The indiscriminate bombing of a territory to destroy the people living in it. That seems to be the premise of the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. And that premise was confirmed last June 15, when the Ankara government ordered a massive bombing of Bashur (Iraqi Kurdistan, northern Iraq), which targeted the Makhmur refugee camp – where 15 000 people live, most of whom escaped persecution in Turkey in the 1990s, the Yezidi region of Shengal – one of the regions most severely hit by the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2014 – and the Qandil Mountains – where the People’s Defense Force (HPG), one of the armed arms of the Kurdistan Liberation Movement, has its bases.
A few hours later, Turkey stepped up air attacks and deployed troops to the Heftanin area on the border. The response of the HPG was quick and the fighting between the invading forces and the guerrillas continues to this day. According to the information provided by the insurgency, dozens of Turkish soldiers were killed and at least five guerrillas were killed.
Turkey’s bombing of Bashur is nothing new. In the last few years, Turkish aviation has been carrying out periodic attacks against the region, in the face of the silence of the U.S., Russia, the central government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which emerged after the U.S. invasion in 2003 and is controlled by the Kurdish bourgeois-controlled Democratic Party of Kurdistan (KDP).
The plan drawn up by Erdogan’s government for the Kurdish people is clear, although it may sound exaggerated: their total extermination (especially their resistance organizations) and the annexation by force of the territories they inhabit. In both Bashur and Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan), Turkey controls territorial portions, which were illegally occupied by regular military forces or mercenary groups. In the case of Rojava, that occupation has been in place in the Kurdish canton of Afrin since 2018, and in the 150-kilometre strip between the cities of Serekaniye and Gire Sipe. In those areas, the methodology deployed by the Turkish State is simple: massive air bombardments, the subsequent occupation through allied mercenary groups, the forced expulsion of the original population, the systematic theft and abduction of property and natural resources, the kidnapping of people (for which they ask millions of dollars in ransom), the systematic oppression of women, sending Turkish officials who impose on administrative institutions, and the de facto annexation of the occupied territories.
Turkey’s current attacks on Bashur and Rojava are combined with strong internal repression in Bakur (Turkish Kurdistan, southeast of the country). The government’s target is the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which brings together Kurds and sectors of the left and progressives, as well as ethnic minorities. For several years, the HDP has been permanently beaten by Erdogan. In recent months, the government has stepped up interventions by HDP-run municipalities, imprisoning Kurdish co-mayors and replacing them with Ankara officials.
For its part, in recent weeks Iran launched a military offensive against the Eastern Kurdistan Defence Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Rojhilata Kurdistan, YRK), at the same time as Turkey bombed Bashur.
On June 23, Turkey bombed the area around the town of Kobane, in Rojava, killing Zehra Berkel, Hebûn Mele Xelîl and Amina Waysî, members of the Kongreya Star, the main women’s organization in northern and eastern Syria. The elimination of Kurdish women, mostly linked to the process of social change and resistance throughout Kurdistan, is one of Erdogan’s greatest obsessions.
On Wednesday, the Kongreya Star sent a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and members of the UN Security Council denouncing the critical situation of women due to the Turkish invasion. In the text, from the organization they remarked: “We have been suffering, continuously and more than ever, the crimes of the Turkish state government and those loyal to and supported by it. These crimes continue to be perpetuated even after the calls made by most international institutions for a general ceasefire in the world. These calls are especially applicable in areas of active conflict to address the spread of the coronavirus. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), for their part, have accepted these calls.
Meanwhile, the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) issued a statement last Sunday denouncing that the Erdogan government seeks to “occupy the territory of the Ottoman Empire and bring it under its rule. “His army’s attacks on Syria, Iraq and Libya also threaten all other Arab countries,” added the main organization of the Kurdistan Liberation Movement. The ambition to occupy other countries, inherited from the Ottomans and their domination, has become the fundamental character of Turkish state policy”. The KCK warned that where Turkey occupies territory, “it raises the flag, establishes Turkish schools and organizes the police and security forces under its command. In Syria, it is even introducing its own currency, thus preparing the ground for annexation. The Islamist cover and the proclamations of a supposed fight against terrorism are intended to hide the attacks aimed at occupation and annexation”.
With this new military advance of Turkey, it is clear that, beyond differences or nuances, the states occupying the four parts of Kurdistan always come to an agreement when it comes to punishing the Kurdish people. In this case, they also have the blessing of the U.S. (which maintains tight control over Iraqi airspace) and Russia (which maintains such control over Syrian skies). The other great ally of Turkey and its allies is international silence. The attacks on Bashur were met with scant condemnation from the Arab League and rather “formal” statements of repudiation from the Baghdad government and the RKG.
Since the beginning of the Turkish operation “Eagle Claw” against Bashur, thousands of people throughout Kurdistan and Europe have been mobilized to denounce the attacks, the killing of civilians and the attempts to occupy Ankara. For the Kurds, as they well know, the resistance is not only reflected in their guerrilla forces, but in a solidarity that is growing every day, even if the big media refuse to broadcast it.