Tell Turkey it has no legitimate security concerns

The alleged affiliation of YPG (People’s Protection Units) and therefore the Syrian Democratic Forces with the PKK were denied in every and each opportunity by their leaders.

TURKISH-BACKED Jihadists drive a tank near Tel Abyad in Syria. (photo credit: REUTERS)
TURKISH-BACKED Jihadists drive a tank near Tel Abyad in Syria.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A statement issued by the White House, preceded by a phone call between US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Erdogan, put an end to the most egalitarian, inclusive and non-sectarian local governance in Syria and the neighboring countries. Worse, it opened the door wide for an ethnic cleansing against the Kurdish people, an expected ethnic cleansing against Arabs in Deir ez-Zor (on the hands of the Syrian regime), the resurrection of ISIS, and handing over the Middle East entirely to Russia.
Even worse, the US legitimized these atrocities and policy failures through a ceasefire agreement reached between Vice President Mike Pence and Erdogan. The first article of this agreement reads: “The US understands Turkey’s legitimate security concerns on Turkey’s southern border.” Articles 5, 9 and 10 try to portray Turkish invasion as a bilateral action in order to spare Turkey from expected congressional sanctions. This is way beyond the position took by Britain’s Neville Chamberlain regarding Hitler’s demands of Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.
Turkey’s security concerns have no base to build on. The alleged affiliation of YPG (People’s Protection Units) and therefore the Syrian Democratic Forces with the PKK were not only denied in every and each opportunity by their leaders, but also the YPG and SDF took real practical steps to distance themselves from any political affiliation, including the PYD (Democratic Union Party), which was aiming at achieving two goals: strengthening the relation between the people and the local army, and mitigating Turkey’s insincere fears.
The only clue that Turkey could came up with was that PYD and YPG are raising pictures of Abdullah Öcalan, a Kurdish leader and one of the founders of the PKK, and adopting his ideology. However, these facts are introduced in a misleading manner.
First, raising Öcalan’s photos is not, by any extent, a clue for affiliation with the PKK. It is true that Öcalan was the PKK leader, but that was only when he was free. Once imprisoned, he became a Kurdish symbol that many Kurds, apart from PKK, respect. For so many Kurds who previously stood firmly against his ideology, he became the Kurdish “Mandela” who defends the Kurdish cause of freedom.
Öcalan is no different from other Kurdish leaders in this context. Many Kurdish seculars and atheists praise Sheikh Saeed, who led a revolution against Turkish government in 1925, even though he was a religious leader. The same goes for Mustafa Barzani, Abdulrahman Qasimlo and Jalal Talabani, again regardless of their politics and ideology, as long as they proved to be fighting for the freedom of Kurds.
First, Kurds believe that Öcalan was imprisoned only for this cause, and absolutely not for lifting arms against the Turkish government, or terrorism or for his “separatist” ambitions. These excuses are debunked when we see MHP ultra-right party – which is accused of nourishing the Grey Wolves terrorist organization, in coalition with Turkey’s government under Erdogan – all the while imprisoning peaceful Selahattin Demirtas and other HDP leaders.
Second, the adoption of Öcalan’s ideology must no longer refer to PKK’s ideology. Öcalan has made, and still makes, revisions to his approach toward many issues regarding the Kurdish struggle for freedom. He has criticized harshly the guerrilla warfare tactics targeting civilians, or making them part of the military struggle.
He also called for an internal solution for the Kurdish issue in Turkey, defended vigorously the peaceful path, and encouraged Kurdish politicians to participate in the Turkish general and local elections. In addition, he brokered the peace deal between the PKK and the Turkish government, which was essential to economic growth, and which was ended by Erdogan resorting to war against the Kurdish population, which didn’t vote for his party in 2015.
The principles that Öcalan is defending are peace, coexistence and democracy, which are universal principles in the possession of every political party willing to adopt them. It will be a great shame to turn such ideology into a pretext for Turkish security concerns, echoing Turkish official propaganda.
Instead, tell Turkey what she wants to hear rather than what she must hear: There has been not a single attack on Turkish soil that originated from Kurdish regions in Syria, so Turkey has no legitimate security concerns. These concerns are political, and Turkey ought to solve them internally in a peaceful manner.