When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Turkey

Erdoğan Makes A U-Turn On the Kurdish Conflict

Not so long ago, the Prime Minister surprised everyone by seeking reconciliation with Turkey’s Kurdish minority. Yet ahead of national elections next month, Erdo?an has changed his tune.

Kurdish protest in Istanbul, Turkey.
Kurdish protest in Istanbul, Turkey.
Mehmet Ali Birand

ISTANBUL - Those who take a look at Turkey's recent history will see that its biggest issue is the problem of its Kurdish population. Until now, Prime Minister and AK Party leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had taken bold steps in addressing it.

During his first years in power, he demonstrated courage that no one else had dared to show, and diagnosed the illness. And beyond identifying the problem, he also made efforts to answer the longstanding grievances of the Kurds living in Southeast Anatolia.

The state of emergency in the region was lifted, Kurdish TV started broadcasting again, some restrictions on the use of Kurdish names were lifted, and most of all, the so-called ‘Kurdish Opening" planned in 2008-2009 created widespread hope that the country was moving on.

Each of these decisions was a small revolution. A revolution that lasted until nationalists protested against members of the outlawed PKK Kurdish separatist group re-entering Turkey through the Habur checkpoint at the Iraqi border. This act was strongly condemned within Erdoğan's AK Party as well as by other parties.

This scared the AK Party. All the democratic opening attempts came to a halt. And now, with just a few weeks left before elections, the Prime Minister has taken a new approach.

"There is no such thing as a Kurdish problem. There are the problems that our Kurdish population faces," the prime minister said recently.

We fulfill the needs and wishes of our citizens, and we will work more on that. But the PKK (separatists) and BDP (a legal pro-Kurdish party) have a different agenda: they seek to damage our togetherness and unity."

Erdoğan mentioned as "acts of separatism" demands that Kurdish be made a primary language and the refusal to pray alongside the government-assigned imam. "These acts are like bombs laid at the roots of our foundation," he said.

This approach is reminiscent of the 1990s when the attitude was "There are no Kurds, there are only mountain Turks."

I am one of those who believe that Erdoğan can't embrace a militarist attitude today. The superficiality of it is obvious, and when compared to the Prime Minister's previous approach, its sincerity is questionable.

A question directed at the Prime Minister on Monday night was very appropriate. Why does the government engage with Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK? Isn't it a contradiction?

The Prime Minister argued that this was necessary, and supported his point by citing the decline in terrorist attacks. This of course made everyone a little more confused.

I don't think that the Prime Minister can carry on with this approach after the elections. Frankly, I don't want to believe it. We have had this approach for 30 years and look where it got us. Taking a step back is going to be much more brutal. I expect Erdoğan to change both his approach and attitude after the elections.

Photo - LindsayT

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Searching For Marianna, A Pregnant Doctor From Mariupol Held Captive By The Russians

We’ve heard about the plight of the soldiers-turned-prisoners from Mariupol. Here are some traces of the disturbing fate of a young female doctor who’s been taken away.

A paper dove reads "Mariupol" at a shelter for displaced children in Uzhhorod, western Ukraine.

Paweł Smoleński

"Wait for me, because I will return…"

Marianna Mamonova wrote these words to her family, among the text messages and short phone calls that are the only remaining fragments used to piece together her recent past. We also have a photo of her, posted on Russian websites, where she looks into the lens, gaunt and exhausted, signed with a number like a concentration camp prisoner.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

Until the Russian-Ukrainian war, Mamonova’s biography was available to anyone who wanted to know. She was born in 1991, studied at the Ternopil Medical University, and later at the Kyiv Military Academy. After completing her studies, she was sent to work in the coastal city of Berdiansk. Her mother says that this is where her daughter's dream came true: She’d always wanted to be a military doctor, and worked in Berdiansk for three years, receiving the rank of officer in the Ukrainian army.

Beginning in 2014, she’d worked stints as a front-line doctor in the Donbas region, and when Russia invaded Ukraine in February she went to war again. This time in Mariupol.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
Writing contest - My pandemic story
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ