A Comprehensive Assessment of the Current Political Situation Including a Review of the Past Year
This article was first published in the January/February 2022 edition of the Kurdistan Report.
The year 2021 with its ups and downs has come to an end. A lot has happened in the past year. Listing all the events would go beyond the scope of this article.
To sum up, it can be said that the systemic crisis of capitalism has deepened even further, leading to more conflicts, wars and tensions worldwide.
But the pandemic has also had an extremely negative impact on people’s lives, on their mobility. The existence of the virus is real. However, there is a growing suspicion that many states are using this virus to gain digital control over our lives, which would not be so easy under `normal circumstances`. Our lives, our socialization, our mobility are now being increasingly controlled via apps.
In the meantime, personal data has been digitized to such an extent that increased control is to be feared. Certain sectors of the economy in particular have profited from the favorable situation, and they want to work predominantly virtually. The pandemic as a global problem has once again demonstrated how dependent we are on governments. But also that our opinion does not count at all. Because step by step, the compulsory vaccination is being designed in such a way that those who refuse can do virtually nothing. This fact alone shows to what extent governments can incapacitate us. Left-wing groups have mostly joined governments because, unfortunately, they had no alternative to offer. One may have been critical of George Orwell’s `1984`, but part of his predictions have unfortunately become reality. Because the leftists acted in an isolated way, they were not able to help ordinary people in particular to find answers to their questions. Vaccination and the critical discussion of it is still an issue.
Excellent analyses of causes, backgrounds and consequences, but also alternatives to fight the virus have remained in the ivory towers, which is why it is precisely the right-wing that profits from the anger and protest of ordinary citizens. The mainstream media, the majority of which pander to state policy, paint nothing but gray clouds. The lockdowns that keep hovering over people’s heads like a sword of Damocles make everyday life as difficult as hopes for the future. The future holds many questions.
The extent of the global exploitation policy of the capitalist system, can be clearly seen in the state of nature. The increasing number of floods and the expanding drought in various parts of the world make the climate crisis more visible, more palpable. The widespread forest fires this year signalled another dimension of the system. The growing competitive war between nations, especially the U.S. and China, is unhinging the world. Progressive forces are challenged, now more than ever, to address a radically critical examination of capitalism as the cause of the problems. Instead, reacting to the consequences of the system puts a strain on energy resources and thus on the prospects for hope. The climate movement in particular, while a leading movement, is nonetheless a reaction. In Europe, most such movements act like a fire department. But only by breaking with capitalism can the root causes be addressed. It is also self-deception to expect governments or the UN to improve the climate crisis. Governments, as executive state bodies, are under pressure from business and corporations that want to expand without limits. They expect governments to allow them the freedom of limitless expansion by changing laws. A turn away from capitalism is necessary to save the future of nature, of humanity, of the entire universe. What is happening on earth today is felt by all due to the rapid changes. We, the majority, are not even aware of what is happening in the universe. It is not enough for capitalism to destroy our planet, the earth, now it is reaching out to other planets. What the rulers want there and why they are there in the first place are questions to which we must find answers, because it concerns us too. The investments and the competition of more and more states regarding planets are not a good omen. Hence the question, what are they actually doing up there?
The Systemic Crisis of Capitalism Deepens
In Kurdistan, the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa), Latin America and Africa, we are facing wars and conflicts in addition to the consequences of the climate crisis.
Overall, the state of humanity in 2021 was characterized by the deepening systemic crisis of capitalism, which is at the same time the basis of people’s discontent. Great resistance struggles were also waged against the various manifestations of this crisis. For example, that of the peasants in India, who have successfully resisted the privatization of their lands and the planned cultivation of monocultures. In the same way, the globalization of the movement against the climate crisis represents a positive development. The mass protest of women in Poland and Mexico for the right to abortion is one of the important events of this year.
Another interesting development this year has been the growing number of left-leaning governments in Latin America. Corrupt regimes that subordinate themselves to larger powers as puppets are being challenged. In Colombia, for example, the various guerrilla groups have come together as one, making them a significant political power factor. A very important development at the end of the year was the removal of the Colombian guerrilla organization FARC-EP (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – Ejército del Pueblo) from the U.S. blacklist of foreign terrorist organizations. After the 2016 peace agreement between the FARC-EP and the Colombian government, which included the U.S. as a mediator, many FARC-EP fighters and commanders were murdered. Peace was not supposed to come until the FARC-EP were sufficiently weakened. However, this did not happen. Since 2016, the U.S. has supported the corrupt Colombian government, although it played a mediating role. They did not say a word in opposition to the killings by the government. The removal of the FARC-EP from the U.S. list of terrorist organizations is therefore a recognition that it has not been sufficiently weakened.
In South Africa, which is seen as a model for the African continent, in addition to the pandemic, the political incompetence of the ANC (African National Congress) due to corruption has led to discontent. All it takes is a spark, and things can start to burn at any time. In the summer of last year, there were mass riots by young people against the ANC, even though it was officially said that the arrest warrant for former President Jacob Zuma was the reason for the riots. There was also resistance against the Shell oil company, which planned to start exploring oil and gas reserves off the coast of South Africa on December 1 – with catastrophic consequences for environmental protection and animal welfare.
Despite the pandemic as a global challenge, neither wars and conflicts nor the expansion of capitalism have ended.
In Kurdistan, the pandemic was not and is not a priority. But in many other parts of the world, where wars and conflicts are determinant, people were also preoccupied with their survival.
Many believed that things would change for the better with the new U.S. President Joe Biden, who took office on Jan. 20, and that he would correct Trump’s aggressive policies. The war-torn regions of the Middle East and North Africa in particular were hoping for an improvement. Similar expectations existed at times among Kurdish nationalists, who have made it a tradition to hope for a savior anyway. For the majority of politicized Kurds, on the other hand, it was clear that the United States was still behind the Greater Middle East Project. With Biden, the methods, form and style would be somewhat toned down, but the U.S. strategy of a world power would still be followed.
It had been anticipated for the U.S. under Biden, as the driving global power of capitalist modernity, to solve a number of problems, primarily in the Middle East. Biden was concerned with first correcting Trump’s policies, which had very much isolated the country politically. Using mild words, Biden punctuated his beginning by saying that he would not follow Trump’s ways, but that “America First” was only possible with alliances around him. He sought “dialogue” and “cooperation” – an appropriate motto for the NATO summit in June 2021: “2030 – Together into a New Era.” Yet the organization is called the “North Atlantic Treaty Organization” or the “Atlantic Alliance.” The words “alliance” or “pact” emphasize the common ground. So what is the need for additional emphasis on that? Similar to Trump, Biden also sees the U.S. as the major world power. Trump had driven away the other powers of the world; Biden needs to rally them around the U.S. again. Together into 2030 means together with the USA. Immediately, this summit also identified the new enemies that the other 29 countries must fight together with the U.S., namely China and Russia.
The USA may still see itself as a superpower or world power, but reality speaks a different language. It has not been that easy for the country since the end of the Cold War. The challenges are enormous, forcing the U.S. to be more willing to compromise. The greatest among these challenges is the growing economic power of China. There is competition between these powers in South America, Asia, Africa, Australia and also in Europe, which will decide the political balances of the near future. This offers many third parties the chance to profit from this competition. Just as the U.S. is pitting India against China, China is investing economically in India, opening doors to politics.
In any case, the U.S. is so hampered by the conflicts and wars it has caused that it made the critical decision this year to withdraw from Afghanistan. This event alone has cast a large shadow on its power.
Turkey Under Erdoğan – a National and International Burden
Turkey has been and continues to be a very special challenge for the United States in the Middle East. As a member state of NATO with its second most powerful army, it has been doped since it joined in 1952. No matter which regime was in power, Turkey has always been supported as a NATO member. Even during the military coups that cost thousands of lives, this remained so without any problems. Even the barbaric genocidal policy towards the Kurds did not change this membership. These facts alone show that NATO does not care which brutal government is in power. Turkey remains a strategic NATO partner. Even today, when it comes to the use of chemical weapons or the targeted killing of politicians with the help of Turkish drones, NATO turns a blind eye to Turkey. The European Union and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) do not act any differently.
Turkey may be a strategically important partner of NATO and the EU in the Middle East, but for the Kurds and all other oppressed ethnic, religious and political groups, the fascist-racist-sexist Turkish AKP-MHP regime is a threat to their lives.
The struggle of the Kurds against this danger has had a great success in 2021. Because at the beginning of February Turkey lost the battle against the guerrillas of the People’s Defense Units (HPG) and the women’s guerrillas (YJA Star) in the Gare region in South Kurdistan (North Iraq). Although the Turkish army had relied on the best military technology. In order to cover up the defeat of the Turkish public, 13 prisoners of war, all former Turkish military personnel, who had been left unharmed under the protection of the HPG for several years, were murdered. This led to the critical questioning of the AKP-MHP regime, which had hoped that a victory would prolong its power. Shocked by this defeat, Erdoğan, who had promised victory daily in Turkish media, was absent from the media for a long time. All regime-controlled media had been predicting victory 24 hours a day. What emerged was a Turkish defeat, but a Kurdish victory for the HPG-YJA-Star guerrillas. The South Kurdish Kurdistan Democratic Party KDP had also helped vigorously with intelligence information. It had blocked several routes to the guerrillas in advance with the help of its Peshmergas to impede the guerrillas` mobility. The goal was to work together to surround the guerrillas in the Gare area and then annihilate them by any means necessary. But this plan came to nothing. Strengthened by the guerrillas’ victory in Başûr (the “south” of Kurdistan), millions of people celebrated Newroz on March 21 in various areas of North Kurdistan (Bakur), and millions demanded the release of Kurdish representative Abdullah Öcalan at the Newroz celebrations. The AKP-MHP regime had come under immense pressure to allow a telephone call between Abdullah Öcalan and his brother on March 25. But even in this phone call, which would only last four to five minutes, the state’s desire for revenge and anger over the defeat were palpable. Öcalan criticized his brother not to accept such offers from the state in the future. He said that he had the right to speak to his family and lawyers on the phone anyway. His criticism referred to the constant violation of his legitimate rights. The telephone call, which happened in response to political pressure, made it clear once again that law does not count on the prison island of İmralı, but rather an arbitrary regime. Instead of law, political interests are decisive there.
The Pope in South Kurdistan
An important event in March was the Pope’s visit to Iraq and South Kurdistan. It is obvious that he was not only concerned with religious matters; after all, he is also the head of state of the Vatican. The trip was more political than religious. For one thing, he visited Ali as-Sistani, the head of the Shiites there, who has a critical attitude toward Iran as the center of Shiism. For years, the United States has also sought to create a divide in Shiism. Specifically, Qom in Iran is no longer to be the religious center of the Shiites, but Najaf and Karbala in Iraq, historically places of origin of this religion. After 1979, however, the Mullah regime had declared Qom in Iran to be the center; as-Sistani considers it to be in Kerbala and Najaf. The Pope conveyed a clear message through his visit to as-Sistani and other Shiites who are critical of Iran.
Also, by visiting Nêçîrvan Barzanî, the president of the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan, he legitimized the KDP, which is ruining South Kurdistan because of corruption and nepotism. The KDP is incapable of leadership because it is literally robbing the country and driving the people into hunger. This year alone, tens of thousands of Kurds have left South Kurdistan and took the dangerous road to Europe. Most of them are young people and families who no longer see a future in “Free Kurdistan”. This circumstance was recently brought to international attention by the 8,000 Kurdish refugees on the border between Poland and Belarus. Most recently, 27 people drowned in the English Channel, most of them also from South Kurdistan.
Leaving people impoverished, then opening the way for them to flee and profiting economically from it, is devoid of any humane attitude. Research revealed that the traffickers are under the control of the Turkish secret service MIT and the secret service of the KDP (Parastin). Turkey wants a Kurdistan without Kurds, the KDP wants to maintain the strategic alliance with Turkey. The KDP has opened its doors to Erdoğan. Not only in political and military terms, but above all in economic terms. The de facto statehood allows them to enrich themselves and they benefit from the anti-PKK course of the US, the EU and especially Turkey. If a peace process between the PKK and Turkey were to begin tomorrow, it would be to the KDP’s disadvantage. That is why it is helping Erdoğan in the war against the PKK.
Formation of a Government in Iraq
Manipulation also enabled the KDP to increase its share of the vote in Iraq’s parliamentary elections in October. Reliable sources, however, clearly state that voter turnout in Kurdistan was 25%. Given this, neither party won these elections. Gorran (Movement for Change), which has gone down in the history of South Kurdistan as the “true opposition party,” suffered a total defeat because it participated in the government with the KDP and grew closer to it over time. Consequently, Gorran did not win a single parliamentary seat.
The number of attacks by the “Islamic State” (IS), especially in the “disputed areas” of South Kurdistan, particularly around the oil-rich region of Kerkûk, has increased again. Suddenly, IS is shooting up like a mushroom. In this process of a new political orientation of Iraq, the states USA, Iran, Turkey are fighting for a position of power. Turkey is using Turkmen loyal to Ankara in the areas around Kerkûk, Tel Afar; to some extent, Ankara has also made pacts with Sunni Arabs in the Mûsil (Mosul) region to establish a Sunni supremacy there.
The Genocide of the Ezidis Continues
The Mûsil region includes the strategic area of Şengal (Sinjar), which is called Êzîdxan (land of the Ezidis) by the Ezidis. Here, the KDP reached an agreement with the Iraqi government on October 9, 2020, mediated by the UN in Iraq (UNAMI); Erdoğan’s regime has been vigorously involved behind the scenes through the KDP. This agreement is about putting Şengal back under the control of Baghdad and the KDP, while sharing power between them. In this case, the KDP will share its share of power with Turkey because the latter was instrumental in drafting this agreement.The Ezidis are resisting this because they still have great distrust for both. As a reminder, both Baghdad and the KDP had withdrawn their military forces on August 3, 2014, when the IS attacked the Ezidis, leaving them to their killers. Turkey and the KDP still insist on the implementation of the above-mentioned agreement. Turkey uses drone attacks as a means of pressure. Well-known political leaders such as Seîd Hesen on August 16 and, most recently, Merwan Bedel on December 7 were assassinated, the latter in the middle of downtown Xanesor while driving his children to school.His car was attacked by a Turkish drone and he died, while two of his daughters were rescued from the burning car by civilians. Similarly, a Turkish drone had attacked the well-known Gulo family in Qamişlo (Rojava) in the middle of the neighborhood on November 9, 2021, killing 85-year-old Yusif Gulo and his grandsons Mazlûm Mustafa and Mihemed Mehmud. The Turkish media celebrated this as the “deactivation” of Öcalan’s closest friends.
This is a new tactic of the Turkish regime. Similar to the Gulo family, Merwan Bedel had not left his country but fought against IS. With the HGP and YJA Star and the People’s and Women’s Defense Units (YPG and YPJ), he had fought shoulder to shoulder to save his people from genocide. He later assumed a political post in the Council of Ezidis in Şengal as co-chair of the Executive Council. Both Merwan Bedel and Yûsif Gulo are well-known figures among the Kurdish public who enjoyed a high degree of sympathy and respect.
Earlier, Turkish drones had attacked a hospital in Şengal on August 17, killing eight people.The drones have hovered over the heads of the Ezidis like a sword of Damocles since the October 9 agreement. The drones have hovered over the heads of the Êzîds like a sword of Damocles since the October 9 agreement. Erdoğan wants to occupy Şengal as a strategic area; this is part of his expansion strategy. He has often emphasized that he wants Mûsil and Kerkûk back as former Ottoman provinces. What he failed to achieve with IS in 2014, he is now trying to achieve with the help of drones.
In view of the events in Şengal in 2021, the danger of a continuation of the genocide against the Ezidis unfortunately cannot be ruled out. Genocide can be spoken of when a particular group is attacked because of its membership in a specific group, as in the case of the Ezidis. However, this genocide affects all Kurds, since it is the Ezidis who have still kept alive the original elements of Kurdish culture and social structure.
The international silence is another reason why Turkey has been given a green light for these kinds of attacks. Therefore, it is hypocrisy when states and state institutions resort to the pity line. The Ezidis do not need pity, they need the UN to implement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of December 10, 1948. This declaration deals with the rights to which every individual is entitled, regardless of origin, gender, religion or political conviction, and stipulates, for example, the right to life, to the absence of slavery and torture, and to freedom of religion. Equality before the law and freedom of association are also demanded for all people.
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which was on the verge of splitting this year, was able to avoid a crisis to a certain extent through the intervention of tribal leaders and well-known personalities and the assistance of some PKK politicians. Since the beginning of the year, the KDP and Turkey have done their utmost to set the two Talabanî cousins against each other. Both were leading the PUK as co-chairs. Weakening the party would both pave the way for Turkey to reach Iran’s borders and help the KDP expand its power. A few days before the Iraqi elections, the co-chair of the Kurdistan Democratic Communities Union (KCK), Cemil Bayık, had called on Kurds to vote for the PUK. This was an unusual move, as the KCK rarely interferes in South Kurdish affairs. This call won a lot of votes for the PUK. It is an unfortunate fact that splits in political parties in South Kurdistan do not occur without the interference of external forces. In the case of the PUK, Turkey and the KDP are mainly at work. Turkey had succeeded in building the KDP into a strategic partner and driving it into conflict with the PKK; with the PUK, it has so far had no success in this regard. Turkey is trying to achieve this, for example, through targeted attacks on Kurds from the north (the Turkish-occupied part), such as the most recent assassination of Şükrü Serhat (Yasin Bulut) in the PUK center Silêmanî on September 17, 2021, by Turkish death squads. Şükrü Serhat had been in prison in Turkey for many years because of his activities for the PKK and had gone to South Kurdistan after his release. He had been staying in Silêmanî for medical treatment.
USA Rushes to Erdoğan’s Help
On April 14, the U.S. Embassy in Ankara had reminded via Twitter of the 2018 bounty awards for PKK leaders such as Cemil Bayık, Murat Karayılan and Duran Kalkan. For the PKK, this message was crystal clear: Biden, too, will not seek a political solution when it comes to the PKK. Alarm bells were ringing loudly in Kurdistan. This move signaled a deal between the U.S. and the Erdoğan regime. Once again, an anti-Kurdish compromise by force was to be expected. In fact, this followed ten days later.
In Turkey, this was greeted with jubilation. Politically, it was a familiar game: The new Biden administration wanted to show that it was on Turkey’s side. But it was also about softening Turkey up a bit before a move that would secure Biden a place in the history books. On April 24, ten days after the U.S. Embassy issued a reminder about the bounty, the new U.S. president said he recognized the Armenian genocide. April 24, 1915, is considered the beginning of the genocide, which claimed the lives of about 1.5 million Armenians. Erdoğan’s reaction was astonishing: instead of pointing his finger and insulting the U.S. president as usual, he remained strangely calm despite the fact that every year on April 24 there was a crisis between Turkey and the United States because of the issue. The plausible explanation was that in the phone call between Biden and Erdoğan a day earlier, a deal had been agreed upon. Erdoğan was given the green light for his planned major offensive against the PKK, and Biden would not adopt harsher tones on the matter after the recognition of the Armenian genocide. For the Armenians, this step was very important. For the Kurds, on the other hand, it was a frightening signal, because they know all too well about the genocide of the people living next to them. Starting the military offensive on the anniversary of this genocide needed no further explanation. Erdoğan desperately needed a victory in order to survive politically – his victory was to hit his biggest challengers, the Kurds and their leading force, the PKK. For it is the PKK that is the protective force for all of Kurdistan, as it was most recently against IS in 2014. It is also the PKK that stands in Erdoğan’s way as he expands to achieve his dream of a Greater Turkey on the territory of the former Ottoman Empire in North Syria and North Iraq. Both are Kurdish territories. Without a weakening of the PKK, things look quite bleak for the future of Erdoğan and his partner, MHP Chairman Devlet Bahçeli.
It may sound exaggerated to outsiders, but a defeat of the guerrillas would have paved the way for Erdoğan’s goal of silencing the Kurds on the one hand and occupying South Kurdistan on the other. The above-mentioned example shows that the policy lacks any ethical basis. The genocide of the Armenians is an open wound of the last century and a trauma not only for them but for all peoples of the region.
Several Turkish governments have failed in the war against the PKK since its founding on November 27, 1978.Since the beginning of the armed resistance, Turkey has received great backing from NATO and the German state. Since the persecution of the PKK with the Düsseldorf trial in 1989, every government in Germany has been systematically part of the attempt to weaken the PKK. Therefore, in Kurdish circles, people do not talk about German governments at all, but about the German state. For indeed, whether conservative, liberal or social democratic government, the tightening of the 1993 PKK ban has been extended and deepened more and more. Whether the new traffic light government will succeed in persuading the PKK-hostile core in the German state to lift the PKK ban remains to be seen. Certainly, this government will not have an easy time defending, let alone covering up for, the AKP-MHP regime’s dirty political consequences.
Erdoğan has Lost This Battle, Too
Since April 24, Turkey has been attacking the Zap, Avaşîn, and Metîna guerrilla areas in the Turkey/Iraq/Iran border triangle in the Kurdish regions on Iraqi territory with drones, warplanes, and chemical weapons on a permanent and widespread basis. What it did not know is that the HPG-YJA star guerrillas have radically modernized their defensive tactics and strategies in recent years. The Turkish army is now confronted with a defense force that employs methods of resistance warfare unknown to Turkey. It has also fundamentally changed its tactics of mobility. Moreover, it fights in widely ramified tunnel systems. Neither the drones Erdoğan flaunts before the world public nor the C-weapons have been able to break the guerrillas’ will to fight. As always since 1984, the beginning of the armed resistance against the Turkish army, NATO remains silent about the use of chemical weapons by its partner. After all, it is the “evil Kurds” of the PKK who do not bow to Turkey and thus to NATO.
War Against Kurds on All Fronts Leads to End of Erdoğan Era
The AKP-MHP regime under Erdoğan and Bahçeli is coming to an end. Had they won the offensive in Gare in February and the one on April 24, which is still ongoing, they would have saved their political future.
War has been waged against Rojava over the past year not only militarily, but also economically. The most powerful weapon Turkey used against North and East Syria was water. At the beginning of the year, dams located on the Turkish (North Kurdish) side reduced the flow of the Euphrates River, causing a significant water shortage in Rojava. The agricultural economy was severely affected; electricity production, which relies on water energy, had to be curtailed. Not only the Kurds, but all ethnic groups united in the self-administration were to be incited against the autonomy administration, which could not immediately remedy the electricity and water shortages.
Most recently, Erdoğan threatened a new broad-based military offensive against North and East Syria in early October. He had failed to achieve the victory he had hoped for in the war against the HPG and YJA Star in South Kurdistan. With a new front against the Kurds, he wanted to win over the nationalist voices in Turkey, which are now very critical of him. Such a war was intended to distract the people of Turkey from the economic and political crisis. It was also intended to silence growing criticism against his leadership. His threats became more aggressive, especially before the G20 summit in Rome on Oct. 30-31. Previously, he had literally begged Biden for a meeting several times. Supported by his media, he had already started a virtual war. All this was supposed to serve to get the green light from Biden.The expectation was not fulfilled so far, because he had not taken the US-American plans into account. Agreeing to Erdoğan’s war against the self-administration of North and East Syria would weaken the U.S.’s own position in the Middle East. After the defeat in Afghanistan and the ongoing conflict with Iran in Iraq, they cannot afford such a war. Biden had not given his blessing in talks with Erdoğan in Rome. Moreover, the U.S. is trying to enter into dialogue with Syrian President al-Assad via Arab states. Not coincidentally, therefore, a high-level visit from Arab states took place in Damascus. Most recently, Jordan, a close U.S. partner, agreed to economic cooperation with the Syrian regime. It looks like the U.S. will gradually bring the Syrian conflict to the diplomatic table in the coming year through the acceptance of al-Assad. Here, the political stance of the self-administration in North and East Syria will be crucial. For, since the silent revolution of July 19, 2012, a new democratic territory has de facto been formed in Rojava in the north and east of Syria reaching as far as Deir ez-Zor.
Parallel to the USA, Turkey had tried to do the same with Russia. However, it was also unsuccessful. In exchange for Russia’s support for a war, Erdoğan had threatened to sell Turkish drones to forces critical of Putin in Ukraine. In this double game, Russia, in turn, which depends on the latter’s regime for its presence in Syria, has argued with the planned Turkish war as a threat against the Kurds to keep the regime on its side. The Kurds were to give 75% of the oil and gas revenues to the regime and only be able to keep the remaining 25%. The problem is not only this unjust demand, but above all the fact that the Kurds, like the other ethnic groups involved in the self-administration, are expected to claim no democratic rights except for the right to speak their mother tongue. They were aware that Russia could not pressure them, since Iran was also present in the areas Erdoğan announced as targets of a war. These were regions that lead to Aleppo, like Tel Rifat. Here, mostly the Syrian regime is acting together with Iran.
Erdoğan’s war plans have not been realized so far, which does not mean it will not happen. He is waiting for an opportunity. Because he is dependent on a war against the Kurds.
Kurdish Successes Encourage Turkish Opposition
Domestically, Erdoğan’s defeats have also prepared his end, and the Kurds’ successes have emboldened the opposition. As a result, the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) refused to support the bill to extend the military missions in Syria and Iraq in parliament on Oct. 26. Nevertheless, the parliament renewed the authorization for the military deployment. This law gives the Turkish state the authority to deploy Turkish troops to foreign territories.
The CHP’s position was certainly not based on democracy or human rights considerations. Until now, it had approved all such requests. However, the party now realized that despite parliamentary authority, the Erdoğan regime had not achieved any results; on the contrary, it had maneuvered the country into a political, military and economic dead end. For the Greater Turkish Dream, Erdoğan has also sacrificed the Turkish economy. Instead of exports, imports have risen. Agricultural production has stagnated. Privatization of state-owned enterprises has driven up unemployment. The rising inflation rate is out of control. Even though the ministers of economy and trade were replaced this year, the Erdoğan regime has not been able to maintain the value of the Turkish lira; it has continued to fall in 2021, whereas the value of the U.S. dollar and the Euro has steadily risen. As a result, products such as petrol, oil, and especially food, etc., have become extremely expensive, and people in Turkey are protesting in the streets.
The CHP has recognized this favorable moment made possible by the Kurdish resistance struggle and is preparing for a post Erdoğan era. In doing so, it also needs the support of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which is the kingmaker, as it was in the 2018 parliamentary elections and the 2019 local elections. Erdoğan has not succeeded in weakening the Kurdish struggle for democracy through the motion to ban this party and numerous motions to lift the immunity of HDP deputies. Although thousands of Kurdish politicians, activists, journalists and women’s rights activists are in prison, it has not been possible to dissuade the Kurds from their struggle. Erdoğan is waging a separate war against Kurdish women. All Kurdish women’s institutions have been closed. Recently, this war reached its climax with the arrest of Ayşe Gökhan, a well-known longtime activist.
But Erdoğan is not only cracking down on Kurdish women, he is pursuing anti-women policies in general. He has shown this to the world by withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention, which is supposed to protect women from violence. In July, this agreement was revoked. This is because Erdoğan’s ideology is based on male domination. Again, the Council of Europe, which is responsible for this agreement, was not able fulfill its obligation. It could have excluded Turkey. Erdoğan has since tightened the spiral of violence against women considerably.
Solitary Confinement against Öcalan – a Permanent Wound of the Kurds
Erdoğan has also intensified his violent practices in İmralı against Abdullah Öcalan. As if the illegal isolation policy was not enough, several disciplinary punishments were imposed on him. Once for ” walking fast” while exercising during the court walk. Because of this, he was banned from visiting his family for three months, and for other unknown insane things, he was banned from being visited by his lawyers for six months.
Although the CPT Anti-Torture Committee and also the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe had declared the solitary confinement conditions of Abdullah Öcalan, Ömer Hayri Konar, Veysi Aktaş and Hamili Yıldırım on İmralı prison island unacceptable, the Erdoğan regime mimed the three monkeys (“see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing”) and ignored the calls as usual.
However, even the aforementioned organizations did not take any further action within the scope of their responsibility to hold the Turkish regime accountable as a member of the Council of Europe. Therefore, İmralı has remained a place where the law is systematically being violated. The Kurds have long spoken of İmrali as the site of an arbitrary system.
To remind the Council of Europe of its duty, several human rights and legal organizations in Turkey reminded the Council of Ministers in July of the 2014 decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which has been in the drawers of the Council of Ministers ever since. On March 18, 2014, the ECtHR had ruled that by imposing a non-reducible life sentence on Abdullah Öcalan, Turkey had violated the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment and thus Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Member states such as Turkey are obliged to implement ECHR rulings, otherwise the country can be expelled. The Dec. 2 meeting of the Committee of Ministers, which is the decision-making body of the Council of Europe, called on Turkey to “take without delay the measures necessary to bring the current legal framework in line with the standards set by the ECtHR” and further expressed “concern” that Turkish authorities have so far “not provided relevant information on the measures envisaged to remedy the violations identified in these judgments.”
The Committee of Ministers also requested information from Turkey on the number of prisoners currently in custody who have been given irreducible life sentences with no prospect of early release.
Information on progress made in the requested measures is to be provided by the end of September 2022 at the latest. At its last quarterly meeting next year, the committee will then consider whether the leadership in Ankara has complied.
This year-end development naturally had a positive resonance, as after 22 years of isolation torture in İmralı, neither the Kurds’ nor Öcalan’s will can be broken. The political decision-making body’s realization to finally accept that no torture in the world can break Öcalan’s will is a step forward. In 2021, the Kurds and friends of the Kurdish people have continued to demonstrate for Öcalan’s freedom in Strasbourg in front of the headquarters of the Council of Europe, the CPT and the ECHR, as well as throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa.
We Kurds enter the year 2022 with a number of successes. We have managed to go against the tide wherever we are and develop our alternative of Democratic Confederalism as a solution to systems based on domination, violence, misogyny, racism, nationalism and ecocide. The war of the Turkish state in 2021 against the Kurds, which was tolerated, promoted, supported and provoked by many external powers, has not been able to dissuade us from our will for freedom. UN, NATO, EU, ER, OPCW …, they all have played the three monkeys in different forms in the crimes of the Turkish state in 2021 as well. Therefore, they are partly responsible for the fact that Erdoğan has created a Turkey that has become a problem even for them, because their lack of response to the crimes against humanity and war crimes in Kurdistan calls into question their existence and credibility. At least the Council of Europe, in order to save face, has finally acknowledged that it has not been possible to break Ocalan through torture for 22 years. It remains that the OPCW must scrutinize the use of chemical weapons in order to at least save face.
With Erdoğan, Turkey will not stand a chance in 2022. The year 2021 proved once again that the Kurdish Freedom Movement cannot be subdued by military or structural force. Therefore, in 2022, the campaigns to delist the PKK as the leading force of the Kurdish freedom struggle “from the terror lists” and for the freedom of Abdullah Öcalan will become decisive steps towards solving the Turkish problem, namely Erdoğan’s dictatorship. For this, the Kurds have laid a historical foundation, on the basis of which Turkish progressive forces can now also play a role. But also internationally, the weakening of Erdoğan’s dictatorship plays a major role for all peoples in the Middle East and North Africa, where he not only disturbs political and military balances, but also social balances via the Muslim Brotherhood ideology and, above all, incites a war between men and women. For this ideology is based on misogyny and the glorification of men.
For all the achievements mentioned above, we Kurds have lost great revolutionaries, leading hearts and minds of our people in the war of Turkish fascism in 2021 as well. Therefore, 2022 will be a year in which we will realize the dreams of freedom of these great people.