PKK leader: Turkey's failed coup and the Kurdish question

July 19, 2016

[The following opinion piece was written by Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) Executive Committee member and founder Duran Kalkan on July 17. It can be read as the official stance of the PKK regarding the failed coup attempt in Turkey.]

The long suspected coup attempt finally arrived on the evening of July 15 and continued till the next day. A group within the Turkish army attempted a coup against Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling party AKP. Warplanes and helicopters bombed primary landmarks, the parliament, presidential palace, the National Intelligence Service (MIT) and various police headquarters. The hotel Erdoğan was staying in was also bombed once he had vacated the premises.

Although the coup is yet to be completely eliminated, it is more than apparent that the coup has failed and the situation has become dominated by the AKP government.

The coup's failure did not only come about due to the AKP's resistance. Opposition parties – CHP, MHP and HDP – all civil society institutions, the press and society itself stood against the military coup and resisted it. An extraordinary parliamentary meeting on 16 July made a stand against the coup and gained control over the situation.

Current results show the coup attempt has had more than significant consequences. The death toll is near 300 with 161 civilians killed. Approximately 1500 people have been wounded and over 3000 arrested (this figure has gone up since).

It appears after fleeing his location at a hotel in Marmaris, Turkish president Erdoğan was held in the air for a few hours upon receiving prior notice about top ranking members of the military, including the army chief of staff, being held hostage by the putschists.

It seems, the chief of the September 12, 1980 military coup, Kenan Evren's famous praising of the Turkish army about knowing how “to make a successful coup” was a complete failure on this occasion.

The coup attempt was not conducted from the top of the military command and was not based on the chain of command. The highest-ranking officer to be arrested so far is the 2. Military Commander. The majority of the putschists appear to be from the air force.

Erdoğan and the AKP are accusing the “parallel structure” for the coup attempt and saying it is “terrorism”. In other words they are accusing Islamist cleric Fethullah Gülen, currently living in exile in the U.S, and his supporters of being responsible for the coup. Whether this claim is true is not yet confirmed. However it is most likely that the coup-plotters are a small, but ideologically unified group.

The vast majority of public opinion in Turkey opposed the coup and condemned it. It is meaningful and understandable that a society, which has suffered heavily due to coups in 1960, 1971 and 1980 acts like this. International public opinion also stood by the elected government and against the coup. The Kurdish population living under daily military persecution uniformly opposed the military coup and showed that they are against all forms of military intervention.

Currently there are ongoing discussions about the coup attempt and this will continue for a very long time. Some commentators have said the coup is connected to next months Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) meeting. It is claimed that individuals who were going to be discharged from the military carried out the coup. Others are adding that the coup was a pre-emptive strike by this group, who were going to be arrested in an internal operation.

These assessments and assumptions may have some validity. But there are limitations to this way of thinking. Turkey is a country, which has serious problems regarding its democracy, in particular regarding the Kurdish question. Since July 24, 2015, the Republic of Turkey and the AKP government have waged a full-scale war against the Kurdish Freedom Movement and the Kurdish people.

Analysing the coup attempt without taking this into account is not possible. In brief, this coup took place in a state, which for the past year has been constantly carrying out brutal attacks, most of which are war crimes, against the Kurdish people.

The Turkish Army, which the putschist group was born out of, has been fighting the biggest war of its 95-year history and carrying out genocidal attacks against the Kurds. Therefore, the coup attempt grew out of an army that is currently waging a very unjust war against innocent people.

Therefore it is not possible to assess the coup without taking into account the war and massacres in Kurdistan. In this sense it is significant that the putschist group called themselves the 'Turkish Peace at Home Council'.

Although we cannot know how peaceful they are or would have been, we do know that they were part of an army that is massacring people in Kurdistan. Furthermore the leaders were part of an air force that is bombing Kurdistan's mountains, Nusaybin city centre and even Kurds' cemeteries. It is right in this sense for us to be sceptical. The fact that their statement did not arouse enough attention in the media is also a cause of uncertainty.

Even though it is not exactly clear what they wanted to do, we do know how they wanted to do it. They are a putschist group and we know that democracy does not flower from military coups. Therein it is understandable why revolutionaries and democrats were the first to reject the coup and in a consistent manner. It was only revolutionaries and democrats who argued the country's problems could not be solved with a coup but with a democratic revolution and democratisation.

Of course, every military coup is bad and reactionary. Therefore standing against the coup, requires that the conditions which brought about the coup be changed. Although the AKP is demonising the putschists, they do not want to change the conditions which made the coup possible. Military coups usually arise in places where there is a deficiency in democracy and dictatorship. Thus the attempted coup is proof that the Erdoğan and AKP administration is not democratic but a dictatorship. Therefore, until the Erdoğan and AKP dictatorship is surpassed, a true democracy in Turkey is not possible, leaving the possibility of military coups constantly on the agenda.

What makes the the Turkish Republic a dictatorship and takes the Erdoğan-AKP administration, despite all its protestation, down this path, is its policies of genocide and denial against the Kurdish people. In other words it is the Kurdish question that was created by Turkish nation-state fascism. If we look carefully we can see that the coup occurred exactly a year after Erdoğan said, “there is no Kurdish issue/question,” and sent the military to burn and raze to the ground Kurdish areas like Sur and Cizre. So, as long as the enmity and policies against Kurds continues, the possibility of military coups will also continue.

So what is the solution?

It cannot be any clearer; a democratic resolution of the Kurdish question, with recognition of all Kurds' national-democratic rights, is needed. The change in mentality and politics that will bring this about will also make Turkey a real democracy. A truly democratic Turkey will mean an end to military coups. There is no other way of preventing another coup. Having defeated it today does not save the country from possible future coups.

So, while it is important that the recent coup was defeated, it is more important to democratise and change the conditions to prevent another one. This means turning the anti-coup alliance into an alliance and practice that can realise democratisation, which in turn means that the AKP must surpass its anti-Kurdish and dictatorial mindset.

The Kurds have always said they are ready for democratisation. The HDP and Kurdish people have displayed a clear attitude against the coup. Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan warned the AKP government of a coup 15 months ago and stated that the Kurdish people were ready for a democratic solution to the Kurdish question. If the internal and external reactions against the coup are really sincere then they must pressure the AKP for democratisation. After all, a democratic Turkey is good for everyone except a handful of fascist mobs.

[Translation reprinted from Kurdish Question.]

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