News Release

Turkey’s Hidden War Against the Kurds

29turkey1-superJumbo-v2On Wednesday, the noted Turkish author and poet Zülfü Livaneli resigned as Turkey’s only UNESCO goodwill ambassador.

Livaneli posted a statement on Twitter, noting “UNESCO’s silence on human rights violations and lack of fundamental freedoms.” The statement noted that he had refused to take part in what was billed as a World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul earlier this week.

Wrote Livaneli: “When [Kurdish region] Sur’s historical heritage is being destroyed, I can’t with a straight face urge people to protect the historical heritage of Istanbul.” [In English]

A contributor to the New York Times Magazine, Worth just wrote a piece from his most recent visit to the Kurdish regions of Turkey — “Behind the Barricades of Turkey’s Hidden War” — for the magazine.

The piece states: “The battle against the Islamic State had made the downtrodden Kurds into heroes. … [F]ighters aligned with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K. — long branded a terrorist group by Turkey and the United States — became the central protagonists in the defense of Kobani. The P.K.K.’s Syrian affiliate worked closely with the American military, identifying ISIS targets for airstrikes. …

“Turkish tanks are now blasting the ancient cities of the Kurdish southeast, where young P.K.K.-supported rebels have built barricades and declared ‘liberated zones.’ More than a thousand people have been killed and as many as 350,000 displaced, according to figures from the International Crisis Group. The fighting, which intensified last fall, has spread to Ankara, the Turkish capital, where two suicide bombings by Kurdish militants in February and March killed 66 people. Another sharp escalation came in mid-May, when P.K.K. supporters released a video online seeming to show one of the group’s fighters bringing down a Turkish attack helicopter with a shoulder-fired missile, a weapon to which the Kurds have rarely had access. Yet much of the violence has been hidden from public view by state censorship and military ‘curfews’ — a government word that scarcely conveys the reality of tanks encircling a Kurdish town and drilling it with shellfire for weeks or months on end.”

Worth is author of A Rage for Order: The Middle East in Turmoil, from Tahrir Square to ISIS, which came out last month.