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“We Have A Civil War”: Inside Turkey’s Descent Into Political, Social, And Economic Chaos

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Deflecting criticism surrounding Ankara’s anti-terror air campaign, Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu last week told state television that strikes against ISIS targets would pick up once the US had its resources in place at Incirlik which will supposedly serve as a hub for a new “comprehensive battle.”

Turkey has had a difficult time explaining why, after obtaining NATO support for a new offensive campaign to root out “terrorists”, its efforts have concentrated almost solely on the PKK and not on ISIS. As we’ve discussed in great detail (here, here, and here), and as the entire world is now acutely aware, Ankara’s newfound zeal for eradicating ISIS is nothing more than a cover for its efforts to undermine support for the PKK ahead of snap elections where President Tayyip Erdogan hopes to win back AKP’s absolute majority in parliament which it lost last month for the first time in 12 years.

Cavusoglu was effectively suggesting that the reason it appears as though Ankara is overwhelmingly targeting the PKK at the possible expense of efforts to weaken ISIS is because Turkey must wait for the US to show up first, at which point the “real” fight will begin with the possible assistance of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Qatar. In the meantime, the country is descending into civil war and for many Kurds, the frontlines are all too familiar. Here’s Al Jazeera:

Located on the Tigris River just upstream from Turkey’s Iraqi and Syrian borders, Cizre has been shaken by nocturnal gun battles between police and residents in recent days.

Its streets remain deserted after sunset, while families sleep in the innermost rooms of Cizre’s squat, cinderblock homes to protect themselves from gunfire.

Hostilities have smouldered here since Turkey’s government and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) abruptly ended a two-year ceasefire in late July, imperilling the hard-won gains of Kurdish politicians and reversing prospects for a historic peace deal nearly achieved in March.

Since July 23, Ankara has launched hundreds of bombing missions against the PKK’s strongholds in northern Iraq, while the PKK has killed at least 18 members of Turkey’s security forces in guerrilla attacks throughout the country’s east.

Those attacks have put Cizre, a long-defiant bastion of pro-Kurdish sentiment, back on the front lines of a conflict that has cost more than 30,000 lives since 1984.

“They say war is coming, but it’s already here in Cizre,” said Rasid Nerse, a 26-year-old construction worker.

The ending of the ceasefire came less than two months after Turkey’s Kurdish-rooted People’s Democracy Party (HDP) scored a historic victory in national elections.

Though Kurdish deputies usually run for parliament as independents, the HDP cleared a daunting 10 percent electoral threshold to become the first pro-Kurdish bloc to formally enter parliament under its own name.

Though the HDP has called on both sides to end the subsequent hostilities, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has attacked the political party, requesting last week that parliament strip Kurdish lawmakers of their legal immunity from prosecution.

Our citizens see the police as a threat to their security, not a provider of it said Kadir Kunur, HDP mayor of Cizre.

Ankara has ordered the detention of more than 1,000 HDP members in a national “anti-terror” probe that has focused on the PKK.

The PKK is listed as a “terrorist group” by Turkey, the European Union and the US.

In Cizre, that crackdown has helped bring about the present security crisis.

As mourners returned to their homes after Nerse’s funeral, many struggled past a series of makeshift walls and ditches that have recently been erected to encircle their neighbourhoods.

Armed members of the PKK youth wing (YDG-H) began setting up the improvised barriers on July 26, when 21-year-old resident Abdullah Ozdal was killed during a protest.

The vigilante youth group grew out of previous security crackdowns, which saw hundreds of Cizre youths radicalised while in Turkish prisons.

Operating at night and frequently armed, the YDG-H similarly encircled the town during anti-government riots across the region last year.

“Our citizens see the police as a threat to their security, not a provider of it,” said Kadir Kunur, the town’s HDP mayor. Kunur pointed to the dozens of bullet holes that pockmark the HDP’s building in Cizre, remnants from one of many deadly raids police launched here in the early 1990s.