Why don't you give the Kurds a state, Erdogan?

By Robin Shepherd, September 27, 2011

Reports that the United States has agreed to deploy predator drones in Turkey to aid Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his battle against Kurdish separatists will provoke wry smiles among those used to both hypocrisy over counter-terrorism strategy in the Middle East and the blatant double standards of an increasingly anti-Israeli Turkey.

The decision, if it goes ahead, forms part of a deal in which the United States secured agreement for placing a NATO early warning system on Turkish soil, while Turkey seeks to bolster its position in the battle against the Kurds in northern Iraq ahead of the planned American withdrawal.

Turkey does, of course, have a terrorism problem - three people were killed and almost three dozen injured in a car bomb attack in Ankara on September 20. Five others also died a few days later in an attack on a police station in south-east Turkey, with the strong likelihood that the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), or sympathisers such as the The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK), were responsible.

But Erdogan's credibility in seeking Western support (and the West's credibility in offering it) against Kurdish militants is hardly helped by his support for Palestinian statehood, regardless of Israel's obvious security concerns, and his aggressive posturing (including the threat to send warships to protect "aid" flotillas") against Israel's containment policies over Hamas in Gaza.

If the Palestinians are so deserving of a state, why aren't the Kurds? And if Erdogan wants moral, political and military support against Kurdish terrorism why should he get it while playing fast and loose with the likes of Hamas?

Questions also arise over the Western response to Turkey's oppressive policies, notwithstanding legitimate concerns over PKK terrorism. More than 4,000 Kurdish villages have been destroyed since the uprising began in 1984. Estimates vary on casualties but widely quoted figures assume the deaths of 35,000 Kurds plus 17,000-20,000 "disappeared", and 5,000 casualties on the Turkish side. A "disproportionate response", anybody?

In August, attacks from Turkish war planes saw thousands fleeing villages in northern Iraq. In one such attack, human rights groups reported that a family of seven, including two women and four children (one aged six months) were killed by a Turkish attack in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Saturation coverage from the BBC? Commentators in the Guardian calling for an academic boycott? A Goldstone report at the UN? Don't hold your breath.

The author is publisher of

Last updated: 11:24am, September 27 2011