By H. Hasan
To consolidate his powers at a time when domestic politics in Turkey and international trends seem to favor leaders in his autocratic style, Turkey’ s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday 18th April called for both presidential and parliamentary elections for June 24, almost a year and a half earlier than scheduled, saying the situation in Syria and Iraq, as well as economic stability, demanded it at a time when Turkey is facing “uncertainties”.
Erdogan also mentioned his bloody campaign against the Kurds in the Syrian enclave of Afrin that has stirred nationalist and Islamist sentiment in Turkey and bolstered his popularity. However, Russia might soon force Turkey to pull out of Afrin, so he wants to move forward before the negative news on Afrin and the economy start coming in.
Minutes later, the Turkish Parliament approved extending the state of emergency -which has been in effect since the alleged coup -for another three months, using the extended powers under emergency rule to crack down on political opponents accused of dissent and terrorism. The speed of the approaching snap elections caught his opponents by surprise as they were taken off guard .
Despite 7 percent growth in the last quarter of 2017, there are signs that the economy is faltering. Inflation remains persistently high and Turkish lira is plummeting to historic laws day by day.
After his razor-thin victory in last year’s controversial referendum, when he was defeated in Turkey’s four largest cities, Istanbul, Ankara , Diyarbakir and Izmir , the constitutional changes to create a new presidential system were agreed . Erdogan only barely won with a 51 percent yes vote, versus 49 percent who voted no. Thus, his attempt to reassert his plenipotentiary powers as an absolute executive whose power and authority cannot be challenged or checked were virtually achieved. But it was just the beginning. The paranoic president is ferociously pursuing his imperial ambitions to achieve his monomaniacal goals in resurrecting his Ottoman Empire with him at the helm as a Sultan.
THE AMBITIOUS SULTAN OR THE HITLER OF ANATOLIA ?
Think of an Anatolian version of Adolf Hitler and you’ll begin to get the idea. Erdogan’s insatiable lust for power knows no bounds. This aspiring despot’s ambition is nothing less than to be a modern-day Sultan or a new Caliph of the faithful. He has been serving first as prime minister and now president for 16 years. Nevertheless, his hunger for absolute power seems to have no limits, prompting him to take extraordinary and systematic measures to neutralize any source that challenges him, including the judiciary, press, opposition parties, military, and academia.
He uses scare tactics to silence his detractors, and provides economic assistance and other incentives to his extreme Islamist cronies .
AN OPPORTUNIST MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD IDEOLOGIST
Turkey under Erdogan is seeking hegemony to expand its influence in the Middle East and beyond by using Muslim Brotherhood ideology like a Trojan Horse to interfere in other countries issues. He skilfully uses Islam as a tool to further promote his political ambition. When Erdogan became mayor of Istanbul in 1994, he stood as a candidate for the pro-Islamist Welfare Party. He went to jail for 4 months in 1999 for religious incitement after he publicly read a nationalist poem including the lines: “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers.”
THE ALLEGED COUP CAME AS A GIFT FROM GOD
Toda ,Turkey’s regime locks up more journalists than any other government on Earth. For Erdogan, the last coup attempt was a “gift from God” that gave him the license to purge any individual or organization perceived to be his foe. Tens of thousands have been jailed, accused of links to Fethullah Gulen, the Islamist cleric accused of masterminding the coup, or to other designated “terrorist” organizations. Immediately following the military coup Erdogan enacted a state of emergency that allowed the government to rule by decree to fire and arrest public employees at will.
Nearly 200 thousand public servants and army officers have been purged so far. For example, on 16July2016 just one day after the coup was foiled, 2,745 judges were dismissed and detained. This was followed by the dismissal, detention or suspension of over 100,000 officials.
It appeared Turkey’s government had prepared arrest lists of political opponents before the coup attempt and had been waiting for the right time to pounce on them.
The post-coup emergency state allowed a turn against Kurdish groups, most notably with the dismissal of about 12000 Kurdish teachers and all HDP elected mayors in late 2016.
Back in May 2016, he had pressed the Turkish parliament to approve a bill stripping MPs of immunity from prosecution so that he could stifle his political opponents. This was widely perceived as an assault against minority Kurdish MPs who could be linked by the government to ‘terror activities’ and subjected to prosecution.”
THE KURDS ARE HIS INFERIORITY COMPLEX
If we look back at parliamentary elections of June2015 when, Erdogan’s Islamist-leaning Justice and Development Party, the AKP, lost its governing majority for the first time since 2000, we will better understand this man’s tactics. For Erdogan, the result was intolerable and could not be allowed to stand.
GOING ON THE WARPATH WITH THE KURDS
Alarmingly, the strategy that Erdogan appeared to have settled on was some version of the old Leninist adage, ‘the worse, the better.’ By allowing instability and conflict to spread in the elections aftermath, Erdogan seemed to be betting that he could force Turkish voters to realize the error of their ways and reconsider their decision to turn their backs on AKP hegemony. Within a matter of weeks, all hell broke loose. No government could be formed. The value of Turkey’s currency plummeted to historic lows, the threat of economic collapse rose and the Turkish army renewed its war with the Kurds. Indeed, Erdogan had more or less explicitly said that all of these dangers would have been avoided if only the Turkish public had chosen more wisely in the June 2015 elections. If a political party had managed to secure 400 deputies or a number that could change the Constitution ‘ he had admonished, the situation today would have been very different.’ In other words: If you wanted to have any hope of ending the surging political, economic, and security chaos, you needed to go back to the polls on Nov. 1, 2015 to restore the AKP majority, and support an empowered presidency with Erdogan at the helm.
Erdogan went on warpath with the Kurds to confront all potentially existential threats to his presidential throne. This is a political war if ever there was one, ginned up by Erdogan to salvage his political fortunes and advance his despotic agenda.
When appearing to make peace with the Kurds had failed to serve his broader political goals, Erdogan banked on the hope that making war on the Kurds and the whiff of fascism will do so.
Inside Turkey blood has been flowing ever since Erdogan renewed his war on the PKK to secure an absolute majority in last parliamentary elections putting at risk civil order, national security, and even Turkey’s territorial integrity. Dozen cities in the south east were destroyed and their nearly one million inhabitants left homeless. The cynicism behind Erdogan’s calculation to launch a full-scale war against the PKK was stunning. The biggest reason that the AKP lost its parliamentary majority in June was the fact that a pro-Kurdish party with ties to the PKK, the People’s Democratic Party, or HDP, had succeeded in crossing Turkey’s 10 percent electoral threshold for the first time, leaving it with 80 seats. And the key to the HDP’s success was its ability to win over large numbers of conservative and religious Kurds who had previously supported the AKP in Turkey’s southeast.
Following June 15th 2015 parliamentary elections there were repeated terrorist attacks against HDP and its supporters and the regime was fully responsible for fueling: such as in the town of Suruç – just across the Turkish border – where 33 Kurdish socialists were killed in July 2015; or when 109 died in a bomb attack on a pro-Kurdish peace rally in Ankara in October 2015.
Erdogan was clearly determined to do whatever he could to suppress HDP’s vote back below the 10 percent threshold in order to keep it out of parliament entirely.
In the wake of Erdogan’s incitement, mobs led by AKP sympathizers attacked and burned hundreds of HDP offices and the number of assaults against ordinary Kurds also skyrocketed, some of them lethal in nature. Aiding that effort were the Turkish army’s intensified offensive measures across Turkey’s southeast which drove down Kurdish turnout on election day and that goal was achieved as HDP,s parliamentary seats went down to 54 in November 2015 elections.
MIDDLE EAST’S SPARTANS
The Kurdish groups have proved themselves politically responsible, administering their territories in the chaotic setting of post-2011 civil war Syria. And militarily, YPG and YPJ (People’s Protection and Women’s Protection Units) seemed to have turned into the Middle East’s equivalent of the Spartans, during the autumn of 2014, in the battle of Kobane, which history will view as the moment the tide turned against IS, which had, until them, seemed virtually unstoppable.
Erdogan himself was seen promising Syrian refugees in Kilis camp that Kobani would fall. When Kobane’s defenders won, it was widely hailed as the closest one can come, in the contemporary world, to a clear confrontation of good against evil.
Then, as the core of the Syrian Democratic Forces, SDF, -they rolled back Isis village by village, not only across the north-east of Syria, but also down the border with Iraq as far south as Deir ez-Zor province. Working with western, and especially US, military forces, the Kurds gained experience and skills that bolstered their already fearsome standing.
In fact, they were the only forces in Syria willing to take the battle to the heartland of Islamic State, losing thousands of combatants in the battle for its capital, Raqqa.
THE PERFIDIOUS INVASION OF AFRIN
Turkey is persistently hostile towards Rojava. Turkey’s policy towards Rojava is based on an economic blockade, persistent attempts of international isolation, opposition to the cooperation of the international Anti-ISIL-coalition with Rojava’s SDF and support of Islamist Syrian Civil War factions hostile towards Rojava, even including ISIL.
Erdogan knows perfectly well that Rojava doesn’t threaten Turkey militarily. It threatens him by providing an alternative vision of what life in the region could be like. Turkey had on several occasions also been militarily attacking Rojava territory and defense forces before the invasion of Afrin. In Afrin, which was defended by the same YPG/YPJ, who defended Kobane, exactly the same scenario of Kobane happened again. Except this time, world powers were firmly on the side of the evil .
In a bizarre twist, the aggressors managed to convince key world leaders and public opinion-makers that Kobane’s defenders were “terrorists” because they embraced a radical version of ecology, democracy and women’s rights.
An isolated pocket of peace and sanity in the Syrian civil war, famous only for the beauty of its mountains, pine forests and olive groves, Afrin’s population had almost doubled during the conflict as hundreds of thousands of mostly Arab refugees had come to shelter with its original, overwhelmingly Kurdish population .
The Turks were able to invade Afrin on 20 January because Russia, Iran and Turkey had agreed that Turkey will get Afrin, possibly in exchange for the Turks agreeing to drop their support for big remaining anti-Assad enclaves around Damascus.
Thus, in 20 January 2018, this democratic experiment was the object of an entirely unprovoked brutal attack spearheaded by Islamist militias including Isis and al-Qaida veterans, members of Turkish death squads such as the notorious Grey Wolves, Uzbeks and Turkistanians, backed by the Turkish army’s tanks, F16 fighters, helicopter gunships and artillery . They attacked Afrin from all directions with 70 f16 fighter jets taking part in the first wave of attacks against a small enclave whose area is only 3000 sq.km. Like Isis before them, the new force seems determined to violate all standards of behavior, launching napalm attacks on villagers, attacking dams – even, like Isis, blowing up irreplaceable archaeological monuments and leveling even martyrs’s tombs to the ground.
WHY DID WORLD POWERS BACK THIS BRUTAL ASSAULT ?
Unfortunately, the international media focus on Eastern Ghouta gave the Turks the opportunity to step up their attack on Afrin without the rest of the world paying much attention.
Regretfully, in whichever state they live, the Kurds endure a perilous existence and world powers only see them useful proxies when needed – and friends to forget when not. Remarkably, the YPG and YPJ held off the invaders for two months without any moral support of a single major world power. Even the US refused to lift a finger to defend Afrin. The British foreign secretary Boris Johnson went so far as to insist that “Turkey has the right to want to keep its borders secure”. The assault and the taking of the Kurdish city was consummated amid the deafening silence and disinterest of the international community, particularly of Europe and NATO, under US leadership.
Analysts and experts recall how the Kurds have long been exploited in the anti-Isis operations, only to be abandoned. Brussels is more interested in border security and sees Erdogan as a key “ally” in containing the migration phenomenon and in a broader discussion of international geopolitics.
In this situation of Orwellian madness and absurdity, the world sat idly by while Turkey was launching an unprovoked assault against this peaceful enclave.
A secular democracy that celebrates women’s rights came under attack by by a nation armed to the teeth and ruled by an authoritarian despot, whose regime is sordidly linked to extreme jihadist groups, and viciously intent on destroying one of the only islands of democracy -Rojava- in a sea of Middle Eastern despotism Turkish-aligned troops sang al-Qaida songs and threatened to cut off the heads of their “atheist” victims as evidence drawn from videos taken by the rebel themselves showed that the units advancing ahead of regular Turkish troops were extreme jihadists.
The question here is why the West back this regime who last year launched a dirty rhetoric war against the European Union because they banned Turkish officials from campaigning in support of April referendum. Turkish Erdogan issued chilling warnings to Europeans worldwide that they would not be able to “walk safely on the streets in any part of the world if Europe continued this way’.
He hurled a string of insults at the European countries, accusing them of state terrorism, acting like “Nazi remnants,” and having a “rotten” character. “Go live in better neighborhoods. Drive the best cars. Live in the best houses. Make not three, but five children. Because you are the future of Europe”, Erdogan addressed the Turks in Europe.
THE SACK OF AFRIN
My voice sticks in my throat, and sobs choke me when I sum up the events of the fall of Afrin on 18March,2018 .My granmother’s narration of Armenian massacres of1915 suddenly struck my mind while we were leaving the semi-besieged city under intensive bombardment on the eve of 17March. In a long long river of tens of thousands of cars, trucks, tractors women, men and children were all crying all the escape route long. At one moment I looked at my children, Jan 13th , Ivan 7and Elizabeth 15 saying : “look at our tears, kids. When you grow up, always remember these tears! Never, never forget what Erdogan has done to us. Join any fight anywhere against the Turks to take our revenge ” .
However, we survived that dangerous journey out of the area to the unknown . And now in the refugee came we watch TV news and see strangers living in our homes . Few relatives who remained behind tell us how Turkey-backed vandals commenced with an orgy of rape, arsony and pillage, ripping Afrin and its 400 villages and towns of all valuables hailing, “‘Allah Akbar “. The marauders broke into shops, restaurants and homes, stealing food, electronic equipment, olive oil, furniture blankets and other basic necessities. They stole all cars, tractors, trucks, motorcycles and machines before the eyes of their owners. They stole livestock and chickens. The stolen animals and booty were transported on the stolen vehicles outside the city to Idleb, Ezzaz, Jarablus and even to Turkey itself. Some broad daylight captured videos show drivers being dragged out of their cars at gun point to be beaten or shot dead before taking their vehicles. They still rob the few ones who go back home of their money and valuables. The destruction of the statue of Kawa Haddad, the thefts in shops and homes under the bayonets of Turkish soldiers is morally deplorable. This is just a drop in the bucket because horrible and bone-chilling eye-witness accounts are still pouring out of Afrin speaking of systematic rape cases of Kurdish women and of young men being summarily arrested, tortured and killed by Arab and Turkmen militias.”They do everything to women “, said a friend. “But people are scared .They beat you, kill you if you complain”.
Turkish officials are rabidly intimidating media outlets not to cover the looting, lawlessness and thuggery of the so-called Free Syrian Army in Afrin. It was clear that the Turks have allowed their terrorist colonies to indulge their sadist lust for rape and plunder to vent their spleen on the Kurds who had defeated Erdogan’s brothers in faith all over northern Syria.
DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGE AND ETHNIC CLEANSING
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan so blatantly and outrageously announced, “We aim to give Afrin back to its rightful owners”, in a thinly veiled warning to ethnically cleanse the region of its Kurdish inhabitants. The Kurds have lived in Afrin for hundreds and thousands of years. There, their grandparents lived. There, their houses and tombs are. There, their souls and roots are going deep into the ground like millions of olive trees their ancestors had planted. Turkey and its Syrian allies are carrying out an “organized demographic change” to put the Kurds in the minority, as reported by the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR) and eye-witnesses accounts. According to the Observatory Kurdish agency ANHA, families evacuated from the rebel enclaves of Ghouta, Demir and Qalamon have been transferred to Afrin on buses and offered homes of Kurdish families who had fled Afrin. Among the beneficiaries were the families of the members of the Al Rahman Legion and its leader, Abdul Nasr Shamir.
ERDOGAN’S BROTHERS IN FAITH KILL INFIDELS!
Though the Kurds in Afrin are mostly Sunni Muslims, Isis, al-Qaeda and other Islamists see them as infidels and heretics whose “possessions, women, children are halal to be taken away, and their blood to be let by Moslems,” in accordance with a text in their Coran.
Syrian Arab militiamen leading the Turkish attack on Afrin in northern Syria threatened to massacre its Kurdish population unless they convert to the variant of Islam espoused by Isis and al-Qaeda.
In one video a militia fighter flanked by others describes the Kurds as “infidels” and issues a stark warning, saying “by Allah, if you repent and come back to Allah, then know that you are our brothers. But if you refuse, then we see that your heads are ripe, and that it’s time for us to pluck them.”
Afrin’s Yazidi minority are also being treated as “infidels”, by the rebels who have destroyed their temples forcing them to convert to Islam. SOHOR released a video showing an elderly Yazidi man questioned by Turkey jihadists , asking him how many times he prays a day. It must be remembered that the Yazidis, whom in the Turks had committed 72 genocide campaigns against, were victims of genocide, rape and slavery by Turkey-backed Daesh in Iraq.
At the moment there are still about 100 thousand people mostly Arabs in the Afrin region, a sharp decline compared to one million in November. At least 100,000 are registered as displaced in reception centers in the territories controlled by the Syrian government alone. Tens of thousands of Afrinian deportees paid huge sums to Arab smugglers to flee to faraway places in Kobane,, Jazira, Lebanon and Iraq. Still some 300 thousands live in previously deserted and haf-desyroyed towns and villages in the war-torn Shahbaa Regions north of Aleppo , receiving zero aid from international relief organizations along with an intentional blackout in world media.
Ultimately, at a time when each family here has a heart-breaking story which you would never like to hear, the triumphant demi-Sultan is investing heavily in Kurdish blood following his glorious conquest of Afrin.
This article was written and compiled by H .Hasan , a former university lecturer and now a refugee in Berxwedan / Berkhodan Camp for Afrinian refugees north of Aleppo.