regime and making the north of Syria a sphere of influence for the PKK. This was clear in Erdogan’s speech when he announced in a TV interview, that he sent his Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to north Iraq in order to discuss the latest developments in the Syrian Kurdish region.
This new cooperation is based on the two sides’ mutual position toward the Syrian crisis in which the Iraqi Kurds tend to support the so-called Syrian opposition through training the Syrian Kurds in the Iraqi Kurdistan camps as was announced by Hayman Hawramy, the Head of External Relations Department in the Kurdistan Democratic Party led by the President of Iraqi Kurdistan Masʽoud Barzani.
On the opposite side, the Syrian Kurds are moving in a totally different direction that tends toward neutrality. Head of Kurdish Democratic Union Party (KDUP) in Syria, Saleh Muslim, stated that the training Kurds have received in the Iraqi Kurdistan aims at protection. Yet he had reservations on allowing them to enter Syria again.
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The expert in the Turkish Affairs Mohammad Noureddine states that: “Changing the priorities among the Syrian concerns to be concentrated in certain regions such as Damascus and Aleppo created what can be called some empty areas as in north Syria where Kurdish majorities live there. Noting that the PKK, and its branch the KDUP are strongly backed by the Kurdish community. For this reason, it is normal that they dominate that region.”
In a call with Al-Manar website, Noureddine considered more probable that the regime will use the Kurdish card as a part of his battle against the opposition and its backers. “Amidst the chaos and the unrest witnessed in Syria, as well as the cooperation between regional and international powers led by Turkey to topple the regime in Syria by organizing the political and military Syrian opposition, we can understand that all of these issues and prohibitions became permissible, and every side is seeking gathering as more as possible of cards of power. On this level, it is normal to witness an implicit accord and understanding between Damascus and the PKK even though it is not based on enough mutual constants to do this,” Noureddine added.
He also considers that it is possible to Iraqi Kurds to be involved in this agreement in contrary with what appear on the surface till the moment viewing dissimilarity between them and the Syrian Kurds. Noureddine explained that: “In case the Kurds in north Syria were granted their cultural and lingual rights, reaching the right to self-control as their Head of the KDUP was demanding, noting that those demands are not limited by Kurds in Syria only, in other words: If it is possible to have an implicit accord with the regime that would give Kurds such privileges, I think that the Iraqi Kurds led by Masoud Barzani won’t be away from supporting this new Kurdish reality north Syria.”
The expert in Turkish affairs explains the consequences of this accord on Ankara stating that: “Iraqi Kurds supporting Syrian Kurds, as well as Kurdish-Turkish support to them, will be a full hit for the Turkish attempts to get rid of its internal Kurdish problem and of the PKK Kurds in Iraq because the Kurdish circle will spread from north Iraq to north Syria which will, definitely, have great consequences inside Turkey in the following stages. This new Kurdish situation north Syria will represent the worst results of what Syria is witnessing on the level of the Turkish reality as well as Turkey’s role in the region.”
The Struggle’s Cost: a Lake of Blood
In the same context, Mr. Noureddine raised the following questions: “Will Turkey really intervene in case this structure was formed north Syria? If Turkey intervened militarily, what will happen next?”
He replied that: “It is not easy. Turkey can do the same as it is doing north Iraq (air-bombing from time to time and performing certain specific operations occasionally), but this will produce numerous consequences north Syria, some of which are local public opinion opposition in Turkey, in addition to the Kurdish unity since the KDUP’s head is a member of the National Kurdish Council that was founded by Mohyi Al-Din Al-Shaikhaly in Irbil and was sponsored by Masoud Barzani who warned that the region will turn to be a lake of blood if Turkey entered north Syria.”
Mr. Noureddine terminated his talk saying: “Turks have never borne in mind that chaos would erupt in Syria and result either an independent, federal, or self-controlling Kurdish entity north Syria. For this reason, the possibility that this will happen surprised the Turks and shocked them in which their Foreign Minister is working all days and nights trying to reassure the Turkish public opinion and show that his government’s policy towards Syria wasn’t wrong.”
Translated by Zeinab Abdallah