How Turkey misread the Kurds

Turkey appears to have overlooked the anger bubbling among its own Kurds towards its Syria policy

ECFR Alumni · Former Visiting Fellow

The following is an excerpt from an article by Cale Salih and Aaron Stein originally published by Al Jazeera on 20 January.

Riots broke out in Cizre and other Kurdish cities when the Turkish government blocked some Kurdish fighters from crossing the border into Syria to support their brethren. At least 35 people were killed during those clashes in October alone – more than three times the number of people who died during clashes between protesters and police in the Gezi Park protests of 2013. That week, Ocalan warned that he would end the ongoing Turkey-PKK peace process if a massacre were to occur in Kobane.

The war in Syria has emerged as a new cause for tension between Turkey's Kurds and the Turkish government, at times straining the AKP's ongoing peace talks with the PKK – and the AKP's Syria border policy and its support for certain extremist opposition groups in Syria is a big reason why.

Ankara is reported to have links to numerous Syrian rebel groups. These links have drawn the ire of many Kurds in both Syria and Turkey, who view much of the Syrian opposition with suspicion due to their conservative outlook and their support for a strong central Syrian government. Although Syrian Kurds do clash from time to time with the Syrian regime, most recently in Hasakeh, their main enemy remains the extremist opposition.

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of its individual authors.


ECFR Alumni · Former Visiting Fellow