The Turkish question
In 1918 Turkey having lost the war was subjected to a humiliating treaty which saw the carve up of the Ottoman Empire. However, in 1924 Turkey managed to do what no other country has ever done after a defeat in a major war and broke the treaty and drove the occupying forces out of the country and literally into the sea. The Greeks had never moved so quickly, the French were humiliated and the British too damn tired to even care. Turkey would never regain its former status but nonetheless it survived to maintain its independence free from the colonial fate of its former territories. Having retained key strategic regions within its borders such as Eastern Thrace, Alexandria and Antioch as well as some of the islands of its coast, it did however, lose the very, very important cities of Kirkuk and Mosul. As we know today rich in oil and now under Kurdish control as a part of Northern Iraq. There are over a million Turks living in Northern Iraq who have been exposed to initially terrible oppression under a Saddam Hussain regime and now by the Kurdish led government in the autonomous region. Eighty three years on and no-one has heard their voices but many of those who have stayed on to weather the storm have gradually lost their homes and businesses to a discriminatory regime that favours other Kurds. Their kin across the mountains have had little influence over their destiny as they too have had to battle with a more pressing problem. The PKK an ethnic Kurdish rebel group have for more than three decades fought a bloody campaign against the Turkish army and the people of Eastern Turkey. Over 30000 people have been killed and many innocent Turks and Kurds alike have been affected by the conflict. The rebels have been to a large extent unsuccessful although they have cost the Turkish military billions of dollars that could have been spent building the economy of Eastern Turkey thereby improving the situation of the Kurds themselves. It is an ironic tragedy.
30 000 Turkish troops who have amassed on the border with Iraq are readying themselves for an attack. The question is should Turkey violate the sovereignty of an independent state and stamp out the PKK threat? Well, the Erdogan government has a lot of pressure from all sides of politics. He is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. Turkey has been pressured by the USA to show restraint and the relationship between the two countries has been tested with the recent recommendation by a congressional committee on Armenia calling the 1915 death of thousands of Armenians as a genocide. If Turkey takes action then it jeopardizes its already tenuous relationship with Europe. If it holds back then it has the wrath of the staunchly nationalistic people with which to contend.
But what about the Turkish people? They have had to hear of their soldiers coming home in body bags and for so long the region has been destabilized by PKK rebels. The Turks are proud when it comes to their military. If they go in they could risk being alienated by the European Union which they so desperately want to be a part of and be seen as a bully state, emulating the same bully tactics as Israel did with Lebanon last year.
As much as my heart feels for the dead soldiers my pragmatism says that we should show restraint and prove to the world that we are not an Israel nor are we a USA who tramples over the dignity of other sovereign states showing no respect for innocent civilian lives. The Turkey of today is a Turkey with a glorious history, one that has always acted with compassion towards both its enemies and its allies. Turkey as one of only a few Islamic democracies in the world can behave with wisdom in dealing with its problems. In this case with perseverance and patience it can overcome its enemies within and the ones hiding in the mountains of northern Iraq. It can also demand that the Kurdish authorities take some action against the rebels who are equally illegally on Iraqi soil. I am optimistic that the Turks and the Kurds will eventually work together towards a viable solution that respects the demands of the Kurds and keeps Turkey's desire to stay as one nation intact.