On April 14, 2021, it was reported that the US Ambassador to Ankara, Mr David M Satterfield, posted a statement on his Twitter account announcing that the United States was offering a $12 million reward to persons who could provide information leading to the arrest of Kurdish leaders Cemil Bayık, Murat Karayılan and Duran Kalkan.
To offer such a reward is akin to placing a bounty on a person’s head and, as such, is more akin to the Wild West than the considered diplomacy that one would expect from a democratic state of the modern era. Some would even describe it as a practise reminiscent of the Middle Ages.
The statement has understandably shocked and angered the Kurds who have started a campaign of protest against the announcement and are demanding that President Biden rejects this grotesque and inhumane policy. This reward announcement should fill with dismay anyone who expected Washington to reset its policy towards Turkey and the Kurds following Biden’s election.
This latest US intervention in the longstanding Turkey-Kurdish conflict is a blatantly partisan one that will do nothing to resolve the conflict. If anything, it will embolden Turkey in its current repressive response to legitimate Kurdish demands and will only lead to even more conflict. As such, it is entirely short sighted policy that will surely backfire, as well as adding to the historic injuries and injustices inflicted on the Kurdish people.
Under the previous US administration President Erdogan faced not one word of criticism as he pursued an aggressive policy of state repression of Kurds at home and brutal military action against Kurds abroad. There seemed to be no limits on what Erdogan could get away with. All the while, the blood flowed, the casualties increased, the gaols filled up with political prisoners and the Kurdish people’s daily suffering became ever more intolerable.
When Joe Biden became president only a few months ago he pledged to restore dignity to his office and was keen to stress that he would do things very differently from his predecessor by upholding democratic norms and human rights. The new Biden administration claims that it wants the United States to be respected in the world and in particular it has indicated that it will take a new approach towards Turkey. The issuing of a reward for the capture of the three Kurdish leaders is tantamount to bounty hunting and encouragement to mercenaries. It will do nothing to broker a peace or bring an end to the conflict.
The Kurds feel that the US Ambassador’s intervention was deliberately calculated to please Turkey and to bring President Erdogan back on side after he had clashed so publicly with Washington on several key strategic issues, such as relations with Russia and support for radical Islamist groups in Syria and the wider region.
The approach of the United States towards Turkey and the Kurds, and, in particular Washington’s characterisation of the Kurdish movement, seems to be based on misinformation and data that is about three decades old. Washington policy makers are ignoring the repeated calls for peace made by the Kurdish movement, not least by Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, who has consistently argued the case for peace and reconciliation in concrete proposals that so far have not been tested or taken seriously.
Peace in Kurdistan believes that President Biden and his administration have it in their power to play a constructive role in achieving peace between Turkey and the Kurds by acting as an honest broker to bring the disputing parties to the negotiating table. To do this, President Biden has to reset his policy on the Kurds and Turkey. Bounty hunting can have no place in this policy.
Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
Contacts Estella Schmid: 07846 666 804 & Melanie Gingell: 07572 430903
Patrons: John Austin, Baroness Blower of Starch Green, former GS NUT, Prof Bill Bowring, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Prof Mary Davis, Lord Dholakia, Simon Dubbins, UNITE International Director, Jill Evans, former MEP, Desmond Fernandes, Lindsey German, Convenor STWC, Melanie Gingell, Christopher Gingell, Prof Dr. Michael Gunter, Secretary-General, EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC), Rahila Gupta, journalist, Nick Hildyard, policy advisor, Dafydd Iwan, Former President Plaid Cymru, James Kelman, Bruce Kent, Jean Lambert, former MEP, Dr Les Levidow, Open University, Elfyn Llwyd, John McDonnell MP; Aonghas MacNeacail, Scottish Gaelic poet, Mike Mansfield QC, David Morgan, journalist, Doug Nicholls, General Secretary, GFTU, Dr. Jessica Ayesha Northey, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy, Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley, Kate Osamor MP, Margaret Owen OBE, Ali Gul Ozbek, Former Councillor and Mayor of Haringey; Gareth Peirce, Dr Felix Padel, Maxine Peake, actor, Dr Thomas Phillips, Liverpool John Moores University, Trevor Rayne, writer, Joe Ryan, Tony Simpson, Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, Stephen Smellie, PIK Trade Union Liaison Officer, Jonathan Steele, journalist, Steve Sweeney, journalist, Gianni Tognoni, General Secretary Permanent People’s Tribunal, Dr Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Dr Federico Venturini, Associate Researcher, University of Udine, Italy; Dr Tom Wakeford, Dr Derek Wall, Julie Ward, former MEP, Kariane Westrheim, Chair, EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC); Hywel Williams MP.