The original article was published in Greek in the London-based newspaper ‘Eleftheria’ on 4 October 2018. By Penny Papadopoulou.
The recent developments in Turkey and the implications for the region were discussed in a series of fringe events at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool last week.
“Democracy has already left Turkey”. This was the strong statement made by Nurcan Baysal, a Kurdish writer and activist during the panel debate “The End of Democracy? The ‘New Turkey’ and a Region in Flux” jointly organised by the Turkish online news portal Ahval and the Centre for Turkey Studies (CEFTUS).
Baysal also shared her personal account of the Turkish military operations in the Kurdish regions of south east Turkey and vividly described life under the curfews, the arrests, the violence against innocent civilians and children, the events that unfolded in the basements of Cizre and the snipers preventing relatives from recovering the bodies of their loved ones.
“We witnessed terrible human rights violations and war crimes”, Baysal said and strongly criticised the Turkish media and the international community for turning a blind eye to the ongoing war and the crimes committed in the Kurdish regions.
Ayse Zarakol, a Reader in International Relations at the University of Cambridge, was equally condemnatory and emphasized, amongst other things, that “there are a lot of problems that are specific to Turkey that make it an unhappy country in its own unique way”.
The discussion concluded with Yavuz Baydar’s, Ahval’s editor-in-chief, final thoughts on the ‘identity trap’ and how Turkey’s complex social structure and geography has provided fertile ground [to form an identity trap] but also, how the identity issue has become a very useful tool for any cunning leadership to build walls and use one identity against the other.
There was a large attendance of Labour Party members at the panel discussions on “Fighting Fascism in the Middle East – Ocalan, the Kurds and Defending the Women’s Revolution” held by UNITE the Union, the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) and the «Freedom For Ocalan» and «Justice for Kurdistan» campaigns.
The event consisted of three panels of British politicians -MPs, MEPs, and Members of the House of Lords-, trade-unionists, representatives of Kurdish organisations and activists.
Also present was the Honourary President of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and former MP for Izmir, Ertugrul Kurkcu who voiced the concern that Turkey is going back to the beginning of the previous century and the method of annihilation: “But it’s too late”, he stated emphatically and continued “the genie is out of the bottle and the aspiration for freedom; having tasted the fruits of the fight for freedom, the Kurds will not give up, the HDP will not give up, Turkey will not give up.”
Kurkcu concluded by expressing his conviction that “Tayyip Erdogan and his kind will be finally defeated but we need international solidarity and we need freedom for Ocalan.”