October 14, 2015

Why is AKP - led Turkish government punishing Kurds and leftists for ISIL suicide crimes?

    Wednesday, October 14, 2015   No comments

When ISIL suicide bombers killed more than 32 people at a cultural center in Suruç, near Kobani, the AKP led government unleashed waves of airstrikes against PKK fighters in southern Turkey and northern Iraq, instead of launching punishing trikes against ISIL. When two suicide bombers targeted a peace coalition activists, mostly Kurds and leftists, killing more than 96 people, Prime Minister Davutoglu, blamed “the Islamic State, Kurdish militant factions, or far-leftist radicals.” 

Just one day after the attack, Turkish warplanes struck PKK targets in northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey, killing “some 30-35 PKK guerrillas on Sunday alone.” No reported strikes against ISIL. Which brings us to the obvious question: Why is the AKP government punishing Kurds for crimes committed by ISIL?

The AKP, the political party that has governed Turkey since 2002 is responsible for a foreign policy that created security problems because of its support for armed groups fighting the Syrian government, including ISIL. Conveniently, the AKP regime entered into peace talks with the PKK three years ago so that it can focus on achieving its main goal in Syria: overthrow Assad. That strategy failed. Consequently, Turkey’s national security threats increased, its economy slowed, the peace initiative with the Kurds collapsed, and its relations with its neighbors deteriorated. 

Last June, Turkish voters revoked the public mandate it offered the AKP, which allowed it to govern on its own for more than a decade. Instead of forming a unity or coalition government, the AKP opted for a redo of the June elections, to be held early next month. AKP leaders are hoping that they will be able to regain their majority and form a single party government again. They have one path to achieving that goal: attract some nationalist voters. In order to do that, they need to play the nationalist card by amplifying the Kurdish threat, not the religious one. However, even if that strategy were to succeed, the risk of alienating some religious conservatives and independent voters should worry them. Writing a political narrative with the blood of innocent people is not an honorable strategy and for that reason, I believe that the majority of Turkish citizens will oust the AKP, not reward them.

There is a striking similarity between the Muslim Brotherhood – run government that rose to power after the Egyptian revolution of 2011 and the Turkish government during the past five years. Leaders of the AKP and MB are sectarian, nationalist ideologues who failed to honor the dignity of all citizens, including those who do not share their religious and political convictions. The images of an Egyptian Shia and a Turkish Kurd citizens killed and dragged in the streets are powerful, damning visuals that paint these politicians as callous ideologues who failed to uphold their constitutional charge. Like Morsi, Erdogan has chosen his ideology over the pledge to protect all citizens. His standing and that of his party, like that of Morsi and the MB in Egypt, will be reduced because respect for human dignity is a universal value that should not bartered for political gains.

* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. His most recent book, Anatomy of Dissent in Islamic Societies, provides a historical and theoretical treatment of rebellious movements and ideas since the rise of Islam. Opinions are the author’s, speaking on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.


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