Turkish armed forces on April 23 launched an air-and-ground military campaign in neighbouring Iraqi Kurdistan. Whilst the operations were announced to have been targeting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) military air and land strikes are still ongoing on the mountainous region of Metina, Zap and Avashin with intense clashes between the two sides, a former member of the Turkish army who was an imprisoned soldier detained by the PKK, Yannis Vasilis Yaylalı shared his evaluations on the anticipated goals of the operations for the Turkish side.
Stating that the Turkish government’s main policy towards the Kurdish question took a sharp turn by 2015, Yaylalı said, “Since they believe that a peaceful solution does not work for their own interests, they have put in place a war policy against the Kurds. They wage a war to maintain their power and to gain never-ending immunity.”
He continued: “The war in Zap, Metina, Avashin, the war in Gare before that, the war in Rojava, too and the war in North Kurdistan should be evaluated in this regard. The target of the operations is the Kurds.”
The Turkish state aims to continue its historic policy towards the Kurds according to Yaylalı. “In their first term of reign, the AKP [Justice and Development Party, the ruling party of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who now governs the country with an ultra-nationalist alliance party Nationalist Movement Party] brought Kurds close to them. In the second term, they ended all relations with the Kurds. In their third period, they have put forward again the genocidal policies and these operations in Zap, Metina and Avashin is a part of this genocidal approach,” he said.
He added: “In a region where they cannot directly achieve control, i.e. Zap, Avashin, Metina, they wage this war in order to place their gangs in these regions as well so as to change the demographic character of the region and to break the will of the Kurds that is, the only progressive power in that region that opposes them.
Having been the witness of war as a soldier in the past, Yaylalı recalls about the approach to the Kurds during the 1990s. “We have harmed Kurdish villages in the past quite badly. The villages were burned down. The villagers have been kidnapped and tortured,” he said and added, “But today is much bigger than the 1990s. They now target a community to change the demographics as a whole, and not just in North, but in all parts of Kurdistan.”
The solution Yaylalı adresses to is to see the fact that “target” is the Kurds. “Rather than keep listening to the war propaganda, the people have to stand together and struggle. The war is against the Kurds, not the PKK. They isolate the Kurds and feed the majority with chauvinist, fascist, racist feelings. Even many human rights defenders are influenced by such manipulation. When the forests of Kurdistan are burned down, it is not the same as when the forests of Istanbul are burned down,” he said. “When small kids are killed, only a couple of organisations are there to raise their voice.”
“So the communities have to question where they stand. Starting with the Greece, Armenia and Syria and all forces in the region should question where they stand; they should quit their pragmatic policies and develop their friendly relations with the Kurds. We have to explain this special war against the Kurds everywhere we can.”