Where Words Fail. Why Kurdish PKK Strikes Risk All-Out War In Turkey

Op-Ed: A series of attacks by banned Kurdish separatist outfit PKK has left 29 Turkish security personnel dead, opening grave questions for Turkey’s future.

Turkish protesters honor slain soldiers (SalamNews)
Turkish protesters honor slain soldiers (SalamNews)
Sedat Ergin

ISTANBUL - The deadly attacks staged by the increasingly restive PKK over the past two days present one of the most violent challenges the group has ever directed at Turkish leadership. The PKK, a banned Kurdish seperatist organization, has shown that it can target both the police and the military simultaneously, killing 29 security officers in nine separate attacks in southeast Turkey in a coordinated operation over the past three days that demonstrated its ability to operate in both cities and the countryside.

Once again, we are at a point where condemnations are insufficient, where words fail. At a time when countries like Egypt and Tunisia have shown that it is possible to make democratic gains without violence, the PKK is still bent on using violent means left over from a previous century.

It is clear that the PKK wants to test the limits of the Turkish people, and its leaders. They want to provoke further reaction within society, which could set off a hellish scenario of all-out war that includes fighting between ordinary Turks and Kurds.

These large-scale attacks also curtail the government's ability to maneuver. Even the smallest step taken now might be construed as giving in to terrorism, and so the government will likely have to act tougher. This will only lead to strengthening this vicious cycle and entrenching deadlock.

No matter how great our sorrow at these attacks, how devastating our sense of violation, we must not deviate from the path of reason or allow ourselves to be taken hostage by such a showdown. Our reaction shouldn't blind us to the fact that the tactics used up until now have not brought a solution. After fighting the PKK militarily for some 30 years, and diverting tremendous resources that could have been used for social welfare, Turkey is unfortunately back where it started.

Worse than the 90s

But there are new circumstances that make the situation now even harder than before. In the 1990s, when fighting went on in the southeast, life in western Turkey continued as normal. Still, the forced evacuation then of villages in the southeast resulted in hundreds of thousands of people migrating to the west. A significant proportion of the younger generations of these families sympathize with the PKK. This creates a fragile situation in the west that could set off conflict at any moment.

Another key difference from the 1990s is the presence of two distinct languages being spoken in the country regarding the ongoing conflict. Actions that are considered "terrorism" by a majority of society, as well as under international law, are seen as a legitimate means of struggle by a portion of Turkey's Kurds. PKK's jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan is seen as "the head of a terrorist organization" by most of society, but in some parts of the country he is loved, and still featured on posters at rallies.

This duality suggests that something in Turkey has snapped. It is not as easy as it was in the 90s to draw a line between PKK terrorism and the Kurdish problem. This makes a solution even harder. And we have to accept that continuing traditional methods as we have for the past 30 years doesn't appear to guarantee success either.

As far as Ankara is concerned, the strategy is to take advantage of America's withdrawal from Iraq at the end of the year to force the PKK out of their shelters in northern Iraq and squeeze them into a corner. In doing this, the calculation could be to strike a serious blow to the group, and force it into a weakened position at the negotiating table. But whichever calculation is being made, there is also a serious risk to social peace in the big cities that should not be underestimated.

If we truly want a solution to the Kurdish problem, we can only do it by moving beyond the framework we have been stuck in up until now.

Read more from Hurriyet in Turkish

photo - SalamNews

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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