The rabid upsurge of Kurdish resistance, notably from the Marxist-leaning PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party), has unsettled the Turkish government since 1978. While generally portrayed as less of a threat than ISIS, they are still pigeonholed a terrorist group by both the Turkish and the United States governments.
The Turkish establishment has administered numerous attacks on the PKK – to stem the rebellion which has recently been flaring to a considerable extent. It is understandable that Turkey would feel the need to deal with a threat to their national security – yet is it bad for both sides to spark and aggravate further levels conflict at this particular time?
In short, yes it is.
No matter the reader’s views of the PKK, and whether or not they are a just group, there is clearly a greater threat that is swiftly gaining momentum in the Middle East, in the form of ISIS (or ISIL, IS, Daesh, or whatever level of political correctness you decide to use in naming the group).
While many of their past assaults should be condemned, the PKK are considered by many, especially by civilians in the Kurdistan region, to be the best solution to combating ISIS.
So why are both groups deliberately alienating each other at this present time? The PKK should not be weakened even further, and a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” scenario should force both sides to forget their differences and work together for the time being.
At the end of 2009, the Turkish government put into place the “Democratic initiative” or the “Kurdish opening”, which gave the Kurdish people more freedom of expression, in the media and so on – yet contrary to the expectations of the Turkish government, this did not diminish hostility from the PKK. Why? Obviously the PKK wanted more.
It is clear that a clash of unyielding pride from both sides is making it difficult for either side to lay down their arms against each other. Peace negotiations are vital if the threat of ISIS is to be countered.
As ISIS is menacingly close to Turkey’s border, one would think that Turkey would make a sensible move and attempt to curb them. If the PKK are weakened, then perhaps one of the best solutions to countering ISIS would be disintegrated, and this in turn would put Turkey at risk. Surely Turkey are wiser than this.
Well it gets more interesting. A former ISIS member, now going by the pseudonym of Sherko Omer for security reasons, insisted that Turkey are actually supporting the militant group’s onslaughts against the Kurds.
Omer was a reluctant member of ISIS after being forced to join the group, with the intention of joining the Free Syrian Army alternatively. He was happy to give a testimony about them, and his journey – which he did in an interview with Newsweek.
“ISIS commanders told us to fear nothing at all because there was full cooperation with the Turks,” said Omer of crossing the border into Turkey, “and they reassured us that nothing will happen, especially when that is how they regularly travel from Raqqa and Aleppo to the Kurdish areas further northeast of Syria because it was impossible to travel through Syria as YPG (National Army of Syrian Kurdistan) controlled most parts of the Kurdish region.”
“ISIS and Turkey cooperate together on the ground on the basis that they have a common enemy to destroy, the Kurds,” he added.
“My ISIS commander reassured us once again that it was all going to be all right because cooperation had been made with the Turks. He frequently talked on the radio in Turkish.”
“While we tried to cross the Ceylanpinar border post, the Turkish soldiers’ watchtower light spotted us. The commander quickly told us to stay calm, stay in position and not to look at the light. He talked on the radio in Turkish again and we stayed in our positions. Watchtower light then moved about 10 minutes later and the commander ordered us to move because the watchtower light moving away from us was the signal that we could safely cross the border into Serekaniye.”
These are all separate parts of his testimony. If we take Omar’s account to be true, then it shows that Turkey and ISIS are indeed in cooperation. This could come back to bite Turkey; one, because for years the nation has been trying to ‘Westernise’ itself, so to speak, to gain acceptance into the EU, so European leaders would most conceivably not look kindly on this; two, if ISIS grows and the Kurdish resistance is annihilated, could ISIS turn on Turkey? Most probable, as ISIS would want to bring their worldview onto Turkey’s comparatively moderate nation.
If what Omar is saying is true – then this could have catastrophic implications for Turkey, as well as surrounding nations. They could definitely be digging themselves a grave, so to speak. Perhaps they are under the impression that ISIS would leave them alone if they are supporting them? If they are, more fool them.