Erdogan and Military Both Seek Political Gains in Turkey’s War Against the PKK

Erdogan and Military Both Seek Political Gains in Turkey’s War Against the PKK
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a press conference during the World Humanitarian Summit, Istanbul, May 24, 2016 (OCHA photo by Berk Özkan).

The cycle of violence between the Turkish state and insurgents of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is reaching proportions not seen since the 1990s. The fighting has left approximately 11,000 homes destroyed, leading The Financial Times to declare Turkey “the most dangerous country in Europe” and others to begin speaking of the “Syrianization” of the country’s southeastern region, where the brunt of the conflict has taken place.

The fighting in the provinces of Diyarbakir, Sirnak, Hakkari, Van and Bingol has taken a heavy toll on civilians. About 1.3 million people have been impacted, with tens of thousands forced to flee their homes. Life has come to a veritable stand-still in some urban centers, with round-the-clock curfews, disruption of basic services such as water and electricity, and the local economy grinding to a halt. Last month, an estimated 27 civilians were killed, higher than in previous months.

But as with any war, there are important political dividends to be won, something President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish military both recognize very clearly.

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