A “Support for the Al-Aqsa Flood” rally was organised in Batman (Êlih), Turkey, by the Erdoğan-allied Free Cause Party (Hüda-Par) on Sunday. Hüda-Par leader Zekeriya Yapıcıoğlu appeared on stage together with individuals, including children, dressed in the military fatigues of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas.
🔴 Turkey: The AKP-allied extremist Free Cause Party has held a pro-Hamas rally in Batman (Êlih) in the southeast of the country, with children as well as adults in masks and Hamas-style military fatigues.#Hamas | #Hudapar | #Turkey
— MedyaNews (@1MedyaNews) November 13, 2023
Sunday’s rally was not just a show of solidarity with the Palestinian people but seemed to specifically endorse Hamas – a stance that further muddied Turkey’s position as a self-proclaimed guarantor in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s statement on 25 October, depicting Hamas as a liberation movement rather than a terrorist group, has already complicated that narrative.
However, the rally’s extreme imagery and messaging still indicated a divide in the Turkish government’s approach to such demonstrations across different regions of the country. While a major rally in Istanbul on 28 October focused on the broader Palestinian cause, the Batman rally explicitly supported Hamas. This dual approach by the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Turkey’s ruling party, might have deeper implications, particularly concerning the Kurdish issue in Turkey, as journalist İrfan Aktan has pointed out.
In a recent video interview, Aktan makes a significant claim about the Turkish government’s approach towards the Kurdish issue. He suggests that the Turkish state is attempting to create a Kurdish equivalent of Hamas. This claim is based on the following observations and arguments:
Aktan argues that the Turkish government is trying to use religion as a tool to influence and reshape the Kurdish political movement. This strategy involves promoting a more Islamist-oriented Kurdish group that could counterbalance the predominantly secular and leftist Kurdish political movements, such as the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), the Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (HEDEP) and their affiliates.
The aim, according to Aktan, is to create a divide within the Kurdish community by fostering a group that aligns more closely with the Turkish government’s Islamist and nationalist ideology. This would potentially weaken the secular Kurdish movement, which has historically been in opposition to the Turkish state.
The reference to Hamas in this context is significant. Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist organisation, emerged as a counterweight to the secular Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). By drawing a parallel with Hamas, Aktan implies that the Turkish government is attempting to replicate a similar dynamic within the Kurdish context, creating an Islamist Kurdish group that could challenge the existing secular Kurdish political entities.
Such a move, if successful, could significantly alter the landscape of Kurdish politics in Turkey. It could lead to increased polarisation within the Kurdish community and change the nature of Kurdish political demands and strategies.
This strategy, as outlined by Aktan, also reflects the broader approach of the Turkish government towards managing dissent and opposition. By promoting factions within minority groups that align with its own ideology, the government aims to weaken opposition movements and consolidate its power.
Extraordinary joint Islamic-Arab summit
During the extraordinary joint Islamic-Arab summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Arab League in Riyadh on 11 November, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries demanded an immediate end to the Gaza conflict, condemning Israel’s justification of its actions as self-defence. The summit, attended by leaders like Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Turkish President Erdoğan, called for the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel for war crimes. The leaders held Israel responsible for the continuation of the conflict, emphasising that lasting peace requires the resolution of the Palestinian issue based on a two-state solution. They stressed the need for humanitarian aid in Gaza, urged the UN Security Council to act against Israeli aggression, and supported initiatives to hold Israel accountable. The summit also recognised the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and called for an international peace conference to establish a two-state solution. Emphasis was laid on the activation of the Arab and Islamic Financial Safety Net to support the Palestinian government and UNRWA, with the Secretary-Generals of the Arab League and the OIC overseeing the implementation of these resolutions.
Hüda-Par leader Yapıcıoğlu criticised the OIC for its emphasis that “the only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people is the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)”, and condemned the final declaration of the summit, saying “it’s shameful to recognise only Mahmoud Abbas and his associates as the sole legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people”. He argued that “those who can’t make a statement or take a step without the permission of Zionism, and who have accepted and internalised subjugation, cannot be the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people, especially as they have sat back and watched the continuous expansion of the occupation”.
Yapıcıoğlu’s reaction to the OIC declaration reinforces Aktan’s comments in that Hüda-Par position themselves as the Hamas of the Kurdish issue against the secular Kurdish movement, which they seem to regard as parallel to the PLO.
The AKP-Hüda-Par alliance
Hüda-Par, successor to the Kurdish Hizbullah (unrelated to Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Kurdish Hizbullah was an organisation set up to counter the secular, left-wing PKK, and involved in the Turkish state’s dirty war against Kurdish and leftist opponents in the 90s), was very influential in Batman, a Kurdish-majority province in the southeast of country, where Sunday’s rally was held. In the May elections, Hüda-Par members entered the parliament in the AKP lists. However, the cooperation and rapprochement had started long before the last election. It was revealed that 14 hitmen, sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment for the murders of 63 citizens and wounding of 28 in the name of the Hizbullah, had been released in a retrial after their convictions had been upheld by the Court of Cassation. Some of the perpetrators had also been released under Erdoğan’s special amnesty.