Hate crimes against Kurds rise in Turkey

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Turkey’s shift to the far-right in recent years has resulted in massive incitement against Kurds and minorities.

The recent tragedy in Turkey occurred in Konya province. The Dedeoglu family had been targeted in the past when a far-right mob allegedly linked to the MHP party, which is a nationalist party, attacked the same family, sending many of them to the hospital. Family members complained of continuing threats and attacks since May. While Kurds and family members say the mass murder was due to racism against Kurds, authorities want to blame the attack on a feud between families. This appears to be similar to racism in many countries where the racist majority tends to downplay incidents of racism, while minorities speak up.
According to Ahval media “unknown assailants set the Kurdish family’s home on fire after their shooting spree, it said. Firefighters have already put out the fire. Unknown assailants killed three female and four male members of the family, who had been targeted in racist attacks before.” In previous incidents video show people shouting that “Kurds will not live here.” The previous pogrom against this Kurdish family involved at least 60 people who attacked the same family.
In June a Kurdish woman was tortured and murdered during another Turkish far-right attack on the offices of the left-leaning Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). The HDP has many Kurdish supporters and the ethnic Turkish far-right in Turkey, as well as Islamists, tend to refer to supporters as “terrorists.” Turkey’s ruling party has shut down most left-leaning Kurdish media, imprisoned dozens of opposition politicians from the Kurdish minority and detained Kurdish mayor for some 60 municipalities over the last several years. Turkey wants to ban the HDP. Ankara’s AKP has banned most independent media and handed decades-long prison sentences to most critical media. Ruling party politicians often incite against liberals, academics, artists, Kurds, women and others. The victim of the June attack was Deniz Poyraz. “The plan here was clear,” the HDP’s Mithat Sancar told reporters in June. “What they wanted was a massacre.”
Turkey’s governing ruling party, the AKP, which controls most of the major media, has also sought to blame the “PKK” for recent mass forest fires. Massive fires have ravaged Turkey over the last week and Ankara has received help and support from Iran, Malaysia and other countries to fight the fires. However in Turkey, unlike most countries in the world where large forest fires happen, has sought to politicize the fires to blame “terrorism.” The Kurdistan Workers Party is a frequent target of Ankara’s propaganda. Ankara often invents largely mythical “terror” attacks and incidents to claim the “PKK” is responsible, everything from forest fires, to the discovery of a “mass grave” in Turkish-occupied Afrin. That grave was actually created by Turkey and Turkish-backed extremist groups that had ethnically-cleansed Afrin of Kurds in 2018 and then bulldozed a grave for Kurdish fighters. Then Turkey disinterred the graves in July and claimed it was a “mass grave.” This was likely done prior to a meeting with US officials and then the story disappeared from Turkish coverage. This is how Turkey turns victims of Ankara’s wars into tools to be used by Ankara. Washington recently sanctioned the Turkish-backed Ahrar al-Sharqiya group in Syria, a group suspected of genocidal crimes against Kurds and Yazidis in places like Afrin.
Turkey’s shift to the far-right in recent years has resulted in massive incitement against Kurds and minorities. However the ruling AKP party sometimes tries to shift tactics, seeking Kurdish votes because it knows that it is suffering lower poll numbers among many Turks. The ruling party often tries to distract from failures by blaming “terrorism.” Turkish media claims that some 40,000 people have been killed in Turkey over the last decades in the “war on terror.” However, most of the victims were civilians likely killed by Turkey’s military operations. There is no evidence of any recent terror attacks in Turkey since Turkey largely defeated the PKK in a conflict in 2015-2016 in Turkey. Turkey often carries out airstrikes and drone strikes in Syria and Iraq, claiming to target the PKK. Some of these have targeted refugee camps in Iraq where Kurds live but where Turkey claims “terrorists” live.
It’s unclear how much the incitement against “terrorists” and anti-HDP rhetoric has given average people a feeling of entitlement to engage in attacks on Kurdish citizens in Turkey, but the recent attacks in Konya and Izmir may be linked to rising incitement and the kinds of genocidal rhetoric employed by the far-right and groups like Ahrar al-Sharqiya.
IRAQI KURDS tear the Turkish flag during a demonstration against Turkey’s incursion in Syria, outside the UN building in Erbil.
(photo credit: AZAD LASHKARI / REUTERS)

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