The Syrian civil war not only threatens the countries of the region, but also makes the United States and Russia come up against each other. In the initial stage of the civil war, Iran exposed its radical foreign policy in favor of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his regime by saying, "We shall continue to support and protect Assad at the expense of bringing on World War III." In this respect, Iran never hesitated to make the following revisionist moves in the international arena: First and foremost, Iran made Russia side with the Syrian regime by taking its military bases into the center. Secondly, Iran convinced the West that al-Qaeda's political power would mainly succeed the Baathist regime after Assad's prospective fall. Moreover, Iran implicated the Islamic revivalist Hezbollah in the Syrian civil war, while it cooperated with the Marxist PKK and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Rojava. At the same time, Iran ensured U.S. support for the Kurdish regions in Syria, which were designed by its own hands. Thus, Iran does not confine itself to its own strategic moves, but it also succeeds in exploiting Western states in accordance with its own regional interests. Yet at the beginning of the Syrian civil war, none of the international actors could have rightly computed the cost of the Syrian crisis for the world in general and the Middle East in particular.
It was palpable that the Syrian civil war would particularly influence Turkey both at the domestic and regional levels. The Republic of Turkey had boldly initiated the reconciliation process with the PKK, which has been executing terrorist activities for more than 30 years. This peace process for the direst problem of the country, backed up by a concomitant process of democratization, was embraced by the majority of people in Turkey. Indeed, public support rate for the reconciliation process was around 70 percent, while 90 percent of people in the southeastern region supported it wholeheartedly.
While the reconciliation process had been in progress toward its ultimate completion, the political situation that emerged in Rojava and U.S. support for the PYD in northern Syria led the PKK to look for better options than the ongoing democratic one and almost to declare war against the peace process.
During the last 30 years, heavy human rights violations, the underdevelopment of the region and the state's policy of denial of Kurdish reality enabled the PKK to legitimize its terrorist struggle in the eyes of people in the region. In the present context, the PKK had clear expectations that its terrorist activities ongoing for the last two months in urban spaces would take hundreds of thousands of Kurds into the streets in the face of whom the state's security forces would end up helpless. The PKK called this process of terror and chaos a "revolutionary people's war," yet it is interesting that although the people of the region participated in Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) political demonstrations, they neither supported the PKK's calls for general rebellion nor participated in its meetings for declaring autonomous regions. Thus, terror cannot find the public support that it desperately seeks.
The process of democratization, the establishment of individual rights and liberties, the economic development and the completion of public services in education, health and transportation in the southeast made terror totally unnecessary, illegitimate and destructive in the eyes of the people. The PKK, which had been legitimizing itself for the last 30 years through the lack of developments mentioned above, now has great difficulties in winning the people of the region over to its side by murdering soldiers and police officers in a country that is predominantly populated by Turks at 85 percent. Terrorist activities have already lost their grounds of legitimacy, while Kurds who supported Kurdish nationalist politics, i.e., the HDP, resolutely oppose PKK terror and refuse to support it on a massive scale.
The Republic of Turkey should carefully consider the remoteness of the people in the southeast to terror, while both the United States and European countries should take care in the face of high briefings from the PKK, otherwise they will find themselves in a position in which they would seem to support the terrorist activities that are by no means legitimate in the eyes of the people in the region.
About the author
İhsan Aktaş is Chairman of the Board of GENAR Research Company. He is an academic at the Department of Communication at Istanbul Medipol University.