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INCEK DEBATES The age-old aspiration of the West for a ‘Kurdistan’: how feasible, how rational, how likely?

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The age-old aspiration of the West for a ‘Kurdistan’: how feasible, how rational, how likely?

Tuesday, 1 November 2016, 14:00-16:30

21st Century Turkey Institute

Ahlatlibel Mah. 1830. Sokak No. 39 06805 Incek/Cankaya Ankara Turkey


Amb Osman T. Koruturk (Ret’d)

Prof Dr Hasan Unal, Atilim University

Dr BG Oktay Bingol, (Ret’d) Baskent University

About one hundred years after Sykes-Picot, in September 2014, Western media mobilized to attract the attention of the world to a small town in Northern Syria, Kobanî(officially, Ayn al-Arab, in Arabic) under ISIS siege. It was made the Alamo of American history—and Hollywood—or Plevne (Pleven/Bulgaria) of Turkish history. The resulting media effect was so strong that even the Turkish government had to bow to Western pressure to allow Peshmerga soldiers (of the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq) to enter from Turkey into Kobane to help besieged YPG. While the whole country of Syria was totally devastated and millions of its citizens scattered all over the world—many vanishing in the Mediterranean or the Aegean—this town was spared (!). Since then, ISIS has proven a gift from God—rather than a curse—for ‘Kurds’. Both in Iraq and Syria large territories have changed hands from ISIS to ‘Kurdish’ control and this course of events is just accelerating.

Late President Shimon Peres, as early as June 2014, in a meeting with President Obama had said that “The Kurds have established a de facto independent democracy of their own, backed by Turkey”. Soon PM Benjamin Netanyahu joined him and announced that “We (Israel/West) need to support the Kurdish aspiration for independence. They deserve it.”. To many, an independent Kurdistan is “a done deal”. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in a recent Senate hearing confirmed that “U.S. would continue to work with the Kurds (of Syria, i.e. PYD/YPG), to support them and provide them with equipment and arms” and would do “whatever is required to help them move in the direction of Raqqa (the only remaining ISIS stronghold in Syria)”. For General Joseph Dunford, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ‘Kurds’ were “the most effective force (U.S.) had … against ISIS”. Currently Kirkuk, conceivably ‘Jerusalem’ of ‘Kurds’, is already under their control, Peshmerga is advancing towards Mosul—arguably, along with the Iraqi Army—and YPG is on the outskirts of Raqqa. Both strategic operations are synchronized and supported by the anti-ISIS coalition (for all practical purposes, composed mainly of Western states).

As the borders of the Middle East are tryingly redrawn, delusive Arab Spring is giving way to a seductive ‘Kurdish’ spring. Meanwhile, after the Western-moderated political negotiations with the PKK collapsed mid-2015, Turkey continues to fight PKK’s long-standing terror campaign for autonomy within its own borders. However, while the government in Turkey has been a staunch supporter of ‘aspirations’ of Kurds of Iraq, even at the expense of severing relations with Baghdad—it has used its air power and artillery to stop Kurds of Syria from connecting so-called ‘Kurdish’ cantons in north Syria, only hours before Secretary Carter landed in Ankara for a scheduled visit. Since the government in Ankara—the principal supporter of the ‘Syrian’ opposition—has been adamantly opposing any contact with Damascus, this final action on 20 October prompted an unprecedented threat from the Syrian government, to shoot down any Turkish warplane violating the Syrian airspace.

Against this background, Incek Debates, on Tuesday 1 November 2016, will discuss what the future actually holds for ‘Kurds’ in the Middle East.  

Panelists are former MP, Amb Osman T. Korutürk, Prof Dr Hasan Ünal of Atılım University and Dr BG Oktay Bingöl (Ret’d) of Başkent University. The debate will be chaired by Dr Haldun Solmazturk, Director of the 21st Century Turkey Institute.

Incek Debates are held in English with a multinational audience, open to public. Widest participation is encouraged, however ADVANCE REGISTRATION—subject to availability of seats—is kindly required. Please note that, due to seating limitations, only one representative from each institute/embassy can be registered.

Incek Debates
‘Let’s talk about foreign policy’

For registration:
Tel: +90 (0) 312 489 1801
     +44 (0) 7448 7777 62 (GSM)
Fax: 90 (0) 312-489 180

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