Since the Turkish Republic was declared in 1923 the state has been in an ever-escalating war with the Kurdish people. This culminated in the armed conflict against the Kurdish liberation movement and under President Erdogan this war has become a central part of the regime’s wider persecution of the left and the trade union movement.
Erdogan’s government has given covert support for jihadist groups in the Syrian civil war, including ISIS.
This became overt when the Turkish military invaded the Kurdish canton of Afrin in 2018, taking Erdogan’s and Turkey’s war against the Kurds outside the republic.
Breakthrough for the Left: HDP in Parliament
In June 2018 Erdogan held a snap general election in an attempt to concentrate his powers and destroy any remaining opposition movement. The People’s Democratic Party (HDP) – the political platform for the Kurdish movement and the wider Left in Turkey – fielded candidates across the country.
Despite the imprisonment of its leading figures, violent intimidation of its activists and blatant vote rigging by the regime, the HDP managed to pass the 10% voting threshold required to take seats in the Turkish Parliament.
This builds on the historic breakthrough of 2015 to ensure the HDP remains the most vocal opponent of Erdogan’s regime within Parliament.
The Turkish government is engaged in a campaign of ‘annihilation’ against the Kurdish opposition. Since 2015 towns like Cizre, Sur and Sirnak in the south-east of the country have been placed under a military curfew and civilian buildings shelled with heavy weapons, killing many hundreds of people.
Kurdish politicians, MPs and mayors, have been arrested and charged with terrorism-related offences simply for speaking out against the violence of the state and calling for a negotiated peace. Women and trade union activists have been terrorised for defending basic human rights. Thousands of workers have been dismissed without recourse to appeal.
Cultural and environmental genocide
As well as the systematic destruction of Kurdish towns and cities across the region, Turkey is now extending its policy of ethnic cleansing to history, culture and the environment.
In occupied Afrin Turkish armed forces and their jihadist proxies are destroying Kurdish agriculture, culture and archaeology in their efforts to systematically wipe the Kurds from history, from the present and from the future.
Destroying Kurdish history in Turkey
The Turkish army repeatedly targets the cultural treasures of Kurdistan. Turkish regime bombs have destroyed many sites of historical importance to the region and the world. For example the 3,000-year-old Ishtar temple in Ayn-Dara and the archaeological site of Brad, 15km south of Afrin City, a UNESCO world heritage site.
The UNESCO world heritage site of Sur in Diyarbakir has been destroyed by the Turkish state through systematic bombardment since 2015. The site is of key historical importance and was a centre of the Persian, Roman, Sassanian, Byzantine and Islamic era empires thanks to its geopolitical importance.
In Hasankeyf, a 12,000-year-old site on the River Tigris is being destroyed by the Turkish state to build a dam, which they claim will provide jobs and energy. However, it has, in fact, displaced local people rather than creating opportunity. Not only will the dam destroy the roots and history of the Kurds, but it will also permanently damage the economy of the area, with tourism being severely hit.
Environmental destruction as a weapon of war
The Turkish state uses the waters of the Euphrates River and burning of land as a weapon against the peoples of Northern Syria.
Burning forests and land has been a weapon of war the Turkish state has used to attack the Kurds since 1925. In the current attacks on Afrin, the Turkish army and proxy jihadists have burnt thousands of olive trees and have deliberately started many large wildfires such as on Mount Hawar, in Genç, in Amed and in Şirnak.
By cutting off the waters of the Euphrates River flowing into Northern Syria, water wells which provide water for many villages have dried up. Farmers in the region have suffered as they are unable to irrigate their crops, threatening goods shortages on the population. The drop in water in dams also means that electricity is seriously affected and power outages have started to occur across the region.