Trump gifts war criminal invaders in Syria by echoing Turkish propaganda

Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan shaking hands in front of US and Turkish flags
Ed Sykes

Donald Trump has gifted Turkish-led invaders in northern Syria by echoing propaganda that Turkey uses to try and discredit its opponents.

Speaking during a press conference on 16 October, Trump reportedly said:


Groups like Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders have regularly called Turkey “the world’s largest prison for journalists” because of its harsh media repression. So unsurprisingly, Turkey’s propaganda mouthpieces lapped Trump’s comments up. But they displayed a dangerous ignorance that only plays into the hands of the war criminal Turkish regime.

What is the PKK?

Turkey has a large Kurdish population, and a long history of repression and massacres in these communities. After the Second World War, this repression spread to anything left-wing amid ‘anti-communist’ fervor. The left-wing Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) arose in this context.

Turkey has now fought against the PKK for decades. And there have been big losses on both sides (as in most conflicts, civilians were often caught in the middle). Today, however, the PKK and its allies condemn all attacks on civilians. Yet since 2015, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has sought to repress all of his political opponents by labelling them either terrorists or terrorist sympathisers (and killing or arresting them accordingly). European courts have criticised this tactic – insisting that the PKK is a “party to an armed conflict” and not a “terrorist organisation”. The PKK has also reportedly never attacked Western targets.

In recent years, a peace agreement looked increasingly possible; until Erdoğan ended the process in 2015 due to the success of the Kurdish-led revolution of northern Syria (aka Rojava), which gave hope to Kurds and progressives campaigning for democracy in Turkey. People in Rojava have built a green democratic revolution in the middle of Syria’s brutal war. Its system is feministsocialist, and opposes all religious and ethnic discrimination. And both militarily and ideologically, it played a key role in defeating Daesh in Syria, gaining limited support from the West in the process. Over 11,000 of its fighters died in this war. But because Rojava’s ideology is inspired by the founder of the PKK, Turkey has consistently attacked its left-wing revolution.

The Turkish regime, meanwhile…

Nationalism has a long history in Turkey. And in recent years, Erdoğan has engineered support for his Islamist ideology by fusing it with nationalism. His war on the Kurdish minority community in Turkey, meanwhile, has provided the perfect progressive opponent for his hybrid right-wing dogma. According to the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal, Erdoğan and his regime have committed numerous war crimes against Kurdish people at home and abroad.

In a previous invasion of Afrin in Rojava, Turkish-led forces included fascists and extremist groups similar to al-Qaeda in their ranks. There is also longstanding evidence of Turkish collaboration with Daesh. And Turkey’s current illegal invasion of Rojava has already killed dozens of civilians, created around 200,000 refugees, and allowed hundreds of Daesh supporters to escape detention. The invaders are also allegedly committing war crimes.

In short, not only is Trump talking utter rubbish by suggesting that the PKK is “probably worse at terror” than Daesh. He’s also echoing the dangerous, divisive propaganda of a war criminal Turkish regime in the process. That’s why we need to call him out.

Featured image via Shealah Craighead

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