Sunday, June 20, 2010

Semdinli Attack to Raise Specter of Violence

A PKK attack in Semdinli (Hakkari) killed 11 Turkish soldiers yesterday, the largest death toll to be inflicted in a single attack. Another soldier was killed today in another attack in Palu (Elazig). In the wake of the attacks, some Turkish politicians began calling for new military/security measures, the most reactionary of them arguing for a return to martial law in the southeast. Turkish television is reporting that President Gul has called for a security summit to be held tomorrow.

As PKK attacks on Turkish soldiers continue to increase in the southeast (see Kurdish Timeline), the chance of success for the the kind of political solutions and roadmaps for peace discussed last year look increasingly bleak. PKK attacks on Turkish soldiers, mostly conscripts, only augment popular support for military action, making whatever will the government had for finding a political solution weaker and more difficult to put into action.

At a funeral service for the soldiers held today , Prime Minister Erdogan strongly denounced the PKK , declaring that PKK fighters will “melt in their own darkness, dry up in their own swamps, drown in their own blood.” Meanwhile, AKP opposition figures held the AKP's initaitives toward the Kurds responsible for escalating the violence.

Anger with the PKK also provides an opportunity for Turkish politicians to score points with strong populist-minded rhetorical denunciations of the terrorist group. Such an environment also strengthens the PKK in a political sense, which benefits from a militarization of the conflict since more moderate voices are squeezed out. The PKK wants to engage in dialogue with the government on its own terms (now centered on demands for "regional autonomy"), and though the government is now less likely to do so, the organization can now claim that the moderates have failed and the organization was correct in arguing that the Turkish state is intent "to eliminate" the Kurdish political movement.

Saturday's attack prompted additional Turkish military operations into northern Iraq. KRG news sources are reporting that a young girl died in the Turkish bombing.

UPDATE I (6/21) -- In contrast to Erdogan's sweeping comments yesterday that PKK members wil "drown in their own blood," EU Chief Negotiator Egeman Bagis made a surprising statement addressing the deaths of the 12 PKK militants who are reported to have died in retaliatory attacks. From Hurriyet Daily News:
State Minister Egemen Bağış has said he shares the grief of the families of both soldiers and terrorists who died during military clashes with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

“Unfortunately, eight of our soldiers were martyred today in the morning hours. We have [also] learned that 12 of our youth, who were born and grew up on this land, lost their lives during the shootout. Fire has fallen upon 20 homes, and I share the grief of the 20 families,” Bağış, who is also Turkey’s chief EU negotiator, said Saturday at a meeting at the Van Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Van.

The total body count in the weekend attacks by the PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, was 20 at the time Bağış spoke.

Reminded Sunday by daily Milliyet reporter Mehveş Ehvin that government officials do not regularly say these things, and asked whether he is worried about the reactions such comments might receive during these sensitive times, Bağış responded: “We have not said [these things] for 30 years. What has happened?”

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