Solidarity needed amid ongoing Turkish war on the Kurds

July 2, 2020
Sydney protest against Turkey's war on the Kurds in June. Photo: Green Left

On the night of June 14, Turkish planes bombed numerous locations in northern Iraq. Targets included the Makhmur refugee camp, inhabited by Kurdish refugees from Turkey, and the town of Sinjar, inhabited by members of the Yazidi religious minority, who survived a genocidal attack by Islamic State (ISIS) in 2014.

This wave of bombings was yet another episode in Turkey's war against the Kurdish people.

Turkey treats its own Kurdish population as second-class citizens. There is a long history of genocidal massacres.

Discrimination against Kurds led to the formation of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a guerrilla war since 1984. Initially, the PKK demanded an independent Kurdish state, but it now demands autonomy and equal rights for Kurds within Turkey.

Turkey represses peaceful dissent by Kurds and supporters of Kurdish rights. Tens of thousands of people have been jailed, including members of parliament belonging to the Peoples Democratic Party (HDP). Elected mayors belonging to the HDP have been sacked by Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s regime and replaced by government appointees.

However, Turkey's war against the Kurdish people is not confined to its own borders. Turkish armed forces have bombed, invaded and occupied parts of Syria and Iraq inhabited by Kurds.


In 2011, protests broke out across Syria against the Bashar al-Assad dictatorship. Some protestors took up arms in an attempt to overthrow the regime.

Turkey supported some rebel groups, but mainly those that were hostile to Kurdish rights. Some of these groups became proxies for Turkey's anti-Kurdish and anti-democratic policy in Syria.

In July 2012, a democratic revolution began in three predominantly Kurdish areas of northern Syria, known collectively as Rojava. Later, the revolution spread to nearby predominantly Arab areas.

Turkish-backed groups attacked Rojava and the broader revolutionary movement.

In August 2016, Turkish troops crossed into Syria at the town of Jarablus, accompanied by proxy groups. Their aim was to prevent further advances by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which had recently liberated the town of Manbij from ISIS.

In January 2018, Turkish troops invaded Afrin, a predominantly Kurdish area of northern Syria.

In October 2019, Turkish troops occupied a strip of land between the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn in north-eastern Syria.

These incursions were all aimed at weakening, and if possible crushing, the Kurdish-led revolutionary process in northern Syria. Turkey continues bombarding the areas that remain under the control of the SDF.

Turkey has also sent troops into Idlib province in north-western Syria. This was done as part of an agreement with the Assad regime. The Turkish troops were meant to supervise a ceasefire between the regime and Turkish-backed rebels. The ceasefire has repeatedly broken down, and the regime has recaptured much of the province, but Turkish troops remain in Idlib.


The Turkish air force has been bombing the Qandil mountains of northern Iraq for many years. Turkish troops have periodically entered the area in an attempt to crush the PKK guerrillas who have bases there.

The bombing raids and troop incursions affect not only the PKK, but also the civilian population, causing death and destruction in the villages.

Turkish troops have established numerous bases in northern Iraq. Turkish leaders have spoken of the need for a 35-40km-deep "buffer zone" along the border.

The Kurdistan Region of Iraq has autonomous status. However, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has a conservative leadership that is hostile to the PKK. The KRG has effectively given a green light to the Turkish invasion of parts of northern Iraq. There have been numerous protests by Kurdistan Region residents, demanding that their government oppose Turkish aggression, but up to now, the KRG has not changed its policy.

The United States, which controls the air space over the Kurdistan Region, has also done nothing to stop the Turkish attacks. It has thus given NATO ally Turkey the green light to invade.

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