When we look at the decisions that international institutions have taken recently, we can see that they have put aside all moral values and acted entirely according to their own interests. This is especially clear when it comes to Turkey, which is geopolitically important; and, for Kurds, the hypocrisy is blatant. Looking at the resolutions adopted at the EU Council Summit held on 25-26 March, we can see how all values were trampled for the sake of national and business interests. The Council is made up of the leaders of the different EU countries, and their shamelessness is almost unbelievable. President Erdoğan exploits the spinelessness of the EU. When relations are getting tense, he makes a few token gestures and gets what he wants from them. And the Kurds are being used as a bargaining chips for improving EU Turkey relations.
When we look back to a few months ago, we can see how Erdoğan’s relations with French President Macron had become strained due to the rivalry in the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa. Erdoğan even violated all diplomatic niceties by claiming that Macron needed mental treatment. However, now that he is experiencing economic and political crisis, Erdoğan has started to send warm messages to all European countries, including France. He has started to say, “We want to build our future together with Europe.” Nobody is taken in by his insincerity, but it is interests, not sincerity, that has found him friends in Europe.
At the December 2020 EU Council Summit, some symbolic sanctions decisions were taken, and it was decided to wait for the installation of the new administration in the USA before agreeing further action. By the time of the March Council Summit, Erdoğan had lowered the tension in the Eastern Mediterranean and sent a warm message to the West, and the new US administration had adopted what they regarded as a cautiously positive approach. They even told the EU leaders that Erdoğan was ready to give everything the West wanted, and they shouldn’t make life too difficult for him. The EU Council decided to act in coordination with the USA.
At the time of the March summit, Erdoğan and his government had just withdrawn from the İstanbul Convention on Preventing Violence Against Women, had ordered the public prosecutor to file a closure case against the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and had stripped the parliamentary membership of HDP deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, allowing him to be detained by police inside the parliament; and they were continuing their wide-ranging crackdown on freedom of speech and on democracy in other areas too. Yet, in its resolution, the EU stated that there were positive developments in Turkey!
We are seeing EU leaders, especially Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel, taking part in a race for what they can we get off Erdoğan now that he is in a difficult situation. In France, since the Sarkozy Presidency, governments had followed a different policy against Kurds, but after the last meeting between Macron and Erdoğan, we have seen several Kurds detained and put in prison. In the German statement criticizing Turkey over the HDP closure case, Germany’s Foreign ministry used language similar to that used by Turkey, calling on the HDP to “clearly distance itself from the PKK”.
EU member States appear to have criminalized the Kurds to suit their relations with Turkey. The German state gives the right of asylum to Kurds who come to Germany to escape from Turkey’s fascist practices, but to keep good relations with that same fascist state, they oppress the Kurds continuously. It has been suggested that they are even keeping a certain number of people in prison in order to maintain good relations with Turkey. France followed a similar policy for a certain period.
Prosecutor Fragnoli, who seems to be a sworn enemy of the Kurds, worked almost as if he were an officer for Erdoğan. Up until the assassination of three Kurdish women politicians in Paris in 2013, which is widely acknowledged to have been the work of the Turkish intelligence service, he seems to have carried out this additional duty perfectly. It is widely believed that it was because of his role in the murder that he was shifted from the Kurdish file to a less active department. Eight years have now passed, but despite all the evidence pointing to the role of the Turkish state, no one, other than the man who pulled the trigger – who died suspiciously in prison afterwards – has been subjected to proper investigation. Is someone afraid of what might be uncovered?
After the First World War, when France and Britain redrew the borders in the Middle East, sharing power between themselves, and dividing Kurdistan between four different occupying states, they created a situation that they could exploit for many years to come. For more than a century, various great powers have pursued similar self-interested policies, and they continue to do so today. Leaving the question of Kurdish rights unresolved, they have used the Kurdish card to balance Turkey, to get access to the wealth of Iraq, to put pressure on Syria in the international arena, and to support their bargaining position in relations with Iran. The great powers have never hesitated to sacrifice the Kurds when it meant that the states that rule over the Kurdish areas would make concessions on an issue they were pursuing.
Looking at recent years, we see how Turkey, via its influence on radical Islamic groups in Syria, has been acting in concordance with President Putin’s Russia. Afrin was once the most stable region in Syria, but, with Russia’s encouragement, Turkey occupied Afrin with the help of these Islamist groups, and now crimes against humanity are being committed by both Turkey and its proxies. The year after the occupation of Afrin, in order to keep good relations with Erdoğan, President Trump allowed Turkey and its mercenaries to occupy Serê Kanîyê (Ras-ul-Ayn) and Grê Sipî (Til-Abiad).
The Kurds, who lost over 11000 of their fighters in their struggle against ISIS, were not regarded as being as important as Turkey, who served US strategic interests. Russia told the Kurdish administration very clearly that Turkey gave them more than ten times what the Kurds could give. Trump, bizarrely, attempted to justify his betrayal by commenting that the Kurds didn’t help the US in the liberation of Normandy during the Second World War. For both Trump and Putin, perceived state interests were more important than a values-based ethical approach.
For Russia, the most important thing is to get Turkey out of NATO so that Turkey will support their interests and buy Russian weapons, such as the S400. For the United States, the overriding issue is keeping Turkey within NATO as an important ally.
We can also see the result of self-interested intervention in the Yazidi homeland of Șengal (Sinjar) in Iraq. In 2014, when ISIS attacked the Yazidis in Șengal, the Iraqi army surrendered and the Peshmerga of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) withdrew, allowing ISIS to perpetrate a massive genocide.
With the intervention of Kurdish forces from the PKK and from the Syria-based YPG/YPJ, hundreds of thousands of Yazidis were rescued by opening a corridor into Rojava, preventing an even greater genocide. Later, the rescuing forces gave support to the Yazidis to enable them to set up their own ruling structures and self-defence, and when this had been achieved the external Kurdish forces left. But, as if all this had never happened, under the leadership of the United Nations and with the help of Turkey and the United States, an agreement was signed last October between the Central Government of Iraq and the KDP. According to this, the autonomous defence forces of Șengal must be dissolved and control of region be handed over to the Iraqi Government. Naturally, the local people have responded by saying that they don’t trust the groups who effectively handed them over to the ISIS murderers in 2014, and that they don’t want them there; and they have refused to disband their autonomous defence forces.
However, international powers, especially the United Nations and the USA, consider the security forces of the Yazidi people as “illegal”, and the Iraqi and KDP forces that handed them over to ISIS as “legitimate” forces! A crucial factor is concern not to upset Turkish interests.
In Eastern, or Iranian, Kurdistan, the fascist regime regularly detains, tortures, and executes Kurds for their political activities. Despite Iran’s major tensions with the Western world, these practices are not condemned or even mentioned by the USA, the EU, the United Nations, or other international institutions. For them, resurrecting the nuclear deal with Iran is all that matters.
Looking at all this self-interest and hypocrisy, Kurds respond: “We are not pawns that can be played in your diplomatic games to serve your commercial and political interests and be sacrificed to improve your international relations! We are a people who protect not only ourselves, but also the dignity of all humanity, and who ensure the safety of the world.”
Fayik Yağızay is the HDP’s Representative at the Council of Europe.