Turkey, World, Analysis

West trying to undermine Turkey’s fight against PKK

This discourse that ‘Kurds are persecuted in Turkey’ is feverishly peddled to the Western public at a constant pace in order to cast a shadow on Turkey's fight against PKK terrorism

Doç. Dr. Yusuf Özkır   | 08.02.2019
West trying to undermine Turkey’s fight against PKK

By Yusuf Ozkir

The writer is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Communication in Istanbul Medipol University. He is also the publishing coordinator of the Kriter magazine.

ISTANBUL

There are several focal points of Western media's antagonism toward Turkey. One of them is based on the incitement of the Kurds in Turkey. Although Turkey's Kurds keep all such goading efforts at bay, this discourse (that "Kurds are persecuted in Turkey") is feverishly peddled to the Western public at a constant pace. In order to cast a shadow on Turkey's fight against PKK terrorism, in political speeches, at press conferences, and, as a result, in the news media, we find that all references are to "Kurds" instead of the PKK itself, and this is done in an extremely deliberate fashion.

This, despite the fact that the PKK has long been designated as a terrorist organization not only by Turkey but also by the U.S. and European states. Turkey has faced this overt distortion of basic facts throughout its three-decade fight against terrorism, including all the incidents of the last several years. That's why the anti-Turkey campaign --in regard to Kurds-- launched in the Western public opinion at the end of December and kept up through January is merely a "reheating" of a quite familiar dish with quite familiar ingredients, so to speak.

What we find in the foreground when we take a look at the actors of this black propaganda is politicians who were unsettled by the U.S. President Donald Trump's decision of withdrawal from Syria and who are now trying to have the implementation of this decision deferred. Acting in unison with them is the U.S. media primarily, and much of the Western media did not fail to join in the chorus.

This rhetoric of "Turkey's persecution of Kurds" and the efforts to have Trump's decision postponed first appeared in the news media, and then the one to carry it onto the political plain, at the end of December, to reinforce this notorious perception was Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who did that by questioning, if the U.S. were to leave the Kurds in northern Syria to their own devices, and they were massacred, "who would then help us" in the region in the future? Afterwards, it was U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who gave this perception engineering attempt an official character by declaring that the U.S. would ensure that "the Turkish military does not massacre the Kurdish militants".

We then find this rhetoric peddled in many other circles with increasing frequency. Trump's National Security Advisor John Bolton also joined in the black propaganda campaign by repeating the same statement during his Israel visit. And most recently, Donald Trump in early February bumped into to the YPG-PYD's representative Ilham Ahmed in his own hotel, and they spoke for about 15 minutes. Before we move on to Turkey's relations with Kurds and the cover-up attempts in favor of the YPG, which is nothing but the terrorist PKK's Syrian branch and lies at the heart of all this black propaganda campaign, it is important that we revisit Trump's statements about U.S. withdrawal from Syria.

'Arm wrestling' at the White House

After President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's telephone conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump on Dec. 14, the chill in the Turkish-American relations began to wear off. The two countries' mutual relations have embarked on an upward trajectory for the first time after they began to deteriorate in 2013 when the Barack Obama administration started taking increasingly adverse positions in Syria to the detriment of Turkey's national security.

And this rapprochement gave rise to something even more positive when Trump, four days after the phone conversation, stated that the U.S. would be withdrawing all its troops in Syria, using sentences carefully phrased to express acknowledgement of Turkey's national security concerns. On Dec. 19 and 20, Trump continued his statements confirming that the U.S. troops in Syria would be withdrawn.

He explained that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had given him guarantees that Turkey would be carrying out the final phase of the fight against Daesh. These statements came only a few days after Erdogan announced that Turkey would launch an operation against the PKK-YPG forces in the region carved up in the east of the Euphrates with the support of U.S. troops.

The U.S. media took a highly critical view of Trump's move, claiming that it was President Erdogan who had convinced Trump to announce U.S. withdrawal from Syria. And to follow up on these criticisms, there have been quite a few visits to the White House as well as dozens of public statements to talk Trump out of his withdrawal decision.

Then, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition, resigned to react to Trump's statement of withdrawal. Thus, the American media, the military bureaucracy and a significant portion of the political circles began to make statements against Trump, and --if we put it in the words of Kilic Bugra Kanat-- "in the center of all these statements is a strong antagonism toward Turkey."

Although the statements against Trump's decision did feature claims, such as, that the Russian and Iranian influence in Syria might intensify and that Daesh may make a comeback, they were essentially based on the blatant lie that Turkey would be "massacring the Kurds" and the emphasis that the YPG, a terrorist ally of the U.S., must not be left to its own devices against Turkey.

Support for Israel's efforts to establish hegemony

And it was in this kind of atmosphere that Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton visited Israel and made statements that further raised the level of antagonism against Turkey. Bolton's statement that Washington would ensure “the Turks don’t slaughter the Kurds” in Syria was quite remarkable from two aspects; it was part of the ongoing anti-Turkey campaign in the West, and it was made in Israel.

Given the ideological affinity between global media and pro-Israel lobbies, there should be no doubt that what is at play is a two-sided operation against Turkey. As a matter of fact, when we make a discourse analysis of Bolton's statement made in Israel, we find that it is in perfect sync with Israel's efforts at establishing a full hegemony over the region.

The only country that gave open support to the Barzani administration's independence referendum in early 2018 was Israel. Israel also openly voices its positive view of the PKK and its Syrian branch YPG. A number of Israeli ministers, and primarily Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, do not hesitate to lie to incite Kurds against Turkey at every opportunity. In addition, Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen's statement that "Iranian power is fragile. The real threat comes from Turkey" after a Jan. 8 meeting between Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, and Israel is also connected to the fiction that "there will be a massacre of Kurds", which is being peddled to the Israeli public as well.

By deepening the chaos in the region and trying to have international public to focus on other things, Israel wants to divert the attention from its own agenda of occupation. Turkey's spending its energy on the north of Syria for a long duration on the grounds that its national security is under threat most probably suits Israel's expansionist political goals. It is therefore not a coincidence at all that the Mossad chief's statement that regards Turkey as a threat came right after Bolton's statement in Israel.

Another aspect of the issue related to Israel is the fact that the Americans who objected to Trump's withdrawal decision do so by asserting that "Israel's security" is under threat. Strangely enough, it is on the one hand demanded of the U.S. that it continue to support the YPG on the grounds that Iran continues to be a threat against Israel, but on the other hand the Mossad chief shows the audacity to declare Turkey to be "the real threat", and not Iran. 

Turkey's national security

Prof. Fahrettin Altun, presidential communications director, posted a tweet following John Bolton's Ankara visit, underlining that "Turkey's national security is non-negotiable," with which he actually identified the limits of the debate. Turkey remains the only country in the region that belongs to Kurds as well and where a considerably large Kurdish population lives in prosperity.

Turkey has been fighting against the terrorist PKK and its Syrian branch the YPG-PYD. An autonomous region that is likely to emerge with U.S. support in the east of the Euphrates would constitute one of the biggest threats against Turkey's existence and future. President Erdogan has made clear dozens of times that Turkey will seek nobody's permission to intervene to destroy such a formation should it ever pose a threat to its national security.

Turkey and the U.S. have been working side by side in NATO since 1952. Certain U.S. individuals investing in non-state actors such as the PKK-YPG by completely turning a blind eye to Turkey's expectations is a violation of the rights that must be observed in an alliance.

The YPG, which the U.S. has been supporting, is a terrorist organization just like Daesh, and it has been reported by the Human Right Watch that it has been perpetrating a range of crimes from torturing and murdering civilians to forced recruitment of minors, and to forcing local populations into exile. The Kurds who have so far taken refuge in Turkey after fleeing YPG persecution numbers around 500 thousand. In addition, the YPG is rapidly continuing its campaign of depopulating and occupying so many towns previously populated by Arabs.

Efforts at deceiving Kurds not paying off

It is certain that there are many "buyers" of the propaganda that "The Kurds will be slaughtered". In this discourse, they think they have a useful argument to cast a shadow on Turkey's positive image, and also based on this discourse they are dreaming that they could spark a mass conflict by pitting Kurds against Turks.

We must remind that this baseless claim (that "Kurds are/will be massacred") in which certain Western lobbies have been investing, have not "caught on" amongst Kurdish populations; and more than that, both Turks and Kurds totally dismiss and reject all such expectations. In 2016, a similar discourse went into circulation in the West, trying to stall the Turkish military's operations against the PKK when the terrorist group declared self-rule in a number of urban centers in Turkey's southeast and then dug trenches in streets and in front of homes, and used mosques as positions. The masterminds of this discourse were seeking to engender an environment of tension and armed conflict by urging the Kurds to take to the streets. But the Kurds spiked the guns of the plotters and Turkey wiped out all terrorist nests.

Another noteworthy development that happened in the period when Turkey's operations against the PKK were at their most intense level was that the People's Alliance, established by the Justice and Development (AK) Party and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) received more votes from Kurds compared to the previous election.

When we survey the content of the increasing number of news on the PKK-PYD-YPG in the Western media, we see that all the fictional stories told by terrorists are turned into articles with no degree of scrutiny whatsoever. Although Turkey has repeatedly stated that the operation targeting the east of the Euphrates will not be against the Kurds but against PKK terrorists alone, the Western media is not moved to make the slightest change in the rhetoric used in news articles and columns. The prevalent viewpoint in the West which seeks to establish the Kurds as one and the same thing with the PKK and the YPG is being deliberately promoted in a consistent manner.

The claim that "Kurds are in the cross hair" is being peddled in the Western media and certain political circles although it is known for a fact from earlier examples that Turkey implements a military strategy on the ground in line with its repeated statements that in these operations only terrorists are targeted and not any civilians. Although Westerners do not take any lessons, as in all previous examples, this black propaganda will not be paying off, either. The simple reason is that the Turkish-Kurdish brotherhood is a deeply rooted one and the culture of living together that they inherited from the Ottoman times and their Islamic sensitivities that strongly reject any kind of racism have already created a much stronger ground for building their future together.

Translated by Omer Colakoglu


* Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency.

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