The demonisation of Kurds in Turkey

0:41, 12 декабря 2021

МОСКВА, 12 декабря 2021, Институт РУССТРАТ.

The Kurdish issue is a vital problem that has marked the last 40 years of the Turkish Republic. Some believe that this issue was specially developed by the state and has become a tool for maintaining strong nationalist sentiments; others are inclined to believe that it is a counterweight used by world powers against Turkey in order to educate Turkish governments.

With the entry into the historical arena of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as one of the consequences of the Kurdish problem, after the «Kurdish uprising», so called by government officials, from 1984 to the present day, more than 50,000 people died, murders were committed that remain unsolved, thousands of villages were burned, torture became widespread, people were expelled from their lands.

During this time, despite some steps taken behind the scenes at certain periods aimed at solving the problem by peaceful means, a state of conflict was maintained. In front of the public, at the official level, the government and Kurdish leaders sat down at the negotiating table as part of the «settlement process» launched in 2013.

Despite some developments aimed at hindering the negotiations, this process, during which the wind of peace had been blowing in the country for two years, was actually completed on July 24, 2015 through aerial operations against the PKK on Mount Qandil. This period coincided with a time when the government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) was experiencing difficulties with politics and the number of its supporters began to decline. Kurdish groups were again declared terrorist, and thus national feelings were revived again. With this event, Ankara has once again shown that it uses the Kurdish issue for the desired purposes. 

Artificially created «demonisation of Kurds»

During these six years, when weapons were used again, the cities where clashes took place were flattened to the ground, there were again the dead, thousands of people were detained and arrested, torture and ill-treatment were recklessly returned as a conscious military policy. The attacks and pressure on the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which represents the Kurdish people, carried out in recent years, as well as attacks on the Kurds know no borders.

According to the «Report on the hostility towards the Kurds» published by the party, 114 people were tortured and ill-treated even during the pandemic, judicial proceedings were initiated against deputies from the HDP in 133 criminal cases, 449 people were detained and 93 arrested, trustees were appointed to 64 municipalities of the HDP.

Noting that the AKP government during the 1.5 years of the active phase of the pandemic preferred to fight dissidents and oppositionists instead of fighting the pandemic, the HDP report says the following: «The AKP government used the pandemic as an opportune moment to strengthen control over society, and deepen polarisation and discrimination. It took advantage of the pandemic period to justify prohibitions, violations of rights and arbitrariness.

The main goal of the government, as it has been for many years, was the opposition and the Kurds. During such a period, the health of the population should have been a priority, but in fact trustees were appointed, detentions were carried out and unfair arrests continued. We have prepared a detailed report on human rights violations committed during the pandemic.»

The problem has long spread beyond Turkey

The Kurdish issue is a problem that cannot be limited only by the internal conditions of Turkey. The reason that prompted the AKP to hold the latest discussions at the negotiating table was the fact that the Kurdish issue has crossed the borders of the state. When the Kurds began to build autonomy in Syria, the government used the factor of imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan to stop the Rojava project. But when both sides marked Rojava with a red line, the peace process ended in parallel with the change in the internal political balance.

Today, the government and the main opposition view operations in Syria and Iraq in the same way. The Kurdish problem inside Turkey cannot be considered regardless of the situation in Iraq and Syria. Neither the ruling AKP party nor the main opposition CHP party can give legitimacy to military operations in Syria and Iraq and will not be able to convince the Kurds. Turkey’s long-term reactions, unfortunately, unite the government and the opposition.

In fact, one of the topics often discussed on the agenda is the possibility of turning Turkey into a centre of attraction not only for the Kurds living in it, but also for everyone who lives in this region. It is likely that in the foreseeable future Turkey will become a country experiencing a «labor shortage».

It is impossible to imagine that Turkey, which could not provide its own world for bright minds, could provide a future for them. Turkey will either become a country from which its own educated people will flee, or a country where bright minds will seek to immigrate. Turkey, which has carried out some reforms, will actually attract money, investments and the population.  

In this context, it would be appropriate to emphasise relations with the Kurds of Syria and Iraq: the reality is that the Kurdish presence in Syria and Iraq has irreversibly acquired a political and legal character. It must be recogniaed that this presence is permanent in the form of a federation or confederation. If Turkey is able to implement the Kurdish peace process, then Turkey, reconciled with its Kurds, will be able to act as a guarantor of the Kurdish presence in Syria and Iraq.

The global conjuncture plays into Erdogan’s hands

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says that the problems with the US administration have been solved, but in practice there is not a single solved problem. Here we see how Erdogan is trying to enlist the support of the Biden administration, emphasising the NATO partnership.

Over the past 6 months, the Erdogan government has thrown its forces into a new international fantasy scenario directed towards China and Russia, with a distance from the West, namely from England and the United States. And President Erdogan is trying to turn this into an opportunity. He supports Ukraine and sells it weapons to please the West. He is trying to act in Afghanistan the way the United States wants. While the partnership between the United States, Great Britain and Australia is developing against China, Erdogan is trying to involve Turkey in this partnership as well.

With the UK’s exit from the EU (Brexit), it is trying to expand its position in the international arena. In this regard, it is important for it to maintain good relations with a country like Turkey and strengthen its strategic partnership with the United States. Ankara, which has distanced itself from the EU, has also become more active in establishing relations with London. Erdogan is playing on this bilateral partnership, so he is taking steps that may anger Russia.

Due to the fact that Turkey has given preference to security policy in solving the Kurdish problem, it has lost $3 trillion over the past 40 years. In 2007, the Speaker of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Köksal Toptan, said that military conflicts had cost Turkey $250 billion, government Speaker Cemil Çiçek the following year said that this figure exceeded $300 billion, and Minister Faruk Çelik in September 2011 announced a figure of $400 billion.

The reports also recorded that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who held the post of Prime Minister at that time, in 2013, as part of his statements on the settlement process (the Kurdish issue), announced a figure of $300 billion.

Among the activities of the Democratic Progress Institute (DPI), established for the purpose of conducting research on the resolution of world conflicts, there is also the Kurdish issue. The DPI prepared a report in order to determine the value of the Kurdish issue for Turkey. The report notes that the fight against the PKK for almost 40 years has cost Turkey $3 trillion.

The report says that the $3 trillion figure was calculated using the following formula: taking into account the Real Effective Exchange Rate (REER), the total national income in the period from 1985 to 2020 is $15,078,811,000,000. When calculating growth, when adding resources spent on hostilities to the pool of the economy, it becomes clear that Turkey can produce a total national income (adjusted for the real effective exchange rate) according to an alternative conflict-free scenario in the amount of $18,709,174,000,000.

The difference is $3,630,000,000,000. By adjusting the real effective exchange rate, it became clear that the Turkish economy could be 22.52% larger than the economy in the «synthetic scenario».


If Turkey fails to solve the Kurdish problem, it will continue to pay for it with its own funds. It would not be wrong to believe that as a result of the state ignoring the political factor underlying the Kurdish problem, the definition of the PKK as a terrorist organisation, when it pretended not to notice the socio-political ground on which it was fuelled, and believed that it could win its fight against the PKK by military means, all this led to a gradual increase in sympathy and support for the PKK among the Kurds.

The well-being and interests of Turkey require the expansion of political channels that presuppose a response to the demands of the Kurds. If Turkey fails to find a political solution to the current problem, it can be expected that the PKK (or its offshoots) will resurrect again, even if they suffer a military defeat.

Many experts agree that in the near future water will become more valuable than oil. The reality is that if Turkey solves the Kurdish problem, it can also manage the region’s water resources. If this issue is resolved properly, Turkey can become the centre of regional stability and economy through mutual dependence, which will develop through the sharing of water alone.

It can also be noted that if Turkey fails to achieve Kurdish peace, it will not be able to make sufficient use of the water resources located even on its own territory. The definitive solution of the Kurdish issue will bring serious benefits and political depth to society, the country and the state.

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