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Interview: Turkish socialist on ISIS and Kobane

October 16, 2014

Interview with Ozan Tekin from our sister organization DSIP in Turkey: The recent events in Kobane, ISIS, US airstrikes and the Kurdish struggle in the wider region.

Q: The events in Kobane and the protests in Turkey along with the escalating attacks by ISIS on the city have received significant attention by the world media. The protests in Turkish Kurdistan and the western parts of the country are continuing. What is the latest situation in the region?

Since the beginning of the protests a week ago, against the ISIS attacks on the Kurdish town of Kobane and against the Turkish government, 40 people have died. The protests have been attacked by the state security forces as well as the fascists in Turkey. The historically deeply state-linked Hezbollah in Kurdistan is also involved in the attacks. (This is not the same Hezbollah as in Lebanon, it is a separate organization operating in Turkish Kurdistan).

The united front Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), a coalition of Kurds, Turkish socialists and various other progressive groups appealed to its members and the protestors for calm. Despite this, the reaction of the government is fuelling the violence. The government is maintaining its position that the protestors are 'violent vandals' and that they will be dealt with harshly by the state security forces.

The protests in the western parts of Turkey have been organised mainly by the politically organized Kurds and the socialist groups as a minority. In the Kurdish area there were popular uprising-like revolts. According to the state reports there were protests in 35 cities. In 6 Kurdish cities/towns, the government declared a curfew and for the first time since the military coup days of 1980, the streets of Diyarbakir were occupied by military tanks.

Q: Given the geographical location and the political situation, Turkey is a key country in the region. What about the much debated issue of the 'Turkish government's (AKP) support to ISIS'? The Turkish government received the permit from the parliament to join the US led coalition. What will it do next?

The claims that the AKP government supported ISIS by supplying weapons etc. is mostly speculation. Western governments criticize the Turkish government mainly on the issue of 'relax border control' and say that 'Turkey made it easy for the jihadists to pass through the border into Syria'.

Currently Turkey's attitude, which the West knows well, is as such: “ISIS is bad but Assad is worse. From the very beginning we asked for military intervention in Syria to topple the Assad regime. If that was the case, there would have been no ISIS today, but we were not listened to.”

AKP's conditions to actively join the US led coalition is 'not only to eliminate ISIS but also the Assad regime'. The US has no such agenda and it wants to target ISIS. In the process the US is still trying to get Turkey to actively join the coalition forces and open the use of the Incirlik airbase to coalition war planes.

This situation is used by the AKP ideologues as the “new strong Turkey that does not bow to imperialist powers”. On one hand the government claims to fight against the founding militarist/nationalist idology of Turkey, known as 'Kemalism' and on the other hand it creates a new nationalist language using the 'new, strong Turkey' propaganda.

There isn't a struggle of anti-imperialism in all of this. As a sub-imperialist country, Turkey is negotiating its own position with the 'masters' of the world. The government has no real objection or resistance to imperialism and Turkey is not breaking away from these powers. In 2003, then the prime minister, now the president, Erdogan wanted to join the invasion of Iraq. He was stopped by a mass anti-war mobilisation in the country.

Q: One very significant agenda in Turkey is the ongoing peace negotiations between the Kurdish PKK and the Turkish state. Although the outcome of this process - peace or no peace - will have a very significant impact on the wider political situation in the region including, Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, there is little known and reported about it in the West. With the recent developments in the country and the wider region, what is the status of the peace negotiations? AKP government, while negotiating with PKK also said, “PKK is the same as ISIS”. Has the peace process stalled?

Before the Kobane attacks there was some progress in the peace process towards a resolution. The leader of PKK, Ocalan – who is the key actor - had said that, “we are at a historic period”. The government had responded to Ocalan's demands and established a number of 'peace commissions' to monitor the progress.

The latests events and the attacks by the Turkish government has not fully stopped the peace process but it created a significant doubt whether it will still continue. Ocalan also declared that the defence of Kobane is their first priority. He gave the government until 15th of October to get back on track with the peace process.

Here is the situation: ISIS has surrounded Syrian Kurdish city of Kobane from three sided. The only area that is not under the attack by ISIS is the border with Turkey. Turkey has lined up its tanks along this border and it cannot claim to be neutral in this situation. Unless it allows the help coming to the Kurdish YPG forces in Syria (People's Protection Units) it will be de-facto helping the fall of Kobane. YPG is fighting ISIS with very limited resources and equipment.

The Kurds are very angry about the government that on one hand claims to bring about peace in the Turkish Kurdistan, but on the other hand watches from the border the fall of Kurdish Kobane. The Kurds want the opening of a corridor through which help can come from Iraqi Kurdistan and Rojava to Kobane. For the Kurds Rojava is a very important and strategic place.

The Kurds are most organized and most populous in Turkey. After a 30 year war with the Turkish state and 50,000 deaths, they are negotiating a solution with the Turkish state. In Syria, where they are a much smaller population and less strong, the ongoing situation has brought them to a position of regional self governance. To protect this position in Syria has utmost important for PKK. Such a regional self governance in Syria strengthens the hand of the Kurds in the peace negotiations with Turkey. What we have now is a self governing Kurdish region in Syria along the southern borders of Turkey. This also gives them international recognition following the 30 years of simply being called a “terrorist group”.
The Turrkish government is not at all comfortable to have such a Kurdish region at its southern borders.

Historically, the Turkish state is full opposed to the freedom of the Kurds. A few years ago, Erdogan had said, “we will not allow an autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq”. Things have changed now and Barzani is Turkey's close ally. So much so, Erdogan uses his close relationship with Barzani agains the PKK. Similar to in Iraq, the self governing Rojava will eventually be accepted by Turkey.

Q: Are there calls from within Turkey and Kurdistan to increase US airstrikes agains ISIS?
The way things are going, the Kurds in Kobane are facing a certain death. And like any national movement, they are calling for help and their immediate concern isn't where the help comes from. They are saying that the airstrikes are not enough but also calling for more.
In Syria some of the anti-regime forces bombed by Assad were also calling for external help, such as US intervention.

This hasn't materialised and today the US bombs are also targeting other anti-regime groups and civillians while bombing ISIS. In Turkey, majority of the Turkish left who are in solidarity with the Kurdish struggle are experiencing ideological confusion and don't analyse the ISIS situation correctly. This causes them to take a passive position against imperialism. Many such left movements claim that the anti-regime fight in Syria was initiated by the US to topple the 'anti-imperialist' Assad. With this confusion, at a time when the US is bombing ISIS, they see that being 'anti-ISIS' (as they see it having been created by the US) alone, as being 'anti-imperialist'. For exampe one left organization organized an 'anti Jihadist terror' rally in a border town on the same day as the start of US airstrikes.

Another common view among some of the left is that the US is bombing Syria to topple the Assad government. Even though the Ba'ath regime announced that they are kept informed by the US about the airstrikes and that they are happy with the bombing of ISIS.

Both views above have little or no objection against the US led airstrikes in the region.
We, DSİP (Revolutionary Socialist Workers Party) are in solidarity with the Kurds defending Kobane against ISIS and we object to any military intervention by the imperialist powers.

The Kurds in Kobane are in need of help and it is clear that the left forces in the region and the world are not in a position and strength to help them. But this does not mean that the western intervention will benefit them. The imperialists always use the 'humanitarian crisis' excuse to get involved in various parts of the world.

But these interventions always create more deaths and misery for the people. Furthermore, during the week, the US administration admitted that “they expect Kobane to fall into the hands of ISIS but that it is not a strategic city for the US”. However, they are very keen to remove ISIS from the oil fields in the region.

The long history of the Kurds shows us that whenever they took sides in a fight involving regional or global powers, when the dust settled, it was the Kurds themselves who ultimately suffered at the hands of these very same powers.

This is shared from the Socialist Workers Party (Ireland)

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