Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Nero's Fiddle

Since I wrote that last article, my predictions have unfortunately come more or less true. The Turkish state is currently in a de facto civil war in the South East, literally razing whole sections of cities to the ground, and appears to be creeping ever closer to a full-scale ground invasion of Northern Syria. I cannot emphasise too strongly how dangerous this situation is on a global scale, as the potential for all-out conflict between Turkey and Russia also risks drawing in NATO.

Russo-Turkic wars have never ended well.

But WHY is it happening? What is the Turkish government playing at? After all, it could sit to one side, halt all border movement towards Syria, wait for the outcome and play the Peace Broker card: It could genuinely make a difference, and help create stability, across the entire region. Just four years ago, it was in a position where it could have done this, yet the opportunity, and others like it, have slipped by one by one.

And why? For such a complicated issue, there is a single easy answer. His name is Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of the Turkish republic.

Now, I'm not usually one for pointing the finger of blame at a single person and saying that any given situation is all their fault, but in this case, I think I comfortably can. Erdogan will do anything whatsoever to hold on to power, and the fact that he wasn't able to get more control over the country last year has had a profound effect on the state's actions ever since.

In a nutshell, the ruling AKP did not achieve enough seats in last May's General Election to push through a constitutional reform that would have effectively made Erdogan President for Life. The pro-Kurdish HDP, in the meantime, received more than 10% of the votes, meaning it could be represented in parliament. Very briefly, there was hope that Turkey was on the verge of a new kind of democratic participation.

And then Erdogan, in effect, restarted the civil war with the PKK. I should point out that the AKP were instrumental, several years ago, in bringing about a ceasefire and had actually increased the rights of Kurds, including crucial concessions on the official use of Kurdish. The decades-long conflict had abated, and there was a very clear consensus on trying to find a peaceful solution. Unfortunately, this idea was sacrificed to Erdogan's personal aims: keep power at any cost. By starting the war again, he was able to represent himself as a defender of Turkish rights and, in a snap election later in the year, the AKP gained a majority in parliament once more.

It gets nastier. Since then, the HDP have had offices firebombed, their representatives attacked, arrested and imprisoned, and labelled 'terrorists'. And that label has now been applied to journalists (who have always been the target of arrest in Erdogan's Turkey), lawyers, academics and even medical staff, in fact, anyone who says anything remotely critical of him. The entire state is being pulled down in the name of one man.

Rather similar, in fact, to the situation with Vladimir Putin in Russia.

The situation in some parts of Turkey is distressing. Photos from Cizre and Diyarbakir look as if there were shot in Homs or Aleppo, and last week in the former, an estimated 100 people were reported to have been burnt alive by the military. On its borders, it's no better: The army is shelling positions held by the Kurds as they fight ISIS and the Syrian Army. The reason for this is to prevent a de facto Kurdish state developing between northern Iraq and the Mediterranean. The AKP would prefer to deal with (and I know this takes some believing) ISIS: It's been clearly established that the government has been supplying arms to the group.

And all this misery comes down to a single man and his single quest for singular control. By playing with fire, Erdogan could end up burning the whole country. The thing is, he gives the impression of not caring if this happens - he'd rather be sultan of a kingdom of ashes than no sultan at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment