Turkey: Our Might Makes Right

By Ruaraidh Maciver
Middle East/Africa Editor, History Undergraduate Student

Throughout history, we have seen attempts by every country across the globe to justify military action. In 2003, we heard President George W. Bush justify Operation Iraqi Freedom, as the existence of a ‘regime that threatens peace with weapons of mass murder’ was unacceptable to ‘the United States and our friends and allies’. In 1982, the world listened to Leopoldo Galtieri’s assurance that Argentina was simply ‘recovering unredeemed territory’ in its invasion of the Falkland Islands. As early as the 2nd century BC, we see the Roman Republic attempting to justify its third war against the weakened Carthaginian state. Failure to adhere to Rome’s ‘well-known moderation’ in matters of war and subsequent failures to ‘make it right to the Roman people’ was their own justification.

In all of these instances that have been listed however, there can, perhaps, be some legitimacy found for the actions of the aggressors. Carthage had broken their treaty with Rome. The Falkland Islands had at one point belonged to Argentina. Saddam’s regime was responsible for the murders of over a quarter of a million of his own people. While these motives may not validate their actions, there can, to some extent, be understood a reasoning as to their military intervention.

'Gaza: The Case for Middle East Peace':  Recep Tayyip Erdogan

From Turkey, however, the world has just witnessed a blatant and premeditated lie to justify war against those who are innocent of any provocation.

On the 17th of February, a suicide bombing was carried out in Ankara which killed 29 people and wounded many others. Less than a day later, the Turkish Prime Minister and President Erdogan confidently confirmed that it was in fact the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) who were ultimately responsible for the attack. This was done with assistance from their governing body, the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union (PYD) and the Turkish based terrorist organisation of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). On the same day there emerged rather questionable footage of a group of rebel fighters, apparently from the YPG, declaring war on Turkey. All of these actions had the clear sign of the US backed YPG openly starting military conflict with Turkey.

From Turkey, however, the world has just witnessed a blatant and premeditated lie to justify war against those who are innocent of any provocation.

The problem, however, is that this not at all the case. Instead, it was an opportunistic move by Erdogan’s government to justify military actions which they had already been involved in against the YPG. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu even wrongly identified the attacker, claiming that it was Salih Neccar, a Syrian national. The fact that the only news outlet to report upon this apparent “declaration of war” which the YPG declared against Turkey, the Daily Sabah, was intended as an English, pro-government publication originating from the current ruling party (the Justice and Development Party, or AKP), only further adds question to its legitimacy. That the video in question has its comments disabled and is rather unpopular with its viewers would also seem to echo this.

Despite the fact that another terrorist splinter group of the PKK, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), have claimed responsibility for the attack, have identified the attacker in questions (a 27-year-old Turkish national named Abdulbaki Sonmez), and have even threatened further action, President Erdogan continues to insist that the YPG had a hand in the attack.

Despite the fact that the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) have claimed responsibility for the attack, President Erdogan continues to insist that the YPG had a hand in the attack.

The reason for Turkey’s immense distrust for the YPG is due to the decades of insurgency that they have had to fight against the PKK within their own country. The possibility of a Kurdish state to materialise, especially when it is located along their own borders, with the potential for it to act as a homeland to the PKK to carry out attacks into Turkey, is something which President Erdogan does not wish to allow.

As such, Turkey has sought to deny the Kurds of a potential homeland, something which the Kurdish people have been without since their earliest mention in the Persian epic of the Shahnameh in the 10th century, despite their continued settlement in the same part of the world throughout history. The subsequent attacks into YPG held territory since the suicide attack have by no means been the first that Turkey has carried out, having shelled the region multiple times before.

The possibility of a Kurdish state to materialise, with the potential for it to act as a homeland to the PKK to carry out attacks into Turkey, is something which President Erdogan does not wish to allow.

The Turkish government has used this tragedy as a contemptible excuse to justify their own military desires, and to harm the YPG in more insidious ways. Not only has Erdogan called for US support in Turkey’s fight against the YPG, but they have also called for the YPG and PYD to be excluded from the Syrian truce which has just come into effect.

Fortunately for the PYD, the US has refused to follow Turkey’s demands, as most have by now become aware of Erdogan’s deception in the issue. This is such a positive thing because of all the competing groups within Syria, the Kurds are perhaps the only one which outside forces can support wholeheartedly without fear of evil intent.

For some time now, the Kurds have run a truly democratic state. Believing in direct democracy from local communities, the equality of women in every regard (every governmental position has a male and female position, and having an active female combat unit, the YPJ), as well as religious freedom and tolerance. There are few other organisations within the region whom the Western world feel capable of supporting, but, so far, the PYD certainly appear to be one of these forces.

There are few other organisations within the region whom the Western world feel capable of supporting, but, so far, the PYD certainly appear to be one of these forces.

While there is no easy answer to the Syrian conflict, it seems wholly wrong for the USA and European nations to allow the brutal practice which is currently being employed by Turkey against the feminist, democratic, and religiously tolerant Kurds in Rojava. Whether this democratic experiment will survive the apparent evil it faces on all sides remains to be seen. Regardless of outcome, however, it is wrong of us to not criticise the lies that President Erdogan’s government seeks to perpetuate.

Ultimately it is not might which makes right. Right, makes right.

—–

Feature image by Kurdish Struggle
Secoundary image by World Economic Forum/Photo by Andy Mettler

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