Turkey: state terror in ‘anti-terrorist’ guise

The Turkish military carried out air-strikes against PKK positions Sept. 7, a day after a guerilla attack on a military convoy near Daglica, Hakkari province, in which either 16 or 31 soldiers were killed (whether you believe the government or the PKK). Turkish fighter jets have struck 23 targets in the area, in what the military called a "heavy air campaign." (NYT, AP, BGN, Sept. 7) There is no word yet on casualties from the air-strikes, which are presumably on villages thought to be PKK strongholds. But world leaders and media are largely giving the Turkish state a free ride in its efforts to cast its campaign of state terror in "anti-terrorist" terms. Turkey will be "cleaned of terrorists no matter what happens," Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu boasted to the official Anadolu news agency. Daily Sabah boasts in its headline, "World stands by Turkey against terrorism," noting that the French Foreign Ministry denounced the "terrorist attack claimed by the PKK against military vehicles in the southeast of Turkey" and pledged "solidarity with the Turkish authorities." But the ongoing attacks on Kurdish civilians by Turkish state forces are conveniently invisible to the outside world…

In the past week, paramilitary snipers have killed at least two Kurdish youths amid ongoing street fighting in Cizre, ┼×─▒rnak province—as police forces deny local people access to the town's hospital. Vehicles carrying wounded civilians are reportedly turned back by police gunfire when they try to reach the hospital. In Diyarbakir, police have repeatedly used water cannon to disperse crowds of Kurdish residents who have gathered in defiance of a curfew in the city. (ANF, Euronews, Sept. 7)

Human Rights Watch accuses Turkish police of "disturbing abuse" of Kurdish detainees, who have been severely beaten, threatened with death, forced to remain in kneeling positions for hours, and denied medical treatment. The report highlights one case of a 17-year-old boy detained in Silopi, ┼×─▒rnak, who was denied treatment despite a severe gunshot wound. Some of the detained were picked up on suspicion of being PKK militants when they arrived at the local hospital—and taken instead to jail. (HRW, Sept. 2)

And in the prelude to snap elections in which the ruling AKP hopes to reverse recent gains by the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), Turkish nationalist mobs (urged on, no doubt, by state agents) have attacked and ransacked HDP party offices across the country. Such attacks have been reported in recent days from Edirne, ─░zmir and Eski┼čehir provinces. (ANF, Sept. 7)

And all this pales in comparison to the burning of Kurdish villages and expulsion of their populations that was reported late last month from Diyarbakir province—a circumstance all too likely to be repeated given the lack of global outrage over these atrocities, or even awareness that they took place. The sickening ritual display on social media of the mutilated corpse of a woman supposed to be a PKK militant prompted an outraged response from Kurds and their sympathizers on social media—but little reaction from the mainstream media. 

Also missing from the "anti-terrorist" spin is any awareness that the PKK resumed attacks on Turkish security forces in response to Turkey resuming air-strikes on PKK positions in Iraq. Or (more significantly still) that the PKK attacks, such as that yesterday in Daglica, have targeted the Turkish military—while the Turkish state retaliation is overwhelmingly targeting civilians. Yet another example of the elastic and propagandistic nature of the term "terrorist."

Finally, the PKK's resumption of armed struggle within Turkey has arguably had the effect of thwarting Turkish plans to extend it bombing campaign to the Kurdish enclaves in northern Syria, which have been waging an heroic and very effective resistance against ISIS. Condemning PKK "terrorism" while failing to recognize all this vital context is beneath contempt.