News / Middle East

Tension Escalates Between Turkey and Kurds

Flames are seen in a street after a blast killed several people and injured others, in central Ankara, Turkey, September 20, 2011.
Flames are seen in a street after a blast killed several people and injured others, in central Ankara, Turkey, September 20, 2011.
Dorian Jones

Turkey is continuing to amass soldiers on the Iraqi border ahead of an expected incursion against bases of the Kurdish rebel group, the PKK. Violence has been escalating between the rebels, fighting for greater minority rights, and the Turkish armed forces. An explosion Tuesday in the capital, Ankara, that killed several people has been blamed by the government on the PKK.

Tuesday's explosion brought havoc to the Turkish capital, Ankara, as it damaged cars and shops near government buildings and a school.  The government says the chief suspect is the PKK, which seeks autonomy in southeastern Turkey.  

The response by the Turkish armed forces was swift, bombing rebel bases in the Kandil mountains in neighboring northern Iraq. For the last month, the region has been under sustained bombing by Turkish jets. The PKK has struck back in numerous fatal attacks inside Turkey in the last few weeks. The conflict is set to escalate even further if there is a major land incursion against the PKK bases in northern Iraq.

Bahcesehir University political scientist Cengiz Aktar said: "If we follow the governmental rhetoric, [a] cross-border operation is more likely.  The problem is that the Turkish conflict did not start in the Kandil mountains. It did not start with the PKK. It's a hundreds-year-old problem, and it could be solved only at [the] negotiation table."

Thousands of Turkish soldiers already are gathered on the Iraqi border. Ankara has launched dozens of cross-border operations in the past, trying to strike at Kurdish PKK bases inside Iraq, to little effect. But this time, the government also is putting diplomacy to work.  

Senior diplomats have been courting Iraqi Kurds for cooperation. Ankara has in the past few years markedly improved relations with the Iraqi Kurdish leadership. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to visit Tehran in the next week to lobby for neighboring Iran's support.  

Turkish parliamentary deputy Ertugral Kurkcu of the pro-Kurdish BDP party warns that the government would be making a fatal mistake if it carries out any cross-border operation.

"The basic demand of the population is not met. Weapons cannot counterpose demands for identity. Therefore, escalation in violence is going to increase violence in every corner of the country," said Kurkcu.

However, Soli Ozel, political columnist for the Turkish daily newspaper Haberturk, said the government, which has committed itself to introducing pro-Kurdish reforms, will be looking to undermine Kurdish support for the PKK by exploiting their weariness with the conflict, which has raged for nearly three decades.

"The government is banking on the fatigue of the Kurdish population of the violence of the PKK, and there is enough indication that we've seen in the country, Kurd and Turk, basically [crying] out 'we no longer want to see violence,' that they are sick and tired of it," said Ozel.

But political scientist Aktar warned that the rising PKK violence may be only a taste of what could follow an escalation in the conflict by the government.

"It will put more oil on the fire. Very harsh terrorist action in the cities and towns in the country. This has very strong power to destabilize the government and the country," he said.

Observers say any military incursion into Iraq likely would occur in the next few weeks, before the onset of the harsh winter. The size and magnitude of any potential incursion is now seen as critical to determining the direction of a conflict that has seen more than 40,000 people killed since the PKK took up arms in 1984.

You May Like

Pakistan Among Developing Countries Hit Hard by Global Warming

Pakistani officials hope developed nations agree to scale back emissions, offer help in dealing with climate change

Video Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes

Speed is critical in effort to prevent subsequent attacks; demographics of extremists lend themselves to communicating, establishing profiles on digital platforms

Islamic State Oil Trade Seduces Friends, Foes Alike

Terrorist group rakes in up to $500 million a year in sales to customers such as Syrian government, US-supported rebels and Turkey

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs