Archive for the ‘Kurdish refugees’ category

The Case for Kurdish Statehood

July 11, 2016

The Case for Kurdish Statehood, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Noah Beck, July 11, 2016

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Why has the West been so supportive of Palestinian nationalism, yet so reluctant to support the Kurds, the largest nation in the world without a state?

The Kurds have been instrumental in fighting the Islamic State (ISIS); have generously accepted millions of refugees fleeing ISIS to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG); and embrace Western values such as gender equality, religious freedom, and human rights. They are also an ancient people with an ethnic and linguistic identity stretching back millennia and have faced decades of brutal oppression as a minority. Yet they cannot seem to get sufficient support from the West for their political aspirations.

The Palestinians, by contrast, claimed a distinct national identity relatively recently, are less than one-third fewer in number (in 2013, the global Palestinian population was estimated by the Palestinian Authority to reach 11.6 million), control land that is less than 1/15th the size of the KRG territory, and have not developed their civil society or economy with nearly as much success as the Kurds. Yet the United Nations, the European Union, the Arab League, and other international bodies have all but ignored Kurdish statehood dreams while regularly prioritizing Palestinian ambitions over countless other global crises.

Indeed, in 2014 the UK and Sweden joined much of the rest of the world in recognizing a Palestinian state. There has been no similar global support for a Kurdish homeland. Moreover, Kurdish statehood has been hobbled by U.S. reluctance to see the Iraqi state dismantled and by regional powers like Turkey, which worries that a Kurdish state will stir up separatist feelings among Turkish Kurds.

With an estimated worldwide population of about 35 million (including about 28 million in the KRG or adjacent areas), the Kurds are the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East (after the Arabs, Persians, and Turks), and have faced decades of persecution as a minority in Turkey, Iran, and Iraq.

The 1988 “Anfal” attacks, which included the use of chemical weapons, destroyed about 2,000 villages and killed at least 50,000 Kurds, according to human rights groups (Kurds put the number at nearly 200,000). Several international bodies have recognized those atrocities as a genocide.

The Kurds in Turkey have also suffered oppression dating back to Ottoman times, when the Turkish army killed tens of thousands of Kurds in the Dersim and Zilan massacres. By the mid-1990s, more than 3,000 villages had been destroyed and 378,335 Kurdish villagers had been displaced and left homeless, according to Human Rights Watch.

The drive for Kurdish rights and separatism in Iran extends back to 1918, and – during its most violent chapter – cost the lives of over 30,000 Kurds, starting with the 1979 rebellion and the consequent KDPI insurgency.

A 2007 study notes that 300,000 Kurdish lives were lost just in the 1980s and 1990s. The same study states that 51,000 Jews and Arabs were killed in the Arab-Israeli conflict from 1950 until 2007 (and, because that total includes wars with Israel’s Arab neighbors, Palestinians are a small fraction of the Arab death toll).

Perhaps because of the Kurds’ own painful history, the KRG is exceptionally tolerant towards religious minorities and refugees. The KRG has embraced its tiny community of Jews, and in 2014, the Kurds rescued about 5,000 Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar after fleeing attempted genocide by ISIS. Last November, the Kurds recaptured the Sinjar area from ISIS, liberating hundreds more Yazidis from vicious oppression.

The KRG absorbed 1.8 million refugees as of December, representing a population increase of about 30 percent. The KRG reportedly needs $1.4 to 2.4 billion to stabilize the internally displaced people in its territory.

“Most of the refugees [in the KRG] are Arab Sunnis and Shia, Iranians, Christians, and others,” Nahro Zagros, Soran University vice president and adviser to the KRG’s Ministry of Higher Education, told the  IPT. “Yet there is no public backlash from the Kurds. And of course, we have been helping the Yazidi, who are fellow Kurds.”

The Kurdish commitment to gender equality is yet another reason that Kurdish statehood merits Western support. There is no gender discrimination in the Kurdish army: their women fight (and get beheaded) alongside the men. Last December, Kurdistan hosted the International Conference on Women and Human Rights.

The Kurds are also the only credible ground force fighting ISIS, as has been clear since the ISIS threat first emerged in 2014. ISIS “would have totally controlled the Baji oil field and all of Kirkuk had the [Kurdish] Peshmerga not defended it,” said Jay Garner, a retired Army three-star general and former Army assistant vice chief of staff who served during “Operation Provide Comfort” in northern Iraq. “Losing Kirkuk would have changed the entire war [against ISIS], because there are billions of dollars [per] week in oil flowing through there. The Iraqi army abandoned their equipment [while the Kurds defended Kirkuk, which has historically been theirs].”

Masrour Barzani, who heads the KRG’s intelligence services, says that Kurdish independence would empower the Kurds to purchase the type of weapons they need without the delays that currently hobble their military effort against ISIS. Under the present arrangement, Kurdish weapons procurement must go through Iraq’s Shia-led central government, which is also under heavy Iranian influence.

Besides bolstering the fight against ISIS, there are other geopolitical reasons for the West to support Kurdish statehood: promoting a stable partition of Syria, containing Iran, balancing extremist forces in the Middle East, and giving the West another reliable ally in a volatile region.

Now that Syria is no longer a viable state, it could partition into more sustainable governing blocs along traditional ethnic/sectarian lines with Sunni Arabs in the heartland, Alawites in the northwest, Druze in the south, and Kurds in the northeast. KRG leader Masrour Barzani recently argued that political divisions within Iraq have become so deep that the country must transform into “either confederation or full separation.”

Southeast Turkey and northwest Iran also have sizeable Kurdish areas that are contiguous with the KRG, but those states are far from disintegrating, and would aggressively resist any attempts to connect their Kurdish areas to the future Kurdish state. However, the Kurdish areas of former Syria should be joined to Iraqi Kurdistan as a way to strengthen the fledgling Kurdish state and thereby weaken ISIS.

In a recent article, Ernie Audino, the only U.S. Army general to have previously served a year as a combat adviser embedded inside a Kurdish Peshmerga brigade in Iraq, notes that Iran currently controls the Iraqi government and Iran-backed fighters will eventually try to control Kurdistan. He also makes the point that Western support for the Kurdish opposition groups active in Iran would force the Iranian regime to concentrate more on domestic concerns, effectively weakening Iran’s ability to pursue terrorism, expansionism, and other destabilizing activities abroad.

Because the Kurds are religiously diverse moderates who prioritize their ethno-linguistic identity over religion, a Kurdish state would help to balance out the radical Mideast forces in both the Shiite and Sunni camps. The Kurds are already very pro-American, thanks to their Western-leaning values, the U.S.-backed-no-fly zone, and the 2003 toppling of Saddam Husssein that made the KRG possible.

A Kurdish state would also have excellent relations with Israel, another moderate, non-Arab, pro-Western democracy in the region. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu endorsed Kurdish independence in 2014, and Syrian Kurds – after recently declaring their autonomy – expressed an interest in developing relations with Israel.

By contrast, the Palestinian Authority slanders Israel at every opportunity: Abbas recently claimed in front of the EU parliament that Israel’s rabbis are trying to poison Palestinian drinking water. The Authority raises Palestinian children to hate and kill Jews with endless anti-Israel incitement coming from schools, media, and mosques. Palestinians have also shown little economic progress in the territories that they do control, particularly in Gaza, where Palestinians destroyed the greenhouses that donors bought for them in 2006 and instead, have focused their resources on attacking Israel with tunnels and rockets.

By almost any measure, a Kurdish state deserves far more support from the West. After absorbing millions of Syrian refugees while fighting ISIS on shrinking oil revenue, the KRG is battling a deepening financial crisis. Aggravating the situation, Iraq’s central government has refused – since April 2015 – to send the KRG its share of Iraqi oil revenue. The economic crisis has cost the KRG an estimated $10 billion since 2014.

U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced House Resolution 1654 “to authorize the direct provision of defense articles, defense services, and related training to” the KRG. Fifteen months later, the bill is still stuck in Congress.

Helping the Kurds should be an even bigger priority for the European Union, which absorbs countless new refugees every day that ISIS is not defeated. If the EU were to fund the KRG’s refugee relief efforts and support their military operations against ISIS, far fewer refugees would end up on their shores.

 

Column One: Obama strikes again

July 31, 2015

Column One: Obama strikes again, Jerusalem Post, Caroline Glick, July 30, 2015

ShowImage (5)US President Barack Obama (L) and Vice President Joe Biden. (photo credit:OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO BY PETE SOUZA)

Most of the antiquities that ISIS plunders in Iraq and Syria make their way to the world market through Turkey. So, too, most of the oil that ISIS produces in Syria and Iraq is smuggled out through Turkey. According to the US Treasury, ISIS has made $1 million-$4m. a day from oil revenue.

Instead of maintaining its current practice of balancing its support for Turkey with its support for the Kurds, under the agreement, the West ditches its support for the Kurds and transfers its support to Turkey exclusively.

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While Israel and much of oficial Washington remain focused on the deal President Barack Obama just cut with the ayatollahs that gives them $150 billion and a guaranteed nuclear arsenal within a decade, Obama has already moved on – to Syria.

Obama’s first hope was to reach a deal with his Iranian friends that would leave the Assad regime in place. But the Iranians blew him off.

They know they don’t need a deal with Obama to secure their interests. Obama will continue to help them to maintain their power base in Syria though Hezbollah and the remains of the Assad regime without a deal.

Iran’s cold shoulder didn’t stop Obama. He moved on to his Sunni friend Turkish President Recep Erdogan.

Like the Iranians, since the war broke out, Erdogan has played a central role in transforming what started out as a local uprising into a regional conflict between Sunni and Shiite jihadists.

With Obama’s full support, by late 2012 Erdogan had built an opposition dominated by his totalitarian allies in the Muslim Brotherhood.

By mid-2013, Erdogan’s Muslim Brotherhood- led coalition was eclipsed by al-Qaida spinoffs. They also enjoyed Turkish support.

And when last summer ISIS supplanted al-Qaida as the dominant Sunni jihadist force in Syria, it did so with Erdogan’s full backing. For the past 18 months, Turkey has been ISIS’s logistical, political and economic base.

According to Brett McGurk, the State Department’s point man on ISIS, about 25,000 foreign fighters have joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq. All of them transited through Turkey.

Most of the antiquities that ISIS plunders in Iraq and Syria make their way to the world market through Turkey. So, too, most of the oil that ISIS produces in Syria and Iraq is smuggled out through Turkey. According to the US Treasury, ISIS has made $1 million-$4m. a day from oil revenue.

In May, US commandos in Syria assassinated Abu Sayyaf, ISIS’s chief money manager, and arrested his wife and seized numerous computers and flash drives from his home. According to a report in The Guardian published last week, the drives provided hard evidence of official Turkish economic collusion with ISIS.

Due to Turkish support, ISIS has become a self-financing terrorist group. With its revenue stream it is able to maintain a welfare state regime, attracting recruits from abroad and securing the loyalty of local Sunni militias and former Ba’athist forces.

Some Western officials believed that after finding hard evidence of Turkish regime support for ISIS, NATO would finally change its relationship with Turkey. To a degree they were correct.

Last week, Obama cut a deal with Erdogan that changes the West’s relationship with Erdogan.

Instead of maintaining its current practice of balancing its support for Turkey with its support for the Kurds, under the agreement, the West ditches its support for the Kurds and transfers its support to Turkey exclusively.

The Kurdish peshmerga militias operating today in Iraq and Syria are the only military outfits making sustained progress in the war against ISIS. Since last October, the Kurds in Syria have liberated ISIS-controlled and -threatened areas along the Turkish border.

The YPG, the peshmerga militia in Syria, won its first major victory in January, when after a protracted, bloody battle, with US air support, it freed the Kurdish border town of Kobani from ISIS’s assault.

In June, the YPG scored a strategic victory against ISIS by taking control of Tal Abyad. Tal Abyad controls the road connecting ISIS’s capital of Raqqa with Turkey. By capturing Tal Abyad, the Kurds cut Raqqa’s supply lines.

Last month, Time magazine reported that the Turks reacted with hysteria to Tal Abyad’s capture.

Not only did the operation endanger Raqqa, it gave the Kurds territorial contiguity in Syria.

The YPG’s victories enhanced the Kurds’ standing among Western nations. Indeed, some British and American officials were quoted openly discussing the possibility of removing the PKK, the YPG’s Iraqi counterpart, from their official lists of terrorist organizations.

The YPG’s victories similarly enhanced the Kurds’ standing inside Turkey itself. In the June elections to the Turkish parliament, the Kurdish HDP party won 12 percent of the vote nationally, and so blocked Erdogan’s AKP party from winning a parliamentary majority.

Without that majority Erdogan’s plan of reforming the constitution to transform Turkey into a presidential republic and secure his dictatorship for the long run has been jeopardized.

As far as Erdogan was concerned, by the middle of July the Kurdish threat to his power had reached unacceptable levels.

Then two weeks ago the deck was miraculously reshuffled.

On July 20, young Kurdish activists convened in Suduc, a Kurdish town on the Turkish side of the border, 6 kilometers from Kobani. A suicide bomber walked up to them, and detonated, massacring 32 people.

Turkish officials claim that the bomber was a Turkish Kurd, and a member of ISIS. But the Kurds didn’t buy that line. Last week, HDP lawmakers accused the regime of complicity with the bomber. And two days after the attack, militants from the PKK killed two Turkish policemen in a neighboring village, claiming that they collaborated with ISIS.

At that point, Erdogan sprang into action.

After refusing for months to work with NATO forces in their anti-ISIS operations, Erdogan announced he was entering the fray. He would begin targeting “terrorists” and allow the US air force to use two Turkish air bases for its anti-ISIS operations. In exchange, the US agreed to set up a “safe zone” in Syria along the Turkish border.

Turkish officials were quick to explain that in targeting “terrorists,” the Turks would not distinguish between Kurdish terrorists and ISIS terrorists just because the former are fighting ISIS. Both, they insisted, are legitimate targets.

Erdogan closed his deal in a telephone call with Obama. And he immediately went into action.

Turkish forces began bombing terrorist targets and rounding up terrorist suspects. Although a few of the Turkish bombing runs have been directly against ISIS, the vast majority have targeted Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria.

Moreover, for every suspected ISIS terrorist arrested by Turkish security forces, at least eight Kurds have been taken into custody.

Then, too, Erdogan has called on AKP lawmakers to begin criminalizing their counterparts from the HDP. Kurdish lawmakers, he urged them, must be stripped of their parliamentary immunity to enable their arrests.

As Erdogan apparently sees things, by going to war against the Kurds, he will be able to reestablish the AKP’s parliamentary majority. Within a few weeks, if the AKP fails to form a governing coalition – and it will – then new elections will be held. The nationalists, who abandoned the AKP in June, will return to the party to reward Erdogan for fighting the Kurds.

As for that “safe area” in northern Syria, as the Kurds see it, Erdogan will use it to destroy Kurdish autonomy. He will flood the zone with Syrian Arab refugees who fled to Turkey, to dilute the Kurdish majority. And he will secure coalition support for the Sunni Arab militias – including those still affiliated with al-Qaida – which will be permitted by NATO to operate openly in the safe area.

Already the Kurds are reporting that the US has stopped providing air support for their forces fighting ISIS in the border town of Jarablus. Those forces were bombed this week by Turkish F-16s.

For their part, despite Erdogan’s pledge to fight ISIS, his forces seem remarkable uninterested in rolling back ISIS achievements. The Turks have no plan for removing ISIS from its strongholds in Raqqa or Haskiyah.

The Obama administration is presenting the deal with Turkey as yet another great achievement.

In an interview with Charlie Rose on Tuesday, McGurk explained that the deal was a long time in the making. It began with a phone conversation between Obama and Erdogan last October and it ended with their phone call last week.

In October, Obama convinced Erdogan not to oppose US air support for the Kurds in Kobani and to enable the US to resupply YPG fighters in Kobani through Turkey. In the second, Obama agreed not to oppose Erdogan’s offensive against the Kurds.

Two years ago, in August 2013, the world held its breath awaiting US action in Syria. That month, after prolonged equivocation amidst mountains of evidence, the Obama administration was forced to acknowledge that Iran’s Syrian puppet Bashar Assad had crossed Obama’s self-declared redline and used chemical weapons against regime opponents, including civilians.

US forces assembled for battle. Everything looked ready to go, until just hours before US jets were scheduled to begin bombing regime targets, Obama canceled the operation. In so doing, he lost all deterrent power against Iran. He also lost all strategic credibility among America’s regional allies.

To save face, Obama agreed to a Russian proposal to have international monitors remove Syria’s chemical weapons from the country.

Last summer, the administration proudly announced that the mission had been completed.

UN chemical weapons monitors had removed Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal from the country, they proclaimed. It didn’t matter to either Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry that by that point Assad had resumed chemical assaults with chlorine-based bombs. Chlorine bombs weren’t chemical weapons, the Americans idiotically proclaimed.

Then last week, the lie fell apart. The Wall Street Journal reported that according to US intelligence agencies, Assad not surrendered his chemical arsenal.

Rather, he hid much of his chemical weaponry from the UN inspectors. He had even managed to retain the capacity to make chemical weapons – like chlorine-based bombs – after agreeing to part with his chemical arsenal.

Assad was able to cheat, because just as the administration’s nuclear deal with the Iranians gives Iran control over which nuclear sites will be open to UN inspectors, and which will be off limits, so the chemical deal gave Assad control over what the inspectors would and would not be allowed to see. So, they saw only what he showed them.

Obama has gone full circle in concluding his deal with Erdogan. Since entering office, Obama has sought to cut deals with both the Sunni jihadists of the Muslim Brotherhood ilk and the Shi’ite jihadists of the Iranian ilk.

His chemical deal with Assad and his nuclear deal with the ayatollahs accomplished the latter goal, and did so at the expense of America’s Sunni Arab allies and Israel.

His deal last week with Erdogan accomplishes the former goal, to the benefit of ISIS, and on the backs of America’s Kurdish allies.

So that takes care of the Middle East. With 17 months left to go till Obama leave office, the time has apparently come for the British to begin to worry.

Turkey Uses ISIS as Excuse to Attack Kurds

July 26, 2015

Turkey Uses ISIS as Excuse to Attack Kurds, Gatestone Institute, Uzay Bulut, July 26, 2015

(Please see also, Will Anyone Help the Kurds? — DM)

  • It appears as if the Turkish government is using ISIS as a pretext to attack the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party).
  • Turkey just announced that its air base at Incirlik will soon be open to coalition forces, presumably to fight ISIS. But the moment Turkey started bombing, it targeted Kurdish positions in Iraq, in addition to targeting ISIS positions in Syria.
  • In Turkey, millions of indigenous Kurds are continually terrorized and murdered, but ISIS terrorists can freely travel and use official border crossings to go to Syria and return to Turkey; they are even treated at Turkish hospitals.
  • If this is how the states that rule over Kurds treat them, why is there even any question as to whether the Kurds should have their own self-government?

Turkey’s government seems to be waging a new war against the Kurds, now struggling to get an internationally recognized political status in Syrian Kurdistan.

On July 24, Turkish media sources reported that Turkish jet fighters bombed Kurdish PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) bases in Qandil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, as well as the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria.

Turkey is evidently unsettled by the rapprochement the PKK seems to be establishing with the U.S. and Europe. Possibly alarmed by the PKK’s victories against ISIS, as well as its strengthening international standing, Ankara, in addition to targeting ISIS positions in Syria, has been bombing the PKK positions in the Qandil mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan, where the PKK headquarters are located.

There is no ISIS in Qandil.

As expected, many Turkish media outlets were more enthusiastic about the Turkish air force’s bombing the Kurdish militia than about bombing ISIS. “The camps of the PKK,” they excitedly reported, “have been covered with fire.”

It appears as if Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is using ISIS as a pretext to attack the PKK. Ankara just announced that its air base at Incirlik will soon be open to coalition forces, presumably to fight ISIS, but the moment Turkey started bombing, it targeted Kurdish positions. Those attacks not only open a new era of death and destruction, but also bring an end to all possibilities of resolving Turkey’s Kurdish issue non-violently.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced that

“a second wave operation against Daesh [ISIS] in Syria was started. Just after that, a very comprehensive operation was carried out against the camps of the terrorist organization PKK in northern Iraq. I am glad that the targets were hit with great success. We have given instructions to start a third wave operation in Syria and a second wave operation in Iraq.”

The “great success” of the Turkish military has brought much damage and injury to even Kurdish civilians — including children. The Kurdish newspaper Rudaw reported that two Kurdish villagers in Duhok’s Berwari region were carried to hospital in the aftermath of a Turkish artillery bombardment in the Amediye region. One of the victims was 12 years old. The second victim lost a leg in an airstrike. Four members of the PKK were killed and several others were injured.

Shortly after military operations against the PKK started, access to the websites of pro-Kurdish newspapers and news agencies was denied “by decree of court.” These websites — including Fırat News Agency (ANF), Dicle News Agency (DIHA), Hawar News Agency (ANHA), Ozgur Gundem newspaper, Yuksekova News, Rudaw and BasNews — are still blocked in Turkey.

ISIS, meanwhile, has not so far made any statement regarding Turkey’s so-called bombings of ISIS in any of its media outlets.

Had Turkish military attacked the PKK alone, and not in addition to attacking ISIS, it would probably have received widespread international condemnation. So to add “legitimacy” to its attacks against the Kurdish PKK — whose affiliate Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria and its armed wing, the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) have been resisting ISIS and other Islamist terrorist groups since 2013 — Turkey declared that it will also attack ISIS. This would give it cover for its attacks against Kurdish fighters.

In 2014, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the plan he wanted to carry out in Syria and Iraq: “The problem in Syria should be taken into account. Iraq too should be considered similarly. Moreover, there needs to be a solution that will also deal with the Syrian wing [PYD] of the separatist terrorist organization [PKK].”

The AKP government, dissatisfied with the results of last month’s parliamentary elections, also seems to want to hold new elections, to push the mainly Kurdish HDP Party below the required 10% threshold, and thus force them out of parliament. Perhaps the government thinks that bombing the PKK will generate Turkish nationalist enthusiasm that will work in the AKP’s favor to help it regain a majority in early elections.

Apparently, Turkey does not need Kurdish deputies in its parliament. Apparently, the state prefers to slaughter or arrest the Kurds — as it has done for decades. Why hold talks and reach a democratic resolution when you have the power to murder people wholesale?[1]

Sadly, Turkey has preferred not to form a “Turkish-Kurdish alliance” to destroy ISIS. First, Turkey has opened its borders to ISIS, enabling the growth of the terrorist group. And now, at the first opportunity, it is bombing the Kurds again. According to this strategy, “peace” will be possible only when Kurds submit to Turkish supremacism and abandon their goal of being an equal nation.

In the meantime, Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkish minister of foreign affairs, said that the Incirlik air base in Turkey has not yet been opened for use by the U.S. and other coalition forces, but that it will be opened in the upcoming period.

Kurdish forces, therefore, are the only forces that are truly resisting the Islamic State.

They have been repressed by Baghdad and murdered by Turkey and Iran.

If this is how the states that rule over Kurds treat them, why is there even any question as to whether the Kurds should have their own self-government?

As a result of the ISIS attacks in the region, the Kurdish PKK — as well as its Syrian Kurdish affiliate, Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) — have emerged as the America’s most effective battlefield partners against ISIS. Ever since ISIS became a major force in Syria, the U.S. has apparently relied heavily on YPG to stop ISIS from advancing. According to Henri Barkey, a former State Department specialist on Turkey, “The U.S. has become the YPG’s air force and the YPG has become the U.S.’s ground force in Syria.”

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Attacks on the Kurds were already under way last week. On July 20, a bomb attack in the Kurdish town of Suruc (Pirsus) in Turkey killed 32 people during a meeting of young humanitarian activists, who were discussing the reconstruction of the neighboring Kurdish town of Kobane.

1171The scene of the suicide bombing in Suruc, Turkey. An ISIS suicide bomber murdered 32 people and wounded more than 100 others in a July 20 attack on Kurdish humanitarian activists. (Image source: VOA video screenshot)

The blast took place while the activists were making a statement to the press in the garden of a cultural center. At least 100 others, mostly university students, were wounded. (Graphic video of the explosion)

The suicide bomber was identified through DNA testing, according to reports in the Turkish news media. Seyh Abdurrahman Alagoz was reportedly a 20-year-old Turkish university student, recently returned from Syria, and believed to have had ties to ISIS.

Alagoz targeted a meeting 300 secular activists, members of the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations (SGDF), who gathered at a cultural center in the province of Urfa, opposite the Kurdish town of Kobane in Syrian Kurdistan. As part of an effort to rebuild Kobane, they were preparing to provide aid, give toys to the children there and build a hospital, school, nursery, children’s park, library and a memorial forest for those who had lost their lives in Kobane.

“Work on the building of hospitals and schools needs to be done,” Oguz Yuzgec, the co-president of the federation, said before the explosion. “One of the things we will do is to build a children’s park in Kobane. We will name it after Emre Aslan, who died fighting in Kobane. We are collecting toys. We will participate in the construction of the nursery that the canton of Kobane is planning to build. We have the responsibility of helping the nursery function. We need everybody who knows how to draw and can teach children.”

Mazlum Demirtas, a survivor of the attack, said: “The main one responsible for this incident is the state of Turkey, the AKP fascism, the AKP dictatorship. … It attacked us with its gunmen and gangs. Since yesterday, parents have been collecting the dismembered body parts of their children. They are trying to identify the dismembered bodies. This is called fascism, inhumanity and barbarity.”

Pinar Gayip, another survivor of the attack, said in a telephone interview on the pro-government Haberturk TV that, “Instead of helping the wounded, the murderer-police of the murderer-AKP threw tear gas at the vehicles with which we carried the wounded.” She was taken off the air.

All across Turkish Kurdistan, there were protests condemning the massacre and the government’s alleged involvement in it. Police in Istanbul used plastic bullets and water cannonsagainst people who gathered to remember those murdered in Suruc.

The Turkish authorities briefly blocked access to Twitter last Wednesday to prevent the people from viewing photos of the bombing in Suruc. Officials admitted that Turkey had asked Twitter to remove 107 URLs (web addresses) with images related to the bombing; before the ban, Twitter had already removed 50.

Selahattin Demirtas, the co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Party (HDP), said that state surveillance activities were intensive in Suruc, and that the intelligence service was recording the identity of everyone traveling to and from Suruc.

As Demirtas’s own convoy had recently not been permitted to enter Suruc, he emphasized the extent of state surveillance in the town, and said that nobody could argue that someone could have managed to infiltrate the crowd and carry out the suicide attack without state support.

“Today, we have witnessed in Suruc yet again what an army of barbarity and rape, an army that has lost human dignity, can do,” Demirtas said. “Those who have been silent in the face of ISIS, who have not dared even raise their voice to it, as well as the officials in Ankara who threaten even the HDP every day but caress the head of ISIS, are the accomplices of this barbarity.”

In the meantime, Mehmet Gormez, the head of the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), announced on its Twitter account that the perpetrators of the Suruc attack do not have religion.

However, three days before the massacre in Suruc, about 100 Islamists — alleged to be ISIS sympathizers — had performed mass Islamic Eid prayers in Istanbul. They demanded Islamic sharia law instead of democracy. ISIS sympathizers had performed the same Eid prayers at the same place the year before, as well.

Over the border in Syrian Kurdistan, shortly after the blast in Suruc, a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb at a checkpoint in Kobane. Two Kurdish fighters were killed in the explosion, according to Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Last month, a deadly blast hit the Kurdish province of Diyarbakir in Turkey, during an election rally of the pro-Kurdish HDP that was attended by tens of thousands of people. Just before the HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas was going to speak, two bombs exploded at different places. Four people were killed, and more than 100 people are estimated to have been wounded. One of the wounded, Lisa Calan, 28, a Kurdish art director from Diyarbakir, lost both legs in the explosion.

As the wounded were being carried to hospitals, police used tear gas against people trying to run from the area in panic

The bomber was reported to be a member of ISIS.

* * *

In Turkey, millions of indigenous Kurds are continually terrorized and murdered, while ISIS terrorists can freely travel and use official border crossings to go to Syria and return to Turkey; they are even treated at Turkish hospitals. Emrah Cakan, for instance, a Turkish-born ISIS commander wounded in Syria, got medical treatment at the university hospital in Turkey’s Denizli province in March.

The Denizli governor’s office issued a written statement on 5 March:

“The treatment of Emrah C. at the Denizli hospital was started upon his own application. The procedural acts concerning his injury were conducted by our border city during his entry to our country and they still continue. And his treatment procedures continue as a part of his right to benefit from health services just like all our other citizens have.”

The “compassion” and hospitality that many Turkish institutions have for ISIS members is not even hidden. The silence of the West is mystifying and disappointing.

The U.S. government cooperates with oppressive regimes — including the terrorist regime of Iran, under which Kurds are forced to live — to the detriment of the Kurds, to the detriment other persecuted peoples, and to the detriment of the future of the West.

Many Middle Eastern regimes are ruled by Islamist, often genocidal governments — so there is not much to expect from them in terms of human rights and liberties.

The Kurds need real support, real arms and real recognition. Otherwise, there does not seem to be much difference between the dictatorial, genocidal Middle Eastern regimes and the West, which used to represent democracy and freedom.
_____________________________

[1] The so-called “peace process” was reportedly started in 2012 and through it, Kurds and the Turkish government were to resolve the Kurdish issue through negotiations.)

Is the Islamic State finding refuge in Turkey?

December 3, 2014

Is the Islamic State finding refuge in Turkey? Al-Monitor, Ahmet Insel, December 2, 2014

(Please see also The new Ottoman Emperor. — DM)

According to the Kobani watchers in Caykara [Mahzer] village, Islamic State (IS) forces crossed from Turkey and attacked the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces controlling the Syrian side of Mursitpinar border, crossing from the rear. IS badly wants to capture the crossing.

Did the IS car bomb attack at Mursitpinar Saturday morning [Nov. 29] originate from Turkey? Information provided by official sources about how the attack was carried out is murky. The Mahzer crowd congregating directly behind the Mursitpinar crossing insist the bomb-laden vehicle came from Turkey, broke the lock on the gate and crossed to Syria.

Even more interesting are reports that the presence of IS elements in Turkey is not confined to this attack. People who had to abandon their homes in the Mursitpinar area and settle in nearby villages because of security reasons say IS has been entering the houses they had to abandon.

Egrice [Betke] village is about a kilometer from the border. There are 18 native households plus 12 families that came over from Syria. Native villagers are also hosting a few families who had to evacuate their homes in Etmenek near Mursitpinar in Turkey. If you talk to these people from Etmenek you will hear that IS militants have been crossing the border at will and entering the abandoned buildings and even staying in them. One Etmenek villager said, “My uncle’s house is near my house. Although it is banned, we sometimes go over to our homes and then return here. When I went there last time I saw IS people in my uncle’s house.” Another villager also claimed his house was taken over by IS.

You hear similar accounts from the Caykara-Mahzer crowd who hail from Kucuk Ermenek. Some say Turkish soldiers are at one end of the village and IS militants at the other. We are talking about settlements on the Turkish side around Mursitpinar and its fringes. IS taking over Soil Products Office silos along the border and firing down on YPG forces from [inside] is not the only case of IS militarily violating the Turkish border.

At Egrice village you can see hundreds of cars Kobani refugees were not allowed to bring with them to Turkey. In the same place you also see cattle herds which are not allowed to cross to Turkey because of risk of foot and mouth disease. Villagers say the animals are slowly dying and IS elements frequently come to the car park and take any vehicle they want. Villagers say they send their children to take care of the animals and Turkey has been providing them with animal feed.

On top of the water tower you can see the IS flag. According to refugees from Kobani, the Syrian side of the border, from Mursitpinar to Akcakale, is under the control of IS.

Those who constantly watch the border from Caykara insist that IS had attacked YPG from the rear by crossing the border from Turkey. For them, the lack of intervention by the Turkish military tasked with border security is a sign that Turkey prefers to have IS control the border crossing.

But even more worrying are the allegations that IS people have been freely entering abandoned houses on the Turkish side. There is no need to elaborate what kind of security fears this causes in the region and how it amplifies the distrust felt for security forces. Contradictory statements by senior civil servants and their ignoring of eyewitness accounts only intensify people’s lack of confidence.

As much as it is important to provide a full and clear explanation of the attack at the Mursitpinar crossing, it’s vital to give proper responses to claims that IS militants are freely entering and leaving Mursitpinar and its fringes.