Kurdistan referendum polarizes Turkey politics amid call for war

"The referendum planned in the north of Iraq implicates irrecusable, unconcealed results that cannot be brushed over regarding our national security and the indivisibility of our state."
author_image Ari Khalidi

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum next month has created a rift within the Turkish political scene as a far-right leader allied with the government calling for war criticized the Prime Minister on Saturday for not taking a harder stance on the issue.

In a written statement, Devlet Bahceli, head of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), said Prime Minister Binali Yildirim should be lashing out at “individuals with treacherous intentions” in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region.

Reiterating his country’s rejection of the Sep. 25 referendum, Yildirim ruled out any prospects of going to war with Kurdistan.

“If a state starts challenging our sovereignty rights then we will have a reason for war. But, what the regional administration which is a part of Iraq [does] cannot become a casus belli,” Yildirim said.

“Wars happen between states. We do not recognize these [Kurds] as a state,” Yildirim explained, in an apparent rebuke to the far-right leader and falling short of referring to the Region by its name.

Kurdistan Region’s President Masoud Barzani with Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in Ankara, Feb. 27, 2016. (Photo: Turkey’s Prime Ministry)
Kurdistan Region’s President Masoud Barzani with Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in Ankara, Feb. 27, 2016. (Photo: Turkey’s Prime Ministry)

Bahceli took the PM’s words personal and said he did not find those comments “chic,” adding the government’s reaction was not enough in response to “threats directed against” Turkey.

MHP, the third largest opposition block after the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), formed a de facto alliance, despite much intraparty antagonism, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the aftermath of last year’s failed military coup attempt.

“The referendum planned in the north of Iraq implicates irrecusable, unconcealed results that cannot be brushed over regarding our national security and the indivisibility of our state,” said Bahceli.

He described the possibility of Kurdish independence from Iraq as a “dark, cynical” preliminary work for the foundation and revival of a Greater Kurdistan.

The MHP head further lambasted the PM to “stop weakening” Turkey’s diplomatic and military leverage.

In an official visit this week to Erbil, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu used a milder rhetoric, asking the Kurds, once again, to cancel the referendum and seek reconciliation with Iraqi authorities.

Kurdistan’s President Masoud Barzani stated there would be no postponement, saying the ballot box for independence was a democratic, peaceful, and natural right that would prevent instability and war.

HDP, on its part, blasted Bahceli and President Erdogan, the latter for his remarks the suggestion of a Kurdish state was an “insult” to the Kurds.

“No one should have the audacity to threaten the 40 million Kurdish people [in the Middle East],” said HDP’s spokesperson Osman Baydemir.

“Southern Kurdistan’s right to self-determination is its most legitimate right,” he stated, adding a right enjoyed by the Turks also belonged to the Kurds.

 

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany