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Erdogan`s Neo-Ottoman Dream – Major Threat due to New Military Occupation Operation in South Kurdistan

Democratic Forces in Kurdistan, the Middle East and worldwide need to stand united against Turkish expansionism Full in PDF

1. Strategy Behind the New Turkish Attacks on South Kurdistan: Occupation, Demographic Change, Instability and Ethnic Cleansing
2. Complicity of International and Regional Powers in a Genocide
3. Waging War on the Kurds
4. Great Dangers of Erdogan`s Islamist Policy for Middle East and Europe
5. Resistance in South Kurdistan: Huge Opportunity for Promotion of Stability, Democracy and Peaceful Coexistence
6. Immediate Measures Against the Dictator Erdogan

KNK Report in PDF – Erdogan`s Neo-Ottoman Dream – May 2021

1. Strategy Behind the New Turkish Attacks on South Kurdistan: Occupation, Demographic Change, Instability and Ethnic Cleansing

Kurdistan has seen many military operations and occupation campaigns in the last four decades. Most of them were local or temporary in nature. The circle of violence was escalated by the Turkish state especially after it ended peace negotiations with the Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, the co-founder of the PKK, creator of a new socialist paradigm and representative of millions in the Middle East. Ever since the summer 2015, the Turkish army has carried out relentless attacks in three parts of Kurdistan: the North, Rojava and South Kurdistan. As a result, large swaths of Rojava or North East Syria – Afrin, Serêkaniyê and Girê Spî – have been occupied and suffer under the Turkish policy of systematic demographic change, ethnic cleansing, rape and extortion. In the last six years, North Kurdistan (occupied part of Kurdistan in Turkey) has witnessed hundreds of military operations, ten thousands of arrests and more than ten of its cities have been razed to the ground by the Turkish army. South Kurdistan (North Iraq) has been subjected to an increasing number of Turkish military interventions, almost daily air attacks and an ever increasing activity of the Turkish intelligence service MIT.

The intensity and frequency of Turkish military campaigns in all three parts of Kurdistan might make it difficult to grasp the unique nature of the most recent Turkish occupation operation in South Kurdistan which started on April 23. Although it is currently concentrated on the areas Avaşîn, Metina and Zap along the Iraqi-Turkish border and despite claims made by Erdogan and other Turkish state officials that the Turkish attack was only directed at PKK guerrillas in these areas, it is very important to understand that there is a broader strategy behind the most recent attacks. While Turkish state officials constantly repeat the alleged threat of the PKK presence to Turkey, this only constitutes a deliberate and carefully orchestrated distraction campaign to hide Turkey`s real intentions. Portraying the latest Turkish occupation operation as a locally constrained and temporary operation that only has a single organization as its target serves the broader goal of Erdogan and the fascist regime of the AKP and MHP (ultra-nationalist Turkish party). The war in Metina, Avaşîn and Zap is not a war solely between the PKK and the Turkish state.

It constitutes an attack on all Kurdish gains in all four parts of Kurdistan. Especially in Rojava and South Kurdistan, the Kurds have managed to achieve huge progress in their struggle for self-determination, democracy and freedom. The political status of South Kurdistan and the self-administration in form of the AANES (Autonomous Administration of North-East Syria) constitute two major political gains for all Kurds. The recent attacks that began on April 23 come only two months after the failed Turkish attempt to occupy the South Kurdish region Gare. Both operations are part of a massive rise in Turkish military interventions into South Kurdistan that started in 2015. Between 2015 and 2018 South Kurdistan was attacked 398 times by Turkish fighter jets and 425 times by Turkish artillery directly affecting 288 South Kurdish villages. On May 27, 2019, the Turkish army started its `Operation Claw` leading to the occupation of isolated areas in Xakurke. A year later, on June 14, 2020, the Turkish army started an extensive operation in the South Kurdish region Heftanin and established military posts on several mountain tops there.

The attacks on Metina, Avaşîn and Zap are the latest and most violent step in the long list of occupation operations of the Turkish army in South Kurdistan. The fact that Erdogan and his fascist AKP-MHP regime chose the night of April 23 and 24 as the start for this occupation operation is significant as it marks the 106th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Thus, they have sent a clear message to the Kurds and all other peoples who decide to resist against the Neo-Ottoman project of the Erdogan regime: `If you decide to resist, we will carry out a genocide against you.` It is the strategic aim of Turkey`s Neo-Ottoman policy to crush all political, cultural and social gains of the Kurds and to push the whole region into chaos.

Erdogan`s wants to then use this chaos to create a legitimation and opportunity for Turkey`s political and military interventions into neighboring countries like Iraq and Syria. With its strong political, military, social and cultural resources the PKK and the Kurdish people have waged a significant struggle against this Turkish policy. Erdogan therefore considers them the biggest obstacles to his Neo-Ottoman plan. That is why the Turkish attacks focus so relentlessly on the PKK and everybody who sympathizes with its policy that aims at a democratization of countries like Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Should Turkey`s occupation operation in Metina, Zap and Avaşîn yield results, the next targets of the fascist AKP-MHP government will be the ruling South Kurdish parties KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) and PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) including the territories under their control. But also the Sinjar region – a safe haven the Ezidi population especially after the genocide carried out by IS (Islamic State) in 2014 – and the oil-rich cities Mosul and Kirkuk will become direct targets of the Turkish strategy to occupy all of South Kurdistan.

Ever since 2014, Turkey has relied heavily on a close cooperation with Islamic proxy-forces like IS, Al-Nusra or the so-called FSA (Free Syrian Army) for its occupation of huge swaths of land along the Turkish-Syrian and Turkish-Iraqi border. By providing training, weapons, money, logistics and medical treatment for these radical Islamist groups, Turkey seeks to use them to occupy areas not only in the Middle East, but also in Libya, Ukraine, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Caucasus. Turkey relies heavily on its Islamist proxy-forces to realize its Neo-Ottoman ambitions. Since the attack on Afrin in January 2018, Erdogan`s regime has carried out numerous military interventions into Syria and Iraq thus starting to establish a zone of occupation and genocide` that stretches all the way from north-western Syria to the region Xinere located in the north-eastern corner of Iraq along the Iranian border – an area roughly 1200 km long from east to west. Turkey`s aim is to systematically subject the mostly Kurdish population in this `zone of occupation and genocide` to ethnic cleansing thus achieving a complete demographic change.

2. Complicity of International and Regional Powers in a Genocide

Although Turkey`s relations with the EU and USA were characterized by many public disputes and at times exchanges of angry accusations for a long time, ever since the US election in November last year the AKP-MHP regime has taken huge efforts to hide its real political intentions and ease the tensions with its western partners. What at times were described as huge conflicts that could potentially lead to war – especially over Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean – have today become mere diplomatic issues that are being negotiated at international conferences. In the past six months, Erdogan`s regime has taken many steps to appease its conflicts especially with the USA and EU countries, but also Israel, Egypt and Saudi-Arabia. Although the list of conflicts between Turkey and its international and regional partners was long, one issue was always deliberately kept out of the public quarrels: the genocidal policy of the AKP-MHP regime towards the Kurds. While human rights violations in North Kurdistan and the Turkish occupation of Afrin, Serêkaniyê and Girê Spî in Rojava would sometimes be confronted with cautious public condemnations by European governments, the daily Turkish air raids on South Kurdistan, the existence of almost 40 Turkish army bases there and massive military attacks like the operation in Gare from February 10 to 14 have mostly been accompanied by a worrisome silence of international and regional states.

The weeks before the start of the recent occupation attack in Metina, Avaşîn and Zap were characterized by an intense diplomatic traffic between Turkey and its international partners USA, Great Britain, France and the EU. On March 2, 2021, Erdogan and the French President Emmanuel Macron discussed bilateral relations in a video call. Both heads of states used this occasion to express their desire for a new and positive phase in the relations of the two countries.
Erdogan`s remarks after the meeting clearly show that an increased military cooperation of the two countries was discussed: “As two strong NATO allies, we can make significant contributions to peace, stability, and peace efforts in a wide geography – from Europe to the Caucasus, the Middle East, and Africa.” On April 6, the European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met Erdogan in Ankara.

Their visit to Turkey`s capital was part of a new EU initiative to strengthen its ties with Turkey.

NEO-OTTOMAN DREAM MAY 2021 Erdogan`s goalis clear:

Annexing all of South Kurdistan, including the Ezidi region Sinjar but also oil-rich Mosul and Kirkuk

March 22 in which he argued that a positive agenda based on deeper trade ties would bring the EU and Turkey closer together again. In early April, the Turkish defense minister Hulusi Akar spent two days in the British capital London where he met many different government officials, e.g. the British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace on April 9.10 At last, US President Joe Biden and his Turkish counterpart had a long-awaited phone call on April 23 in which the American President expressed his “interest in a constructive bilateral relationship with expanded areas of cooperation and effective management of disagreements”. The fact that the extensive military attack on South Kurdistan began after two months of intense diplomatic traffic between Turkey and its international partners makes it clear that Erdogan`s regime was given a green light beforehand by the US government and other international powers. It is no coincidence that the Turkish occupation operation started only hours after the above mentioned phone call between Biden and Erdogan. This is an unmistakable sign of US approval thus making the Biden administration complicit in a genocidal war on the Kurds. It is also noteworthy that the Iraqi government has until now remained silent despite the Turkish attacks and the threat of an annexation of the northern part of the country, including its oil-rich Mosul and Kirkuk areas. The KDP – part of a government coalition ruling the KRI (Kurdistan Region – has so far refrained from taking a stance against the Turkish intervention. On April 28, 2021, the Prime Minister of Kurdistan Region, Masrour Barzani, claimed that the recent Turkish attacks were a conflict between Turkey and the PKK while not hesitating to ask the PKK to leave South Kurdistan.12 This can be understood as an attempt to legitimize the Turkish occupation of South Kurdistan.

3. Waging War on the Kurds

Depicting the Turkish occupation operation in Metina, Zap and Avaşîn solely as an attack on the PKK would fall short of the historical and political realities of this conflict. Erdogan`s fascist regime has been following a policy of relentless attacks on Kurdish gains in North Kurdistan, Rojava and South Kurdistan for years. Starting in autumn 2015, the Turkish military started a full-scale war in the south-east of Turkey which led to the destruction of more than ten Kurdish cities until the summer of 2016. Almost a hundred democratically elected Kurdish mayors have been imprisoned since 2019. The latest example of Erdogan`s intolerance towards Kurdish political and social gains is the attempt to shut down the HDP (People`s Democratic Party). This is the latest step in a years-long campaign against the HDP – an alliance of Kurdish, Turkish and many other democratic parties, organizations and individuals – which has led to the imprisonment of over ten thousand HDP members, including the party`s former co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ. In Rojava, the Turkish state reacted promptly to the establishment of a self-administration system in which the local Kurdish population plays a leading role. While it used its Islamist proxy-forces at first for attacks on Serêkaniyê (2013), Afrin (starting in 2013) and Kobane (2014), Erdogan`s regime was forced to change its tactics after the mostly Kurdish YPG (People`s Protection Units) and YPJ (Women`s Protection Units) had dealt huge blows to Al-Nusra, IS and other Islamist mercenaries of Turkey. The occupation of Afrin in early 2018 was the beginning of an open collaboration of the Turkish army with its Islamist proxies. This strategy was also used for the attack on Serêkaniyê and Girê Spî in late 2019. In South Kurdistan, the fascist AKP-MHP regime has been following a similar strategy of denial and attacks on all Kurdish gains. When the KRG (Kurdish Regional Government) decided to carry out an independence referendum in September 2017, the MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) leader Devlet Bahceli showed clearly that he rejected any form of Kurdish political self-determination: “This is a rehearsal for Kurdistan. If necessary Turkey should deem this referendum as a reason for war.”13 Using a similarly aggressive tone, Erdogan reacted to the referendum with open threats: “[They] will be left in the lurch when we start imposing our sanctions. It will be over when we close the oil taps, all [their] revenues will vanish, and they will not be able to find food when our trucks stop going to northern Iraq.”14 That this attitude persists until today became clear shortly after the Pope`s visit to Iraq earlier this year.

Responding to a stamp designed by the KRG that included a map of Kurdistan, Devlet Bahceli stated: “That despicable map is already under our feet.” Turkey`s policy of denial and attacks on attempts of Kurds to establish their social, political, cultural and economic self-determination has led major Kurdish organizations to voice drastic warnings after the start of the latest Turkish occupation operation on April 23. In a statement one day after the start of Turkey`s attacks the KNK (Kurdistan National Congress) made it clear that the operation constitutes a danger for the Kurdish people as a whole: “We want to draw particular attention to the fact that the launch of such an aggression on April 24, the anniversary of the genocide and annihilation campaign against the Armenian people, has special purposes. With this attack, the Turkish state has openly manifested its intention for a massacre and genocide against the peoples of Kurdistan. This is the message they want to give to the Kurdish people.”16 On April 25, the KCK (Kurdistan Democratic Communities Union) also warned of a genocide against the Kurds and future attacks on other parts of South Kurdistan and even Rojava: “It is important for the whole Kurdish people, its friends and all democratic forces to acknowledge that the goal of these attacks is a genocide. Not only the guerrilla, but the whole Kurdish people are being targeted. The goal is to crush the guerrilla in order to be able to finalize the Kurdish genocide. By eliminating the freedom forces not only in South Kurdistan but also in all other parts of Kurdistan, the Turkish state aims at subjecting the Kurds to genocide. Therefore, the recent attacks are also directed at the gains and freedom of South Kurdistan and Rojava Kurdistan.”17 Arêz Abdullah, member of the PUK leadership, drew attention to the strategic goals of Turkey: “Turkey pursues two major goals with this operation. The first goal is to fight against the guerrilla. But the bigger and hidden goal is to occupy South Kurdistan.” He also reacted to the claims that the attacks were only directed at the PKK: “Even if the PKK was be present in these areas, Turkey would still attack South Kurdistan.”18 The South Kurdish politician Mihemed Emin Pencewini also criticized the claim that the Turkish attacks were only directed at the PKK: “The attack aims at annexing the rich natural resources of South Kurdistan. They [the Turkish government] use the PKK simply as a pretext to achieve this goal.”

4. Great Dangers of Erdogan`s Islamist Policy for Middle East and Europe

With its latest occupation operation in South Kurdistan Turkey is again braking international law and rules of war. Therefore, Erdogan and the other members of the AKP-MHP regime have once more become guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Because of the broader goals of Turkey`s Neo-Ottoman policy, the attacks on Metina, Zap and Avaşîn should not only be understood as a war against the Kurds but against all peoples of the Middle East. Arabs, Assyrians, Ezidis in Sinjar, Turkmens and Armenians are today facing the danger of demographic change, ethnic cleansing and genocide carried out in Syria and Iraq by the fascist Turkish regime. The fact that the Turkish attacks on South Kurdistan constitute a breach of international law shows clearly that Turkey`s Neo-Ottoman policy is of great concern to the international community as well.

Today, only the PKK and the Kurds resist against Turkey`s huge attack on peace, democracy and freedom in the Middle East. Yet, leaving the resistance solely to the Kurds and their political and military organizations would be a huge mistake. It is a historic truth that those who remain silent in the face of fascism will eventually be targeted themselves. This is one of the major lessons humanity has learned from Hitler fascism in Germany. The German priest Martin Niemöller, who was imprisoned in concentration camps for seven years during the fascist rule in Germany, summed up the dangerous implications of silence in the face of fascism with the following words: “First they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a communist. Then they came for the socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Today, Turkey`s AKP-MHP regime follows a very similar policy to that of Hitler`s fascist rule in Germany: Its attacks are no longer only directed at the PKK and Kurds, but at the whole opposition and at everybody who voices only the smallest critique. Members of Parliament belonging to opposition parties like the CHP (Republican People`s Party) have had their immunity lifted, women face huge daily threats especially after Erdogan`s decision to leave the Istanbul Convention and critical journalists have been imprisoned by the hundreds. This has increasingly forced the Turkish opposition to take a clearer stance against Erdogan`s fascist regime thus braking its silence during earlier years when only Kurdish politicians, activists and journalists were imprisoned, tortured and killed.

Today, the EU is making the same mistake the Turkish opposition had made until recently. Because of its economic interests and its fear of refugees reaching its member states, the EU has so far avoided taking an effective stance against the fascist policy of Erdogan`s regime. A continuation of this European attitude will eventually cause the EU great harm since the logic of Turkey`s fascism will only lead to ever more demands and threats. Therefore, raising its voice against fascism and supporting the anti-fascist struggle of the Kurdish movement has today become one of the most urgent issues for the EU.

Avaşîn, Metina and Zap have today become the center of the resistance against Turkish fascism. Since the Turkish army has failed to make any significant progress in these areas, it is now planning to deploy its Islamist proxy-forces in South Kurdistan.21 The support of the Kurdish population in the affected South Kurdish areas has made it impossible for the Turkish army to advance without the help of its Islamist mercenaries. Yet, without broad international protests the threat of the establishment of a Salafist Turkish protectorate in South Kurdistan will continue. This would pose a huge danger to the historical friendship and close social fabric of the Kurds, Arabs and the various religious communities in the area. Another safe haven for Islamist proxies – like Afghanistan in the 90s or Idlib today – would also serve as a organizational center not far away from Europe. Islamists would surely try to benefit from this opportunity for their plans to carry out attacks in EU member states.

Today again, Turkey is using the fact that the PKK is listed as a terror organization by the USA and EU – despite the decision of Belgium’s supreme court in 2020 which states that the PKK cannot be considered a terror organization22 – as a pretext for its genocide against the Kurds and the attacks on the multicultural fabric in North Syria and North Iraq. It is widely accepted that the USA and EU decided to label the PKK a terrorist organization because of their own political interests and economic profits. PKK representatives have repeatedly voiced their concerns regarding this decision and have stressed that their organization follows a policy aimed at democracy and a solution to the Kurdish question. In this context, they have highlighted that the PKK has never carried out any actions against the EU or USA. Yet, the USA decided to issue a warrant for three members of the PKK leadership and has recently renewed its reward for the capture or killing of them. This decision constitutes an attack on all Kurds. It shows that the USA intends to weaken the forces of democracy and freedom in the Middle East. And it is a continuation of the international conspiracy against Abdullah Öcalan and the Kurdish Freedom Movement that began in 1999 in the Syrian capital Damascus. With its recent renewal of the warrant, the USA seeks to continue the international conspiracy in South Kurdistan. But its is exactly the PKK and its leadership who have waged a huge, internationally appraised struggle against IS in Syria and Iraq thus defending the security of the whole world. 5000 PKK guerrillas have given their lives in the anti-IS war since 2014 – especially during the defense of the city of Kobane in North Syria which found huge international support. Ever since the start of the anti-IS war, regional states and organizations, the EU and the Global Coalition Against Daesh have repeatedly thanked the PKK for its commitment, effectiveness and the huge sacrifices it has made. But the silence of some and the open support of others for Turkey`s most recent attack on South Kurdistan show that many international and regional powers are willing to fight exactly this movement. This is a dangerous policy legitimized by lies and motivated solely by selfish interests.

5. Resistance in South Kurdistan: Huge Opportunity for Promotion of Stability, Democracy and Peaceful Coexistence

International observers have been calling Erdogan`s policy23 and the AKP-MHP regime itself fascist for several years. Turkish fascism has today become a huge burden for Turkey`s society and the people living in neighboring countries – especially the Kurds. While North Kurdistan and Rojava were the focus of Turkish attacks for a long time, today South Kurdistan has become the center of the Neo-Ottoman policy of Erdogan`s regime. This has brought great harm and suffering onto the local Kurdish population and the other communities living there. At the same time, the fierce resistance of the Kurdish population and the PKK in South Kurdistan have so far made it impossible for the AKP-MHP regime to put its dream of a new Ottoman Empire into practice. With the beginning of the full-scale Turkish occupation operation on April 23 the opportunities for the anti-fascist and anti-colonial resistance against Erdogan`s policy have become even greater. This new war of Turkey and the support of international powers for it make a united struggle of all democrats, anti-fascists and anti-colonialists more necessary than ever while at the same time offering the possibility of finally bringing an end to Turkey`s fascist regime. With Erdogan`s regime gone, the democratization of Turkey will become a reality thus paving the way for freedom, equality and peace in Turkey and the Middle East. In order to make a democratic Turkey reality, all international supporters of democracy and freedom need to come together as a united democratic front and support the anti-fascist struggle of the guerrilla and the Kurdish people in South Kurdistan. Today`s resistance in Metina, Zap and Avaşîn offers great opportunities for all regional and international democratic forces to take a resolute stance against fascism and thus rid the world of a huge danger. The defeat of Erdogan and his fascist AKP-MHP regime in Metina, Zap and Avaşîn would mean the end of their rule.

With the anti-fascist resistance in South Kurdistan victorious, the peoples of Turkey and the Middle East will be allowed to breath again. A democratic Turkey and a peaceful Middle East will deal a great blow to the rising fascist forces all over the world. The time of all Erdogans, Bolsonaros and Orbans will be over. Thus, societies in Europe, the USA and many other parts of the world will directly benefit from the successful anti-fascist resistance of the guerrilla and the Kurdish people. Defeating Turkish fascism in South Kurdistan will therefore pave the way for a new international rise of democracy and freedom.

6. Immediate Measures Against the Dictator Erdogan

  • Supporting the democratic Kurdish resistance, especially that of the PKK, against the warmongering policy of Turkey
  • Ending complicity with the fascist Turkish regime`s policy of demographic change and ethnic cleansing
  • Organizing a common Kurdish and international resistance front against Erdogan`s dirty war in the Middle East, Caucasus and the Mediterranean
  • Stopping to criminalize the Kurdish resistance – the PKK – and to sacrifice the Kurdish people for short-sighted political and economic interests
  • Putting Erdogan on trial for his crimes against humanity and complicity with the IS, Al-Nusra and Al-Kaida mercenaries
  • Supporting the Kurdish project of coexistence, women liberation and democracy
  • Stopping the Turkish aggression against all ethnic and religious groups – such as Arabs, Turkmens, Kurds, Assyrians, Syriacs, Chaldeans, Armenians and Ezidis – in the Middle East
  • Bringing an end to the Turkish occupation of parts of Syria and Iraq
  • Stopping to grant Turkey permission to use the Iraqi and Syrian airspace for its attacks on the Kurdish people
  • Stopping to use the list of terror organizations as a pretext for the policy of annihilation, genocide, forced depopulation and criminalization against the Kurdish people
  • Waging a united struggle of all Kurdish institutions, parties and the people itself against the colonialist states that are occupying Kurdistan
  • Condemning Kurdish institutions, parties or individuals for any form of collaboration with the Turkish state

Full in PDF

For more information please contact: Kurdistan National Congress – KNK