PKK 'The main Kurdish forces resisting ISIS in the critical areas of Rojava, Sinjar and Kobane are from the PKK'

The governments of the US, Turkey, Britain, Israel and the rest of the alliance for Iraq War III are no real defenders of Kurdish rights

We have no friends but the mountains. Kurdish history echoes with that rueful adage. One tragedy or betrayal has followed another since the 1916 Western Sykes-Picot carve-up of the Middle East.

That led to the Kurds being the largest national group in the world without their own state.

The Kurdish people in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran do have some friends globally: the anti-war movement in 1991, 2003 and today is among them. The governments of the US, Turkey, Britain, Israel and the rest of the alliance for Iraq War III most certainly are not.

The parliament of Turkey, a pivotal Nato member state, dispelled any doubt about that this week. It voted on Thursday 298, with 98 against, to authorise the coup-happy Turkish army to mount land incursions into neighbouring Syria and Iraq.

The ground intervention, supported by fellow Nato members Britain and the US, is not to defend Kurdish civilians from abuse and worse by Islamic State (IS/ISIL) forces.

As Ertuğrul Kürkçü, a member of Turkish parliament for the progressive, pro-Kurish rights HDP party which voted against, told the government:

“You were bystanders to the ISIL massacres. You had no such issue until Barack Obama targeted ISIL. You were the ones who supported ISIL, and you are still supporting it.”

The Turkish government, along with authoritarian Western allies in the Persian Gulf, was a pillar of support for those forces in the Syrian civil war out of which ISIL emerged. That was part of a wider policy of preventing any progressive outcome of the conflict in Syria – for Syrians and for the wider region.

Now the US, Britain and their allies are bombing Iraq and Syria in the name of destroying IS. Underneath the policy somersault, they remain studiously fixed on their aim of crushing progressive forces – Arab and Kurd.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in his speech to the World Economic Forum earlier this week, five days before the parliamentary vote, equated IS with the PKK, the militant and banned Kurdish political party and armed force in Turkey. He said:

“Hey world, when a terrorist organisation like IS appears, you get mobilized. Why won’t you mobilise against a terrorist organisation like the PKK? Why won’t you speak out about that, why won’t you say, ‘Let’s fight it together’?”

The main Kurdish forces resisting IS in the critical areas of Rojava, Sinjar and Kobane are from the PKK and its sister organisation in Syria, the YPG.

The forces belonging to the Western-backed Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, dominated by Masud Barzani’s KDP party, are marginal to fighting IS.

Barzani’s gang enjoys close relations with Tel Aviv, Washington and Ankara. It has received Western weapons over the years. Kurdish and minority dissidents and young activists in the neo-liberal KRG have been on the receiving end of them.

So too, over the last 10 years, have PKK fighters fleeing over the border from Turkish army repression.

Erdoğan’s message at the gathering of the world’s corporate, banking and state leaders was this:

a) to demand backing for the Turkish military’s incursions as he exploits Kurdish suffering to target the main and independent Kurdish forces – the PKK and its allies.

b) the old Sykes-Picot set-up in the Middle East is falling apart, but Ankara is determined that what emerges continues to deny the aspirations of the Kurds, of the Arabs and of the mass of Turks themselves when the Ottoman empire collapsed and the Western powers moved in after the First World War.

In a similar way, Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu cynically exploited the Kurdish plight a day later at the UN. He paid lip-service to opposing IS. Israel’s ambassador to Washington up to 12 months ago, Michael Oren, infamously confirmed the truth, however.

After leaving office Oren revealed that Israel has always preferred sectarian, jihadi forces such IS to Arab progressives, or democrats, or politically-engaged Islamists or – and above all – anyone who it deems might strengthen the influence of Iran.

Netanyahu at the UN went on to outline his real purpose. He equated the Hamas, Islamic resistance movement of Palestine which won the election of 2006, with IS.

Netanyahu is as clear about his own purpose as Erdoğan is of his: Western bombing of Iraq and Syria, under the pretext of stopping IS, gives Israel the pretext to bomb Gaza with the express purpose of destroying Hamas and the Palestinian resistance.

And all the while, the governments of the US, Britain, Australia and others in the war coalition are using the spectre of a force they helped spawn to:

a) shred civil liberties and ramp up Islamophobia at home

b) reheat the War on Terror (now MkII) ranging from northern Nigeria, across north Africa, through the Middle East and into Afghanistan, where the US is pushing a “security” deal to allow 10,000 troops to remain, and

c) continue to deny justice to the Palestinians and even recognition at the UN Security Council of a truncated Palestinian state

The only interest that Washington, London, Ankara and Israel have in the Kurds’ suffering in IS-areas is in a mountain of corpses with which to hide their own murderous policies in the region. Every time one of these global or regional powers have advanced in the area it has been at the expense of the Kurds.

And the hypocrisy knows no bounds. In 1991, US President George HW Bush encouraged the Kurds of northern Iraq to rise up against Saddam Hussein at the end of Gulf War I.

When challenged about the plight of Kurds in Turkey who were facing the worst period of Turkish military repression, he and his administration explained: “There are the good Kurds [in Iraq against Saddam], and the bad Kurds [in Turkey against our Nato ally]”.

Mass organisations of the “bad” Kurds in Turkey, such as the PKK, continue to be banned in the US, Britain and Australia. All calls to lift the ban over the years have been met by demands that the PKK surrenders its independence and the Kurdish people’s hopes. It has refused to do so for decades.

Erdoğan’s first election as prime minister over a decade ago held out the prospect of a peace process, political settlement and end to the war against the PKK and other militants in the Kurdish areas of eastern Turkey.

Jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan sought a process, called a ceasefire and said he would not make the aspiration for an independent state a precondition for talks about equal rights for Kurds within the exiting Turkish state and demilitarizing the conflict. Over the last two years prime minister, now president, Erdoğan has abandoned that process.

The Islamist leader who once faced coup plotters in the army high command has returned to the long-standing, bloody policy of the most reactionary elements of the Turkish state. This futile attempt to impose a military solution to the Kurdish question will bring more bloodshed to region.

The US-led bombing of Iraq and Syria will not save the Kurds. Western policy, its military and its arms are not there to save the Kurds.

The bombing is already hitting innocents in Syria. It is allowing even the hideous IS to pose as a resistance force.

In fact, IS is much more interested in beheading “sorcerers” (as do the Saudi allies of the West) and stealing priceless antiquities (as do corrupt officials in Baghdad) than it is in fighting to recover Palestine – alongside Hamas, Hezbollah and the other forces which are truly in the West’s sights.

The bombing is wrong in itself. It is also the false justification for each reactionary state and force in the region to add to the death toll and deepen sectarianism: a carnival of reaction.

Every time that has happened in the past century two peoples in the region have suffered more than any other: the Palestinians and the Kurds. In the name of justice for both – stop this escalating war.

Kevin Ovenden

Kevin Ovenden is a progressive journalist who has followed politics and social movements for 25 years. He is a leading activist in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, led five successful aid convoys to break the siege on Gaza, and was aboard the Mavi Marmara aid ship when Israeli commandoes boarded it killing 10 people in May 2010. He is author of Syriza: Inside the Labyrinth.

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