Earlier this morning, between 3 AM and 6 AM local time, the Turkish Armed Forces initiated a large-scale cross-border military offensive in the region of Garê in South Kurdistan (Northern Iraq). Turkish airstrikes targeted the villages of Guzê, Meyrokê, Siyanê, Çemşerîtkê, Yekmalê and Kanîsarkê, and soldiers were dropped into the region with Cobra and Sikorsky helicopters. Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters have been fighting since dawn to repel the invading forces, and heavy clashes are ongoing.

The regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan clearly intends to broaden the Turkish military occupation of South Kurdistan and has now chosen to intensify Turkish military aggression to strengthen Erdogan’s grip on power in response to Turkey’s ongoing state crisis. Growing Kurdish resistance remains the most formidable obstacle to Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman expansionism and occupation strategy in North and East Syria and South Kurdistan, and Erdogan urgently seeks to silence the Kurds to protect the existence of his decaying, increasingly isolated, anti-democratic state.

While Erdogan made empty promises to the EU and the US concerning possible reforms, his defense minister, Hulusi Akar, travelled abroad, visiting Baghdad and Erbil in January and Berlin earlier this month, to seek approval and support for a new stage in the Turkish state’s war against the Kurdish people and for the expansion of Turkish occupation in the region. On 9 February, to gain support from new US President Joe Biden, Akar offered to negotiate concerning Turkey’s use of the S-400 Russian air defense system. Erdogan and Akar know that the Turkish military will not be able to expand their occupation of South Kurdistan without facing Kurdish resistance.

Erdogan sees an expanded occupation of South Kurdistan as a way to overcome his state crisis. In recent days, not only Kurds but also democratic forces throughout Turkey have protested against Erdogan’s dictatorial regime. For over a month, the students and staff of the prestigious Bogazici University in Istanbul have demonstrated against the Erdogan regime, and their protests are gaining nationwide coverage and support. Earlier this month, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) launched their “Justice for All” campaign supported by a broad coalition of opposition groups. At the same time, Kurdish political prisoners’ hunger strike to end the isolation of Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan, which has now reached its 76th day, continues. As the 21st anniversary of Öcalan’s abduction on 15 February 1999 approaches, the demands of the hunger strikers and broader calls for Öcalan’s freedom continue to put pressure on the Erdogan regime.

Rather than address legitimate demands for democratization, Erdogan has reiterated his declaration of war against the Kurdish people. The Turkish state cannot fight this war alone and needs international help from the EU, US, and NATO. If the Turkish state receives this assistance, Erdogan will have a free pass to continue to violate human rights conventions and international law by engaging in military aggression, occupation, and ethnic cleansing. We call on the United Nations, EU, Council of Europe, US, and NATO to force the Turkish state to comply with international law. For a peaceful solution in Turkey, we also call on governments and international institutions to compel the Turkish state to implement the recommendations of the Council of Europe and European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) and lift the isolation imposed on Abdullah Öcalan to provide the opportunity for political dialogue aimed at achieving peace in Turkey and across the broader region. Finally, we call for the international community to join us in demanding the unconditional and immediate withdraw of all Turkish forces from Southern Kurdistan and from North and East Syria.

Executive Council of the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK), 10.02.2021

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