This marked the breakdown of a two-and-a-half-year ceasefire between the PKK - listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the U. It was also the start of a violent cycle that has taken at least 2, lives, about three times more than during the July December escalation, when Crisis Group confirmed almost 1, deaths. Among the deaths confirmed through Crisis Group's open-source data collection, nearly half were PKK militants 1, , followed by state security force members and civilians The remainder were "youths of unknown affiliation", a category created to account for confirmed urban deaths, aged , who cannot be positively identified as civilians or members of the PKK or its urban youth wing. Violence peaked between February and May when fighting erupted in some urban districts of south-eastern Turkey for the first time in the conflict's year history. The PKK had built up an armed presence in the region during the peace process.
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This marked the breakdown of a two-and-a-half-year ceasefire between the PKK - listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the U. It was also the start of a violent cycle that has taken at least 2, lives, about three times more than during the July December escalation, when Crisis Group confirmed almost 1, deaths.
Among the deaths confirmed through Crisis Group's open-source data collection, nearly half were PKK militants 1, , followed by state security force members and civilians The remainder were "youths of unknown affiliation", a category created to account for confirmed urban deaths, aged , who cannot be positively identified as civilians or members of the PKK or its urban youth wing.
Violence peaked between February and May when fighting erupted in some urban districts of south-eastern Turkey for the first time in the conflict's year history. The PKK had built up an armed presence in the region during the peace process. In June , the conflict moved back to its traditional rural arena. Since then, around 90 per cent of all deaths, as tracked by Crisis Group, occurred in rural south-eastern districts.
The PKK or its affiliates have not carried out any major attack in the country's urban centres and the west of Turkey since December.
Once the Raqqa offensive ends, the likelihood of military confrontation may increase if U. Moreover, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons TAK - a PKK offshoot widely believed to maintain links to the organisation - threatened new attacks on Turkish cities and tourist sites in a statement issued 6 June.
These dynamics could herald an increase in violence in the coming months. What follows are five main conclusions derived from the data collected over the last two years by Crisis Group. The analysis focuses on the last eight months of the conflict December July , but also looks at broader trends. The recent killing of Justice and Development Party AKP political figures and civilians in the south east has heightened nationalist feelings in Turkish society.
Since March , when the Turkish military intensified its operations against the PKK, there have been seven attacks on political figures and civilians in the region. All are widely assumed to have been carried out by the PKK, though so far it has only taken responsibility for three of them. The PKK's targeting of AKP political figures is probably an attempt to show the state, the AKP and its local supporters that it can still carry out dramatic attacks, despite an intense military crackdown.
But this could backfire: instead of weakening the government and the president, these attacks are strengthening AKP support.
Reports of slain security officials, political figures and civilians dominates the national media, justifying, in the eyes of many, harsh anti-PKK operations. Fuelling nationalist fervour over the past two years has allowed Ankara's political leadership to consolidate support for its agenda, strengthening its alliance with the Nationalist Movement Party MHP , which helped it win the April presidential system referendum.
Meanwhile, PKK attacks also allow Ankara to justify the prosecution of some opponents by labelling them "terrorists" or "collaborators". As the AKP continues mobilising nationalist segments of society and banks on its alliance with the MHP, it is unlikely that the political leadership will return to a more constructive agenda addressing Kurdish demands or resuming peace talks in the medium term for two reasons:.
Around 60 per cent of all security force fatalities since July were caused by improvised explosive devices IEDs. The objective is both to target militants and destroy PKK ammunition depots. Beginning in March , the Turkish military carried out what it described as its most intense operations in years, deploying about 7, soldiers, special forces, police officers and village guards.
The number of security force members killed was relatively low in the run-up to the April referendum. While seventeen security force members were killed in PKK attacks in the two-and-a-half-month period prior to the referendum, this number almost quadrupled with 67 security force fatalities in the two-and-a-half-months after the referendum. There were no such fatalities in February , the first month without security force being killed since July Sources close to the PKK told Crisis Group that they made the strategic decision to hold back in order to avoid generating further nationalist support for the "Yes" vote.
As noted above, increased military operations by Ankara and U. Regardless of the reason, this suggests the PKK has the ability to determine the timing and intensity of its attacks as well as to control its militants on the ground.
In the run-up to the referendum both the PKK and the government used the threat of violence to rally their supporters. Ankara saw the referendum results as vindication of its hard-line approach: it interpreted the fact that the "Yes" camp received 10 per cent more votes in the south east than the AKP got in the elections as demonstrating support for its strategy to "eradicate" the PKK.
In turn, a strengthened president mobilising nationalist support made it easier for the PKK to legitimise in the eyes of its supporters resort to violence. From December to July , around 50 per cent of all confirmed fatalities occurred in these four provinces, compared to around 70 per cent in the previous sixteen months July November Fatalities resulting from military operations rose in other south-eastern provinces, in particular Tunceli 28 confirmed militant deaths in February and Bitlis 38 confirmed militant fatalities in May and June.
Crisis Group also confirmed 29 militant fatalities in northern Iraq in March and April as a result of cross-border airstrikes by the Turkish military. Confirmed fatalities in Tunceli, Bitlis and northern Iraq resulted from the military's decision last spring to intensify its efforts to track down militants in mountainous areas and conduct cross-border operations in northern Iraq. Fifteen members of the state-funded Kurdish Village Guard were killed between April and July , a slight increase compared to the first four months of the year.
Ankara has ramped up recruitment for these paramilitary forces since January when it retired 18, guards over the age of 45 in a force that totals about 50, It plans to recruit 25, new paid guards, between 22 and 30 years old.
Turkish media outlets reported that the newly-hired guards would be equipped with heavy weapons and take part in operations against the PKK. Civilians interviewed by Crisis Group in Nusaybin in early confirmed that Kurdish-speaking security personnel - most likely village guards - participated in anti-PKK operations.
Guards receive two weeks of basic military training immediately after joining plus supplementary training once a month. The government recently revitalised its system of "neighbourhood guards" in urban areas, probably in response to the PKK's urban tactic last year. The government plans to place neighbourhood guards in urban stations around the country to assist police and the military in maintaining "public order".
As Crisis Group previously warned, these urban and rural guards sometimes use their state-backed authority to advance personal interests. The system could thus ignite tensions and clashes between Kurdish clans and large families in the south east, a situation that the PKK could easily exploit. Violence is unlikely to diminish in the near future. Instead, there is a risk of greater conflict as Ankara steps up military efforts to eradicate the PKK including through cross-border military actions , limit YPG gains in northern Syria and marginalise the domestic, legal Kurdish movement.
As for the PKK, it remains focused on gains in northern Syria and may be further emboldened by the direct military support its affiliate, the YPG, now receives from the U. The U. However, violence could escalate once the Raqqa offensive ends, if US engagement falters, or if Ankara further intensifies military operations against the YPG around Afrin, in north-western Syria.
Domestically, the government's crackdown on the Kurdish political movement continues. Avenues for constructive engagement and political channels remain closed. As Crisis Group argued in its latest report , the marginalisation of the legal Kurdish political movement could have long-term consequences, legitimising resort to violent means and driving up PKK recruitment.
A resumption of talks appears unlikely in the foreseeable future but remains the only viable path to resolving this deadly conflict. Nusaybin, a political stronghold of the Kurdish movement bordering Syria, is among Turkey's urban south-eastern districts that saw unprecedented levels of violence in While conflict fatigue can be observed in this town where 30, lost their homes, so can a distinct sense that a political solution is not in sight.
In twenty-one months, at least 2, died, around , lost their homes, and up to , were temporarily displaced. Turkish security forces conducted hundreds of operations in urban and rural areas of the south east, while the PKK - after a period of intense clashes in urban centres and attacks with improvised explosive devices IEDs also in western cities of Turkey - returned to fighting in rural areas in June With the rise to dominance of nationalist cadres and hardline policies in Ankara, the state's approach is to weaken the PKK as much as possible; marginalise the main legal Kurdish political entity, the Peoples' Democratic Party HDP ; win over locals via better services and infrastructure,; and nurture other Kurdish political actors that might serve as an alternative to the HDP.
Residents in the conflict-torn south east are fed contradictory narratives as to why the escalation reached such levels. Residents are bitter toward the state but also blame the PKK for being ready to sacrifice its social base in Turkey to pursue the unrealistic ambition of carving out autonomous neighbourhoods with trenches and barricades.
State initiatives to rebuild Nusaybin's neighbourhoods and compensate residents for material losses have taken time to develop, and transparency is lagging. The government is making diligent efforts to compensate for the true value of destroyed property, but administrative gaffes and delays exacerbate longstanding mistrust of state authorities. Clearing explosives from neighbourhoods where fighting occurred, the authorities say, required flattening buildings that were still standing, but it fuelled speculation that the destruction was intended to allow new construction that would facilitate security measures against renewed urban warfare.
Despite genuine progress, the physical reconstruction of houses will not be sufficient to restore trust between the state and the local population or to rejuvenate fully the town's social dynamism any time soon.
The government needs to meet expectations regarding revitalising small businesses, which may require allowing controlled border trade, and adequately address the psycho-social needs of people traumatised by the conflict. More broadly, the central authorities' removal of elected representatives and purge of locally-trusted municipality personnel have consolidated a sense among Kurdish movement supporters that their political orientation and culture is not recognised.
That, plus the stifling of public debate, ban on mass protests in some areas and strong security force presence also has strengthened the perception that there is no outlet for democratic politics. For some, it has left armed struggle as a legitimate response.
In the wake of the 16 April referendum, in which 79 per cent of Nusaybin residents voted "no", the government extended for three months the emergency rule that has been in place since the failed coup. This is hardly the best way to suggest a shift toward the inclusive, pluralistic policies required to win hearts and minds.
At a minimum, state officials should engage with local residents by hiring staff that is more attuned to the social fabric, and proactively try to address the trust deficit. With no elections scheduled for two years, he may be less intent on mobilising nationalist constituencies.
That would be the right choice. The alternative - impeding channels for the legitimate representation of the Kurdish movement and ignoring longstanding political demands and grievances - would ensure that adversity festers and segments of the population radicalise. By the same token, if the government continues to broadly apply anti-terror legislation so as to criminalise the mere fact of contradicting official accounts, there will be no hope for the resumption of more constructive, peaceful public debate on resolving Turkey's PKK conflict.
That is the key. With the coming of spring, mutual escalation of that confrontation is likely; the Syrian war, in which Ankara and Kurdish affiliates of the PKK are at odds, further magnifies the danger.
The only way to durable peace remains new talks between Turkey and the PKK, accompanied - on a separate track - by an effort to satisfy Turkey's Kurdish population on core issues such as mother-tongue education, de-centralisation, a lower electoral threshold, reform of anti-terror laws and an ethnically neutral constitution.
During the 2. Urban warfare followed the ceasefire's collapse in July PKK militants set up barricades and dug trenches to keep state security forces out.
The government imposed curfews, closing residential neighbourhoods of some 40 south-eastern districts for periods ranging from hours to months. For a glossary of acronyms and abbreviations used in this report, see Appendix D below.
Hide Footnote. International organisations and local human rights NGOs have reported extensively on alleged human rights abuses. A third report concluded: "… the right to health in the places under curfew has been completely violated. Hospitals were turned into military headquarters, medical centres were destroyed, health workers were literally held hostage in hospitals. Elderly, pregnant women, children, people with chronic illnesses have frequently faced obstacles in access to treatment and unfortunately some of these cases resulted in death".
Hide Footnote Crisis Group's open-source casualty infographic indicates the conflict's death toll between the breakdown of the ceasefire and 25 April has been at least 2, The government claims to have killed 11, PKK militants since resumption of violence in July Operations had ended in many districts, but the most intense period was just beginning in the town of Nusaybin, where a day curfew ran from 14 March to 25 July Since then, operations have taken place only in rural areas of the town, reflecting the general shift of the fighting away from urban centres back to the traditional arena of the year conflict.
When Crisis Group visited Nusaybin in February , there was relative calm in the town but also a strong security presence, and security operations were ongoing in rural areas and villages of the district. The south east's atmosphere has been deeply impacted by larger domestic political developments.
Pkk Kck Iddianamesi
Third insurgency. The attack as used by the Erdogan government as casus belli to drop the otherwise largely successful Solution process and resume war on PKK militants. Early AKP policies were reformist and appeasing. In , Kurdish independents candidates won 6.
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