Sunday, April 24, 2016

Turkey's War Against the Kurds (Part 2): Power, Terrorism, and the Pretext for War

The Rejection of Peace

Turkeys war against its Kurdish population in its current iteration is as much about Erdogan and the Turkish power structures consolidating and maintaining their power as is their crackdown against journalism.  It has not been waged as a war to protect Turkish civilians from Kurdish insurgents but instead as a means to “protect” the oppressive power hierarchies that exist which seek to maintain the disparate position of the political-economic elite.  Instead of listening to the legitimate grievances of the Kurdish population, Erdogan and the AKP have chosen a strategy of violence, terrorism, and xenophobia in order to degrade the growing political power of the Kurds and to consolidate their rule and the continuation of their criminal policies.

The pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP) and the Kurdish military wing Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) have not been demanding independence, instead they have been calling for autonomy.  This in the face of Turkey’s political establishment historically treating the Kurds as second class citizens and denying them the right to be educated using their native language.  In response they have organized societal institutions in a radically different manner than the Turkish state, prioritizing the ideal of local, non-hierarchical forms of direct democracy.  In their view, as Professor of Economics at the University of Greenwich Mehmet Ugur explains, this is because “the nation state is now considered an anachronistic institution; and local democracy (including recognition and representation of distinct identities) has been embraced as a solution not only for the Kurdish question but also for democratisation in Turkey, Iraq and Syria.”

The Turkish government was never serious about officially devolving meaningful power for the Kurds to exercise over their locality, and has balked on agreeing to any kind of political peace negotiation.  This is due in part to the ideological currents running through the political establishment that as well permeate elite sectors of business and other societal institutions. 

This very nationalistic way of thinking sees the unilateral designs of the winning electoral party as encompassing ‘the national will,’ and thus equates dissent against them with ‘treason.’ 

Professor Ugur further explains: “The national will is expressed through elections that the party wins through multi-party competitions…  All other parties and civil-society organisations critical of the majority party can be demonised as collaborators of internal and external forces bent on preventing the nation from expressing its will. That is why AKP rhetoric has been based on ‘national will’ rather than democracy. That is also why AKP practice has been geared towards removal of legal, administrative and civil-societal checks and balances that could prevent the government from exercising absolutist majority rule. That is also why the AKP elite has gradually but increasingly deployed state power to equate dissent with treason.” 

In the logic of the AKP, “institutional checks and balances are dysfunctional because they make the exercise of the ‘national will’ cumbersome.”   

This way of thinking has a historical basis, which sees Turkey’s history in the context of 3 sets of beliefs: “(i) the Turks have established sixteen states, fifteen of which collapsed and the last one (the Republic of Turkey) must not face the same fate; (ii) the state is a father figure and the first duty of its sons (daughters are excluded explicitly or implicitly) is to obey the father’s authority; and (iii) the Turkish state is surrounded by all sort of enemies who work with internal collaborators to destabilise the country and prevent it from fulfilling its full potential.” 

Because of this, a relationship of patronage between business and state has emerged in which business interests and state-subservience co-exist: “Organised interests in Turkey (business organisations, their lobby groups, bosses of co-opted trades unions, most university rectors, the religious establishment, etc.) have read this script correctly. They presented their specific interests as true reflections of the national interest, which the Turkish state served in return for continued loyalty. That is why both sides have always been in tune when it comes to suppressing any opposition that questions the de jure or de facto rules of the game.”

Not surprising then is the Turkish governments unwillingness to devolve autonomy powers to the Kurds.  Indeed, it was Turkey that withdrew from a mostly farcical peace process just after the Kurdish HDP dealt a huge blow to Erdogan’s AK Party in the June 2015 elections. 

As the pro-Kurdish HDP gained enough votes to cross the threshold to enter parliament their victory forced the AKP to form a coalition government instead of exercising majority rule.  Their success was a sign of growing political influence as well as a symbol of the growing sympathy towards the Kurdish cause that had been building within the country.  Rising Kurdish political influence coupled with a threat to Erdogan’s own power was the driving impetus for Turkey to reignite a violent conflict with the Kurds.

The attacks against the Kurds were never a necessary exercise of state power, nor were they a reaction to a legitimate security threat.  Instead, like most groups stuck under the thumb of a much stronger and oppressive power, there has been a clear consensus for peace and resolution through political negotiation among a wide range of the Kurdish population.  That is why it was the Kurds who supported the peace process and it was Turkey who rejected it. 

The Dolmabahce Agreement was a political framework for resolving the Kurdish issue that was negotiated in February 2015 between the HDP and the Turkish government.  Its aim was to create a long-term roadmap for peace, and for a short time it appeared highly promising.  On February 28th, 2015 Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of Interior, and three deputies of the HDP announced the agreement in a joint-statement at Istanbul’s Dolmabahce Palace.  However, following the HDP victory and the AKP defeat in the July elections, Erdogan backtracked and rejected the deal. 

When rejecting the Agreement, Erdogan argued that it was invalid because it did not originate in parliament, and such an agreement only has legitimacy through congressional authority.  Therefore he told reporters on July 17th that he did not “recognize the phrase ‘Dolmabahce Agreement,’” and effectively buried the deal.  The underlying reason was thus apparent: the inroads the HDP achieved within parliament increased their prospects of being able to use their rising political influence to push for peace through official parliamentary channels.  This, combined with the agreed-upon roadmap for peace that Dolmabahce represented, made the possibility of a peaceful settlement all too probable, and Erdogan had no intentions of sharing power.

The strategy was to reject negotiations and use violence and war to both attack the Kurds militarily while as well rallying votes throughout the country by exploiting nationalistic and xenophobic sentiments, thereby regaining a parliamentary majority.  A state of fear brought on by violence and conflict, coupled with the scapegoating of the problem on Kurdish ‘terrorists’, was used to rally the public under the AKP banner of “security” and “stability.”

As Professor Ugur explains it, “The political objective was to ensure the continuity of AKP rule, preferably with a large majority required to change the constitution and institute Mr Erdogan as a president with no checks and balances… Given these liabilities and the risk of failure to win a majority in the snap elections in November, the AKP government has initiated the process of state-orchestrated violence,” against the Kurds.

The strategy proved highly successful.

Strategy of Tension, Violence, and Aftermath

When ISIS began assaulting the Kurdish town of Kobani in 2014 Kurdish militias rose up to defend it, yet Turkey and Erdogan were silent. 

When the town looked poised to be defeated, Erdogan’s position of abandonment was made clear when he simply concluded of the situation that “Kobani is about to fall.” 

It was clear that he saw the ISIS attack as an opportunity rather than a threat.  The likely chance of being barbarically subjugated by ISIS was used to leverage demands from the Kurds. 

When the leader of the Kurdish PYD came to Turkish military intelligence to plead for aid, he was told he would only receive it if the Kurds surrendered: they were told they needed to give up their claim for self-determination, give up the localities they governed, and agree to a Turkish buffer zone in Syria.

The Kurds refused.

However, it is not as if Turkey had simply been sitting on the sidelines while refusing to intervene: they had been intimately involved in supporting the Islamic State, most ostensibly by securing their free passage into Syria through the Turkish border but as well through direct contact with ISIS members, coordinating arms transports, providing them a safe haven inside Turkish territory, and by transporting their fighters across the border into the warzone.  Reports would later surface that they were hospitalizing wounded ISIS fighters, and that sarin precursors were smuggled into ISIS-held areas with the help of Turkish authorities. (See part 1)  Just days prior to these events Vice President Biden told Harvard University students that it was the Turks, Saudis, and the UAE who had “poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad except that the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.”

Turkey was using the threat posed by the terrorist proxies they had fomented to force the Kurds to capitulate, and absent that capitulation would gladly see Kurdish towns overrun by their ISIS allies. 

As the ISIS proxies assaulted the Kurdish village, Turkish aircraft used the opportunity to bomb Kurdish positions inside Turkey for the first time in two years.  Yet an ISIS victory in Kobani would have been a humiliating defeat for the newly formed “anti-ISIS” coalition, and would have routed a key potential ally in the region for the Americans.  Therefore, under heavy pressure from the US, Erdogan finally allowed a contingent of Iraqi Peshmerga fighters to cross into Kobani from Turkish territory, and with further support from the US air force the Kurds were able to repel the ISIS attack.

Yet come June 2015, directly after the AKP’s electoral defeat, car bombs exploded at the Kobani border and convoys of cars carrying up to 40 ISIS fighters again attacked the Kurdish village simultaneously from three sides.

Kurdish witnesses said that the jihadis crossed into the city from the Turkish border, “If they entered from the Syrian side, they would have first come up many more important targets related to the YPG (the Kurdish militia), such as the main headquarters building where there are tens of fighters and leaders, or the local administration HQ,” a Kurdish activist said.  He noted that it was extremely unlikely they would have been able to pass by these obstacles unnoticed, and therefore the attack must have originated from Turkey.

If not in some way orchestrated or tacitly supported by Turkey, the attacks then represent a generous gift to Erdogan from old allies.

The situation escalated in July when a suicide bombing, of which ISIS claimed responsibility for, killed 32 and wounded another 104 in the Turkish town of Suruc.  The victims were pro-Kurdish university-aged students who were holding a press conference on their planned trip to help reconstruct Kobani.  It was theorized that the attacks could have been in retaliation for increasing measures that Turkey had been taking to clamp down on the jihadis.  Yet if so, how would attacking Turkey’s main domestic enemies constitute a retaliation?  Furthermore, the clamp down was only symbolic, used to portray the image that Turkey was getting tough on ISIS while not taking any substantial steps against them.  Following the events, in an interview with a Turkish journalist an ISIS commander denied there being any conflict with Turkey

The Kurdish PKK for their part blamed the Turkish authorities and accused them of collusion with ISIS.  In response they claimed responsibility for the killing of two Turkish police officers they said were responsible for the attacks.  Given the fact that just a year ago secret audio recordings were leaked of Turkey’s prime minister and the head of the secret service planning a false flag attack against Turkey as a pretext to invade Syria, there is a high probability that Turkey was in some way complicit.  

Further supporting this is the fact that the attacks were then utilized as the pretext for Turkey to enter into the “anti-ISIS” coalition, a guise used to initiate a war against the Kurds.

In the days that followed Turkey agreed to a deal with the US allowing them to use their Incirlik air base to fly bombing missions against the Islamic State.  The ostensible terms of the deal were that Turkey would let the US use their base, and Turkey would itself enter the fight against ISIS.  However, the actual terms were likely that the US had agreed in some form to Turkey’s longstanding demands to set up a “no-fly zone” inside Syria, which in practice was a plan to annex Syrian land and to attack Syria’s air-defenses.  Also very likely was that the US agreed to sell out the Kurds by acquiescing to the fact that Turkey’s attacks against ISIS would in actuality just be a cover for waging a war against them.

With the deal firmly in place the Turkish air force thus “initiated the process of state-orchestrated violence” by launching airstrikes against the Kurds and ISIS, except those against ISIS were only symbolic. 

The operation began on July 24th, yet after July 25th airstrikes were only continued against the Kurds, including those in Iraq and Syria.  In conjunction a large-scale domestic operation billed as an “anti-terror” crackdown was initiated.  Under the guise of going after ISIS Turkish police conducted massive raids against the Kurds and arrested over 1,000 people it labelled as terrorists.  According to one HDP member, of those arrested 80% were Kurdish.

Following this Turkey continued to relentlessly and murderously attack Kurdish villages.  They have imposed arbitrary, round-the-clock curfews of entire neighborhoods which the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights describes as a “massive restriction of some of the most fundamental human rights of a huge population” that does not “satisfy the criteria of proportionality and necessity in a democratic society.”  The assault includes artillery shelling in densely populated civilian areas, disconnection of water and electricity to entire towns, denying the victims access to medical treatment, preventing burials, and abusive and disproportionate force against any and all peaceful protests that dissent against the atrocities.  Turkish military operations “had killed hundreds of civilians, displaced hundreds of thousands and caused massive destruction in residential areas.”

The irony of all of this should not be lost: Turkey has been supporting the ISIS terror organization which has repeatedly attacked his domestic enemy, the Kurds.  Turkey has then used the terrorists as a justification to wage his own war against the Kurds, while further exploiting the terrorism and the instability as a means to gain political power for himself and his party.

On October 10, 2015 Turkey witnessed the deadliest terror attack ever in the country's modern history, carried out by two suspected Islamic State suicide bombers.  The attack effectively shepherded Erdogan and the AKP back into a parliamentary victory.  In the climate of fear that followed, couple with the violence and chaos from the war with the Kurds, Erdogan’s AKP made a resounding comeback in the elections the following month in November.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, Erdogan’s AKP “regained sole control of Parliament as millions of voters who had been disillusioned with the party returned in force.”  “Pro-Kurdish parties lost significant ground” as “the AKP’s rise drained votes from the… HDP.”  Erdogan would now have “a clear mandate to press ahead with the military campaign against Kurdish separatists.” 

The remarkable turnaround came “amid a deteriorating security situation that had made terrorism a top concern for voters. In the weeks leading up to the vote, Turkish televisions were filled with grim images of deadly attacks carried out by suspected Islamic State bombers, military crackdowns on Kurdish cities, and funerals for Turkish security officers killed by Kurdish fighters.

“The dangers culminated in a devastating Oct. 10 attack by two suspected Islamic State suicide bombers who killed more than 100 people at a peace rally in Turkey’s capital. The bombing, which some called “Turkey’s 9/11,” was the country’s deadliest terrorist attack, and it cemented fears that the increasingly polarized country was facing unchecked instability.”

Erdogan and the AKP then won voters over with "its message that one-party rule was the only way to fight a two-front war with Islamic State extremists and Kurdish militants.”  The message resonated “not only with nationalists who backed Mr. Erdogan’s decision to renew the country’s fight with the outlawed… PKK, but also with Kurdish residents rattled by renewed violence that had consumed their communities.”

Erdogan, while cynically supported the most extreme forms of terrorism in an attempt to overthrow the Syrian government, has utilized those same terrorists as a pretext to wage a full scale war against the Kurds, using the situation to degrade Kurdish influence and capitalize on a state of fear and war for political gain, championing himself as the answer to ‘Kurdish terrorism’ while it was his policies that reignited the violence.  Following a defeat in parliament at the hands of the Kurds, while simultaneously facing a peaceful resolution to the Kurdish issue, the orchestration of state-violence was commenced.  Further aided by some of the country’s deadliest terrorism, committed by a group that Erdogan supports, the desired outcome was realized.

“The election results show that the politics of fear and division worked,” said David L. Phillips, a former State Department adviser who now serves as director of the Peace-Building and Rights Program at Columbia University.”

The strategy of tension had succeeded.

Turkey's War Against the Kurds (Part 1): The Strange and Tragic Case of Turkey in Syria

Turkey’s Crimes

As Turkey has been waging a brutal and murderous campaign against its Kurdish population in the south of the country it has also illegally shelled Kurdish factions inside Syria that are threatening the remaining supply lines used by Turkey to arm various jihadi groups.  Increasingly Erdogan has become more irrational, bent on consolidating power domestically and increasing his imperial presence over his neighbors abroad.  The actions are part of a desire to reinvigorate Turkish power in the spirit of the former Ottoman Empire, and have been used in accordance with US imperial designs for the region.

Domestically Erdogan and his ruling AK Party have been pushing for constitutional amendments that would grant President Erdogan de-facto dictatorial power over policy formation, allowing him to dictate policy and bypass most congressional roadblocks.  Yet in absence of achieving this Erdogan has consolidated his rule through a plethora of actions, including litigation against any opposition, usage of the courts to stifle dissent, unprecedented attacks against journalism, and unilateral covert operations, all of which add up to a ruthless consolidation of power into the hands of the executive, allowing Erdogan to function as a unilateral actor in absence of constitutional authority to do so.

During the beginning of the uprisings in Syria Turkey was essentially contracted to carry out the US policy of regime-change by proxy.  The plans drawn up by NATO high command envisioned Turkey acting as the conduit whereby rebel fighters from across the Middle East, recruited and trained by Western intelligence agencies, would be smuggled into Syria and where their supply lines and training camps would be protected.  In December of 2011, former CIA officer Philip Giraldi reports, citing contacts within the US intelligence community, that “NATO is already clandestinely engaged in the Syrian conflict, with Turkey taking the lead as U.S. proxy… Unmarked NATO warplanes are arriving at Turkish military bases close to Iskenderum [sic] on the Syrian border, delivering weapons from the late Muammar Gaddafi’s arsenals as well as volunteers from the Libyan Transitional National Council... French and British special forces trainers are on the ground, assisting the Syrian rebels while the CIA and U.S. Spec Ops are providing communications equipment and intelligence to assist the rebel cause.”

While former Libyan rebels were funneled in, “thousands of Muslim fighters” from across the region were also to be enlisted, yet most of these turned out to be ISIS and al-Qaeda-linked terrorists.  According to a US State Department 2014 report on terrorism, “the rate of foreign terrorist fighter travel to Syria [during 2014]- totaling more than 16,000 foreign terrorist fighters from more than 90 countries as of late December – exceeded the rate of foreign terrorist fighters who traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, or Somalia at any point in the last 20 years.”  State Department officials later would admit that of the foreign fighters entering Syria, “almost all” of them cross through the Turkish border.

Though a myriad of evidence exists documenting Turkey's support for al-Qaeda and ISIS, including former Turkish intelligence (MIT) officer testimony and former ISIS member testimony, a mere look on a map is enough to reveal how the ISIS and al-Qaeda supply lines that guarantee these groups existence run directly through the Turkish border.  The lid was really blown off the operation however when it was revealed that trucks belonging to Turkish intelligence were caught supplying weapons and ammunition for al-Qaeda rebels in Syria.  The findings were corroborated by official Turkish military documents, court testimonies, and photographic and video evidence.  Further, following a US special forces raid on the compound of an Islamic State leader in May of 2015, a senior western official with access to the intelligence caches confirmed that the recovered evidence proved direct dealings between Turkish officials and ranking ISIS members was now “undeniable.” 

Also undeniable is Turkey’s connections to the ISIS oil trade.  It is known that ISIS smuggles its oil through Turkey to the global market, and given Turkish intelligence’s intimate relations with the leaders of the group it would be naïve to think the authorities don’t have a hand in the operation.  According to Ali Ediboglu, a Turkish parliamentarian, $800 million worth of oil is being smuggled and sold by ISIS inside Turkey.  Yet, as pointed out by Dr. Nafeez Ahmed, “that was over a year ago.  By now, this implies that Turkey has facilitated over $1 billion worth of black market ISIS oil sales to date.” (emphasis added) 

This represents just one of a myriad of instances of high-level Turkish officials accusing Turkey of complicity in the buying and smuggling of ISIS oil, many of which also report that Erdogan’s son-in-law is heavily involved. 

Martin Chulov of the Guardian, who reported on ISIS’ “undeniable” links to Turkish officials, is quoted in the Turkish paper Birgun as saying that Turkish security forces are responsible for protecting the illicit trade.

Thus Turkish intelligence, acting as the proxy of the US and NATO, has been clandestinely supporting the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, and now is even openly supporting al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate.  In addition to this it has also lent its support to a myriad of other jihadis, including al-Qaeda linked “Turkmen” and Uighur terrorists.

The Telegraph would report that “Around a dozen Turkmen militias have formed, some directly supported by the Turkish government,” which have been “fighting alongside other rebel groups, including the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra.”

According to a 2015 report by Christina Lin, Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at SAIS-Johns Hopkins University, “A new article reported that 3,500 Uyghurs are settling in a village near Jisr-al Shagour that was just taken from Assad, close to the stronghold of Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) that is in the Turkey-backed Army of Conquest. They are allegedly under the supervision of Turkish intelligence that has been accused of supplying fake passports to recruit Chinese Uyghurs to wage jihad in Syria.”

These claims were corroborated by veteran journalist Seymour Hersh. 

In a recent piece Hersh quotes Imad Moustapha, Syria’s ambassador to China, as saying in regards to the Chinese position on Syria that “Many Uighur fighters now in Syria are known to be members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement – an often violent separatist organisation that seeks to establish an Islamist Uighur state in Xinjiang. ‘The fact that they have been aided by Turkish intelligence to move from China into Syria through Turkey has caused a tremendous amount of tension between the Chinese and Turkish intelligence.’”  Hersh goes on to say that “Moustapha’s concerns were echoed by a Washington foreign affairs analyst who has closely followed the passage of jihadists through Turkey and into Syria. The analyst, whose views are routinely sought by senior government officials, told me that ‘Erdoğan has been bringing Uighurs into Syria by special transport while his government has been agitating in favour of their struggle in China.”

Erdogan Cracks Down

The Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet, which broke the story of the MIT trucks smuggling arms to al-Qaeda, faced a heavy backlash.  As a result of litigation based upon accusations of “exposing state secrets” and “trying to topple the government” the paper’s editor Can Dundar and its Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul now face life-sentences for reporting on the crimes of the state.  Furthermore, any news organization in the country that holds to its journalistic duty of holding a light up to power has been targeted, suppressed, vilified, and jailed.  Press freedoms in Turkey, virtually non-existent, are some of the most abysmal in the world: the recent Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index ranks Turkey 149th out of a total of 180 countries. 

As Noam Chomsky and Christophe Deloire report, “journalism is being murdered” in Turkey. 

“Four days before the Nov. 1 parliamentary elections, the police stormed Ipek Media Group headquarters and shut down its two opposition dailies and two opposition TV stations. After control of management had been secured and 71 journalists fired, these outlets resumed operations with a new editorial line verging on caricature. The dailies, Bugun and Millet, ran Erdogan’s photo on the front page along with the headlines “The president among the people” and “Turkey united.”” 

Yet after the ruling AK Party recovered an absolute parliamentary majority, the journalistic oppression only intensified: “Two days after the elections, two journalists were jailed on charges of “inciting an armed revolt against the state” in a story. Since then, some 30 other journalists have been placed under investigation for “terrorist propaganda” or “insulting the president” — the two most common charges.” 

Later Turkey launched a crackdown on a total of 14 TV channels and removed them from the state-owned Turksat Communications infrastructure.  One of those that was shut down was a television station broadcasting in Kurdish which regularly featured rational Kurdish voices promoting peace between Kurds and Turks.

Turkey as well is no stranger to censoring the internet, it is responsible for more than half of all government requests to Twitter to remove content, far in the lead of any other nation, and it consistently bans its citizens from accessing the entire YouTube platform.

However, one of the most important cases, one that is hardly every reported on, is that of the journalist Serena Shim, who very likely was murdered at the hands of Turkish intelligence or one of their rebel proxies. 

Serena was an American journalist of Lebanese descent working for PressTV (Iranian media) who had been extensively covering the war in Syria, and more importantly, the connections between Turkish intelligence and extremist rebel factions fighting against Assad.  Later confirmed through court proceedings and official documentation, Serena, from first-hand experience on the ground, was one of the first to report on evidence that ISIS and al-Qaeda militants were being smuggled into Syria through Turkey in trucks disguised as humanitarian aid vehicles bearing the symbols of NGO’s and the World Food Organization.  The reports had drawn attention to the notion that Turkish intelligence were involved in the smuggling operation.

On October 14th, 2014, Serena was killed in a car crash in Turkey that can only be described, in the very mildest of terms, as “suspicious.”  Days before her death, Serena had very publicly expressed deep concerns that she was being targeted by Turkish intelligence.  Turkey had branded her as a “spy” and sent agents to places she had been working, asking residents about her whereabouts and telling them to turn her in if they saw her.  Serena said “I’m very surprised at this accusation – I even thought of approaching Turkish intelligence because I have nothing to hide.”  She said that she was “a bit worried, because...Turkey has been labeled by Reporters Without Borders as the largest prison for journalists…so I am frightened about what they might use against me.”  She suspected the reason they were targeting her was because of her reports: “We were some of the first people on the ground –if not the first people – to get that story of those takfiri militants going in through the Turkish border…being sent in, I’ve got images of them in World Food Organization trucks. It was very apparent that they were takfiri militants by their beards and by the clothes they wore, and they were going in there with NGO trucks.” (emphasis added)

She also made it clear that she thought she was being targeted as a means to scare other journalists from reporting on these issues: “I’ve been stopped by them before, but not necessarily to this level, just by police basically. But for the intelligence to actually look for me, that's rather odd, so I think that they're definitely trying to get the word out to journalists to be careful so much as to what they say...”

Days later she was killed when her car collided with another vehicle. 

Turkey quickly labelled the incident as a tragic “accident”, yet Serena’s family was not as satisfied with that account.  Her sister Fatmeh expressed no doubts that Turkey had in some way been involved in her sister’s death.  “I think it was planned and plotted,” she said.  The story just didn’t add up.

Given the accuracy of her reports, later confirmed, and the extraordinarily damning evidence that they contained about crimes committed by the Turkish state, it is very likely that she struck a nerve close to the heart of Turkish power and that her sister was indeed right about the extremely suspicious circumstances in which her death occurred.

When you are involved in substantially supporting international terrorism, committing what the Nuremburg Tribunal labelled as the “supreme international crime” of aggression against another state, while as well engaging in massive human rights violations against your own population, it follows that you will seek to rule absent the annoyance of criticism and being held accountable for your crimes.  Erdogan and the AKP have shown that they seek to unilaterally rule the Turkish state, and to silence any dissent against them.

In recent months however Turkish journalists and parliamentarians have bravely continued to expose state crimes, in a climate of dissent that in spite of overwhelming government oppression continues to be one of the most intrepid and honorable throughout the world.  Turkish MP Eren Erden recently cited evidence from a court investigation that, with the help of Turkish authorities, sarin gas precursors were smuggled through Turkey into ISIS camps in Syria where the sarin agent was then compounded, building on a body of evidence that shows Syrian rebels had access to sarin, and likely carried out the 2013 attacks as a false flag in order to get the Americans to invade.

He now faces charges of treason for exposing the information.

The Cumhuriyet daily which first exposed the MIT truck smuggling operation as well has recently published intercepted communications between members of the Turkish Armed Forces and ISIS fighters, in which the interlocutors continually refer to each other as “brother” as they coordinate various operations.

Such commitment to honest journalism in the face of state repression is as honorable as the repression against it is despicable.  Yet the escalation of violence against the Kurds in Turkey and the shelling of the Kurds in northern Syria must be seen within this context; they are interwoven with Erdogan’s pursuit of power consolidation domestically and with Turkey’s project to overthrow the Syrian state through support to the most extremist factions fighting in Syria.  It is the Kurds in Syria that are threatening the Turkish project through their advances upon the border corridors through which the Turkish supply lines to their terror proxies flow.

To be continued in Part 2...