A week after Turkey launched their latest attack on the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Federico Venturini, of the University of Udine in Italy, talked with me about the war crimes that Turkey is committing and how these have been ignored by international politics.
Dr Venturini writes on the Kurdish movement from the perspective of social ecology. He has been a member of the Imrali Peace Delegation, which each year attempts to visit Abdullah Öcalan in prison on Imrali Island – not in expectation that their visit will be allowed, but in the belief that the attempt to visit is itself important and helps highlight the need for Öcalan’s freedom, and the importance of his ideas.
Venturini describes Turkey’s attacks as part of an intensification of aggression by Turkey against the Kurds that has followed the end of the peace talks between the Turkish government and the PKK in 2015. Turkish aggression – in Iraq, in Syria and in Turkey itself – seeks to get rid of the Kurdish population and to bring an end to the Kurdish project of democracy, autonomy, ecology and women’s rights. Turkey is also looking for economic and territorial gains through its own “neo-Ottoman” project. But none of this is talked about because Turkey is a NATO country.
A comparison with the international reaction to the war in Ukraine demonstrates international double standards. Turkey has been given the green light to attack, and Erdoğan plays his cards well, posing as a trustful ally and a peace-broker, as well as gaining support for keeping immigrants out of the European Union.
The lack of investigation into the many reports of Turkish use of chemical weapons is an example of these double standards, and can be compared to the widespread reaction to claims of chemical weapon use in Ukraine.
The Turkish military has also deliberately targeted civilians and attacked the environment. Nature becomes an enemy for Turkey because it supports the life of the Kurds. Cutting the vital water flowing in the Euphrates is another means of war. All these actions are war crimes, but Western democracy doesn’t want to know.
Information on what is happening is suppressed, and most people are not aware of what is going on. When international politicians do speak up this is often done to close further discussion and is not accompanied by actions.
Venturini pointed out that most politicians are not sympathetic to the Kurdish movement, which is antithetical to capitalism. Politicians speak about human rights, women’s rights, and democracy, but when they see a bottom-up movement trying to implement these principles, they reject that as too progressive, fearing it will impact on their own interests. However, these same progressive ideas and their implementation that have won the Kurdish movement support from international activists and social movements.
Venturini concludes that, faced with inaction from political leaders, it becomes the role of those outside formal politics to spread information and build solidarity, and also to lobby and pressure those in power to put pressure on Turkey to stop these crimes and to restart the peace process.