By the end of July, the Turkish government ended peace talks with the Kurds of the PKK and started a new confrontational course that included several attacks against the Kurds. At the same time the government started its active fight against ISIS and asked NATO for support in this fight. This week the reaction to the end of peace talks with the Kurds stood at the center of attention.
Interest in the topic was very high – like with many topics concerning Turkey. Such high attention could be explained by the considerable Turkish population in Germany. Lately the Turkish government had been criticized for being authoritarian and violating human rights. The German media also criticized the attack against the Kurds in Northern Iraq as a danger to the peace process with the Turkish PKK. It was mentioned that the Turkish government saw the threat of an independent Kurdish state as the main reason for the fight against the Kurds. While Turkish government officials claimed that there was no difference between the IS and the PKK, German media criticized this statement by suggesting that
The Islamic State has murdered 10,000s of people in the last 2 years, often in brutal ways. It has massively enslaved and raped women and girls, destroyed lots of lives and cultural goods. The PKK in the last two years has followed the armistice concluded in 2013. The PKK and its Syrian-Kurd part PYD have proven to be the most effective fighters against IS in Syria. (Tagesschau)
In the U.S. media, the attack on Kurdish separatists was placed in the context of NATO involvement and the ongoing fight against ISIS. Action against the Kurds was mainly seen as complicating the conflict in the Middle East. One article in the Wall Street Journal claimed that
Turkey drew NATO deeper into the Middle East conflict” after “threatening to further inflame regional turmoil by signaling an end to three years of peace talks with Kurdish separatists. (Wall Street Journal)
The most critical of the selected media sources was the alternative VICE news. It consistently published critical headlines like
NATO Is Cool With Turkey’s ‘War on Terror’ Against The Islamic State and The Kurds (Vice News)
A repeatedly suggested documentary on the PKK youth also gave background information about the topic.
Judging from the articles, it seemed that Russian media didn’t condemn Turkey’s actions against the Kurds. The press had more negative remarks toward Kurds and blamed them for starting the conflict. One example of this was the following quote:
Kurdish insurgents, having their own quite professional army of several thousand people, decided that Turkish police apparently helped organize the ISIS terrorist act against the kurds. Seeking revenge, they – without investigation – killed two Turkish officers and then two more military men. In response, Ankara started bombing. (vesti.ru)
Criticism toward NATO can also be found in articles of the official Russian media. The alliance is blamed for a lack of willingness to help Turkey in the fight against ISIS. In alternative media TVRain, a reference to the human rights situation – and especially internet freedom in Turkey – can be found:
Twitter was blocked again in Turkey (TVRain)
Lithuanian media tends to portray the topic in a neutral light since it does not present priority in Lithuanian politics. However, the tone becomes more positive when Turkey is presented as
the only NATO Muslim member state that supports the US in fighting against ISIS (Delfi.lt)
Interestingly, Lietuvos Rytas published one article questioning Ankara’s decision to attack Kurdish controlled villages in the northern Syria and even used information provided by Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. This article was also the only to present Kurdish opinion, while the rest of publications presented the opinion of representatives of Turkey or NATO member states. However, most commonly presented were the opinions of European and U.S. leaders. The U.S. was portrayed as being supportive of the Turkish initiative and Europe as being more reluctant.
The tone in Estonian media was rather negative towards Turkish actions against the Kurds. Delfi and ERR presented the Turkish attacks as negative in approximately 75% of the articles. Only Postimees did not have negative articles about the issue. Most articles focused on information about the PKK rather than ISIS. One article stressed that
Turkey’s president is misusing his power and seeks more.
The short reference to Turkey’s authoritarian regime highlights that the issue – despite being highly debated in Germany – seems to only be a minor topic in other countries.