Turkey’s violence spreads from east to west with no end in sight

Relatives mourn victims of Ankara attack - © Sedat Suna, EPA

Istanbul  – November’s parliamentary elections in Turkey were a vote for stability, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed as his party swept the polls and formed a single-party government.

Since then, the violence in the country has only intensified, with Sunday night’s car bombing in Ankara that killed 37 people a brutal reminder that without any political solutions forthcoming, there is no end in sight.

Turkish authorities are reportedly suspecting Kurdish militants for the suicide car bombing. The conflict between the state and militants from the Kurdish minority has been intensifying in recent months, forcing more than 350,000 people to flee their homes in south-eastern districts.

Hundreds have been killed – the exact figure is hard to determine – and entire districts have seen widespread destruction which, especially in the town of Cizre, recall scenes in neighbouring Syria. The state’s forces are accused of rights abuses.

Mostly, the conflict has stayed in the largely Kurdish south-east of the country, but analysts say the bombing in Ankara, the second such attack in the heart of the Turkish capital in less than a month, is an attempt to drag the war into the west of the country.

“There is a leakage of the poor security situation in the east to the west of Turkey,” says Gareth Jenkins, an Istanbul-based researcher at the Silk Road Studies Program, an academic institution.

Not all Kurds in Turkey support the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Even those who do not, Jenkins says, are feeling that their plight is being ignored, not only by the government but also by Turkish citizens in Istanbul and Ankara.

“There is a sense of massive frustration that the west of the country has turned its back on the east,” he says.

This is helping fuel radicalism. While Erdogan insisted in his condemnation of the Ankara bombing on the “unity and solidarity of our people,” the reality on the ground is that Turkey is becoming more and more polarized.

“Ethno-politics is becoming the primary concern splitting Turkey into two groups,” says Metin Gurcan, an independent security analyst who writes for al-Monitor website.

Last year, Erdogan dismissed an agreement reached by top ministers with Kurdish officials which was meant to help pave the way for a final peace deal. Soon after, the PKK threatened new violence.

An Islamic State attack on a pro-Kurdish rally in Suruc in July then killed three dozen people and set in motion the current wave of violence between the state and the PKK.

Gurcan says that Syria is clearly part of the dynamics at work here. The emergence of autonomous Kurdish regions in the neighbouring country has sparked hopes and nationalism among the minority group in Turkey.

The fight against Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq, led on the ground by Kurdish militants with ties to the PKK, has only served to inspire youngsters and instill a sense of righteousness into their cause.

Many of the radicalized youth believe Turkey’s foreign policy, even inadvertently, helped Islamic State establish itself in Syria, in part because the porous border was the main highway for jihadists to join the civil war.

But fighting Turkey, the second largest army in NATO, is a Sisyphean task. The PKK and its allies in urban centres are doomed to lose. As the state makes gains against their positions in Kurdish cities, the more extreme wings of the nationalist movement are spreading the fight.

“They are expanding the front to western Turkey. It is the reaction of the weaker side,” says Gurcan.

Analysts don’t believe that a military solution can be obtained in Turkey and eventually the state and the PKK will have to return to the negotiating table for a resolution.

However, if the violence worsens – and there is an expectation that spring will bring even more fighting – and the country becomes more polarized, then there is a danger “they won’t be able to find a table,” says Gurcan.

“The longer the return to talks is delayed and the more blood is spilled, the harder it will be. And Turkey will have to pay a higher price in concessions,” says Jenkins, noting that the Kurds will insist at least on devolution of power to their regions.

[Source:- DPA ]