Reuters correspondent Ayla Jean Yackley published an article titled “No sign of peace for Turkey’s Kurds after Erdoğan victory” which focuses on the continuing conflict between Turkish security forces and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Similar to previous Reuters reporting on this topic, Yackley’s article contains a number of serious basic errors.

Yackley claims that:

“Like many Kurds in Turkey’s southeast, Sevgi Gezici, 22, believed President Tayyip Erdoğan would relent in a violent clampdown against Kurdish militants after his party won back its majority in an election in November.

Three days after the vote, her husband, just back from seven months tending sheep, was shot dead in the street, caught in the crossfire as he ventured out of their house to find help for their children during a curfew, she said. His aunt was fatally shot minutes later after rushing to him.”

Firstly, the AKP is no longer Erdoğan’s party. In August 2014, Erdoğan won the Presidential election and, as per Turkish law, resigned from the party.  AKP leadership then passed to Ahmet Davutoğlu, who became prime minister. The Turkish Presidency is a nonpartisan post, which accounts for Mr. Erdoğan’s resignation from the AKP.  

Secondly, Yackley distorts the truth concerning the conflict between Turkey and the Kurdish militants. Tayyip Erdoğan’s or the AKP’s policies and the PKK’s attacks against Turkish civilians and security forces are unrelated topics. Why? Yackley neglects to mention to the reader that the PKK’s umbrella organization, the KCK, unilaterally ended a two-and-a-half-year-long ceasefire with the government on July 11, and threatened Turkey with further attacks. Since then, PKK attacks have killed over 150 security officials and more than 30 civilians. 200,000 people have been forced to flee, and more than 5,000 people in these regions are out of work due to the PKK’s current campaign of street violence in several eastern and southeastern Turkish provinces.

Thirdly, Sevgi Gezici’s husband and his aunt lost their lives because of the PKK’s attacks against police officers. On November 5, Turkish security forces carried out an operation in order to close PKK’s street trenches and establish security for locals in Silvan. PKK militants, including a sniper, opened fire at riot police, during the operations. Sevgi Gezici’s husband Engin Gezici and his aunt were shot during clashes while walking in a street in a neighborhood under a curfew from the local Diyarbakır governor’s administration.

“Before the Nov. 1 vote, the view among Turkey’s Kurds was that Erdoğan had engineered a new conflict with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) to win over Turkish nationalist voters and help the AK Party he founded return to the single party rule it had lost in an earlier vote in June. Erdoğan rejects such a plot.”

Which Kurds believed that Erdoğan had engineered a new conflict with the PKK to win over Turkish nationalist voters? Actually, Yackley makes generalization about Kurdish voting behavior. Election results in the predominantly Kurdish areas of Turkey previous to 2015 had made clear that many Kurds vote for the AKP. We also know that many voters in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority areas voted for the AKP in November 1 election; we can understand this by comparing previous election results. Following the June elections, the PKK started a campaign of violence, and the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) failed to oppose this violence. From the June 2015 election to the November 2015 election, the HDP, the PKK’s legal political arm, suffered considerable losses in its traditional strongholds. This demonstrates that many Kurds objected to the return to violence and chose to signal their displeasure with the HDP by once again voting for the AKP.

Enes Çallı
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