With presidential elections in Turkey set for 2023, Erdoğan is on the verge of losing power. His renewed military campaign is a cynical attempt to distract from his mismanagement of the Turkish economy. Erdoğan hopes that a war against the Kurdish people can fuel nationalist sentiment that will keep his presidential prospects alive.
But it is NATO’s expansion that has given a green light to Erdoğan’s new offensive. With Sweden and Finland submitting applications to the alliance, Turkey has called for the lifting of an arms embargo and the extradition of Kurds in exchange for NATO accession. Meanwhile, NATO members in Europe and North America have been almost completely silent about Erdoğan’s escalating violence.
On 18 April, Erdoğan launched an air and ground offensive against Kurdish forces and civilians in Iraq. Since then, and after months of an ongoing low-intensity war, the Turkish army has also intensified shelling of civilian areas across northern and eastern Syria, where the people soon hope to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the so-called ‘Rojava Revolution’.
The hope generated by the revolution is under threat. On 24 May, Erdoğan announced his intention to occupy a 30km “safe zone” for the forced housing of refugees — a pretext for his attempt to ethnically cleanse the local population of approximately 2.5 million people and minorities, ranging from Kurds, Arabs, and Assyrian Syrians to other ethnic groups such as Yezidis, and to put an end to their struggle for emancipation.
At the same time, Erdoğan wants to intimidate and ultimately crush powerful Kurdish organizing in Europe. There is now a real risk that Erdoğan will get his way. Turkey’s aggression has historically gone hand in hand with NATO’s consent and complicity. At a recent press conference, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg echoed Erdoğan’s rhetoric by saying that “no other NATO ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Turkey”. He reaffirmed that “Turkey is an important ally, not least because of its strategic geographic location bordering Iraq and Syria.”
Since Turkey joined NATO in 1952, the alliance's other members have extended generous political and military support, helping Turkey to develop a formidable arms industry and supplying it with a steady stream of weapons. Turkish security forces’ violations of the laws of war and of human rights were powered by US and NATO-supplied weapons.
The United States government in particular has been deeply involved in arming Turkey, which serves as a forward base for US military operations and host to 50 US nuclear weapons. This relationship places NATO members as participants in the denial of rights and systematic assault on the Kurdish people.
In the face of Turkey's decades-long war on the Kurds and its recent intensification, the Progressive International stands in support of the Kurdish struggle for freedom and peace. That is why, at the invitation of the Kurdish groups, the Progressive International has dispatched a peace delegation to Hewlêr/Erbil to ring the alarm about Turkey’s all-out war against the Kurdish people and other faith and religious communities in the region — and NATO’s complicity in it.
Our commitment is spelled out in the Article XV of the Declaration of the Progressive International: lasting peace. “We work to dismantle the war machine, and replace it with a diplomacy of peoples based on cooperation and coexistence.” Our delegation lands in Hewlêr (Erbil) to fulfill this mission.
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