Bloody fighting between Turkish troops and separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrillas on the Turkey-Iraq border has enormously ratcheted up tensions between the two countries.

Turkey’s parliament has decided, by 509 votes to 19, to back the demands of the country’s army leaders to invade Kurdish-run northern Iraq. They want to try to flush out units of the banned PKK.

An invasion could be launched at any time, which would have grave consequences for the mainly-Kurdish people of the region. It would also undermine the imperialist powers occupying Iraq, hence George Bush’s pleas for restraint. Economically, world markets have already reacted with concern, with the price of oil reaching a record $90 per barrel last week.

Turkey’s Kurdish minority has had little or no rights, like their fellow Kurds in Syria, Iran, and (until recently) Iraq, since imperialism carved up the former Ottoman Empire following its defeat and collapse in World War One.

The creation of the Kurdish self-governed territory in northern Iraq has heightened the desire for the creation of a Kurdish state in the Kurdish-dominated region that spans across parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran.

The Kurds are the biggest nationality in the world without their own state. However, the desires of the Kurds are trampled on by all the rulers in the region, who repress any movement in that direction. It is also opposed by the leaders of the major imperialist powers, including the U.S., which is calling on the Kurdish leaders to repress the PKK.

In particular, the ruling elite and the military in Turkey have shown their willingness to go to war to prevent any movement that might raise the hopes of Kurds in Turkey. Historically, in Turkey Kurds have had no recognition until recently, where they now have limited language and educational rights. Their political rights have been severely curtailed and Kurdish political parties are often barred from standing in elections or are closed down if they publicly support independence or even autonomy.

The PKK, formed in 1978, has carried out a guerrilla campaign against the Turkish army and economic targets since 1984. But the inability of the PKK to dent the Turkish army’s power led to questioning these tactics and to an effective ceasefire between 2000 and 2004.

In recent months, however, the PKK has resumed its attacks on targets inside Turkey, which the Turkish army believes they launch from bases just inside the Kurdish area of Iraq. The military leaders want to follow the PKK units into this area in an attempt to defeat them. Parliament has backed them and, because of the methods of the PKK, there is only muted sympathy and a large amount of hostility towards the Kurds’ national demands amongst the Turkish population.

Turkey has the second biggest army in NATO (after the U.S.) and its army considers itself to be the guardian of Turkey’s secular constitution. It has carried out four coups against elected governments since 1960 at times when political and economic instability threatened its dominant position in society.

Much of Iraq has already been devastated by the U.S. invasion and its consequences. If Turkey invades, it will cause further devastation in an area of Iraq that has suffered the least bloodshed.

Kurdish people have come onto the streets of Iraqi cities such as Irbil to protest the decision of the Turkish parliament. Most ordinary Kurds would not accept an attack on their co-nationals by the Turkish army. In the background lies the belief that the Turkish army would intervene in northern Iraq to further Turkey’s political and economic interests and to also back the ethnic Turcomen in the region.

Defend the Rights of Kurds
As socialists, we oppose the planned invasion of the Kurdish region of Iraq by Turkey and call for the withdrawal of all imperialist troops from Iraq. The rights of the Kurdish people must be respected, including their right to self-defense when faced with brutal repression.

But they need democratic organizations that are firmly based on the unity of Kurdish workers and that have a strategy of appealing to Turkish workers and workers in surrounding countries on the basis of working-class unity and not of support for the capitalist elites of the region.

Ultimately, the fate of Iraq, Turkey, the Kurds, and the Middle East as a whole can only be solved by the working class and poor in that region taking up socialist ideas against all their oppressors and forming a socialist confederation of the region.

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