With one quarter of its inhabitants’ homes destroyed in the past year, Nusaybin is a victim of Turkey’s 33-year conflict with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The state has taken economic steps to help the town, but outreach and Kurdish rights must be improved to prevent new flare ups.
Constitutional referendum 16 April saw 51.4% of electorate approve changes that will centralise executive power in hands of president following general elections scheduled for Nov 2019. Three largest cities and most of SE voted against changes; result prompted widespread criticism among opponents and internationally over govt’s possible authoritarian direction. Allegations of electoral misconduct and evidence including video of irregularities sparked opposition criticism and protests against fraud; Supreme Election Board 19 April and Council of State 25 April rejected request by main opposition parties to annul results. Main opposition party 26 April announced decision to take bid to European Court of Human Rights. OSCE 17 April criticised “uneven playing field” in campaign and lack of transparency; Erdoğan denounced report as “politically motivated”. Govt 18 April extended state of emergency, imposed following July 2016 coup attempt, for additional three months; continued crackdown on state-christened FETÖ/PDY it blames for coup attempt, detaining over 1,000 alleged members late April. Security forces continued operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) insurgency in SE; several members of security forces killed in attacks and clashes during month, including six soldiers reportedly killed in separate operations against PKK in Şırnak 21-23 April. Suspected PKK rocket attack against ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) referendum campaign bus killed one village guard in Van’s Muradiye district 15 April. PKK senior leadership Cemil Bayık 9 April warned “war” would intensify if “Yes” campaign won referendum, adding to concerns that fighting may worsen in coming months. Govt continued crackdown on Kurdish Democratic People’s Party (HDP) representatives, arresting regional representative Fahrettin Kiraz and MP Burcu Çelik Özkan on terror charges mid-April. Two HDP MPs, Meral Danış Beştaş and Nursel Aydoğan, were released 21 April. EU-Turkey relations deteriorated further in run-up to referendum; Ankara 14 April said it would suspend EU-Turkey refugee deal if not granted visa-free travel. Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe 25 April voted to reopen monitoring procedures in Turkey. Turkish military conducted airstrikes against Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG)/PKK targets in N Syria and N Iraq 25 April, retaliated against YPG after latter launched rocket attacks on SE Hatay and Şanlıurfa provinces from areas it controls across border in Syria 25-27 April (see Syria and Iraq).
The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and its Syrian affiliates face a stark choice: risk their gains in northern Syria through continued prioritisation of the PKK's fight against Turkey, or pursue local self-rule in the area they have carved out of the chaos of the Syrian war.
New frictions in Iraq and Syria threaten Ankara and Tehran’s usually peaceful management of their Middle East rivalries. To rebuild trust and avert open conflict, they should coordinate de-escalation, exchange intelligence and designate representatives to open a new channel between their leaders.
Turkey is under growing pressure from nearly three million Syrian refugees. To mitigate domestic tensions and spillover from regional conflicts, Ankara needs to develop, and find support for, new policies that open refugees’ routes to jobs, education and permanent legal status.
Around 900 people, including 350 members of the security forces, have been killed in fighting since peace talks broke down last July between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Turkey. As insurgents mix with civilians and rights are violated, some of the worst affected are ordinary people like those in south-eastern Diyarbakır’s district of Sur.
New clashes between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have deepened the country’s social cleavages, killed hundreds, and helped the Islamic State. Neither side can win militarily. To end the conflict, Turkey needs more than just a new ceasefire: a clearly defined peace process and, in parallel, a reform agenda addressing Kurdish rights.
Regardless of their actual views on the constitutional changes, Erdoğan's supporters feel the need to support him after the coup.
There is no durable military solution to Turkey's PKK conflict. Peace talks between Ankara and the PKK are the only way forward for a durable solution.
Turkey has always set the Euphrates as a red line [for Kurdish forces in Syria]. The problem is it will be a huge gamble to really do that with US, Russia and YPG, who are a proficient fighting force.
Both because of the Syria theater and domestic politics, it doesn’t look like either [Turkey or Kurdish militants] are going to be willing to seek an alternative route in the foreseeable future.
President Erdoğan has long seen himself as a natural ally of the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the Middle East. Any action against the Muslim Brotherhood he saw as a threat to himself.
The fighting in the southeast, which reignited in July 2015, has killed 1,761 people, according to new figures released by the International Crisis Group.
Directly arming one mainly Kurdish faction in Syria makes U.S. partly responsible for the fate of Syria’s Kurds. Given Ankara’s bitter opposition to the group, Washington should push its Kurdish partner to focus on regional autonomy in Syria, not its insurgency in Turkey.
Originally published in Middle East Eye
On top of major challenges, including the spillover from the war in Syria, Islamic State terrorism and increasingly heavy-handed governance, Turkey's conflict with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) also reignited last year. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2017 annual early-warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to increase efforts toward two related objectives: improving relations with Ankara and finding a political end to the PKK conflict.
Originally published in The New York Times
The journey from the best to the worst of days in recent Turkish geopolitics was partly determined by a deteriorating diplomatic context. Our Director of Communications & Outreach Hugh Pope looks back on two decades of change in a keynote speech for the Dutch Peace Research Foundation’s annual prizes for best new MA theses on peace.