The Erdogan regime hopes to deepen its exploitation of the United Nations Security Council's 2015 call for an "international alliance" directly against ISIS and al-Nusra. It mobilised that appeal to assault the Kurdish autonomous governments in Syria and Iraq that the Kurds had won through their fight against ISIS.
Since 2016, Turkey has occupied Êfrin, Gîre Sıpî, Serekanî and Jarablus. It has at least 5,000 troops in Syria to establish a 30 kilometre deep "security belt", in agreement with Russia and the US. In Idlib, it maintains troops at 12 observation posts as part of the so-called "demilitarization" of jihadist forces. In Iraq, it has at least 2,500 troops, mainly to provide military training to the Peshmerga of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Erdogan's war on the Kurds is not new but in practice it differs from previous Turkish governments’ prosecution of the war in two ways, which gives it a distinctive feature.
First, Erdogan relies on military action abroad in Southern and Western Kurdistan to produce consent for his rule at home. If Turkey once had any real goal of solving the "Kurdish Question", it has been completely lost in this process. As such, Ankara, with its strategy of "defeating" the Kurds and "ending" the problem, has spread the war beyond Turkey's borders, to all places where Kurds live, internationalising the conflict as never before in history. The inevitable consequence of this "protracted war" has been to construct a "Sunni-Turkish autocracy" — a form of fascism — that is innovation in state practice.
Secondly, in the last 10 years of Erdoğan's rule, Turkey has developed a “military-industrial complex” — a group of capitalists that particularly benefits from war with the help of the state — whose narrow interests have been placed above those of capital as a whole.
Yaşar Yakış, the Foreign Minister of the first AKP government in 2002, believes that the ongoing cross-border operations in Northern Iraq, which tend to expand into Northern Syria, may also be related to gaining an advantage for the upcoming general elections as part of the Erdoğan regime's power strategy. As he has argued, "when a government has such an opportunity, it does not want to lose it. As the saying goes, the stars in the sky align once in 287 years. If the stars come together like this for Turkey once in 287 years, they may want to take advantage of it. Every country wants to take advantage of such an opportunity."
In 2014, Erdogan sensed an opportunity when ISIS spread out of Iraq to invade the areas on the Syrian side of the border where Kurds and Arabs live. While the hearts of 20 million Kurds living in Turkey were with the resistance to ISIS’ siege of Kobani on the Syrian side of the border, Erdogan prematurely celebrated the Islamist’s victory. In the Turkish border town of Islahiye he said, "There, Kobani has fallen and is falling." He hoped to break the Rojava resistance’s resolve and called on the United Nations to stop airstrikes against ISIS.
But Erdogan's hostile attitude fueled an unprecedented mood of rebellion among the Kurds of the North. Turkey’s secular and democratic forces were stirred into action and international solidarity was galvanised. All told, the flow of freedom fighters from all over the world to Rojava only accelerated. The resistance grew in strength and defeated ISIS. Rojava set an historic example of struggle based on free, autonomous self-government.
This process shook Turkey’s political status quo. The international solidarity of Turkey’s democratic forces and the West’s democrats and human rights defenders with the Rojava revolution played a pivotal role in breaking the alliance between Erdogan’s AKP with ISIS and political Islam in general.
This moment forged the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) as a cohesive political force. Turkey's democratic, socialist, feminist and Alevis political forces formed a social and spiritual partnership with the Kurds in the face of the apocalyptic future represented by ISIS. The HDP became a third pole in Turkish politics, breaking the binary between Turkish nationalist authoritarianism and Islamist politics. In the June 2015 general election, HDP’s advance forced a hung parliament, taking away Erdogan’s majority.
For the last seven years, against this background, Erdoğan has been fighting against the Kurdish people and Turkish democracy with the aim of institutionalising fascism at home and colonialism abroad to resurrect the collapsed Turkish-Islamic status quo. The dynamic has turned a domestic war into a regional one.
Today, those who take part in the international solidarity mission to Erbil to draw the world’s attention to these colonialist expansionist ambitions, can confidently tread in the footsteps of the great breakthrough of 2014. The solidarity that destroyed ISIS, raised Kurdish hopes in all four parts of Kurdistan and frustrated Erdogan's cruel calculations was not an accident. It was a necessary consequence of the forward flow of history.
We succeeded that day. Solidarity succeeded. We can do it again.
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