One of the most disastrous and long-stretched battles going in the Middle-east is the Turks vs the Kurds. The Turks represent the republic of Turkey and the Kurds represent the Kurdish insurgent groups which from 15% to 20% of the population. It’s predominantly fought in the East and Southeast Turkey with spillovers in Northern Iraq and Northern Syria.
The ongoing reason for conflict for the Kurdish people is to create their own Kurdistan, apart from Turkey or least have the autonomy and greater cultural and political rights in the province of Turkey. The Kurdish make up the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East, but they have never obtained a permanent nation-state. But the Turkish continue to refuse, instead of suppressing the Kurdish. Today, there are about 30 million Kurds living across the region, with about half of them in Turkey. Iraq is the only country in the region to have established an autonomous Kurdish region, known as Iraqi Kurdistan. Its parliament was founded in 1992.
After World War I, Western powers promised Kurds their own homeland in the agreement known as the Treaty of Sèvres but a later agreement instead divided them among Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran. The war, which has taken its toll going on for 41 years, emerged on 27th November 1978. Back then, the use of the Kurdish language, folklore, language all was banned in the Kurdish-inhabited areas. In an ignorant attempt to mock and patronize their culture, the Turkish government categorized Kurds as “Mountain Turks” until 1991. So, in 1978, a group of Kurdish students formed a group called PKK (Kurdistan Working Party), headed by Abdullah Öcalan. Their main aim was to fight against the oppression of Kurds. The full-scale insurgency began 6 years later, in 1984. Since the uprising, more than 40,000 people were causalities of this war. What followed was a true disgrace to humanity with systematic executions of Kurdish civilians, torturing, forced displacements, destroyed villages, arbitrary arrests, Kurdish journalists, activists and politicians who have disappeared or have been murdered. The insurgency wave lasted till 1st September 1991, after which the Kurdish people called for a ceasefire. But the battle continued with new vigor on 1st June 2004 after ending the ceasefire. In 2013, the two forces decided to conduct talks to figure out if there was a peaceful way to bring an end to all the bloodshed. This happened after arresting the Kurds’ leader, Abdullah Öcalan. On 21 March 2013, Öcalan announced the “end of armed struggle” and a ceasefire with peace talks.
But as we’ve seen in earlier instances, this peace wouldn’t be able to last for a longer duration. That is what happened in 2015 when the Kurds announced an end to the ceasefire again following suspicious attacks. What prompted this behavior was the allegation that Turks deliberately bombed PKK positions in Iraq, in the midst of the Kurds’ battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and citing that it was a causality of war. Talks were held again but alas they never remained for long. Decades of hatred and this godforsaken battle had taken the lives of many civilians, destroying Kurd-inhabited cities Diyarbakır, Şırnak, Mardin, etc.
Now let’s understand how the IS is linked with these two groups and now it has encapsulated their battle further into chaos. When did it start? In 2013, the IS turned its attention towards three Kurdish enclaves that bordered territory under its control in northern Syria. It launched repeated attacks on the region till mid-2014 until the People’s Protection Units (YPG) – the armed wing of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) took matters into their hand and fought back. An IS advance in northern Iraq in June 2014 also drew that country’s Kurds into the conflict. The Iraqi Kurdistan sent its Peshmerga army to fight off the IS forces. As the battle continued to wage, a US-led multinational coalition approved by Obama, launched airstrikes in northern Iraq and sent military advisers to help the Peshmerga. Other Kurdish groups also came to their rescue. In September 2014, IS launched an assault on the enclave around the northern Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee across the nearby Turkish border. Even then, the Turkish forces did nothing to mediate the ongoing conflict. Neither did they stop the IS nor allowed the Turkish Kurds to defend it. This only aggravated the Kurds into believing that the Turks were supporting the IS in driving them out. But with US-backed forces and other Kurdish groups, they finally regained control over some of their territories.
Over time, the Kurdish groups had proved to be a worthy ally for the US forces in their fight against the Islamic State. But in October 2019, U.S. troops stepped aside as Turkey launched an offensive against the U.S.-backed Kurdish forces. Kurdish forces described this betrayal in their time of need as “a stab in the back.” “Some want us to spend tens of thousands of soldiers to the area and start a new war all over again,” Trump tweeted following the decision. “Others say STAY OUT and let the Kurds fight their own battles. I say hit Turkey very hard financially with sanctions if they don’t play by the rules.” But why did the Turkish go offensive now? Experts said that, as the SDF became crucial to the U.S. mission to defeat the Islamic State, Turkey grew fearful that the Kurdish forces were gaining influence close to the Turkish border, establishing institutions and gaining clout with the Americans. For Edrogen, Turkey’s president, fighting the Kurds was more important and given more priority than fighting the Islamic State. Edrogen’s reason for this offensive was that he wanted to launch an operation to set up a 32km (20-mile) deep “safe zone” clear of YPG (Kurdish group) fighters and resettle up to 2 million Syrian refugees there. Was this done deliberately to drive out the Kurdish forces or a power tactic to gain the support of Syria remains to be seen?
It is currently an ongoing cross-border military operation conducted by the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and the Syrian National Army (SNA) against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in north-eastern Syria. On 17 October 2019, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence announced that the U.S. and Turkey agreed on a deal in which Turkey will agree to a ceasefire in Syria for 5 days in return for a complete withdrawal by the SDF from a safe zone south of the Syria-Turkey border. On 22 October 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reached a deal to extend the ceasefire by 150 additional hours for SDF to move 30 kilometers away from the border area as well as from Tal Rifaat and Manbij.
In recent news, the leader of the Syrian Kurd civilian government has accused Britain of being almost invisible in its condemnation of the Turkish invasion in Syria, saying the UK appeared unwilling to offend Ankara because it feared isolation after leaving the European Union.
Well, needless to say, the condition in Turkey is a hot mess with no clear solution in sight to settle the animosity between the Kurds and the Turks. The history of the Kurds and the Turks is a woeful affair and the ongoing conflicts have done nothing to resolve it. The Kurds continue to suffer by the hands of the Turks, without a clear solution in sight. How long will this continue? How long can the Kurdish endure it? Answering my own question from earlier has become easier now. Turkey has got the upper hand indefinitely with Russia backing them while the strongest Kurdish ally, US has left them out to dry. Though Kurdish forces are nowhere to be defeated, the Turkish forces appear to be stronger right now.