Kurdish Protest Literature

Kurds protest EU negotiations with Turkey to resolve the refugee crisis. Brussels, 17 March. (Joel Schalit)

Despite years of criticism, the European Commission is backing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s nascent dictatorship, in order to deal with its self-designated “refugee crisis.” The emerging agreement is that, according to the Turkish proposal, “for every Syrian readmitted by Turkey from the Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled from Turkey to the EU member states.”

The potential agreement is being condemned for obvious reasons. It is astonishingly short-sighted. “Refugee trading” makes no significant changes to the current border regime, one that is causing immense suffering to migrants and asylum seekers, and empowering reactionary politics to such an extent that democratic institutions are further eroding across Europe.

It is also shockingly hypocritical, given that over the years, Brussels has repeatedly criticised Turkey for its inability to confront humanitarian problems. Those criticisms have helped keep Turkey outside the European Union, although it is now taking advantage of European refugee politics to renew its candidacy. Ankara isn’t just asking for 3 billion euros to meet refugee needs. It also wants visa-free travel for Turkish citizens by the end of June, and its accession talks to speed up.

It remains to be seen how the situation will develop, but it is clear that the EU leadership is more frightened of refugees than it is of a new relationship with Ankara. Erdoğan will be able to use the space opened by the AKP’s diplomatic victories to further repress democratic mobilisation in Turkey. The AKP has restarted the Turkish civil war in order to short circuit a new democratic consciousness in the country: one that drove the Gezi Park protests in 2013, and the HDP’s hugely significant electoral victories in elections last June.

The scans below are from a pamphlet handed out at a demonstration in Brussels on Thursday, protesting a current summit where the refugee deal with Turkey is being finalised. The pages focus on Turkish military activities in the southeastern Kurdish-majority town of Cizre, close to the tripoint of the Turkish, Syrian, and Iraqi borders. They seek to promote awareness of the fighting in Kurdistan, which promises to continue for some time.

The text has a decidedly propagandistic quality to it, repeating the same statements ad nauseum across nine full pages, but with different photos each time. The repetition is understandable given that the Kurds do not receive a large degree of media attention, despite the Syrian civil war, and the sympathy they receive from leftists. Erdogan is raising their cities, and evidently heading closer towards a genocide.

And with Western consent. These events seem unimaginable to observers who note the American military support given to Iraqi and Syrian Kurds, however, Turkey is different. Furthermore, considering the country’s historical proclivity for massacring its minorities – the Armenian Genocide, for example – an effort similar to Saddam Hussein’s Al-Anfal in the closing moments of the Iran-Iraq War is not out of the question. There is no reason why it could not happen again, especially as Erdogan grows more insecure about his rule.

This could be the price for Turkey bailing out Europe from having to take responsibility for the fallout of the American-led War on Terror in the region, which includes the refugees. Obviously, it’s a horrific irony. The lessons are worth reiterating, over and over again like in the text below.





Photograph courtesy of Joel Schalit.