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Turkey's turmoil threatens to derail elections


Turkey's turmoil threatens to derail elections


Turkish police have blocked senior Kurdish politicians from marching to a town under a week-long curfew.

Led by the co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, Selahattin Demirtas, the group claim the government’s move has triggered a humanitarian crisis and that violence has claimed the lives of up to 30 people.

Cizre, near Turkey’s border with Syria and Iraq, has become a flashpoint in two months of deepening violence.

Hundreds have died since PKK militants and the state resumed hostilities following the collapse of a ceasefire in July.

Pro-Kurdish MPs say civilians in the town are in a dire situation, with the dead going unburied and food and water running short.

Critics have accused the ruling AK Party of using the bloodshed to whip up nationalist sentiment ahead of November’s election which both sides are now questioning whether a fair contest can take place.

Bahtiyar Küçük, euronews: “The peace process between the Turkish government and the PKK began two years ago and has taken on increasing importance. Violence almost stopped with the cease-fire. Now we have returned to brutal frontline conflict. To discuss the latest events in Turkey we are joined by Atilla Sandikli, of the Bilgesam think tank. The peace process was suspended after the legislative elections of June because violence resumed. What has changed in such a short time?”

Atilla Sandikli, retired military officer, terrorism expert: “Throughout the peace process, the state made democratic and socio-cultural progress. In line with both sides’ good relations, with the start of the process, the terrorist organisation PKK was supposed to pull its forces out of the mountains, towards the interior of Turkey. What’s more, this military force went to the aid of another arm of the PKK, which is its new structure in cities, called the KCK. It brought weapons and explosives into Turkey from abroad.”

“For the first time in history, a pro-Kurdish party entered parliament, having won as many seats as Turkish nationalists. Why did the PKK start committing terrorist acts again, in this context?”

Sandikli: “Turkey saw the solution as reinforcing local governments, along European guidelines. But looking at the PKK’s goals for the KCK, we realise it had a different structure in mind for its own security forces, building its own autonomous state, and even building a confederal structure to integrate with the Kurds of other regions. To get that regional autonomy, it threatened people through different conflicts, and right now it is pressing ahead with those conflicts.”

euronews: “Turkey is fighting the PKK at the same time as Daesh (ISIL). The region has been destablised for a while. How do you interpret the rise in tension between the Turkish army and the PKK in the framework of the present crisis?”

Sandikli: “Turkey is not the only country in conflict with Daesh (ISIL). The Democratic Union Party, PYD, is also in conflict with that terrorist organisation. Furthermore, ISIL’s increasing strength in Syria and Iraq won the PKK international legitimacy. In addition, the PYD has established the conditions in the north of Syria that are necessary for building an autonomous state. The only target left for the KCK was Turkey. That’s why it has stepped up its attacks.”

euronews: “The IRA and ETA disarmed; might this crisis in Turkey be solved politically?”

Sandikli: “Ever since 2013, in the framework of the peace process, we thought it would be possible to find a political solution for this problem in Turkey. But in spite of an environment for preparing for and maintaining peace, the PKK kept on preparing for war, sending its armed troops to urban centres. Military structures began forming in cities. While the PKK isolated some people and kidnapped others, the Turkish government carried out no military operations — for the sole reason that we didn’t want the peace process to end in failure.”

euronews: “What will it take to end the tension and violence?”

Sandikli: “As a follow-up to operations already carried out, boosting security measures and sending reinforcements to the region, we are going to see a fast rise in PKK casualties, limiting their logistical abilities and gradually their structures in the cities. After a while they are going to lose their capacity to take the initiative in action.”

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